There is an expectation when you become a parent that you will instantly know what you are doing.
That you will know what your child wants and needs; that you will be ready for all of the challenges that parenthood throws at you.
But the reality is you can never be prepared because you can’t predict the future.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would have twins.
I had never considered the possibility of having a child with disabilities.
All of my antenatal classes and the parenting books I read focused on caring for a baby- the feeding and changing; ‘safe’ sleeping; things to be aware of such as temperatures and rashes.
But there is so much that these classes didn’t cover and could never prepare you for, because being a parent is not easy or simple, though it is a fundamental feature of all lifeforms.
The biggest thing that made me question the idea of what a ‘natural parent’ is, is the mental and emotional change you go through.
Honestly, I didn’t instantly fall in love with Rory and Alfie when they were born. I was terrified and went through a whole range of emotions that ultimately led to me suffering from postpartum depression.
I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy and ‘glowing’; I didn’t know why I was crying constantly. I loved them unconditionally, but I wasn’t happy for a long time and because of the portrayal of parenthood on social media, I thought there was something wrong with me.
It is this portrayal of the natural parent that is so damaging. Where is the real parent, the parent that goes through struggles, the parent who learns as they go?
One of the biggest things I had to learn is that breastfeeding is not always natural.
That it is painful initially and your baby cannot always latch. After being discharged from the special care baby unit, Rory did well with breastfeeding- he would latch and feed well and the pain soon stopped.
Alfie was a whole different story- along with his health issues, Alfie just could not latch properly.
In turn, that caused greater issues as even trying to breastfeed would use up too much energy.
It very quickly became apparent that Alfie would only be able to bottle feed, which led to more complications. We then had to work out which teat was suitable, as well as what we would feed him.
Ultimately, I decided to express so that Alfie still had breastmilk, but the toll that took on my body and mental health was something else to overcome.
And that is the reality.
Parenting is not natural or easy for everyone. The struggles are normal and real.
It is ok to not know what to do, you have to learn what is best for you, your child and your family and know that as long as you are trying your best, you are winning at parenting.