Rachel, aka Superwoman, generally known as mum and the one who keeps the family ticking over whilst trying to keep herself sane, deal with five kids, one husband, one dog and 2 guinea pigs has shared her journey to parenthood with us. It’s one ride that we can’t wait for you to read…
When I was a child, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. One thing I did know, I couldn’t wait to be a mum. I would spend hours playing house with my dollies and putting cushions under my t-shirt to pretend to be pregnant. I loved babysitting and I decided that 7 sounded like a nice number of children to have. At least I did, until I looked after a family of 6 siblings, then I decided that 4 sounded like a much better amount.
As I grew up I planned to work with children, but plans changed, and I ended up working with adults with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour. Still I couldn’t wait to be a mum and I adored my nephew and spending time with him. At the age of 23 I suffered my first bout of depression, I was living alone, and my niece was stillborn, and I felt that I would always be alone, I would never be a mum, and no one would ever marry me. I ended up on anti-depressants and moving back home with my parents as I was so depressed I was neglecting myself.
A year later I went out with some girls from work and that’s where I met the man that I would later marry. At first, I didn’t take him seriously and pushed him away. He later confessed to my friend that he was serious, and he wanted to go on a date with me. Fast forward 8 months and we were engaged and living together.
Hubby-to-be had already turned 30 as he is 7 years older than I am. He is also number 8 of 9 siblings with 4 older brothers, 3 older sisters and 1 younger sister. At the time, all his siblings, apart from the youngest one, already had children and he couldn’t wait to be a dad. Even though I couldn’t wait to be a mum, I was still only 24 and I felt that I wasn’t ready to be a mum yet and I wanted to wait a little bit. I explained to hubby-to-be that I didn’t want a baby until I was at least 25, he countered that if I got pregnant now I’d be 25 when I had the baby but when I explained I didn’t want to try until I was 25, he agreed.
Once I tuned 25 I came off the pill and we began trying. It took a couple of months, but that summer I found out I was pregnant. I was so happy, and I wanted the perfect way to tell him. So, I went to the local card shop and bought a Congratulations card and wrote in it “Congratulations Daddy, see you in 8 months” Then I asked the lady at the shop to write our address on the envelope, so he wouldn’t recognise my handwriting and I posted it through our letter box.
Hubby-to-be was so excited that he was going to be a dad, he couldn’t wait to tell everyone. I asked him not to tell one of my brothers yet as it was around the anniversary of my niece’s death and I didn’t want to upset him. He did message my other brother though and the message he got back wasn’t very nice, it simply said “I hope you’re happy now that you’ve ruined her life!” I was shocked, I was 25 not 15 and I was engaged and living with a man who I loved, how was that ruining my life. Sadly, he also messaged my other brother who was upset that he had to learn through our brother and not me.
The pregnancy went smoothly and in March 2003, 5 days before my 26th birthday, our son was born. We hadn’t known what we were having, as our hospital wasn’t allowed to tell you at the time. But I was thrilled he was a boy, I always wanted to have a boy first as I had images of a big brother looking after his little sister. Someone else who was happy was my brother, when I was pregnant he had made a comment that he hoped I had a boy as he wanted to give our dad the first granddaughter. I thought that was pretty selfish and it hurt, he’d already been the first to give my dad a grandchild and as far as I was concerned, he had already given dad the first granddaughter even though his beautiful daughter had been stillborn. We named our son Robert Ryan but use his middle name as his given name. He weighted 8lb 13oz
By the time Ryan turned 1 I discovered I was pregnant again. We were both so pleased and couldn’t wait to add to our family. I didn’t care that they were going to be close in age, to me the closer the better as there is 4 years between me and one of my brothers and 12 years between me and my other brother (he is my half-brother and was raised by my grandmother and I believed he was my uncle until I was 16. He is also the one who accused hubby-to-be of ruining my life). Again, we couldn’t wait to tell everyone, but I was worried about telling my brother and his wife, not to mention it was my nephews 7th birthday. I had already told my parents we were expecting, and she had told me how my brother and his wife were also trying. That morning before I left to see my nephew to give him his birthday present, I got a text from my brother saying, “Congratulations when are you due?” I was upset that someone had already told him as I had wanted to tell him.
