This post is part of the ‘Tales From The Other Side Of …’ series. There are so many stages, achievements, milestones and heartbreaks we go through as parents and whatever we are experiencing, whether good, bad, exciting or terrifying, it’s always nice to know someone else has already done it and come through the other side. To find out how you can get involved and share your story/tips and tricks click here. Today we have the lovely Charlie from Our Altered Life with the heart-rending and inspirational story of her journey into motherhood. This post was originally published on her own blog here.

Charlie from Our Altered Life shares her experiences when one of her twins was born with Goldenhar syndrome

I don’t remember much about the first time I saw my babies. I think I had been in a numb daze. Recovering from an emergency c-section and still trying to process the sudden arrival of my twins eight weeks early. Trying to wake myself up from the unexpected news that one of my babies had been born with only half a face.

I was soon back on the ward with the other mums. The proper mums. The good mums. I felt that I had nothing in common with them now and I resented them for that. For their perfectly formed babies and the lives they would enjoy together. For the pride and love that radiated from them. I watched them out of the corner of my eye with a detached wonder, as if they were on the television. From now on I knew that I would only ever watch others live the life I had spent the last 32 weeks planning. I was bitter and yet empty at the same time. Grieving for the living and I know that sounds dramatic but trust me, it’s a grief.

The Mother you dreamed you would be is lost to you.

I had watched enough twin programmes to last a lifetime and had decided that I would be one of those carefree relaxed parents. The sort that just slung a baby on each boob while watching afternoon tv before we had a synchronised snooze. I knew I’d be a messy mother on account of the fact that I’m a messy person. Not dirty I want to add! Just not overly particular about where I put stuff so I knew the house would be chaos. I quite liked the idea of being the token ‘twin mum’ at the local baby classes. “You know. Charlene..the one with the twins? Tells everyone how her down belows are still teenager status after she had an emergency c-section” and people would laugh because I would tell that story to cover the fact that I was a little bit gutted to have had a caesarean at all. Distract with humour 101.

That wasn’t going to happen now. I didn’t know if or how I would feed my babies or if I would even want to. At the time, I didn’t give baby groups a second thought but weeks later, I knew it would never be something I would take part in. “You know. Charlene? The one who had the twin with half a face? Lovely girl. Shame”

The love you expected to flow from you like tears of elation isn’t there. 

I am sure that for some mothers, their maternal instinct kicks in straight away and they are just grateful to have a baby at all. One with challenges just makes them even more precious. Yeah, that wasn’t me. I was struggling to digest the news that our lives had changed like a lump of grizzle on a steak. Stuck in my throat. I didn’t feel any love at all. Not for my babies. Not for my partner. Not for myself. In fact I would go so far as to say that I was rapidly beginning to despise myself as I was unpicking my pregnancy moment by moment searching for the cause. There were tears alright, but they were full of guilt and sadness.

Your mind is racing instead of resting. 

Lots of the mums were sleeping on the ward. Resting after the wondrous miracle of giving birth (I still think its wonderous even when you have a c-section now by the way. Just because they come out of the sunroof doesn’t make you less amazing!).

I didn’t know how or what to feel but I knew how I ‘should’ be feeling. And I didnt. There were questions racing around my mind like birds in a cage all desperate to get out. Tweeting and flapping and too frightened to stay still for long enough to be caught. It was relentless and exhausting. When I did finally manage to fall asleep, I dreamt of it all anyway. There was no rest. There were only questions without answers.

The relationships you imagined in your children’s future are suspended.

I am very close to my own mum (not my Dad but that’s a blog and an episode of Jeremy Kyle, on its own!) I always knew that I would be a firm but fair mum. An honest one that always gave the answers to even the questions that made me cringe (like the time I asked Mum what masturbation was as she made us all a spaghetti Bolognese. That must have been pretty awkward for her). I imagined being quite a good referee for the children as they inevitably fell out over the years and I looked forward to the friendship they would forge. Seeing each other through the milestones of childhood into adulthood. I would be at their side until they left me to start a life of their own and I would be SO proud.

It was all gone. We had no idea what quality of life Harry would have. What milestones he would hit or miss. Whether he would be able to bond with Oliver and live anything near the life I had dreamed for them both. We were on unchartered territory and I was lost without a map.

But here’s the thing.

