“I had fertility acupuncture in order to relax and help me along the way. After the fifth session, Bob’s your uncle: I was pregnant.” Primary school teacher Anna Duley on conception, motherhood, guilt and the unexpected pressure having a baby put on her relationship…
Anna Duley, 32, lives in a village called Kingsclere “with just two village shops, three pubs and a hairdressers plus a butcher”. The nearest town is Newbury or Basingstoke. She lives with her partner and their daughter, who’s one.
“Having a family was always really important for both of us. We discussed it before marriage and knew that if we couldn’t have a family naturally, we’d talk about adoption.
I thought it took ages to get pregnant, as I came off the pill in January 2014 and fell pregnant in April 2016. I went for a private egg test (more scientific word needed) at Zita West in London where I was told I needed to relax. I am a primary school teacher and work long hours. I had fertility acupuncture in order to relax and help me along the way. After the fifth session, Bob’s your uncle: I was pregnant.
I had planned a home water birth but that went out the window. My waters broke at 3am on Thursday morning. In Hampshire we have something called the labour line, which is amazing. You can call anytime to get advice, support and it is always manned by a midwife. I called a few times to check this and that, it really was a massive support.
I called them to let them know my waters had broken and they said to see how I went. At 11am they called back to see how I was, my contractions hadn’t really established and they asked if I had felt the baby move. As I hadn’t and my tummy was so hard they told me to go to the hospital. I had an examination and the baby was all good just very cosy. I was informed that my hind waters had broken but not my front waters (who knew you had two!).
If labour didn’t establish, I was told I would be booked in for an induction the next day. A very sleepless night followed where nothing much happened. At 4am I cried into my cup of tea, as I knew I was going to have to be induced. I had even bought a small buffet for the midwives and the homebirth but sadly it was not to be.
My induction started well – Kisstory, young fun midwives and gas and air at 8am. By 2pm I was climbing the walls and begged for an epidural. It took Matthew an hour to wrestle the gas and air off me, as they wouldn’t take my consent for an epidural while I was as high as a kite. News to me. I had my epidural but by 4.30pm I could still feel the cold spray so had another at 6pm, having tried to rip out my cannula. There was a midwife change and all was quiet, so I slept for a few hours.
I started pushing at 9pm but after an hour I was told to stop and that the doctor was coming in. I remember she was just beautiful and had lovely earrings; it is so funny the things you remember. I was prepped for an emergency c-section as the baby still had about a quarter turn to make and was stuck.
The greatest challenge is guilt. Juggling it all: working, mothering, and having some time for me
In theatre I remember being so concerned and upset that I had pushed and could smell poo, I kept apologising! There was also a very attractive junior doctor too. I was asked if I minded him being there but by that point anyone could have walked in. An episiotomy and forceps later, and Olive arrived into this world at 12.05am on Saturday morning. I told them that I felt funny (Matthew informs me that I was grey and looked dead). I am not too sure what happened as they ushered Matthew and Olive out but after a bit they were allowed back in.
My labour was everything I had not planned but you know what, I would do it all again and more in a heartbeat as I felt like such a bloody warrior! It took a whole team of people but I had birthed a human! No one can ever take that away from me and without a doubt I have never been so proud of anything else in my life.
We’d done NCT (antenatal classes) and as one of the girls said: it’s the best £200 spent to buy a set of friends. Those women have become my saviour and I cherish our friendship. However much you think you know about birth, until you have flashed your fooff to a roomful of strangers you have no idea what it will be like at all. I am just so thankful to the NHS and the incredible care we received.
In the early days with Olive, I remember just being completely and utterly shell shocked. I stayed awake the first two nights just watching her, as I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was meant to have this wave of love but for me it didn’t happen that way. I felt like an outsider and that everything I had read wasn’t happening. I confessed to a friend who is also a nurse and she said that the wave of love doesn’t happen for everyone and that I was normal. She said instead to look at it like a tiny seed, which grows each day. She was so right.
My mum had also just had a hip replacement so couldn’t be with me, which I think made it really hard too. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law came over to watch Olive while I slept but sometimes you just want your mum, don’t you.
It all takes getting used to: new body, new baby, new relationship with your husband, new level of tiredness etc. It was when I went out by myself with Olive in the car and came home again all in one piece that I felt I could do this. We only went to Waitrose to buy milk but I felt on top of the wold. Motherhood is the only job where you can go from ‘nailed it’ to ‘What the hell am I doing?’ in the space of five seconds.
I was off work from November (Olive was born in December) until June. I went back the last two weeks of July, just working three days a week so I could get paid over the summer holiday. I am a Year 3 primary school teacher and SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator). I had keep in touch (KIT) days during my maternity which really helped me keep my foot in.
Saying that, coming back to work in September was much harder than I thought it would be. Olive took a little while to settle into nursery, we all got a sickness bug and I felt embarrassed taking time off having just gone back. But a few months in and we are now in a much better pattern. I go to work for a break, if truth be told.
Becoming parents really affected our relationship. Funnily, only one friend told me about this. Matthew and I never fight and she said to be prepared to have the worst fights of our lives after a baby but to remember to always be kind to each other. I think it is the tiredness, and that we both didn’t know what we were doing. But good lord it was hard. We were that couple having a massive barney on holiday with everyone else being pleased it wasn’t them fighting. We even talked divorce but we couldn’t afford it, plus we weren’t really serious. You just miss the ability to go and do what you want when you want.
I think we both expected each other to suddenly be telepathic and know what the other needed. Matthew would never offer to change Olive so I would have to ask, which I felt was wrong. I also tried to be supermum with a clean house, dinner on the table etc, which was a mistake.
I wish I had left Matthew with Olive earlier as I think I wanted to manage everything and could be rather overbearing meaning he waited to be told what to do. Also breastfeeding meant that he couldn’t do feeds as much. I did express but we only did one bottle expressed a day.
Motherhood, in a sentence: the greatest adventure of a lifetime
I’ve been surprised by how relaxed I have become. I used to be rather sensible and be not very good at being silly but hearing Olive’s giggle is like a drug I can’t get enough of. Singing ridiculous made up songs, dancing around the kitchen to Spice Up Your Life (a classic), using toys as tiny hats… anything to make her giggle and smile – I will do it.
I wish, before becoming a mum, I’d been told to appreciate being able to be spontaneous. It just takes a lot longer to get out of the door with a baby. Also, not enough people say: “well done, you are doing a bloody brilliant job. 3am is a lonely time for feeding and nappy changing but just know that you are doing fantastically.”
That said, I actually don’t think I’d change anything if I could go back. Thinking about it now, I am a much better person for becoming a mum. I have more tolerance of other mums at school drop off and now know what it is like to be responsible for someone’s world for six hours a day.
My advice to expectant parents is: talk to each other, you don’t have a baby and suddenly know what to do. At least you have someone with you also not knowing what on earth you should be doing. I have the greatest respect for single parents. I just want to give them all a massive high five and tell them they are doing a fantastic job.
The greatest challenge is guilt. Juggling it all: working, mothering, and having some time for me. I hate the guilt that I feel for palming Olive off onto someone else while I clean the house, have a hot bath or read a chapter of my book.
What makes it all worthwhile is that giggle or smile. Watching the love she has for her dad, or Boris (our Boston Terrier) Seeing her learn about the world and the fascination she has with the smallest things – today, for example, a zip. Just brilliant. I am so very proud of our little family and how we are making it work for us. It might not be right for others but for us it is just perfect.”