Getting lost in motherhood – sometimes you have to get well and truly lost in order to be found
I love being a mummy.
It’s one of the most rewarding and simultaneously challenging things that I’ve ever tried to do.
I can remember the exact moment I knew that it was time to start my motherhood journey. 2004, a conversation on the train with my (then) husband about whether I should accept a place at Southampton University to retrain as a Secondary (High) School teacher and what the implications would be of leaving my well-paid career in corporate HR. I was halfway through my Masters in HR Management; I was really starting to make a name for myself.
This was the second time I’d been accepted to do my Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Six years previously I had turned down a place at Cambridge University to do the same course, thinking I wasn’t worldly-wise enough at 21 to be a teacher. When are you wise enough to become a mother I wonder?
It was during that conversation that it hit me. What I really wanted was to become a mummy. I knew it with a certainty and felt it with every fibre of my being.
Getting pregnant took a few months and being pregnant was relatively straightforward. Knowing I wanted to be a mum and being a mum though are two very different things I was soon to learn.
Somewhere in amongst the sleepless nights, failed breastfeeding attempts, tears (mine and my babies), pureed pear and projectile puke, I lost me. There were no crumbs to follow back home and no one to rescue me from the maze I’d become stuck in.
I didn’t go back into corporate HR – I stayed at home and became a full-time wife, mother, cleaner, cook and bottle-washer. It was a choice I was financially fortunate enough to be able to make and I am eternally grateful that I was able to spend those first few years at home.
I did everything for my family.
Without blowing my own trumpet, I am incredible housewife. I cook, clean, iron and basically run a household like a legend. My house looked like a show-home almost all of the time. I cooked every single meal from scratch every night. I baked bread, birthday cakes and bore a fake smile a lot of the time. For five years it was all about my children and my husband. They came first second and last in my order of priorities.
I didn’t feature in my own life. I had no part in my own story except as Mark’s wife or Martha and Sebastian’s mum.
I was blimp of a marshmallow of a woman.
Before Kids (BK) I had done a triathlon. I’d trained every day of the week, often twice a day before and after work. After Kids (AK) I sold my race bike believing I’d never be fit enough to ride it again.
BK I’d worn smart little skirt-suits to work, spoke with confidence and had earned people’s respect. AK I lived in yoga pants and baggy tops. I couldn’t get my little people to sleep when I wanted them to and refused meals that had taken hours to prepare would reduced me to tears in an instant.
BK my husband was attracted to me. AK he didn’t touch me, he didn’t want me.
AK I looked in the mirror and had absolutely no idea who was looking back at me.
My saving grace was the swimming pool.
I had tried to go back to swimming and the gym after Martha was born but she had such awful separation anxiety that she cried until she vomited in the crèche whenever I left her. There’s no way that mummy-guilt would allow me to do that more than twice, so I gave up.
It was only after Sebastian had arrived and rocked my world to its core that I took myself in hand. Almost as clearly as that initial decision to become a mummy was that first swim when Sebastian was barely three months old. I swam to escape my thoughts, to step out of my life for a little while. It felt great.
Initially I only went two or three times a week but before long I was going every morning before my husband and children woke up for their day. I was back home before they knew I’d been gone. I remember driving in snow and ice to get to the pool and getting stuck in the carpark at the top of the hill one winter’s morning, such was my dedication and focus and need.
Who would have ever thought that three years later I would retrain as a different kind of teacher, a Personal Trainer, to teach other women how to find themselves after having babies? Not me.
Who would have thought that I would be fitter, stronger and healthier 10 years AK than I ever was BK? Not me.
I will turn 40 in July. I’ve created a list of 40 things I want to do before the end of my 40th year. There are things on that list that I would never have imagined possible sitting on that train expressing my desire to become a mummy.
I am a better person for that journey. I am richer in experience and knowledge. I have more grey hairs and wrinkles and stretch marks. I have memories that I will treasure until my last breath.
I’ve taken wrong turns and hit dead ends. There have been parts that I’ve travelled at lightening speeds and seemingly endless sleepless nights that have brought me to my knees. I’ve learned more about myself in my mummy years than I thought possible.
I’ve been so very lost, found and remade, and I wouldn’t trade a single part of the journey.