I went to my brother’s house and my sister-in-law was there. I gave my nephew his present and then I told her that I was pregnant. She went very quiet and hardly spoke to me, so I quickly made my excuse and went to my parents. Mum admitted that she was the one who had told my brother I was pregnant as she knew they were trying and she thought it might be better if my brother told his wife.
When I went home hubby was really agitated. When I asked him what the matter was he told me I had forgotten my phone and he had read the texts from my brother which had arrived. They had gotten quite nasty with him calling me a selfish bitch, that I could tell his wife, he wasn’t and that if I turned up at my nephew’s birthday party he would bodily throw me out. I was heartbroken, we had always been close growing up. I understood how hard it must be for them that I kept getting pregnant so easily and not having any problems, but I also felt that it was unfair of them to blame me. I never really got an apology either.
A few weeks later my dad let slip that my sister-in-law was pregnant. He thought that they had already told me, but we still weren’t talking to each other. A few days after that I started bleeding. I was taken to hospital where a scan revealed an empty sac, I had lost my baby. I went home to decide what to do and I began to haemorrhage and had to be flown to hospital in the air ambulance. Shortly after I arrived, my blood pressure dropped dangerously low and I passed out. When I came to I was covered in needles as they tried to stabilise my pressure. I then felt an overwhelming urge to push and when the doctor saw what I had pushed out I was immediately taken to surgery and given a D&C. I had been 13 weeks pregnant and had just breathed a sigh of relief that I was over the first trimester.
All I could think about was getting pregnant again. I didn’t want to not be pregnant and it was hard to go from being pregnant to not being pregnant with no baby to show for it. I asked the doctor how soon I could try again, and I was told to have at least one period. Two weeks later I had a slight bleed, so I decided that was my period and it was time to try to conceive. It was also around that time that I learnt that my great-uncle, who had died at the start of the year, had left me some money in his will. We decided to use that money to finally get married.
I soon found out I was expecting again. I caught straight away and I had spent about two weeks not being pregnant. It was quite hard to get my head around it, I had gone from pregnant, not pregnant, pregnant in the space of about a month!
Sadly, I was still not on speaking terms with my brother. They never officially told me they were pregnant, which hurt as I had always told them. They refused to let my nephew be a page boy at my wedding, which really hurt. I suppose I should be grateful they did come to the wedding, that is more than my oldest brother did. He refused. We haven’t spoken since. He would come and visit my brother, they would go out and spend the day doing things, but we were never invited.
We got married October 2004, when I was 4 months pregnant. I do regret not eloping. I think we would have had a better time!
My pregnancy again went smoothly, and my due date passed. We didn’t know what we were having, but I did feel like it was going to be a big baby and that the head had engaged early. Whenever I mentioned my concerns to my midwife I was told not to worry and that the baby would be about the same size as Ryan.
A week after my due date I had a membrane sweep by the consultant and was told that If I hadn’t had the baby by the following week they would induce me. The following day I went into labour. I went to hospital and was given an epidural, but something was going wrong, the head wouldn’t pass through my pelvis and the baby was stuck. I spent an hour trying to push but nothing would work, the head would only move a little and would go back to its previous position. I was taken to theatre for an emergency caesarean. I remember laughing at hubby in his scrubs. Even though I was completely numb, I still felt them pull the baby from my pelvis and for some reason I’m convinced I heard someone say I had a boy. Turns out no one did, and she was a girl. I was also right about her being a big baby, she weighed 10lb 14oz, a full 2lb 1oz heavier than her brother. I haemorrhaged again, and she was an hour old before I got to see her and try to feed her. I was taken to the Intensive Trauma Unit for a blood transfusion and when they asked did I want her brought to me to feed her I said no thinking about the other patients. I wish I had thought about my daughter instead and said yes, especially after I learnt she had been upset all night and crying with a headache.
