When I was pregnant with #1, and like most people I imagine, I had these imagined ideas about what sort of parent I wanted, and inevitably (because it was my first time and I was naive) would be.

I had a ‘drug-free, no pain, breath your way through it birth plan’. Here’s how that went –
#1 – Induced @ 36 weeks with Group B-Strep. Labour lasted for 24 hours. I had an epidural.
When I was pregnant with #2 I was adamant I wanted a home birth. The whole invasive hospital experience from #1 had put me off, although the care we received was amazing. You will never hear me utter a bad word about our NHS, we are blessed. Anyway here’s how that went –
#2 – emergency c-section at 29+6 weeks due to a breach baby, who had passed meconium in her waters after they ruptured at 28+6 weeks.
By the time #3 rolled around I was happy to birth at the hospital. Having suffered a miscarriage before she appeared, and having experienced what I did with the previous two I was absolutely happy to birth in hospital, incase anything went wrong. But I was water, hypno, breathing my way through it. That went like this –
#3 – Completely drug free labour, that lasted FOUR DAYS, resulting in a baby born at 26+1 weeks looking like ET’s dwarf twin.

Next up on the unrealistic ideas list was breastfeeding. Ok so I have to confess that there was a brief moment with #1 where I refused to even consider breastfeeding. I’m going to blame it on being young and misinformed. Anyway, #1’s Dad informed me that if I was going to birth a child carrying his surname then I was breastfeeding, no question. And I am SO glad he did. I am passionate about breastfeeding, I am one of ‘those’ mums who just wont even pretend to care about your reasons why ‘formula is better’. So of course, I had decided to breastfeed, this shit would easy yeah?
#1 – Tongue tie. Refused to latch. Ended up on solely expressed milk for a month, then my milk upped and dried up and she ended up on formula.
#2 – Expressed for 12 weeks, when she was in hospital and then when she came home. Then she had super bad acid reflux and ended up on prescribed formula from the GP to stop her throwing up.
#3 – Expressed for 12 weeks while she was in hospital. Fed her for a year after she came home. No bottles, no formula. Only two bouts of mastitis and three days of not being able to lift my hands above my head due to engorgement. All praise breastfeeding.

After your first baby, it takes a while to get over the utter mind boggling shock that hits you. But then you do, and they sleep (sort of). And then you get to weaning. And you spend hours upon hours mashing and blending and spoon feeding weird concoctions of fruit and veg and all the ‘right’ finger foods. You give them kale, and make everything from scratch, and they don’t get chocolate, and they only drink water. And then you wake up one day, and #3 (who has so far been sort of winning) eats; tinned macaroni, scrambled egg, baked tatties, and goes fucking nuts if she even sees meat.

At some point during your first full nights sleep, in like forever, your children start school, and develop personalities, and ask things like ‘Where do babies come from?’, and ‘Mummy what does shit mean?’, oh and my favorite to date ‘Mummy what is a tampax?’ And you realize, or at least I’ve realized, that you are not the parent you expected to be, or even the parent you want to be. I didn’t expect to have children and still want to have a career, but I do. I didn’t expect to look at my children when they are gobbing off about ‘life not being fair’ and imagine myself punching them in the face. But I do. *Disclaimer* I have never actually punched my children, or any other children for that matter. I did slap my sister once, when I was pregnant, but that’s it.
I didn’t think I would crave time away from my girls, but I do. I’m going away this weekend to race and it’ll be my first night away from all three since last March. And I cannot wait. I didn’t think I’d use screen time as a bribe so I can finish college reports two hours before they are due in. But I do.

I am absolutely not the parent I imagined I would be. I’m not even the parent I want to be most days. I wish I shouted less, I wish my house was tidier, I wish I was more inclined to give a shit about what they do at school, or when they go out to play. Mostly, as long as they’re not killing anyone then I don’t really care. BUT I actually really love my little life. Yeah I’m pretty busy, we live in a little chaotic bubble Mon-Fri, but I love my girls, I love my job, I love where my 5 year plan will take me. I love my friends, and the life that we have. Yeah it might not be what I imagined it would be, but it’s such a nice feeling when you stop trying to justify what you do, and what you think, and how you live. People are different. That’s ok. Some want to work, some are happy being at home full time. Some want 1 child, some want 6. That’s ok too. If you can go to bed at night and be happy with maybe not being the parent you imagined, but accepting you’re still being a fucking rockstar every day, then you are winning.

I’m just really thankful for Cider, and the fact I can send them to their dads sometimes.