That Mother that was lost to me, she couldn’t have handled the life we have now. The Mother I am today is stronger and braver than any mother I could have imagined becoming. I love the Mother I am for my boys now and more importantly, they love her too.

The love that was lost to me at the start, and it took a while for me to catch my breath and work on this, is a love so rich and so fierce now that it consumes me in the most amazing way. I believe that I love my boys waaay more than I might have done had I had the life I took for granted. I am never complacent and I am always, always grateful.

My mind still races, but that’s just life. Which Mother doesn’t have 300 things to think about at any one time? Now though, it’s the every day stuff. I don’t torture myself with the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘when did it happen?’ and generally I sleep deep and easy (usually on the nights the boys are with their Dad to be honest).

Our relationships aren’t the ones I had hoped for. There is no denying that. Do I wish they were? Honestly? Sometimes yes. When Oliver wants to be a play mate instead of a punch bag. When I counsel Oliver through his middle school trials and Harry isn’t able to offer any brotherly support or encouragement. Having said that, it does mean I only have one set of awkward questions to answer when it comes to puberty and sexual health. Every cloud and all that.

What I’m trying to say is that all of those fears were just that. Fears. Not a prediction. Not a certain reality and just as our lives changed once, they have changed again. Several times. And each time I grow too and learn a little bit more about what I am capable of, how far I can be pushed, what a kick ass mother I actually am to my boys.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if I could say anything to myself back then it would be “Yes, this is shit. But it gets so much better and you will be so much stronger than you think you are now”.

And as for the other mums, well they have their share of dramas too. Of heartache and pain. Of trials and arguments. Of awkward conversations over Italian based meat dishes. We are more alike than different in the end.

There are no ‘other mums’. Just us. Cocking it up and learning the ropes one day at a time.

Chat soon

Charlie xxx

You can read more from Charlie on her great blog Our Altered Life and follow her on the following channels:

Charlie is also in the process of writing a book all about her experiences over the last 8 years and you can read the first chapter here.
Charlene Machin and sons Oliver and Harry
Run Jump Scrap!TammymumHot Pink Wellingtonsethannevelyn.comOne Messy Mama

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18 thoughts on “The Great Divide – Me and the ‘Other Mums’

  1. I had a c-section too with both of my boys. I know the grief and felt it when my oldest was diagnosed with Autism. I understand that loss of a future you dream up for your children and suddenly, it’s gone. But like you, I have learned so much more and my son is now 15 and is doing great in high school. He’s even looking forward to college! The grief is painful but the life we built with our kids and the mothers we have become are so much better and stronger than we ever could have imagined. Thanks so much for sharing your story:)

    Posted on 11 July, 2017 at 1:51 pm
  2. This is absolutely beautiful, Charlie. A wonderful honest post of motherhood. I too had dreams of who I would be as a mother but I’m nothing like her, I’m not sure who I thought I would be but I am very much me! The photo of you and your boys is just gorgeous. Thank you so so much for sharing xx #FamilyFun
    justsayingmum recently posted…Be YouMy Profile

    Posted on 12 July, 2017 at 9:59 am
  3. I think all of us are guilty (I hate to use that word here, but that’s all I can think of) are believing we will automatically become a supermom after our kids are born. Sure, bonding is easier for some of us-but the more I read the more I come to understand there are more of us that have trouble than we thought! More postpartum depression, more agonizing sleepless nights, and more trouble with our partners because, let’s face it-none of that plays well on a Facebook post!

    I think this blog post was beautifully written & I love this series!
    And yes…I am going to participate in it myself!:))
    Heather Burnett recently posted…Unicorns, Facebook Overshares & Pool Floats Shaped Like Maxi PadsMy Profile

    Posted on 13 July, 2017 at 2:43 pm
  4. Forgot to say I am popping in from #sharingthebloglove
    Heather Burnett recently posted…Unicorns, Facebook Overshares & Pool Floats Shaped Like Maxi PadsMy Profile

    Posted on 13 July, 2017 at 2:44 pm
  5. Ah what an honest, beautiful post. My daughter also has complex issues that we had no idea about until she was born. There are still moments where the fear grips and you wonder what life will be like for them, but you have to focus on the here and now and, what seemed so frightening and horrible at the beginning, becomes your normal. #sharingthebloglove
    Lucy At Home recently posted…Stay At Home Activities For The School HolidaysMy Profile

