There are people who’d have you believe – Hollywood and the media in general, I’m looking at you – that the process of becoming a mum is one and the same. You pop a (clean, non-gungy) baby out, gaze at its perfect rosy pink face and are magically transported into a world of blissful love and unicorns.
Sometimes this happens. As an avid fan of birth stories (why are they so addictive?), I adore reading the ones that really do feature love at first sight and effective hypnobirthing techniques. But I think these beautiful tales are the exception, rather than the rule, and my entrance into motherhood was most definitely the rule.
I knew what to expect before Elfie came along, I’d read all those parenting books, but just ignored the ‘bad’ bits. Sleepless nights? PAH! “My baby won’t be like that” I thought, knowingly stroking my bump.
My rocky introduction to motherhood began with a c-section at 39 weeks because of a stubbornly footling breech baby, and kind of went downhill from there. I gave birth, a baby covered in white crap was handed to me and I felt more worry than love. What was all that gross stuff (vernix, doh, missed that bit of the baby books)? Why did she look so cross? Who is this stranger a kind old surgeon just pulled from my body? Can we re-wind a bit please?
To say I was freaked out would be an understatement. I’d been sliced open from hip to hip, produced a human who did nothing but cry, poo and make my nipples bleed, had been left with a massive belly and piles and was somehow supposed to be luxuriating on a lily pad in a land of bliss?
Weird, this parenting lark.
The love came, of course it did. As did the contentment and the feeling that I was ALMOST on that lily pad. Almost. And it was the best thing in the world. It took time and was still weird, mind, but also truly awesome.
So my ‘becoming’ a mother wasn’t that instantaneous thing you see in the movies, it wasn’t a flick of a switch as soon as someone slightly resembling my DNA was birthed out of my body. It’s only now, 5 years in, that I’m starting to recognize myself as a mother (and sometimes quite a good one!).
It happens in weird places. The post office, the bathroom, the car. I say something that could have come out of my own mum’s mouth and I realise that I’m most definitely a mother. A grown-up mother of two children. HOLY CRAP!!! That definitely crept up on me when I wasn’t looking.
And so I’ve compiled my favourite “I know I’m a mother when…” moments. Tell me if you see these in yourself, too:
1. When I tell white lies
“If you don’t wash your hands after you’ve been to the loo they’ll fall off.”
“Father Christmas is ALWAYS watching.”
“The television people don’t wake up until 7am.”
Repeat ad infinitum…
2. When I’m chatting at the school gates
For a long time the school gates terrified me. I remember trying so hard to fit in once that I chattily congratulated the wrong lady on her new baby, and then painfully tried to squirm out of why I thought she’d just given birth. Luckily both the women I’d got confused that day are now friends, and I even caught myself heatedly discussing catchment areas and application deadlines with them right before half term. I finished that particular conversation, got in the car and thought, I don’t even know myself any more.
3. When I’m making a packed lunch
Speaking of which, there’s something about making packed lunches that makes me feel SO grown up. The little cartons of raisins? Or making sure I shoehorn at least 2 portions of fruit and veg in there so the lunchtime supervising teachers think I’m a good mum?
4. When I’m called Elfie’s mummy/Huxley’s mummy
This used to get my back up no end.
“Don’t they know I’m a PERSON with a CAREER and a LIFE?!” I’d say. “I’m not just someone’s MUMMY!!”.
Then I realised how few of the children’s parents names I remembered and started doing exactly the same thing. Sorry, parents of kids at school. I totally recognise you have lives/careers/personalities/names beyond parenthood but I’m just too knackered to remember what they are.
5. Because I regularly shop at Waitrose
When I first had kids I’d wander around the aisles at Waitrose, openly gawking at the other shoppers, the people that looked comfortable in this supreme shopping environment. I probably stuck out like a sore thumb with all the staring and dribbling I did twice a year back then, before returning to my more regular territory of Tesco.
Nowadays Waitrose is one of my sanity savers. We head there for a good-value lunch, the staff know the names of my kids and it’s the one supermarket I know like the back of my hand. I know, I know, I can save pounds a week if I shop more at Aldi. But seriously, when you run your life at 100mph and your weekly treat is a short stroll round the aisles of Waitrose then you takes your kicks where you can. Sorry gov.
Related to this: meal planning and regularly juicing. Both SO grown-up.
6. When I buy and read the paper. And not just the sidebar of shame
One of my favourite things I like to do is buy the weekend paper and read it from cover to cover: the actual paper, not just the supplements and not just the Daily Fail’s sidebar of shame. AN ACTUAL BROADSHEET. As a mum, I want to know about what’s going in the world so I can make informed decisions when I vote and ting.
Previously I only ever bought the paper to wrap china when I was moving house. Much intellect.
7. When I value quality over quantity
This might just be validation for my skincare/scented candle addictions, but I most definitely buy less things of higher quality these days. Jane Scrivner spree, anyone?
So I think it’s safe to say I feel like an actual mum now, lilypads (incontinence pads?) and all. What makes you feel like a mother?