Bianca Riemer is founder and chief nosher at Mama Nosh and here she shares the highs and lows of motherhood and the lessons she learned on the way.
Mama Nosh makes nourishing breastfeeding treats, and letterbox- friendly gift sets of home-baked vegan brownies and flapjacks are available on her website. Bianca also offers support to new mothers via a free 15 minute breastfeeding affirmations audio track download, and can follow Mama Nosh practical breastfeeding tips and recipe ideas.
When I left on maternity leave, my idea of motherhood was that of a sleeping baby in a pram, cafe lattes and long brunches with other yummy mummy friends.
Well, the reality could not have been further from that.
The first three months of my baby’s life, I was literally swimming in a mix of poo, blood and tears. The birth had been traumatic. My baby had been in intensive care. My nipples were chaffed and bleeding. My lady bits were sore and bleeding. My baby was crying relentlessly. I was absolutely exhausted.
Before I had my baby, I had always felt like a high achiever. I had a good university degree, had taught myself 5 languages, and had a high-flying career in the City. But the painful learning of looking after a newborn was that none of these “amazing” skills I thought I had really weren’t any good when trying to keep a little human alive.
I kept thinking why am I finding this so difficult?
What I did know is that, no matter what I was doing, I felt that good enough as a mother. I felt incredibly lonely and I was deeply depressed. Every single cell in my body was exhausted. It would come to noon and I couldn’t remember whether I had brushed my teeth that day or done my morning wee. What time was “morning” anyway? Day and night had just muddled into one. The only way for me to tell whether it was day or night was to check whether my husband was sleeping in our bed.
The comparison to other mums was only making things worse. When I finally got out of the house to meet other mums when baby was 2 months old or so, I totally regretted it. I was sat next to a glamorous mum with perfectly manicured nails, perfectly blow-dried hair and perfectly colour-matched outfit. I was in my tracksuit bottoms, with a mum bun and didn’t even know where my make-up bag had gone. But as if that wasn’t enough, she went running twice per week and was already back in her pre-pregnancy clothes, while i was still in my maternity gear. Then her baby started crying. “How can he be hungry again” she said, “I just fed him 2 hours ago”. This gave me the rest. I had sat on the same uncomfortable cafe chair for the last 3 hours with my baby attached to my bleeding nipple, my arm sore from holding baby and my bum cheeks numb and my latte cold. Not exactly what I had envisaged pre-baby of what my “yummy mummy” life would be like. So that was the last mummy meet-up I would go to in a very long time.
I couldn’t wait to go back to work. At work, I was an expert at what I did, and my colleagues and clients respected me for my insights. I was able to have adult conversations about what was going on in the world. Most importantly, I was able to go to the toilet when I wanted and drink my coffee while it was still hot.
When I went back to work full time, I slipped back into the system within a couple of weeks and found a loving and caring nanny who so much better at looking after my baby than me. Meanwhile I enjoyed my work, and my career went to new heights.
When I fell pregnant with my second baby, I braced myself to fall back into depression after the birth. That’s why I was even more surprised when everything somehow fell into place. I realised that I had become better at this whole “motherhood” thing. I went with the flow. I asked others for help when I needed it. I had stopped to expect anything or make any sort of grand plans. And most importantly: I stopped beating myself up for not being a “good enough” mother. I accepted myself as I was. And I actually started cherishing the time I spent with my children.
When I went back to work after baby number Two, I realised that motherhood somehow had turned me into a completely different person.
I no longer saw my career and salary as the definition of who I was. What defined me now the human connection I had with the people around me. I cared more about other people’s feelings and thoughts than I had before.
I also felt that, despite all my academic athletic and professional achievements, the absolute biggest achievement of my life so far is becoming a mother. I realised that other new mums were suffering just as much as I had done when I had my first child, and I felt that there’s so much we can do to help other women with the transition to motherhood. That’s why I left my job and trained as a breastfeeding peer supporter, and later started Mama Nosh.
So here’s what I learnt about motherhood: Motherhood is a journey. It takes you through incredible lows, and also incredible highs. It changes you forever. It changes your body, yes, but it changes so much more. Motherhood changes who you are, what you care about and how you relate to other people. Embrace it and enjoy the ride!
Bianca Riemer is mother to Max, 5, and Felix, 3, and lives in London. She is a pregnancy and postnatal yoga teacher and breastfeeding peer supporter, and runs a Facebook group supporting new mothers called “Make More Milk Breastfeeding Support”.