I've wanted to do this sort of post for a little while for so many reasons. Because when it comes to the topic of having children, there is a lot of advice out there about 'what should be', 'what needs to be' and often forgotten in the process is the story of 'what actually is'. This week, I am so incredibly honoured to be sharing a few of those stories with you here :
Ciara: As I sit here and write this I’m listening to the “ba boom” of a tiny heart beat on a CTG machine and feeling awe and gratitude at yet again being able to grow a tiny human inside me and knowing we’ll soon have another soul to welcome into our home.
My husband and I always knew we wanted children but we were happy to drift along for five years of marriage, establishing careers and travelling before we decided starting a family might be something we would be ready for. Rather surprisingly (as we’d heard so many stories of how long we should expect to wait) we were lucky enough of to conceive straight away and dove head first into embracing the pregnancy and changes in the months to come.
I am one of those lucky women that has genuinely loved every minute of being pregnant. I was spared any nausea or uncomfortable side effects for both pregnancies and genuinely felt at my most attractive, feminine and powerful while watching the changes my body went through to adapt and grow new life.
Because the pregnancy had been so easy first time around and I was so focused on getting to the birth and how I would manage the delivery, that I hadn’t really thought too much about the post-partum period and how we would figure out the transition of becoming parents and the impact that would have on us as a couple. We’d been together for ten years at that point and assumed we would naturally adjust to the new stage.
We welcomed little Ailbhe in October 2015 and both fell head over heels In love with her, but I’d be lying if I said our relationship didn’t go through a transition in the process. We had navigated every milestone of our marriage and pregnancy together as equals up until that moment, that I never anticipated that finding who we were as parents would be any different.
Rian fell into wonderful Dad role effortlessly, doing all he could to support us and I couldn’t have asked for any more from him. However thanks to biology our roles were suddenly acutely different. I was the one breastfeeding at all hours and navigating the hormonal changes and sleep deprivation. Rian was trying to juggle lack of sleep and supporting me, while also returning to work and continuing his job as if nothing had changed. Ailbhe and I were at home in our little bubble and suddenly the worlds we were in felt very different.
Add in tongue tie, mastitis, our decision to move to a different city and new job for Rian all within a couple of months of her birth and we woke up one day and realised we had been pouring all our energy into being the best parents that we could be, that we had no energy left over to be the best partners for each other. All of the support systems in place focus on nurturing the mother but there are very little in place for fathers to share their experience of adjusting to parenthood and how that can be such a massive transition also. While maternity leave is better in Ireland than so many other places in the world, when I hear of countries where both partners can take multiple months off to really dedicate time to nurture the new family, you can’t help but have a more positive space for the mum, dad and baby.
We got our groove back and were able to dedicate the time needed to get our relationship back to the familiar intimacy we had before becoming parents and feel our marriage is now better than ever. However I think it has highlighted to me the need to really nurture everyone in the family unit and also for couples to know that change can be hard and it’s normal for the adjustments to feel like growing pains for everyone.
The old adage of happy mum, happy baby is one I feel strongly about but I now realise happy family, happy baby is also equally true. You do you and make the decisions that feel right for your family whatever that may look like. With that in mind for second time round we plan on fully embracing the cocoon of the new born stage, lots of pj days and chances for the four of us to bond and adjust, with less focus on trying to bounce back into the world and feeling the pressure of all things you hear you “should be doing”. Whatever way it goes, we are so excited to have a delicious new born bundle to enjoy again hopefully very soon!
...Thank you to the always unbelievably sweet and open Ciara for sharing your words here.
ps. This series is for you mama-to-be, mama-in-wait, not even thinking about it or independent woman- wherever you may be on your journey, whatever it is that you are facing, you are not alone. Sending you an enormous amount of love xo