‘Looking back now, I was extremely paranoid during my pregnancy. I regret that, as I therefore did not enjoy the time as much as I should have.’

I thought it was going to be easy. Fall pregnant, go into labour, have baby, and take baby home with me once I was discharged from hospital.

However, the reality I was about to experience was very different!

Beginning with the length of time it took to fall pregnant, through to my precious first born arriving five weeks early. Yes, due to circumstances being what they were prior to meeting my baby’s father I was little older. A fact that was pointed out to me whilst seeking medical advice over why I was not falling pregnant; causing the thought processes of ‘I’m not a real mother’ to begin weaving their way deep into my subconscious and settling into pockets within my mind ever-ready to push through and remind me of all the perceived mistakes I had made.

I had expectations of what the pregnancy would be like and had played out the birth over and over in my mind, adamant that I wanted a natural birth because that was the ‘real’ way to have a baby. ‘Real’ mothers did not have caesareans. The reality; my expectations would be shattered and I would discover what a ‘real’ mother actually was.

From the moment my waters broke to the actual birth of my precious baby girl, an immense wave of emotions carried me along through every part of the journey.  I was not ready, not on any level. I needed more time; I was on my way to the hospital to have a baby even though I still had five weeks until my due date. I was scared.

I was given gas for pain relief and was told by the midwives that I was doing really well and things were being monitored. It wasn’t until a particularly painful contraction refused to stop that the ‘reality of my expectations’ began to change. Once my Obstetrician arrived a sense of urgency blanketed the whole room. By this stage I knew I was about to have an emergency caesarean to get my baby out as soon as possible. At this point I was more afraid of the whole procedure than anything else. The disappointment of being unable to deliver naturally would set in later and to be honest, would never actually leave me.

Now here I was in the theatre, midwives preparing me for surgery; lying there waiting, waiting for the feeling to leave my lower half. I was nervous ‘am I going to feel the cut of the surgeon’s scalpel?’ this thought at the forefront of my mind as my senses seemed to be heightened all at once.

She was out! She wasn’t crying! Why wasn’t she crying?

Reality versus expectation once again rising from within me … where was the part where the baby comes out of the mother crying loudly, only settling once laid skin to skin on its mothers chest?

Finally I hold her. She is wrapped up tight in a hospital blanket, her eyes looking straight into mine. Then, far too quickly she is whisked away and I am left to be pieced back together … physically … definitely not mentally..

I am in the recovery ward, the only patient; it is very early in the morning. I have lost track of a lot.

I am in the Maternity Ward with another new mother in the bed next to me. The curtain between us is closed so I cannot see her baby but I can hear everything. This new mother is busy being a mother; feeding, changing nappies and most importantly holding her baby close; giving this new little life the comfort only a mother can give.

I am heartbroken. I can still only touch my baby girl through holes in the incubator she is in … not yet ready for an open crib. I did not give her, her first feed or change her first nappy. The web of depressing thoughts now deeply woven within my tired mind; ‘I have failed as a mother already.’

The day has come for me to be discharged from hospital. My baby girl will not be coming home with me just yet. She is still being fed through a nasal tube in her tiny button nose. I am looking down at her in her crib by the window, ‘I will be back soon’. I cannot hold back the tears. The midwives are lovely, they love their jobs and the babies they look after, but, I am her mother, she is supposed to be bonding with me during those quiet night time hours. It is supposed to me and her snuggled on the couch as she has a feed and then nods off back to sleep as I rock her.

‘It’s MY job!’ I wanted to scream. But what came out were merely soft words and more tears.

My eldest daughter is now almost six years old. Looking back, the extra time she had to spend in hospital without me left no obvious impact on her ability to bond with me once home, however thoughts of this and my inability to give birth naturally not just with my first but also my second daughter still haunt me. I can now no longer have any more children; my body just wasn’t cut out for it. I still struggle over all with the vast differences between my ‘expectations’ of what my child bearing would be like and the ‘reality’ of what it became.

Women – including myself – need to constantly remind themselves that a mother comes in many shapes and child birth is different for every woman.

A ‘real’ mother is one who takes on the responsibilities of caring for a child; who deals with the reality she is given not the expectations she has in her mind.

Place less importance on expectation and open up to what may become reality.