I can’t begin to talk about my experiences with my second pregnancy without reflecting on my experiences from my first pregnancy first. Baby Niamh (now a sassy, strong-willed 2.5 year old) was pretty plain sailing for the most part. Like with most things in parenthood however, unsolicited comments from others came creeping in, comments on how ‘small’ my bump was, how I shouldn’t be exercising and other little comments that put those niggling thoughts in your head! By the time I came to my third trimester, I was being monitored as she wasn’t growing quite as much as expected, but was still healthy, so I tried to not let it worry me. I joined a local antenatal class with 7 other pairs of parents and had some hypnobirthing sessions. The information felt overwhelming! It was hard to take it what we were being told about new born babies when we couldn’t see past the ‘giving birth part’! My main worries though, kept revolving around motherhood itself. I love working with children but I’ve never been the broody type. I was so worried as to how I would cope on my own with a baby all day-would I actually enjoy being a mum? My husband kept reassuring me that it would all be fine and that I’d be able to meet up with our newly found new parents-to-be all the time.
Then came the big C…I was told in March 2020 to work from home until my MAT leave in April. The first of our antenatal group mums starting having their babies and with each one, came more terrifying stories with tightening restrictions and partners not even being able to be present until ‘established labour’ was in place. Then it was my turn. After a long 2 days of contractions at home followed by a speedy 4 hour birth in hospital, a tiny 5lb 8oz Niamh arrived. I was elated and felt all the emotions I could have dreamed of with becoming a new mum. Unfortunately, this was short lived as the midwife delivered the then terrifying news that both of us would have to stay in hospital for 5 days because she was classed as ‘low birth weight’. 5 days without my husband to support me sent me into panic and fear. My bubble was instantly popped. We all know how the following few months went, lockdowns, not seeing friends and family, uncertainty…My fears of feeling isolated during maternity leave became a reality. Looking back, I can see how it made me feel all consumed and controlled by newborn issues. I struggled so much initially with breastfeeding, but there was next to no support. I obsessed over Niamh’s sleep, reflux, every noise or movement she made and then later her cows milk protein allergy. I can see now how unhealthy that was and wonder how different it would have been had I have been able to access support, or even just leave the house to meet up with other mum friends. I’m not sure how I would have made it through if it wasn’t for the constant messages to and from some of my antenatal mum friends or ‘The Bebe club’ as we named ourselves.
After being plunged back into work which forced me to suddenly go from lockdown to ‘normal life’, I quickly had to adjust back to my pre-mum role as a speech and language therapist, working in schools. Gradually life became more familiar again and after battling through a year of nursery germs and lurgy, we were all in a good routine as a small family. I tried to brush off comments and questions from others for over a year about having baby number two, again will all the usual helpful comments like “You can’t wait too long”, “It’s good to have them close together” etc etc. I smiled and made up our excuses but underneath, felt so annoyed. They had no idea about what my birth or experience with a new born was like the first time round. The fear, isolation, obsessions, guilt. I just didn’t feel ready to do it all again. I also didn’t know how I would ever love another child as much as I did Niamh, or give anymore of myself away to caring for them like I did with her.
After many talks with my husband we decided we would start trying again late Spring 2022. There was a lot to think about this time, nursery fees, MAT leave and finances with 2 pre-schoolers, space in our home, the strain it could put on our relationship and lots more! We were very fortunate to become pregnant again very quickly and the rollercoaster that comes with the first trimester started all over again! Being pregnant second time round has definitely come with it’s challenges so far, the main one initially was the exhaustion of the hormonal first trimester and nausea, made worse by the fact I couldn’t sneak in a cheeky nap this time and instead had to keep a sassy and very busy toddler amused! I’ve also been thinking about the birth a lot and keep wondering what this one will be like. This time round I’m getting extra growth scans because of Niamh’s low birth weight last time which has also been playing on my mind.
One thing that I’ve found strange this pregnancy is the amount of times I have been asked “Will you go back to work after this one?” and “Oh you’ll probably not come back will you?” I’ve always worked hard in my career, and while I absolutely love being a mum, I personally couldn’t be at home with Niamh and the new baby full time. There’s also the cost. Raising children is expensive, and even more daunting with the bleak financial forecast for the next few months! My husband and I couldn’t simply afford for one of us not to work and we have made the decision to try keep Niamh in nursery part time while I’m on MAT leave so that she can keep her own routine and keep doing the things she loves there. I know lots of new mums out there don’t share this view, and many choose to be full time parents which I can fully appreciate is a mammoth job in itself! I think the important thing is choice. So many women are forced out of the choice as to what they can afford to do during and after MAT leave, but no one should be made to feel guilty about their personal decision as to whether they return to work or not.
The ups this time have come in the form of familiarity, and I don’t have the same fears about motherhood as last time. I already know I love being a mum and can’t wait to see how Niamh reacts to having a sibling. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m still dreading those first 6 weeks though! I’m so excited to have a (hopefully) ‘normal MAT leave’ this time around too! I think it will massively help with postpartum recovery, my mental health and all of the things you have to navigate in the 4th trimester like breastfeeding. It seems a little ironic though that first time around we had money and nowhere to go, and this time we’ll have everywhere to go but no money!
You can follow all the ups and downs of my journey as well as speech and language tips and activities for little ones on Instagram and Facebook: @ChattyChops
Laura Black qualified as a speech and language therapist in 2013 and has since worked as part of NHS and multi-academy trust school teams to provide support for preschoolers and school-aged children in mainstream settings and communication and interaction departments. Laura is passionate about empowering others to support children’s communication skills and specialises in training parents and teaching staff to support children’s phonological awareness, memory, vocabulary, early language development and access to the curriculum.
You can hear all the helpful advice Laura shares about building your little one into a Chatty Chops by clicking here for our Bizzimumzi podcast recording. Enjoy!