JULIE: Since I was about twenty I knew I desperately wanted to be a mother ... Especially after having a miscarriage ... with my first pregnancy, I was seriously scared that I might never be able to conceive. One of the most satisfying moments of my life was when I went into Mothercare at about 30 weeks pregnant and bought a few clothes and a soft toy which Murray still has and takes to bed with him every night to this day ... When number two son, Harvey came along ... I confess I had badly wanted a girl, but as soon as he was placed in my arms I loved him to bits and didn't want to change a thing ...

Julie with Murray and HarveyNine years since the birth of Murray and an awful lot has changed in my life. I had assumed my own mother would be around for ever, and it's still a shock that she's not. Whilst I admire the way my mother brought me up and had a very happy childhood, there are certain mistakes which I felt she made and am determined not to make for myself. I forever try to hold in my mind how I felt about different experiences as a child, and use that to help me deal with the boys in the right way. The "emotional rollercoaster" has become a bit of a cliche, but it's an apt one. Whilst fathers do certainly take on more nowadays than they ever did, the pressures of motherhood remain very strong, and I am very conscious of "trying to do the right thing" but it isn't always easy to know what that is. I certainly would not want to be without my friends who have children, to compare experiences and learn from them. The boys are growing up so fast and already I am aware that they don't want or need to spend as much time with me as they used to. Having said that, they are still incredibly affectionate and I still, at certain times ...when least expected, find a huge lump in my throat as I look at them and realise how much they mean to me. Then two minutes later, I will be banging my head against the wall in frustration at yet another ignored instruction or dreadful misdemeanour!


Zoe with Gabi and MeganZOE: Motherhood has so far been an exciting, turbulent, stressful but rewarding and loving experience. I could never have been prepared for the multi-skilled tasks involved in parenthood. Nurturing the girls through their academic, social and emotional development is a precious and constant learning curve for the whole family. I enjoy the time spent talking and listening to the girls, sharing their achievements and always being there to comfort and protect them. As our family grows older in years and experience, my wish is that our blood ties will never be severed and we will always remain a family unit and support network for each other.

Jean with Sharon and JulieJEAN: We struggled with money but it’s wonderful when the children come along and you see them grow up … into nice young ladies… But nowadays I don’t think that ... some young parents appreciate how we had to struggle years ago … they seem to be so hard done by for some things ... it’s not a pleasure to look after their own children sometimes … We used to walk … I can never remember getting on a bus, we used to walk everywhere. We used to pack up a picnic ... I ... just put the bits in the bottom of the pram and we used to have a wonderful day out. We used to meet up with other people and then we’d spend a day at the paddling pool.

Claire with James and HollyCLAIRE: I know that if they are at school then they are fine, they are being looked after, hopefully they’re learning and everything should be o.k. It is nice to see them when you come home, whether it’s on a day that you have actually collected them from school or in the evening and you have had a hard day at work, it’s nice to see them and I feel that they are pleased to see you as well, when you get home … Most weekends are either seeing friends or we try to make sure that we do spend some weekends just on our own, going shopping on Saturdays, going out, going for a walk through forests and things like that just so that we can be a family but if you gave James and Holly an option of going for a walk round the forest or playing out with their friends, then they’d much prefer to play out with their friends! Whereas we would like to do more things as a family because we feel quite guilty when we are out at work all the time ... so this is our chance to make it up and actually be with them at weekends.

Catherine with Matthew

Press here to listen to Catherine's story.

CATHERINE: …two sons, Sam - he's seven, Matthew - he's nearly eighteen months ... and I’ve got a daughter but she lives in heaven. Her name’s Annabel, she would have been two and a half … Annabel was born on 8th November 2000 … I was due to have a caesarean and they told us that her heart had stopped and that they didn’t know why and so on 8th November we had a caesarean anyway and she came. She came and we haven’t got any reason for her dying. They just said it sometimes happens …Well everything was going fine and then on the Monday night … I felt some really funny pains and … then they just went. All day on the Tuesday … I hadn’t felt her move or anything … I was 38 weeks pregnant ... then I sort of knew … I think I always knew deep down that … something was going to happen and yes, I knew that night. Then, we stayed in hospital overnight and the next day we had her born by caesarean.

