Thanks Serena – from one mother to another

I'm not one to put the spotlight on me when addressing such a personal issue in public, but I read with interest today 'Serena Williams reveals post-partum struggles led to Rogers Cup withdrawal' (Source Sky Sports News). Serena may be perceived as the ‘rich and famous’ but she is just human too.

I gave up a job I loved and was lucky to have 22 months off with my little boy who arrived five years ago as an unexpected bundle of joy and still remains the best surprise I’ve ever had in my life. But it was tough; I was naive, mainly wondered around in a daze like a rabbit in headlights and felt a mix of emotions that ranged from weakness, guilt for feeling the way I did, worry and pressure.    

I joined the world of work again after 22 months of maternity leave and decided to throw myself in at the deep end by becoming a part-time lecturer at one of my local universities. I then joined a PR agency which I love and has been the best career move I ever made…  personally and professionally. Why? For the first time since the birth of my son I felt like ‘me’ again and the positive impact that was having on my little boy was clear to see.

Sometimes I know I don’t always get the balance right, but what I do know is my little boy is happy, polite, kind, smart and very funny… which will do for me!  

I’m no expert, obviously, and I appreciate everyone’s circumstances are different which has an impact on a women’s postnatal journey so this little bit of advice about to follow is personal to me and just my opinion, but if it helps just one person I’ll be chuffed!

Is breast really best?

Okay I don’t want to open a can of worms with this topic, so to speak, which is often the case. I struggled with breast feeding for seven months and as a result don’t feel like I bonded with my son as I should have done – I didn’t enjoy it, couldn’t wait for the feeding sessions to end and struggled with mastitis three times. It was the wise words, in my opinion, of my doctor when I visited her the last time with mastitis who said ‘I think it’s more important now your little boy has a happy and healthy mummy in mind and body, then continuing with the breast feeding’.   

Don’t be such a dummy!

Again at the risk of opening a national debate on this topic, I will keep it short and say I didn’t use a dummy, but can definitely see why they are used as soothers and pacifiers. Especially for mums who have very hungry babies and use their mummies as a human soother! Exhibit A… my son! If I had my time again I would have used a dummy. 

Remember it won’t always be like this

Some of my close friends have recently had babies and they said when they asked me for advice this was the best I gave them. For what it’s worth, I said treat the first three months as the fourth trimester. I found the first three months an emotional roller-coaster (otherwise known as the dark days as I called them) – movie size bags of Maltesers and my friend 'Ned', available in all good wine shops, helped a lot… but not so much with the weight! I found it definitely got better and better as I adjusted to motherhood and my baby adjusted to his new surroundings and, more importantly, we adjusted to each other!   

Talk to someone (and don’t feel afraid to)

I wholeheartedly agree with Serena – ‘communications is best’ and only works when it is two way. I don’t know what I would have done without my beloved family and friends… keeping me sane and supporting me.  So surround yourself with the people who know and love you the best and your closest networks!

Don’t feel guilty

Do what’s best for you and your child, not what’s best for everyone else or what you think you should do.

And… my final advice would be to believe in yourself. You know yourself best - your body and mind - so don't succumb to the pressure of other people telling you how to conform to motherhood. No one is perfect... that's why pencils have erasers at the end!

Written by Martha Phillips, 07/08/2018