It has been a year since Ellie House became a mother on International Women’s Day. Here she explains how incredible women have helped her on the journey.
A year has passed since my son came into the world and I am preparing to buy his first pair of shoes instead of folding tiny vests.
He is unrecognisable from the 7lb bundle who arrived at tea time with a mop of dark hair and long gangly legs.
We decided on the name Reuben as we sat by his incubator in neonatal, scared and exhausted after our baby was resuscitated and taken to intensive care.
We didn’t know of the joy which lay ahead, of the love which would slowly creep in and make our bones hurt with its ferocity.
Reuben, or Reubs as we call him, is now desperate to walk and loves patting our long-suffering dog.
I look back at pictures from the early days and I marvel at the difference, both in my son and in myself.
I see a young woman grey with exhaustion whose smile didn’t quite match her eyes.
In the months that followed I slowly fell apart in the belief that I was a terrible mother.
The exhaustion seemed to drill its way into my skull and I remember thinking that I was failing at motherhood.
But the truth is, motherhood is incredibly hard and it takes time to get to grips with both the highs and the lows which accompany it.
It has taken a full 365 days for me to truly feel comfortable in my role as a mother, and even now I’m still making it up as I go along.
Reubs has settled into a routine and I know him pretty well these days, his love of cream cheese sandwiches and comical disdain for tomatoes is always worth remembering in a crisis.
When I look back on the really difficult days of postnatal depression, there was always a glimmer of light in the darkness.
When the lonely hours seemed to drag and the clock hand stopped, it was other women who got me through.
Those who were mothers and those who were not; their wit, empathy and sheer brilliance enabled me to carry on.
It seems all the more fitting, therefore, that Reubs was born on International Women’s Day.
While male midwifes must be celebrated, birth is inherently a female affair and I’ve always thought there’s something quite sacred about the women who help bring new life into the world each day
My labour was managed by a midwife whose name I sadly don’t remember, and a student who quite rightly looked terrified as I screamed for more pain relief.
This amazing pair urged me on as the passing hours merged together and I will never forget their quiet professionalism.
There were numerous medical staff who flooded the room when it became clear that Reubs wasn’t breathing, and it was the women among them who made me look into their eyes and repeat that it would all be fine.
It was a woman who came to tell me that my son had made it, and it was a woman who placed him in my arms for the first time.
I hope my son will grow up celebrating International Women’s Day, and both respect and understand its importance.
I have made sure to surround him with strong women of all ages, from all walks of life.
They are my people, the ones who have seen me at my lowest and told me I am enough.
All three of his aunties have worked incredibly hard for their careers, including my sister who has risen through police ranks to become a detective.
Then there is my best friend who battles an incurable cancer diagnosis with dignity and humour.
She has made it her mission to teach Reubs about love and respect as he grows up, while his two grandmothers show him the importance of family.
Raising a son is an incredible privilege and, rather than dwell on the problems women face, I relish the chance to help create a generation who can change the narrative.
If I have done my job right, I hope my son will celebrate women for the intelligence, passion and endurance which we offer.
I hope he’ll realise that women are actually pretty funny and stoic, that our cause is his cause because that’s what equality really means.
It means that he can be friends with us, champion us and know that our worth isn’t based on how we look.
Not just on International Women’s Day, but every day.
Motherhood has broken me and remoulded me into someone more assertive and fierce, but it has also made me more grounded.
It is women who have held my hand on the journey, be it a fleeting smile in the park or a message in the early hours.
Happy birthday Reubs, and Happy International Women’s Day.