It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Harder than my dad dying … nothing compares to losing your child. It was really really hard ... it was a real shock. We’d gone in to have this baby and then we came home with nothing, it was just like the worst experience in the whole world. You can’t explain that to anyone ... but when they took her down to the mortuary, one of the midwives came up with her clothes and her blanket and I broke down crying because to me, my children should be wrapped up and warm. She didn’t have any clothes and …that really really hurt and that still sticks in my memory. They … took photos and they did a little memory pack and stuff, with a lock of her hair and her footprints and her handprints, which now I am eternally grateful that I have got those things of her …they brought her into us, we got to hold her and Sam got to see her … so it was just really nice …I wanted everyone to see her because she was mine and she was so different, so different from Sam and so different from Matthew now we have had him. She … had really dark hair and both my boys are really blonde …

I wish it had never happened but I wouldn’t change it now because she has made me a better person I think and she’s given me Matthew and he’s just a joy … he’s so incredible, I love him so much and he was meant to be for some reason. He was meant to be here and she let him come along … he’s given me my life back. I shall be forever grateful to that little boy … he’s just the light of our lives ... he has given us peace again. I think when Matthew turned one, I suddenly realised that it was o.k. to love him and to really enjoy him... She’s always there, I still think of her every day and she’s always there in my heart ... and I shall never forget her but … I can love Matthew and we can have fun again and we can laugh and we can do things as a family and its o.k. It wasn’t ok for a long time. I think it has taken us over two years to come to terms with it really. We just shut off, we just didn’t do anything. We didn’t do anything for two years, really … I am thankful for all the friends I’ve got because … that’s all I could talk about for two years is her and what had happened to me and it was just like nothing else mattered, nothing! I just didn’t care about anything … It makes you think so deep, nothing matters but your family and it takes something like that to make you realise…

I guess some people must think, its nearly three years, get over it but … I’ll never get over it. Not to be so close to having that baby but I feel it’s ok now, I never thought I’d get over that pain but I feel good, I want to live, I want to enjoy my life, I want to see my boys have fun, be with them ... Sam was nearly five when Annabel died … I feel really sad for Sam because I just don’t remember …anything significant out of those two years ... I think Sam’s coped with it really well and I think we’ve all stayed strong. He’s been our rock really although sometimes I’ve felt we have treated him really bad because sometimes we have been so angry. Not angry with him but just angry with everything, life. But … we’re having good times now.

… There are just so many different stages of grief, you’ve got to go through and I am at the last stage, acceptance. You need to get there, it’s a long journey. You can’t rush it ... there have been a few times when I have thought, I can’t do this charity because it was very emotional at the beginning. I found it very very hard every time a cheque came in with her name on, I’d cry. If anyone mentioned it, it was really … hard but now …I am really pleased … because it is a really positive thing and I am glad that we’ve done it and we are going to launch the support packs on her 3rd birthday this year so it’s a really big achievement and I’m really pleased that we haven’t let her name go in vain. It was more Trevor’s idea because that was his way of channelling his grief but yes, we are really … pleased with our charity.

… I know I have got my lovely boys but in my heart of hearts I would like a girl because I am girly, I love girly things and you can’t dress a boy up and do their hair ... I’d like to have another one … but … at one stage it was about having a girl but I don’t think it is anymore. I think that when I knew Annabel was a girl I was quite happy … just to have two kids but I don’t know, I think I probably would have changed my mind because I really love it. I am really enjoying it and it’s what I want to do. Some days I get fed up but I do, I like being with them and Matthew’s funny and makes me laugh and I just think that it would be nice to have another one … I couldn’t not see him all day and I couldn’t bear someone else to be looking after him, I just couldn’t do it, oh it would make me cry. Yes, some days I think I’d like a break but no, I just wouldn’t want someone else telling me he was doing something, I’d miss him ...

