By photographer Sally Goodall
Motherhood. Hands down the most incredible gift I could ever be given and one of the wildest rides I’ve ever been on. It’s brought an abundance of joy, tears, happiness, purpose and perspective into my life while also presenting us with many challenges along the way. It’s taught me to be more present in the moment, to be grateful for all we have and to cherish the simple things that life has to offer with our precious little family. A real life changer for sure but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Everyone tells you that you won’t get much sleep. Was it better or worse than you expected?
I have to admit, I was one of those people that thought I’d be fine. How wrong was I! For the first 6 months it was super challenging and a lot harder than both my husband and I could have ever imagined. When it was at its worst, Maisie had a 45-minute sleep cycle and when she wasn’t sleeping she was extremely uncomfortable which was emotionally taxing. We later found out she was having trouble digesting my milk, with the nights being the worst for her. She struggled lying down flat in her bassinet, so in order for her to get to sleep we either had her upright on us, in the front pack or in the pusher. I think I was walking about four times per day in the early days just to get her to sleep, with my body running mostly on adrenalin. At night there would be many times I’d have to sleep propped up on the sofa with a bunch of cushions (looking like her majesty) with Maisie asleep on my chest. I really had to do whatever it took to get some shuteye and because of this we developed some bad habits.
The lack of sleep started to take its toll. We literally tried everything after consulting the experts and taking all the advice under the sun. Nothing helped, so we realized we were going to have to take matters into our own hands and make some dramatic changes. Exhaustion and self-preservation forced me to go online to do my own research. It was during this time I found that Maisie was presenting with all the symptoms of a lactose intolerant baby. Looking back on it now in my not so sleep deprived state, I think she had a very immature digestive system and was getting an overload of lactose, so she wasn’t necessarily intolerant of it. At the time, we made the huge decision to take her off breast milk at 5 months and put her onto a lactose free formula. Three weeks on and she was a different baby. Happy, content and starting to sleep for longer, an absolute game changer and a huge win for us all.
How did you feel about giving up breastfeeding?
Initially I was happy to do whatever it took to take Maisie’s pains away. It was evident she was having trouble digesting my milk and hearing the constant screams and seeing her in agony was heart wrenching. Knowing there might be a remedy gave me hope, however, taking her off the boob was a lot harder than I anticipated and talking about it now is bringing back a flood of emotions. For me as a mother, along with a way of bonding with my baby, I found breastfeeding was one of the main things that comforted Maisie when she was in pain. It still took a good three weeks for her pains to decrease and during this time I had no ammunition to help relieve her. All I could do was to soothe her as best I could
Riding out the next 2-3 weeks was tough, as I really didn’t know if I was doing the right thing by her. I don’t quite know how to describe how it felt for me. I just really missed my special time with her and it felt like it had been cut short. I constantly had to remind myself how fortunate I was to be able to experience breast-feeding at all as I understand that not all women get this opportunity. Thankfully my husband was really supportive during this period and the two of us were able to work through it together as best we could. My parents arrived from New Zealand just at the right time and their unconditional love and guidance was and still is, a godsend. They were amazing, helping put my mind at ease that we were on the right track.
The day Maisie was completely pain free was a huge relief for Callum and I. To experience our first day and night without the cries of pain really made us feel vindicated in our decision to stop breast-feeding. The next week we focused on getting her sleep on track. It really only took two days before she started sleeping for 3-4 hour stretches. This of course meant that we finally were able to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. We didn’t know ourselves! Fast-forward a few months and she is a happy and content baby. Her sleep is a lot better, still a work in progress but a huge improvement in comparison to the early days.
How did you feel going back to work?
I felt a real mix of emotions. On one hand I love my work and was looking forward to spending time with Tori (my business partner & bestie) again. On the other hand I didn’t want to miss a moment with Maisie.
There are so many positives to me going back to work. Other than the obvious one of earning an income, I also think it’s beneficial for both Maisie and I to each have our independence. Of course it’s also great for Maisie and Cal to have daddy-daughter time too. She adores her Daddy.
When I first went back to work I solely relied on auto-pilot because I was in such a foggy state. It wasn’t until the photo shoot was completed and I was driving home that I would think to myself, ‘oh my god, I actually have a baby’. Then the excitement would hit me and it would be like Christmas morning seeing her again. She’s 9 months now and is very happily going to daycare two days a week, which of course is a huge relief for us. My husband and I both work from home so it gives us the opportunity to knuckle down and get some work done while also freeing up a little time to spend with each other. We are slowly working out the balance and it’s making our life a lot easier.
Has it made you think twice about age gaps between children (should you be planning on more kids)?
Yes and no. Cal and I would certainly love to be lucky enough to have more children. Having a baby has been hands down the biggest joy we have experienced yet, so on one hand I’d love to have lots of babies. But for now I think we’ll wait until we have some sleep in the bank before it’s time for number two.
What are your favourite moments of motherhood?
There’s so many! Meeting Maisie for the first time was of course the most incredible moment. We looked into each other’s eyes and held our gaze for what felt like forever. It was like we were looking into each other’s souls.
Another favourite time for both Cal and I is waking up to hearing her talking away happily in her cot. Cal and I LOVE our sleep ins, but have to say these days we both eagerly get out of bed early just to see the smile on her face.
I also love just watching her, observing her learning something new. Picking something up for the first time and feeling the texture, tasting something for the first time and watching her reaction. Hearing her laugh or saying Mumma. All those simple things make you realise what life is all about. She melts my heart each and every day.
What are the worst moments of motherhood?
Hmmm, there are a few memorable moments that spring to mind…but in the whole scheme of things, nothing too terrible.
One night when Maisie was just 2 weeks of age, my hubby was running a bath for me and forgot about it (oh dear). I’ll never forget the look on his face the moment we realized a portion of the house was flooded. This was the second time it had happened too, the first time I was the culprit and believe me, the clean up wasn’t fun. Not ideal with a screaming baby and two sleep deprived parents. Cal started on the clean up and my angel of a neighbour ended up coming to my rescue. I hadn’t slept in what felt like forever so I literally handed over my baby for her to settle and mind while I slept for 3 hours. It was heaven. I’ll always be forever grateful for that.
And the other would have to be when I flew to New Zealand with Maisie to spend time with my family on the farm for the first time. My girlfriends had all told me when flying you must get Maisie on the boob upon take off and landing so she wouldn’t have trouble with her ears. I certainly didn’t want a screaming bub while travelling on my own so I was determined to make this happen. Just prior to taking off, the male flight attendant was doing his safety demonstration beside me. I was trying my utmost to get her latched on (which proved to be much harder than normal), meanwhile my milk was squirting everywhere. I mean left, right, up, down…. Everywhere! So embarrassing, I couldn’t get off the plane quick enough!
What has taken you by surprise?
I have a new found respect for mothers! I know every mum has their own set of challenges but what I love is a mother’s honesty and willing to listen. Since having Maisie, I’ve found that many women have been so forthcoming with support, there is really a lot to be said for mother’s groups. I love listening to other mum’s experiences and advice and take on board what I think might work for us. I don’t know what I’d do without my friends and family’s constant love and support.
Read previous instalments of THE FIRST TWELVE MONTHS here… http://bit.ly/1VLkEiz
You can contact Sally on:
Mobile: 0450 099107 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org