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