As resident GP on Embarrassing Bodies, Dr Pixie McKenna knows a thing or two about the rigours of motherhood.
Daughter Darcy arrived when Pixie was 40, and here she lifts the lid on the many ways life has changed – and become busier! – from mealtime chaos and sleep rotas to that first kiss every morning…
ON DAUGHTER DARCY
My daughter has just turned three. She is an adventurous chatterbox and full of personality, as happy being a fairy princess as she is trying to climb a tree. She loves books, bikes, jewellery, long floaty dresses and little boys.
She fears nothing, which makes me very afraid!
Darcy’s out of nappies but still surgically attached to the bottle. She mainlines milk. I have managed to wean her down to just drinking at night time and during daytime tantrums. In the past week she has just got her first bike with stabilisers and taken her first swimming lesson. She fears nothing, which makes me very afraid! Food-wise she is still a little nightmare and would happily eat chocolate buttons by the bagful. I have managed to avoid all exposure to juice so woe betide the person who gives her a first taste of apple juice.
She loves sausages, sweetcorn, ham and soup as her savoury staples. For sweet, it’s grapes, apples, and yoghurts plus a gingerbreadman if she can get her hands on one. She has always been a bit of a fusspot coming up with a whole host of excuses as to why she can’t eat something ranging from her belly being “closed” to the food being poisoned by Snow White’s evil queen.
My pregnancy was perfect. I genuinely sailed through it and managed to exercise and wear my high heels right to the bitter end. I took pregnancy vitamins and was particularly conscious about my iron and vitamin D so I ate meat and sat in the sun more than I would normally. I put on two stone so was fairly small which meant I was pretty mobile right up until the end, which was just as well as I was working the day before delivery.
I couldn’t pass a branch of Ryman’s without popping in for a Post-it or a jiffy bag
I had two very different cravings. One was for fruit scones but the other was for stationery. I couldn’t pass a branch of Ryman’s without popping in for a Post-it or a jiffy bag. I had an elective C-section as she was breech, so it made the experience more clinical but I recovered very quickly.
Being a doctor and pregnant at 40 filled me with fear. So I went to my obstetrician and said OK, you’re the doctor, look after me, tell me what to do and I will do it, but don’t tell me anything that I don’t need to know until I absolutely need to know. I knew my risks of a problematic pregnancy were higher but put my faith in those who looked after me and didn’t look back.
I felt the journey through pregnancy was like going through puberty again. I would go to bed and wake up and there would be a new bulge or blemish, but overall I took it in my stride.
I think it’s hard to be an older mum. You’ve spent four decades as a one-woman band and suddenly there’s this little someone with you 24/7. It’s a wonderful, awe-inspiring, embracing change, but it’s a rollercoaster. Having no family near where we live in Cambridge, my husband Mitch and I socialised our daughter very early. She came everywhere with us, which I think has helped her now in terms of social interaction. I was also very keen to keep exercising once she was born so Mitch bought me a jogging buggy. I multitasked by jogging with Darcy in tow with our Boxer dog running alongside us.
It’s a wonderful, awe-inspiring, embracing change, but it’s a rollercoaster
Sleep deprivation hit me hardest. Darcy is a good sleeper now: she stills wakes once or twice a night but used to wake every hour and down a bottle of milk. We made a rod for our own backs and should have been stricter at the start. I hate not sleeping which is why we had and still have a Darcy on-call rota. One tired grumpy parent is better than two. She sleeps the night through if she stays over at anyone else’s house, so she’s getting the last laugh.
Loss of energy and freedom are the two things older motherhood brings. I’m more selective about my invitations and appreciate spontaneity is out of the window. Kids require military planning. You can’t have a child and not expect your life to change. I admit this now, but I wouldn’t at the start. I wanted to be all things to all people but realise when there’s a little person in the loop it’s just not possible. I’m now the queen of delegation though: I have great help and would be lost without it.
We treat ourselves to a naughty weekend every six to eight weeks
I don’t think it makes you a better mum if you put on six loads of washing a day and feed them homemade fish fingers. I do all of that sometimes but most of the time I want to spend quality time with my little one. I also think it is imperative for mums and dads to have their time, so we treat ourselves to a naughty weekend every six to eight weeks. We are lucky to have the most amazing godmother who adores taking Darcy so it would be rude not to oblige. Actually that’s a good tip: choose the godparents wisely!
Motherhood is amazing. I love to see her personality evolve, her little smile, her cuddles and her sheer determination when she wants to do something. Watching her sing Frozen makes me smile. It’s the little things that for me are the big things: the first kiss of the morning and the last kiss of night make it all worthwhile.
I’m not sure being a doctor particularly helps me as a mum. When it comes to my daughter’s health I am fairly easy going, but a control freak about medical intervention. I had all my own medical kit for when she was born: it was like a paediatric ward. Did I use any of it? No, but I knew it was on hand if I had to jump into action. I totally panicked when she had her first temperature. Despite being a doctor for almost two decades and dealing with numerous new mums with feverish babies, I failed to be objective.
I chose to be a working mum so I won’t whinge. My job affords me enormous flexibility but I struggle with not leaving the house until she’s up and also making sure I’m home for bedtime. If I miss these times I feel I have let her down so I spend a lot of my time racing around the place.
Dr Pixie is working with PaediaSure Shake highlighting the need for more realistic support for parents with fussy eaters. For more information, see fussyeaters.co.uk. PaediaSure Shake is available from Boots and Boots online priced at £10.