What I’d Tell My Pre-Baby Self

Isn’t it crazy how things change from year to year? Three years ago on this date, myself and Dylan had just booked our wedding and had also decided to start trying for a baby. Two years ago, I’d been home three days from hospital and our lovely Alexandra was a couple of months old. This time last year, I was three months pregnant with Max and we were immersed in the world of scans, appointments and telling our family about our shock second baby.

It’s something I think about fairly regularly, what I’d tell my pre-baby self. Bearing in mind I have a history of mental health issues and had been hospitalised not long before embarking on a relationship with the man who I now call my husband and share two babies with, so I think reflection and progress updates are especially important for me.

Before I had children, I had no idea how tough it would be. I don’t think anybody truly does – nothing can prepare you for the whirlwind of emotions which comes with having a tiny being dependent on you for everything. Nothing can prepare you for the hormones, the tiredness, the physical exhaustion, the tears, the fear (constant, constant fear that your kid will stop breathing or fall down a manhole or you’ll somehow completely eff them up and they’ll become totally dysfunctional adults). But equally nothing can prepare you for how hilarious the journey will be, how joyful, how exciting and how varied.

I worried constantly about whether I was up to the job when I was pregnant with Alexandra, but I probably worried about all the wrong things because I had no idea of all of the ways being a mother would test me. Of the times I’d want to smother Dylan even though I absolutely adore him and think he’s wonderful. Of the times I’d want to close the front door behind me and just walk away and not have to think about nappies, wipes, raisins and whether the amount of baby sick I’ve got on my clothes has tipped over the acceptable level.

I’d definitely tell my pre-baby self to relax. There is utterly no way to predict how each day will go with kids and you may feel euphoric at 10.05am and devastated at 10.10am. Just go with the flow. I don’t think I had any idea of what I could withstand before I had the children. I’d somehow muddled through a pretty traumatic mental health episode and got my shit together a little bit, but I never felt like a strong person until I had children. Until I grew two babies inside my own body (I still find the process of pregnancy crazy and I don’t understand how it’s even possible?!). Until I looked at a crying baby who I had no idea how to fix, looked round and realised it was just me, they were all I had and I had to stick with it until I fixed them. Until I collapsed into bed at night and thought ‘this day has broken me’ but then still got up the next morning to do it all again. Until I looked at my second born with so much personality that he was trying to pull his breathing tubes out at three days old while my first born just got on with her whole life being turned upside down because she’s THAT resilient and realised that I would always be strong for them.

I’d tell my pre-baby self that you will completely and utterly change. You will lose yourself, because it’s hard to maintain an identity when you are ‘mom’. You will look in the mirror and wonder what happened to the person you were before. You’ll look more awful than you ever dared imagine. At times you’ll feel more awful than you ever dared imagine. But you’ll never want to go back and eventually you’ll find the new you. Because you’ll watch your children lying on the floor, heads close together, giggling their heads off at each other even though there’s utterly nothing funny happening. Because you’ll see the way your baby’s eyes light up every time you speak. Because your toddler will make you roar with laughter by calling her daddy ‘mate’ or telling you she made sandcastles on the ‘bitch’. Because you’ll watch them when they sleep with their perfect eyelashes and squishy cheeks and you’ll want to stand there forever. Because you’ll feel like something’s missing when you don’t have both of them with you. Because you and your husband will regularly look at them and say ‘we created them. Aren’t they hella cute?’

Because you’ll be a mother, and no one can ever take that away from you.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Life Changes

Hanging out under the table, as you do.

Hanging out under the table, as you do.

Life changes so freaking fast, in the blink of an eye everything is completely different and you can barely catch your breath as you think back over all that’s happened and – gulp – all there is to come.

Next Monday I’m heading off to my former town (and to be honest it still feels like home when I go back) to sit in the audience for the mayor making. It’s the seventh year in a row I’ll have been to this particular event. In years 2010 to 2013, I attended as a reporter for one of the weekly papers in the town. I sat on the press bench next to one of the council’s press officers, wrote notes and the next day went into work and compiled a story about the new mayor (and sometimes there were other juicy goings on but this is not the time to get into listing exciting stories I covered!).