I was in hospital for a week with Becky, I was recovering from the trauma of her birth and the caesarean and she caught an infection and had to be given antibiotics, she also had jaundice. I struggled to bond with her and I struggled to breastfeed. Becky also developed colic and kept being sick. By two weeks old her weight had dropped from 10lb 14oz to 10lb 1oz and she was given special baby formula. No one would hold her as she kept being sick, I would run out of clean clothes and she would run out of clean clothes. I was so glad when she outgrew it.
Just before Becky’s first birthday, I found out I was pregnant again. I was nervous about having another baby so quickly after a caesarean but again things went smoothly. I did end up in hospital for the first time in any pregnancy due to high blood pressure, but this was caused by the stress of hubby having to go to court after his sister accused him of hitting her and driving drunk. He admitted the drink driving and could have gotten away with it as he hadn’t been driving when he was caught, however he thought that by confessing to the drink driving they would believe him when he said that he didn’t hit his sister. They didn’t, and he had to go to court, which kept getting postponed and kept adding to my stress. Eventually it was his day in court and he asked his lawyer what would happen if he pleaded not guilty and he was told it would go to trial but pleading guilty would mean it would be dealt with that day and he would be given community service. He decided to plead guilty as he was worried about the stress that I was under and he didn’t want to risk losing me or the baby.
Eventually I went into labour and after a 3-hour labour Ruby made her appearance. I almost had her in the ambulance on the way to hospital she came that quick and I arrived wanting to push. They took me straight up the labour ward and out she came, the paramedics were still there doing hand-over and got to meet her. I always joke that Ruby read the pregnancy book as she was such an easy and happy baby. She was 6 days early and weighed 9lb exactly and took to breastfeeding like a champ. After I had failed to breastfeed my first two I began to think I couldn’t breastfeed, but Ruby showed me I could!
When Ruby turned 1 it was a strange feeling. It was the first time one of my children had turned 1 without me being pregnant. Yet I was happy with 3 and unsure whether I wanted another or not.
When Ruby was 2 we decided to have another, she was such a good baby that it helped make the decision. I immediately fell pregnant again. Halfway through my pregnancy I failed my glucose tolerance test and I was told I had developed gestational diabetes. This was a shock as I had always passed before but having a large baby with Becky increased the risk. I was scared as I didn’t know anything about it, but I soon got used to testing my blood sugars and injecting insulin. I was also relieved that because I had gestational diabetes it didn’t mean that the baby would, or that the baby would be at more risk that my other children. Because of my gestational diabetes and the risks of a large baby and the baby having trouble with her sugars when she was born, they decided to induce me. This was Christmas 2009, the year we had lots of snow. In fact, I remember just after Christmas but before New Year we went to the hospital for my diabetes check-up and I was given a membrane sweep and because I had had a nosebleed I had to go and be monitored as my blood pressure was a little high. It was getting late and we were all at the hospital, my parents, hubby and the three children. It was also snowing, and we had a long journey home and just as my dad (the driver) was about to leave me, they let me leave. The journey home was very stressful, it was snowing hard and cars were getting stuck. I remember being glad that my dad was driving and praying that I wouldn’t go into labour!
On New Years Day 2010 I was supposed to go in to be induced, but since it was snowing I knew it would be impossible to get to hospital, especially based on our journey home a few days earlier. It also meant I could stay home and watch the second part of the Doctor Who Christmas special and say goodbye to David Tenant (the best Doctor ever). I phoned the hospital and explained the situation and they said to go in the following day. This was my mum’s birthday and if I had gone in on New Years Day like I was supposed to, I think she would be sharing her birthday with her granddaughter, as it is Rhian was born on the 3rd January 2010 weighing 8lb 15oz and 9 days early. She again took to breastfeeding like a champ and she was 3 years and 1 month younger than Ruby.
