>This is the short essay I had to write when I applied to the NCT to be a post natal leader, it then featured in the local NCT’s newsletter. I quite like looking back on this, written only a year ago to see how far I’ve come since becoming a mummy:
I don’t think that anyone truly realises how much motherhood will change them personally, their entire way of life and their relationships, until it happens. We assume we can fit a baby into our existing lifestyle, what we don’t realise is how dramatically we have to change our lives to incorporate a new arrival.
I was only 19 when I fell pregnant with my daughter E, now almost 8. The pregnancy wasn’t planned and it didn’t take too long to realise that I would be bringing up my daughter on my own with no input from her father. I think you always imagine the perfect scenario when you dream of what it will be like when you eventually start a family. The house, the husband, the 2.4 children, and not only did I have to cope with the prospect of having a child on my own, the “dream situation” was also shattered and this was also just as hard to deal with.
My life changed the moment I found out that I was pregnant, the non stop social whirl I enjoyed came abruptly to a halt, the packet of cigarettes in my coat pocket went straight into the bin and alcohol wouldn’t pass my lips for some years to come. Severe morning sickness forced me to change my working hours to ensure I wasn’t late for work every day and I became a social leper, suddenly no longer of interest to many of my so called friends.
My mind was filled with worry about my unborn child. Had my lifestyle damaged the baby in any way? Should I even be contemplating having a child so young, and on my own? And then it happened, I started bleeding. On a visit to the hospital’s early pregnancy unit for a scan to check if I had infact miscarried, I was informed I had lost my baby, but it’s twin was still thriving! At just 6 weeks, the little peanut shaped blob on the screen was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I became fiercely protective of the little “peanut” that eventually became my daughter. Loosing my daughters twin made me realise that although I was young and on my own, I wanted the baby and everything that entailed more than I wanted anything else. I was no longer a selfish party girl, who worked hard and partied even harder. I was a mum to be who was going to do everything I could to ensure my baby would be happy and healthy.
By the time my daughter was born in January 2002, I was, I thought, ready to be a mum. What a shock I was in for! The sleepless nights, constant feeding and nappy changing, no time for myself, moving into my own home when my daughter was 2 months old and feeling more alone than I have ever felt in my life. The immense guilt when I had to return to work when she was only a few months old in order to provide for both of us and the feeling of injustice that I didn’t have a partner to do that for us while I looked after our child. Perhaps inevitably, I suffered from post natal depression for some time after the birth of my daughter.
It took just one thing to alter the state of depression that I found myself in. Four years ago I managed to pay off my debts and started working part time. I wanted to be there for my daughter and be able to take her to and from her new school, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had continued to work full time. I had missed out on so much of my daughter by working so much and wanted to be what I considered in my depressed state a “real” mum. The post natal depression also effected my choice of job, supporting people with mental health problems, some of whom had post natal depression just like I did, and others with more serious forms of mental illness. This eventually expanded to included people with drug and alcohol dependency, ex offenders, vulnerable families and young mums, which I particularly enjoy. It has given me the opportunity to use my experience of being a mum and having post natal depression to help others.
If I had not had my daughter I would not have chosen the profession that I am in. She has made me more aware of the problems faced by other people, far more responsible and empathetic and has given me a different kind of confidence in myself and my abilities. If I want something I don’t just wait for it to fall into my lap, I go out and get it for myself, no matter how much hard work it takes. E has also made me appreciate my own mother more, for everything she did for my sister and I as children, our relationship is far stronger since becoming a mum myself.
I have had my fair share of ups and downs since becoming a mother and at times things have been difficult, but my daughter has changed my life for the better and I like the person she has made me become!