“The speed of my second son’s arrival really took me by surprise. With hindsight, it was a miracle he wasn’t born at the side of the road. I would advise others in the same position to call an ambulance.” Lizzie Woodman on childbirth, the early days and having kids young…
Lizzie Woodman, 32, has two boys aged eight and six. They live in Ely, near Cambridge: “…a small cathedral city, which is great place to bring up children”.
“I chose to have children young, and worry about a career later. I’d always been a home-focused person, and taking this slightly unconventional route felt like the right decision. We were settled and ready. Both my children were conceived very quickly.
I had my first son at home and it was a very positive experience. The community midwives were excellent and very supportive. His birth was relatively straightforward – he was back-to-back, but I’m sure that being at home in a calm environment really helped.
I planned a home birth for my second son. Unfortunately, while I was waiting for the midwives to arrive, my waters broke and were stained with meconium (which rules out a home birth). We drove the 30-minute journey to hospital on a very snowy morning and my son was born 20 minutes after we arrived! It was a very short labour, about four hours from start to finish.
I was mostly blissfully ignorant of the realities of childbirth, apart from attending NCT classes. I knew I wanted to try a home birth, but I wasn’t against hospital if necessary. The midwives in our area were very encouraging, which helped reassure us.
Everything is a phase. No matter how tough something feels, you’ll get through.
Both times I gave birth without painkillers. First time round, this was because the midwives convinced me the limited gas and air at our house would run out. I was a bit timid and didn’t push it – I’d be a lot firmer about that now! Second time round, there wasn’t time to even think about pain relief.
The speed of my second son’s arrival really took me by surprise. With hindsight, it was a miracle he wasn’t born at the side of the road. I would advise others in the same position to call an ambulance.
The first 12 hours with our firstborn passed in a joyful blur. It helped that we were already at home. Having a bath and going to sleep in my own bed straight after giving birth were wonderful.
When my milk came in, I felt hugely emotional. That ‘what have we done?’ feeling. It was very confusing and there were a lot of tears. I struggled to breastfeed my son at first – but thanks to a supportive family and advice from midwives, I got the hang of it. It was painful at first, but settled down after the first week. You have to hold your nerve with breastfeeding – it will take a little while to get used to.
Motherhood in one sentence? Sticky little hands and damp curls
We were lucky that my son was a very content baby and we all fell into a good routine after a few weeks. We followed a timetable through the day, which I’m convinced helped us. It was hard, but I found it all quite instinctive. I realise that I’m incredibly lucky to have felt like that.
I did feel lonely though. When my son was about eight weeks old, I started to venture to a local baby group and made a few friends. We slowly formed a little group and met up every week – this really helped keep me sane!
I thought breastfeeding would be a doddle second time round, but we had to learn how to do it again from scratch. Every child is different! Luckily, I had confidence in my abilities this time.
A baby and toddler are tough, but we soon fell into a little routine which worked. My elder son was still a pre-schooler, so we didn’t have to rush anywhere in the mornings. I did feel lonely and outnumbered a lot of the time, and a bit run-down – but we made it through!
I chose to be a full-time mother until my children started school. Because I’d had my children before pursuing a career, I didn’t have a job I felt I needed to get back to. I was very lucky that my husband supported this decision.
I thought I was being terribly clever doing it this way round – get a degree, have children, then be free to pursue a career later. The reality is a little different. I spent six years focusing solely on my children – that was my career. Once they started school, it wasn’t as simple as just choosing a career path and getting going. You’re not quite the same person you were and it’s hard to focus on one thing at the expense of other people.
The school day is shorter than you think. A conventional career path requires a lot of help from other people, and can lead to feelings of guilt and insecurity. I’ve overcome this challenge by starting to forge a less conventional career where I earn my money through blogging and freelance writing.
Becoming parents has made our relationship stronger. We both felt clueless at times. Working together to find solutions has helped us grow closer and we’re both much better people than we used to be. We’ve argued about things, but we’re usually on the same page.
My advice to expectant parents? Don’t overthink it! Trust your instincts and you’ll usually be ok.
The toughest years were the toddler tantrum years. I would be tearing my hair out with frustration by the end of the day and it was easy to take it out on my husband.
The most surprising thing about my parenting journey so far is that I’ve managed to create two enormous boys who have such limitless energy and enthusiasm for life! They can read and talk eloquently about the things they love. I helped to do that!
Before embarking on parenthood, I wish I’d been told that no one else has a clue what they’re doing either. And if I could go back in time, I’d like to have had more time to enjoy my second son as a newborn. We were always out and about and I missed those afternoons quietly feeding on the sofa. I’d recommend finding a little bit of childcare for your oldest so you can enjoy these moments with your baby.
The greatest challenge I face, as a mother, is (right now) giving my boys the support they need alongside school. It’s always tricky balancing their freedom with making sure they do their homework and get to clubs on time. I’m trying to make sure I supplement what they learn at school with fun activities at home and trips out – which is tough when I have my own deadlines to meet. <
The love and hugs I still get every day make it all worthwhile. Boys are very affectionate. And the enormous sense of achievement.”
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