Donna is a wonderful colleague of mine who I met at the end of last year. She began teaching shortly after I found out I was pregnant, and I found myself wondering how she was commencing full-time work with a toddler (aren’t they a lot of work?!).
As I got to know Donna, I found her to be an incredibly patient, kind and caring woman, teacher and friend. I know that she carries herself in this way in all aspects of her life, so I knew her husband and son were lucky. As a toddler mum, Donna has recently survived the early/newborn baby stages and so I asked her to share her story with us new mums to give us a glimmer of hope of what lies before us – thanks Donna!
Can you introduce us to yourself and your family? What do you like to do and what do you do for a living?
Hi! My name is Donna and I am a proud mummy to my son, Seb, who just turned two and lucky wife to a most patient and loving husband. I work full time as a primary school teacher, in my first year of teaching my own class, whom I affectionately also call “my kids” when I refer to them. I worked previously as a corporate lawyer and decided to retrain to be a teacher 3 years ago, having devoted close to a decade to studying and working in law.
It was after I decided to go back to study, that my husband and I decided to have a baby. We talked about it previously, as something we would definitely like in the future but had never seriously turned our mind to it until then. It was when we took the time to slow down, and reflect on how we wanted our future to look like that I decided to take a sideway step in my career and also start a family while we were still relatively young. Looking at our beautiful son everyday and feeling the joy (and exhaustion) of teaching, we wouldn’t have it any other way!
My interests in life are simple – family, food and travel! My down time is often spent browsing and daydreaming about new places to visit and new things to cook and eat!
What were your initial thoughts and feelings towards motherhood?
There are incredible highs and amazing lows in motherhood. It is truly a roller coaster ride. When Seb was first born, we felt this incredible rush of love towards this beautiful, pink, wrinkly little baby who immediately became the centre of our world. He completely enthralled us with everything he did and we could spend the whole day just watching him breath and sleep. Every tiny milestone brought us such joy and even now, I sometimes just stop and look at him and think of how incredible life is.
With the immense and important responsibility of looking after a beautiful life that is completely reliant on you for survival, I felt the constant anxiety of “Am I doing this right?”. Is he breathing? Is he drinking enough? Why is he crying again? When will he sleep through? Should he go to x, y, z classes? Should we sleep train him?
For me, I think motherhood has brought out the best and most selfless, loving part of me as well as unleashing my biggest insecurities and mother’s guilt.
What has been the most difficult age/stage of raising your son so far (eg. Teething, walking, being sick, etc), and how did you overcome this challenge?
I think each stage of development has its own challenges. For me, the most difficult so far was definitely the so called “fourth trimester” and the sleep deprivation that comes with it. I had heard about the demands of feeding every 2-3 hours, the projectile vomits and poos, but I don’t think we were fully prepared for how utterly all-consuming and physically and emotionally exhausting looking after a newborn really is.
Between the feeding, that could take 30 minutes to an hour, followed by nappy changes, bathing, burping, possible vomiting and finally putting bub back to sleep, sometimes there was only an hour of sleep before the cycle restarts again. Added to this, I was studying for a final exam in those first weeks and it was back to full time prac and university when Seb was just two months old and I was still breast feeding full time. I was constantly exhausted and feeling the guilt of not being able to give 100% to either my baby or my studies.
In the end, it was worth it! With the support of my husband and my parents, we raised a happy and healthy baby and I managed to graduate on time with pretty decent marks, about to embark on a whole new career with a class of my own the following year at an amazing school.
I think it is important to keep communication open with your partner and share the load when you can. I was lucky to have my husband at home in that first month as he was a constant source of strength and support. Seek and accept help when it is offered as those first months can really feel like you are on survival mode! Be easy on yourself and take things one step at a time. Set small and achievable goals and believe that you can do it! Your mind and body are incredible and surprisingly adaptable. It is amazing what you can achieve if you set yourself to it and you are passionate about your goals. Finally, set time for yourself and your partner. This may be difficult and it may be infrequent, but it will do wonders for your sanity.
What have been your favourite parts of motherhood? What have been the challenges?
My favourite part of motherhood is watching my little baby develop into my little toddler who has his own quirky and distinct personality. I am loving this age and we are constantly surprised by how fast he is changing and absorbing everything around him. He is entering the parroting stage where he attempts to repeat everything we say. He is starting to be a lot more creative with his play – we have imagery tea parties with playdoh (which he sometimes actually eats so maybe it’s not so imaginary), he sets up his chairs to pretend we are on the train (he is obsessed with trains), building castles out of books… It definitely keeps our days interesting and busy!
The challenges associated with this are that he is starting to throw tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. At the moment, it is still manageable as we can usually distract him for long enough that he forgets what the tantrum was about in the first place. Also, as he is down to a single nap during the day, there is very little down time since he demands a lot of attention in his waking hours.
If you could offer one piece of advice or encouragement to new mums, what would it be?
Take the time to enjoy your child because they grow up so quickly! In the newborn stage, we used to lament the fact that Seb would sometimes only sleep when he was being held. Now that he is older, we relish the times he lets us hug and hold him to sleep because they are few and far between!
Remember all your baby needs from you at the end of the day is your care and love! You’ve got it and you are the best mummy to your child!