By Sam Avram, Hadleigh and Hintlesham teacher
You get that positive line on the test and it feels like your world is complete – a little brother or sister for your first-born! A play mate, a friend for life, a little sibling to boss around! It’s a wonderful feeling, but if you’re anything like me, the dreaded mum-guilt soon kicks in.
Soon after our daughter turned one, we had a beautiful summer wedding, followed by a rough few months of moving house, family members falling ill and the winter nights becoming darker and colder. I’d always wanted to have children close in age, and so we decided the time was right to start trying for baby number two. We were incredibly lucky to fall pregnant straight away, and immediately I began to dream of our family of four and all the fun we’d have together. Then the morning sickness set in. The fatigue. The low blood pressure, with daily headaches and dizzy spells. All whilst trying to juggle moving house yet again, teaching 3 days a week, and entertaining a toddler for the rest of the time! I hadn’t prepared for how hard pregnancy would be the second time round, and boy it was hard! Combined with the ridiculously hot summer of 2018, the symptoms and stresses of being pregnant with a toddler in tow started to really take its toll. I already felt terrible for my daughter that she wasn’t having this fun summer of family days out, daily trips to the park and afternoons on the beach. Instead, I was spending a good hour every morning mustering up the energy to freeze a ton of ice cubes, stick some playdough or paints out on a table, position the fan on myself – and then the majority of the days desperately trying to keep hydrated and cool enough to keep myself and the bump healthy and safe. It wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t exciting, I felt I was failing as a Mum to my toddler and was perhaps being selfish for having another baby when she needed me more.
Then the summer was over (finally!) and I thought that perhaps now I’d have the energy to do more and be the all singing and dancing Mum I’d been dreaming of being. Nope….turns out being heavily pregnant isn’t really a bundle of fun, no matter what the weather is!
Eventually (2 weeks overdue, thank you very much) our beautiful son was born. Despite the inevitable guilt of leaving my daughter with other family members for a day or two while I was in labour, it was truly magical to see her meet her baby brother for the first time. She was, and still is, obsessed with him, wanting to help with singing him to sleep, asking a million questions about him, choosing his outfits each day with me. It was lovely. But good old Mum guilt reared its ugly head soon after again. “Mummy, why don’t you cuddle me much anymore? Do you love the baby more?” I remember sobbing into my daughter’s cuddles after that particular question. The combination of guilt, hormones and lack of sleep was just too much. And so it carried on…
I couldn’t give all my time to my daughter anymore, I was regularly asking her to ‘wait until I’d finished feeding’ and I felt awful for it. On the other hand, my little boy didn’t have the beautifully prepared, personalised baby book made for him like I had made for my daughter. He didn’t have millions of photographs taken of him in every conceivable pose imaginable. We didn’t take him to a newborn photographer for the ultra-expensive cute photos this time, but had a few family portraits taken instead. The list went on, so many things that my daughter had been given or experienced that the new baby didn’t have due to lack of time, money and energy. The guilt I experienced was constantly there though, feeling bad in some way or another. Don’t even get me started on how bad I felt that I couldn’t give my husband much attention either, date nights are still a distant dream at the moment!
The guilt carried on, and it wasn’t until I started observing classes at Suffolk Babies, in preparation for my own new classes, that I realised just how incredible new Mums are, and that we shouldn’t feel guilty at all. Or rather, we should, because we’re human and it’s those feelings of guilt, of self-doubt, of uncertainty, that make us better Mums. Having a baby turns your life upside down, and we make huge sacrifices to care for these tiny beings. Of course things are going to be different, but it’s all to help those babies grow and respond to their every need. I wasn’t being selfish by having another baby, our family is filled with more love and happiness than ever. My daughter isn’t going to hate me for not taking her to the zoo as much last summer, she’s got years of summers with her brother to enjoy ahead of her! I can make my son a baby book one day in the future when things aren’t so crazy, but for now he needs me to play with him and for me to rest at night ready for a busy next day. My children have so much love for each other already, and it’s the little moments of them falling asleep holding hands, giggling at each other across the dinner table, and many more that make all the guilty feelings fade away.
My advice to anyone experiencing those guilty feelings, is to just accept that there is no ‘perfect’ when it comes to parenting. Doing your best, and what’s right for your family is what matters. If you can ask family or friends to help out so that you can spend some quality time with a child that has not had your attention as much, then great! But if not, don’t feel bad. You’re doing your best and keeping everyone alive – and your children will love you for it, unconditionally.
Sam runs baby classes and antenatal workshops in Hintlesham.