    Posted on 13 July, 2017 at 6:03 pm
  6. Wow what a story, it is a brilliant post. So very honest and so very touching. I think we all have pre conceptions of motherhood and have that magical moment in our minds of having just given birth. I didn’t see my second baby for hours after his birth, he didn’t come home for weeks and weeks and he had a difficult journey for a long time. It took me a long time to recover from it too. I was so very frightened for him and his future at one point and it is all consuming but like you say the passage of time stands you well and you find a strength you did not know you had. Beautiful post, thank you for joining us at #familyfun x
    tammymum recently posted…Baking A (Simple) Celebration Cake With NestleMy Profile

    Posted on 13 July, 2017 at 9:29 pm
  7. Wow – what an amazingly open and honest story. Thank you for sharing! Visiting from #sharingthebloglove

    Posted on 13 July, 2017 at 10:42 pm
  8. What a beautiful post, so honest. You are a strong women Charlie & you can see how much you will battle and support your boys through their life journey. Good luck with the book. #sharingthebloglove

    Posted on 14 July, 2017 at 9:11 am
  9. What a wonderful, inspiring post. I suspect that none of us turn out to be the mum we planned, just because our children don’t turn out to be the people we imagine and our relationships with others evolve. But wow … I am totally in awe. What an amazing mum you are!

    Posted on 14 July, 2017 at 8:10 pm
  10. I never felt very maternal either, it really was a shock to the system. Lovely post and thanks for sharing with the #bestandworst
    Helen Gandy recently posted…Simple Ways to Lift Your Spirits!My Profile

    Posted on 14 July, 2017 at 9:46 pm
  11. Wow! What an inspiring story!
    Alicia Owen recently posted…The Problem with Visiting All the Doctors (Within the Same Office)My Profile

    Posted on 15 July, 2017 at 2:43 am
  12. To Charlie, this is a post that needs to be read by as many people as possible. That line “but I knew how I ‘should’ be feeling” is one that I told myself over and over again when both my children were born. Not feeling how I “should” scared me. What was wrong with me, why did I not feel the same as the other doting dads, where was my sudden rush of overwhelming love? What was wrong with me? 4 years it took me to love my children in the way that I “should” have. 4 years of impatience, lack of bonding regret and anger. But now the love is there, and yes it’s overwhelming, I just wish someone had told me then, maybe I wouldn’t have beaten myself up so badly. Glad you finally made it to the happy place too. #GlobalBlogging
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    Posted on 17 July, 2017 at 9:41 am
  13. Lovely honest post be Charlie. Sarah #FabFridayPost
    Sarah recently posted…Glamping at Canvas and StarsMy Profile

    Posted on 17 July, 2017 at 1:06 pm
  14. Just beautiful! I am not the mum that I thought I would be and for a while I battled with that. But I’ve come to realise that the mum I am to my girls, is the right the mum for them. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    Posted on 18 July, 2017 at 1:32 pm
  15. I love this post, infact I love all of your posts, but this one is particularly honest and so helpful to those who feel the same way. I am not the Mum I hoped to be, but I’m the best that I can be on any given day. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove
    five little doves recently posted…Despicable Me: Radio control inflatable FluffyMy Profile

    Posted on 18 July, 2017 at 3:25 pm
  16. Wow! What a honest and beautiful post. Your power of love is really is a testament and you kick ass at it. You fight it with every ounce and fibre within you, and you have overcome your fear. It is not easy – never easy, but that’s what makes you stronger. You are an inspiration.

    Thank you Alana and Charlie for sharing your inspiration story with us on #FabFridayPost xx

    Posted on 20 July, 2017 at 1:40 pm
  17. Thank you for linking your beautiful thoughts up to #globalblogging.
    kristin mccarthy recently posted…Spinning Woes of an Anxious MindMy Profile

    Posted on 21 July, 2017 at 2:27 pm
  18. What a lovely series! It is always so refreshing reading about others moms and how they make it work! I love where Charlie says “The Mother I am today is stronger and braver than any mother I could have imagined becoming”… I think after that first initial second of parenthood, we all change, change for the needs and betterment of our children! Such a wonderful post to read! Thanks Charlie! #globalblogging

    Posted on 25 July, 2017 at 7:58 am