The Truth About Motherhood: Aster Sadler, brewery owner

Aster Sadler

“Becoming a mum means that you never have time to think about yourself. I think I miss the spontaneity of my married life before kids.” An incredibly honest and touching account of motherhood from Aster Sadler…

Aster Sadler, 33, lives in Bewdley, Worcestershire, with her partner and their two children: Eva, five, and Henry, three. Together, they run Sadler’s Ales.

“I always wanted a big family, I was very clear on my ideas as a teenager and knew (or at least thought I knew) I wanted a boy, then twins (boy and girl) then a girl. I would stress that I was a teenager at the time and had no experience with small babies!

My first child took 16 months to conceive and as a mid-twenties, healthy woman I saw a doctor after 12 months and they suggested internal examinations. The clinic was closed over Christmas and I found out on Christmas Day I had fallen pregnant. It was a truly magical day.

With my second I fell pregnant after 6-12 months of not very enthusiastic trying, (it’s hard to muster the energy with a toddler!) but it sadly ended in a miscarriage a few months later. Unfortunately, I needed surgery but my son was conceived just a few months later and was born healthy.

With my first child I had a long labour, she was already 14 days overdue and I went into spontaneous labour the day before I was due to be induced. (The booking of an induction has a habit of scaring them out). I laboured all night and all the next day before being admitted. I was terrified and I now know that my fear made it much more painful.

I had a long drawn out decision to have an epidural and as a big baby she was very hard to get out whilst I lay on my back. After a bit of a touch and go moment as to whether I needed to go to theatre, I dug deep and made my husband cheer me on to success. I felt broken (I had a lot of stitches) and exhausted but happy that she had arrived safely.

Motherhood, in one sentence: heaven and heartbreak in equal measures.

With my son, it could not have been more of a polar opposite. I knew I had done it before and could do it again. I knew I wouldn’t die (well, it was highly unlikely) and that the pain wouldn’t last forever. He was also 10 days overdue and again I went into labour in the middle of the night the day before my induction was due. I had my first contraction at 1.30am, drove straight to the hospital and they examined me by 2.30am and took me to a room, saying it wouldn’t be long.

I had just walked through the door of my room when I knew the time had come. I said to the midwife, ‘he’s coming right now!’ I didn’t even make it onto the bed, they pulled all the sheets onto the floor and I remember saying through the strongest waves of pain ever, ‘please don’t drop him on the floor’ I felt victorious when he was born and I felt the greatest sense of achievement.

I attended NCT classes for my first child and for their social benefits, I couldn’t recommend them highly enough. I did feel that they gave you slightly unrealistic goals and ideas of the ‘perfect birth’ though and didn’t recognise individuals’ needs and pain thresholds… it’s ok to want the drugs!

I spent a week in hospital trying to establish breastfeeding and it was hell. Constantly changing mums and babies on a four-bed ward for seven days meant I reckon I saw at least 20 babies come and go, and became down, overtired and felt alone and like a failure because I couldn’t feed my baby. After a week they eventually let me home after my husband requested we could go home where he could help and look after me.

My first home visit from the midwife was life changing. I was tired, in a lot of pain from my layers of stitches, wasn’t eating properly or taking enough pain relief. Our conversation went like this:

‘How is mummy doing?’

I burst into tears, and she immediately sent for my husband to take the baby away, fetch water and pain relief. She looked me straight in the eye after giving me a hug and said:

‘What do you want to do, Aster?’

‘Give up feeding,’ I said.

‘Then why don’t you do that?’

‘I feel so guilty.’

‘Let it go! And move on with getting yourself better, you cannot be there for your baby if you don’t look after yourself.’

I could have kissed her.

We have our own business so my husband only had a couple of days off when I came home, I quickly got into a routine and stuck to it quite rigidly, which my daughter seemed to really like and meant that I had a plan and felt more in control.

With my second, I was out of hospital within a few hours. I didn’t even set foot on the ward, terrified of being held hostage by the breastfeeding police again. We came home and just went with the flow, I had a loose routine but with a toddler under my feet it wasn’t easy. I breastfed for nearly six months but there was a lot of easy dinners (read: freezer food!) and cartoons in those first few weeks. Thank god for Netflix.

As we have our own business, I was lucky to take a long break and return to work as and when I could, taking on jobs which could be done from home or in the evenings and weekends.

Becoming a mum means that you never have time to think about yourself, there are always two or three other people whose needs need to be met. I miss the spontaneity of my married life before kids. We would have an after-work drink and catch the train home or pop out in the evening for a meal without having to plan it to the last degree. We could hold a conversation about work, dreams, ambitions and creative plans for the business without constant interruption. I have become a master of holding three conversations at once and breaking and coming back to my chain of thought. Oh, and I do miss the lie-ins with just the two of us.

Before embarking on parenthood, I wish I’d been told that you actually can’t get it wrong. Just do your best with the information and ideals that you have at that current time.

I have found parenthood really hard. I originally trained as a children’s nurse and then a nanny before I met my husband and we started working together and I really thought that I wouldn’t struggle too much as I had some experience with kids. I was so wrong, you can’t train for the emotional rollercoaster of motherhood. I’ve got to the stage, as my kids have got older, that I am craving getting back into some solid work and using my brain for something other than ‘mummy tasks’, I love them but am desperate to get back to focusing some time on me.

I don’t regret a lot, I feel the ups and downs have turned out for the best. But I would probably have had my first child in nursery for a day or two when my son was small so we could have more quality times together for activities one on one.

My advice to expectant parents:

  1. No one gets a medal for childbirth. You don’t need to punish yourself because of anyone else’s standards. Do what you want to do, because you want to do it.
  2. As soon as you can, find a sitter. You don’t think you will ever want to leave your little bundle of joy but you will! You need times out together as a couple without the baby.
  1. You actually can’t get it wrong. If by then end of the day both you and the child are still alive and vaguely happy (or at least not grossly unhappy), you are doing a great job.
  1. It’s ok to ask for help, and if you find yourself in a situation where you can help someone else who is struggling, do it. It’s kind to be kind.

The greatest challenge I face, as a mother, is not losing sight of the fact that I am an intelligent woman with my own set of skills and many interesting things to share as an adult. Working in your own business seems like a cop out to some, my husband still runs the business without me and because I mostly do the social media and online side, I think people think it’s just fun.

Most of my friends work full or part time out of the home but despite only working part time and sometimes from home, I am not ‘just a mum’. I feel women are unnecessarily harsh on their peers and it becomes some form of competition amongst the groups of workers or stay-at-home mums.

What makes it all worthwhile? My highly articulate daughter has now started school and is a little learning sponge. She comes home and tells me that they were learning about a topic and she knew the answer and told the teacher something they didn’t know. She said to me ‘I’m glad you told me that mummy’. The benefits of spending five years of constant conversation and inclusion have created a bright and spirited soul, even if the constant chatting is the downfall. My son is a gentle soul and when he comes and gives me spontaneous cuddles and ‘kissies’ it is lovely.”