By 2014, I had co-founded my own charitable organisation focusing on mental health in the town. Mental health had also become a huge theme in my own life, much bigger than ever before. I had to obtain permission from the nurses on the mental health ward I was staying on at the time to leave for the evening (I was an informal patient meaning I wasn’t sectioned) to go to the meeting. I sat in the audience for the first time, with my boss over on the press desk instead of me. I watched as we were named one of the mayor’s charities for the year. I was hugely pleased but also scared, I was a week into the recovery period following the second of two overdoses and I had no idea how or when I was going to get better and sit on that bench again. Turns out I never would, but for completely different reasons.

In 2015, the event had rolled around again and I was now living in another county, I wasn’t a reporter anymore, I was engaged and I was pregnant. Talk about a whirlwind year. I sat in the public gallery again, for the second time. This time I knew what direction my life was heading in. I set next to Dylan and I felt happy and looked forward to the future.

Next Monday, I’ll be there sat next to Dylan and Alexandra. My life has changed so utterly and completely from those early years on the press bench.

In some ways, it’s sad. I miss running around getting stories. I miss covering elections and debates and people’s life events. I miss talking all day every day to anyone and everyone. But in other ways how can I miss that at all? I get to spend every day with the most precious, beautiful little thing. I get to giggle at every funny thing she does. I get to be someone’s mommy and that’s the best job in the whole world.

So for me next week will be a chance to reflect on all that’s changed over the past couples of years and who knows what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be in the next few?

Harriet and Alexandra x

A Test? More Like A Marathon

My fave two faces.

My fave two faces.

In the hazy, pre-Alexandra days of our relationship when we occasionally didn’t bother to wake up until late on a Sunday or decided to pop to the pub on a whim at 10pm on a weekday evening, I don’t think I ever contemplated how much life would change with a baby. Yes, I knew my world would spin on its axis but I didn’t expect my relationship to alter at all. But the simple fact of the matter is that it did. And it’s always going to.

I’d heard all this business about a baby testing even the strongest relationship but to be honest, I didn’t think it would make a jot of difference to us and thought the only test would be if you were having a ‘band aid baby’ to try and patch up whatever problems there were between the couple. But we had no problems. I was genuinely and utterly happy (I still am…it sounds like I’m gearing up to tell you I hate Dylan now. I’m not!) and aside from the fact he’s chronically late and always messes up the cling film, I think he’s the most wonderfully perfect person. And I’m not just saying that because I know he reads these blogs.

So, I really didn’t think adding a baby into the mix would be much of a problem. I thought we’d just change up our schedules a bit and that’d be that. Oh how gloriously naïve. When you throw in bucket-loads of sick, a baby wailing for food and utter, all-consuming tiredness, it turns out a relationship is much harder. You don’t love them any less, in fact I love Dylan a whole heap more seeing how he is with our little girl and seeing how much he loves her. But we have to actually make time to cuddle now, or chat to each other about something that isn’t how many poos Alexandra has done that day. Sometimes I feel so absolutely exhausted I don’t want to talk to anyone at all and I have to remind myself that really, it’s pretty awful not to be cheerful towards a man who’s dragged himself out of bed, driven down the motorway, spent a full day working, come home and probably bathed the baby and put her to bed, all to make your life so much better.

To turn your life around from being a two to a three is such a massive adjustment and I feel like we’re still trying to get the balance right – between us having one-to-one time with Alex, us all spending time together and us actually managing to talk to each other sometimes as well! It requires planning now: not, shall we go out now? But shall we get a babysitter next week and go out? Or shall we run round the house grabbing multiple items the baby will need in the next couple of hours and then take her out too?

I know I absolutely chose to have a baby with the right person and I can’t imagine anyone else being Alexandra’s daddy – but it makes me think how awful it must be if you’re not sure and you don’t like the other person as much (or at all). To not enjoy those rare moments you do get together when one of you isn’t rushing somewhere or finishing doing some chore or another, is pretty grim. As the title of this post suggests, having a baby isn’t a relationship test, it’s like some bizarre marathon where you’ve set off never having run a metre before, the path is strewn with hurdles, challenges, and you will NEVER SLEEP SOUNDLY AGAIN. (echoey voice)

Harriet and Alexandra x