From the time I was just a girl, I always knew I would be a mum. No matter what else I did with my life, I felt that motherhood would be a part of it.
And having this dream come true was everything I thought it would be. I recall my pregnancy with Luca with such nostalgic joy. Time has clouded over the fear I felt having suffered a miscarriage just two months prior, it has blurred the first trimester nausea. Miraculously, it has made me all but forget the terrifying 12 week scan that showed our baby had a hole in his heart and the subsequent five weeks of testing and worry until that merciful scan that showed the hole had rectified itself. The final weeks that saw me injecting insulin into my huge belly are never the parts I remember first.
That pregnancy was one of the best times of my life. Strangers would smile at me in the street as I wore circles into my belly, my hands never tiring of the feeling beneath them, my skin a drum-tight cocoon around my growing baby. After my work day was done, I was free to marvel at every kick and flutter, to lie on the couch circling coveted cots and nappy bags in baby magazines. Life was never so easy or full of promise.
My pregnancies with Ziggy and Harlow were equally beautiful and exciting, but what was lost was the time to indulge in them, to languish in the knowledge that my most important work was happening even as I lay watching trashy TV. Toddler siblings think very little of mothers posing as incubator goddesses. There was no-one to peel me a grape but almost certainly a squashed grape for me to clean up.
I tell every woman I meet that behaving like a princess during the first pregnancy is absolutely mandatory. This opportunity, once gone, never comes again. Oh yes, it’s noble to think about working up until the moment they wheel you into the delivery suite, but my singular question is WHY?? Why would you? On the precipice of the hardest job of your life, a 24/7 gig with no leave, paid or otherwise, you must take a moment to pause. Grow some vital organs for ANOTHER PERSON and chill the fuck out.
When the baby arrives, there are elements of this new existence that feel akin to being punched square in the face. Twice. Maybe three times. With an anvil. But mostly, I remember feeling like a lioness with her cub, formidable, powerful and fiercely in love. And for the first time in my adult life, I felt at peace. I was so at home in this new role and in my own skin. What a revelation that was after the tumultuousness of my twenties.
I felt genuinely confident that I was good at being a mum.
But that was a long time ago now.
I am still confident that I was an excellent mother to one newborn son. But of three personality-plus, opinion-having kids? No. Not so much.
I would describe my day to day life as a mother of three as chaotic, messy, exhausting. Which means I am tired and frantic most of the time. It’s not a good look on me. I can’t blame the kids entirely. Much of the chaos stems from me. My disorganisation. My reluctance to give myself over entirely to the monotonous of dishes and dinner; the relentlessness of school lunches and laundry. Most days, I resent this shit. Resent it. This is not what my life is meant to be. I am better than this.
What would I change though, if I could go back? Have less kids? Decide not to have them at all?
The answer never changes. I would bring these beautiful creatures into the world every, single time. What choice do I have, knowing the delicate curves of their faces as I do? This front row seat to the unfolding of a life, the blossoming of a soul – it’s impossible to weigh the value.
Every morning, I wake to a foot in my back, an elbow in my side. I turn around and there she is, my tiny bed hog. And every morning her first word is for me. “Mumma.” She reaches a small hand over to cup the side of my face. I am her touchstone.
Later, in the kitchen, the boys will wander out, eyes squinted against the light and always, always, they will find me, just to bury their wild-haired heads against me momentarily. They start their day with the sureness of me. I am their touchstone.
I don’t have an answer for the other stuff. I can’t pretend the groundhog day-ness of being Mum to three kids under 8 does not dilute my joy for life. But I understand that this is the price to be paid for the immeasurable privilege of motherhood. Yes, I’ll make a bazillion sandwiches with the crusts cut off, but I also get a bazillion butterfly kisses. School pick-up always comes too soon, bath time is a special kind of torture and kids believe that throw cushions have been named literally. But then you lay on the floor belly laughing with your kid about god knows what silliness, and you know.
I hope like hell that there is some relief on the horizon, that the drudgery lifts somewhat as the kids become older and more independent (and let’s face it, fuck off to school). Of course, then I’ll be weeping into my wine glass about how the years have passed me by too quickly.
Until then, I will try to keep the very worst of me locked down, to bite my tongue and be the parent, no matter how challenging that is. I will take a break wherever I can get one to try and recharge my flickering light. And I will be grateful for the little moments every single day because in the end, they make up a life.
Happy Mother’s Day to you, my mumma friends. I hope you get a little bit of whatever it is you need to keep this thing ticking over. Last year I got a car freshener thingy that said “Super Mum.” It helped.