A year later my diabetes came back, and I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic.
We decided that four children was the perfect number and we were happy. However, there is a saying which says that God just laughs whenever we make plans and he must have been laughing at us. He knew he had one more special baby to give us. During January 2013 I realised that my period was late and that I hadn’t had it since November. At first, I wasn’t that concerned as I’ve never been regular, but as the weeks passed I began to wonder if I was pregnant again. I mentioned my worries to hubby and he kept telling me to go get a pregnancy test. I guess I was in denial though and kept refusing, even though I knew that if I was pregnant I needed to know straight away because of my diabetes and the medication I was taken. By the end of January, hubby had had enough and fed up of waiting for me to get a test, so he went out and bought one. It came back positive, like I suspected it was. We were having another baby. Once I got over the shock, I began to get excited and couldn’t wait. The children were all excited as well. I found out I was expecting another girl and poor Ryan spent half an hour sobbing in his room as he desperately wanted a brother! In fact, he confided in me that he hates the word brother because he doesn’t have one.
Because of my diabetes, I was again put on insulin injections and had a fortnightly check-up at the diabetic clinic. The pregnancy went smoothly, and I lost weight and had my diabetes under control. Whilst I was pregnant I was interviewed by Helimeds to be featured on their programme about my experience of using the Wales Air Ambulance when I suffered my miscarriage, and, on the programme, I revealed I was pregnant with my 5th and that if it hadn’t been for the air ambulance neither me or my daughters would be here now.
The consultant decided to induce me two weeks early because of the diabetes and the risks to the baby. In fact, whilst I was in labour having my 5th Helimeds were showing our story on TV and I didn’t get to watch it. It always makes me laugh that when I reveal on TV I’m pregnant with my 5th I was in labour having her!
The midwife had a student with her and she asked if I would allow the student to try and break my waters and I agreed provided the midwife checked first to make sure it would be easy for her to do. Turned out to be a good decision as it was difficult to break my waters because of the baby’s position and when she did eventually break my waters she quickly had to jump away! The labour went so quickly that the midwife wasn’t prepared for the baby when she arrived, despite me telling her that my last labour had lasted 1hr 20mins (this one lasted 1hr 30mins as she was back to back).
Reese was born on the 8th August 2013 weighing 7lb 11oz. She was so much smaller than my others that it took some time to get used to having a small (to me) baby. Because of my diabetes, she was quite poorly and struggled to maintain her blood sugars. You must remember that whilst I was pregnant I was passing on my excess blood sugar to her through the placenta and she was creating insulin to deal with the sugar, once she was born she lost the excess sugar and had to learn to stop with the insulin. It didn’t help that I was struggling to produce colostrum and I wasn’t producing enough for her. In hindsight, I wonder if this is what caused the breastfeeding problems I had with Becky. I was told to give her a bottle and eventually I agreed to bottle-feed her and give up with the breastfeeding so that we could go home. After shopping to buy all the supplies we needed I confided in hubby that I still wasn’t happy about giving up the breastfeeding and that I was going to persevere and just give her a bottle in the morning and at bedtime. Reese had other ideas and as my milk had now come in properly she refused the bottle and would only breastfeed. I checked her blood sugars and they were fine, my clever little girl had stabilised her own sugars and was now breastfeeding like a champ. Knowing she was my last it also made me happy that I could again breastfeed and have that special bond with her.
Now Reese is 4, she is 3 years and 7 months younger than Rhian. Rhian is 8 and 3 years and a month younger than Ruby. Ruby is 11 and is 20 months younger than Becky. Becky is almost 13 and two years and two weeks younger than Ryan who is almost 15.
Some days I do admit to feeling broody and missing having a little baby to snuggle. Mostly though I know I couldn’t cope with anymore, not to mention we wouldn’t have the room. I’m happy with my son and four daughters and our crazy family.