“If I could go back in time, I would have got more breastfeeding support from the start and also been more honest about suffering from postnatal depression and needing help.” Emma Paton, mother and blogger, opens up…
Emma, 35, lives with her husband and their two children: Finn, three, and Violet, 11 months, in London.
“My husband and I are both one of three children ourselves so family and siblings are super important to our values and it was something we openly spoke about as soon as we met.
It took a year to conceive with our first and happened straight away with our second (after planning for the fact it could take a year again!). Finn was born in hospital – long, awful, such a bad experience, totally primal and exhilarating but earth shatteringly shocking and brutal. Violet was born at home (an unplanned home birth) – quick, peaceful and brilliant! It looked like a murder scene on our living room floor.
It was an overload of information that made childbirth all very confusing and it was too much to digest all at once. It’s a strange one, as part of me thinks “why did no one ever tell me it was like that” but part of me questions if it had been good to not know certain things. I think until you’re in it, it’s hard to take much of it on board.
During the early days with Finn, I was totally high on adrenaline and low on sleep. Breastfeeding was a mess – with engorged breasts and pressure to breastfeed and deal with pain and mastitis. It’s strange to fall in love again and feel completely obsessed and besotted with this little human you’ve created whilst enduring serious pain, discomfort and a lot of drugs (I had a third degree tear). I was scared to leave the house, vulnerable and shattered.
My parents came over to help on the first night we came back from hospital as we didn’t know what to do with a screaming baby. I had a big argument with my mum about not giving him a dummy but in hindsight whatever works in those early days – just do it!
Motherhood is an emotional rollercoaster that is exhilarating, draining, empowering and hilarious – the best ride of your life!
I definitely suffered from some form of postnatal depression with my first. I felt out of control and the tiredness took me to a dark place. The pressure to breastfeed definitely took me to a tough place too but the perseverance paid off and I breastfed him until he was 10 months. I think things became easier around six months when I started getting more back from him. I got a routine and he started sleeping through the night. Having family on the doorstep was a complete godsend.
It was very different with Violet except the breastfeeding was an issue again and I decided not to put myself through it this time. I was too tired and had a toddler to contend with now too. It was a much easier second experience and it definitely helped knowing what was to come and feeling more in control.
I returned to work after having a year off with Finn. I was a fashion buyer for Boden and actually the transition went really well – I was ready to go back and have adult conversation, Finn was at a great nursery and I managed to get part time – four days (really hard to get in retail) 8.30 – 4.30pm so I could get back in time to do pick up. I was also lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive boss who was pro women returning to work after having kids. Having had three children herself she knows what its like! Sadly I had to commute to the other side of London but luckily my husband was only 10 minutes away from the nursery for emergencies.
I left my job at Boden as senior buyer – I was there nine years – a few months ago whilst on maternity leave (I was due to go back in Jan). I’m now a mum, blogger and website partner with Olive Loves Aflie – a super cool kids clothing and homewares shop, which I’m helping to re-launch in February.
Having children has completely changed my relationship with my husband, I think. We find the constant ‘tag team’ process means we don’t spend that much time together and we definitely don’t talk as much as we used to. However it has made us better communicators. We know the good and bad times of the day to talk to each other and have to go to bed super early as we are both bad on lack of sleep. The early days are really testing and I think it’s such a shock to the system that you now put all your energies into keeping a little person alive. However that does begin to change so it’s healthy to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel!
What has surprised me most about parenthood is that I’m actually a really good mum. Also, that honesty is the best policy
If I could go back in time, I would have got more breastfeeding support from the start and also been more honest about suffering from postnatal depression and needing help.
My advice to expectant parents:
- Get a breastfeeding consultant – with or without problems you’re going to need support here.
- Get a sleep consultant – it changed our lives!
- Use a dummy if it works.
- Read Hurrah For Gin – hilarious honest parenting.
- Get help if you need it. We had meals on wheels from our in-laws every day for the first few weeks – if you aren’t lucky enough to have this option go to Cook and stock up on decent frozen meals.
- Consider a home birth if you can.
- Don’t compare yourselves to others – find your own parenting route and stay in that lane.
I spend my time feeling bad about everything but have realised you need to feel good about yourself to be a good mum so do take help, support and advice and do make time for yourself. It will make you a better parent. That’s what I find hardest about motherhood: guilt, definitely mum guilt.
But the kids are hilarious, they bring warmth and light to my day and I wouldn’t change a thing. They’ve changed me for the better and make us better people. They are the future and it makes me excited to follow their journey.”
Read more from Emma Paton on her blog: Finlay Fox