… Losing Annabel … I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy what we went through because to lose a life, you don’t expect to lose a baby, you have got so many plans and you’ve got a future for that child and to not have that future is really, really hard … Having my boys … I wouldn’t be without them, definitely they are great … I love being a family now … I feel like we’re ok because there are four of us now … Even driving along and they are squabbling in the back and I think; how can a seven year old squabble with an eighteen month old baby but they can and its cool … Sam has got someone to squabble with and it’s great!

What changes did motherhood bring for you?

JULIE: The big thing to me I think is less time for yourself... lack of choices … I love my kids to bits … I like to read books and I don’t have time hardly ever to do that anymore, so it’s on the loo or in the bath … I think that’s the biggest change - somebody else’s needs are more important than your own and not having the choices - I wouldn’t go back. I mean there are compensations obviously, but I do find there is very little time

ZOE: Click here to listen: Where shall I begin? What changes? Well, the fight ... forever fighting all the time that you are three people. You are a wife, you are also Zoe and you are also a mum. I believe that you are entitled to be all those three people some when or other, that you should have opportunities to be. I just want to be Zoe and I want to be Terry’s wife and I want to be my children’s mother and that’s hard. The other thing that I mentioned earlier is spontaneity; that you can’t just go off and do things when you want to or if you are invited to do so, you still have to plan and book the babysitter or make sure Terry is home from work, things like that's a lack of choice but I am really lucky because I do have a very very supportive husband really, in many ways, who doesn't stop me from doing anything and encourages me to do everything that I want to do within reason. But I still feel guilty. So he might come home and say, 'you could go out every night Zoe and it wouldn't bother me' and I don't think that it would but I would feel guilty for doing that.

I think that you are stereotyped into a particular role but I mean, we all have choices don't we and that's my guilt I suppose. I don't know why I should feel guilty but I think it is also very important that your children see you in those different roles as well. They have a role model, they see me going to work, they see their dad going to work

... As I said earlier, my mum has always worked one way or another so it is just the norm to us … I am fortunate again, because I work in the school environment I have all the school holidays so the girls and I spend time seeing people and doing things together. I think you have to try as hard as you can to make sure that you do have leisure time, as a family not necessarily just as an individual, just as me but just as a family, that you actually do have leisure time together.

JEAN: Things were so different in our day that it was enjoyable but nowadays I don’t think … we could afford to keep up with the prices for what you have to spend. I used to like our life … having a young family but I think there is so much going on now and when you have got grandchildren, you get so much pleasure out of life …Years ago we had lots of pleasure when we brought you up and seeing you do the different things and that but when you get … grandchildren, it’s a different ball game, you get so much pleasure and … it’s lovely!

CLAIRE: I don’t get a chance to sit down. I am constantly on the move, I never get the time, never get any time to myself or any time to spend with Dave. It’s constantly getting home, making sandwiches, cooking, doing the normal housework and just constantly looking after them so it’s a lot to do when you are working as well as being a mother … trying to remember things. I am trying to remember for myself, for Dave and also for two children. It’s remembering that they have got their school bags ready and it’s not just the two of us that we have got to think about, it’s two children as well. And that’s the thing that I find difficult, I have got to think now for four people rather than for just two …

CATHERINE: I think you’re deprived of your own space … it might be nice not to have to get up sometimes but you have to - but then it is so rewarding, just a cheeky little grin … I just think, you can’t buy those moments ... I think that you are so blessed to be able to have children, I just think it is so rewarding … it does change you … it’s just your whole life, there is nothing else. You have to give up a lot of things and become less selfish … You can’t explain to anyone especially new parents, what they are going to go through because it’s just indescribable.


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