I always wanted to be a mother. I thought I'd be a natural.
The reality came as a real shock to me: the birth was horrendous and life with my firstborn was a nightmare. He just wouldn't stop crying, whatever I did. I cried along with him almost every day. They're right when they say no one can prepare you for being a mother. It's the hardest job in the world. Suddenly, your time is not your own, your body is not your own, your life is not your own. I felt like such a failure.
It got easier. Maybe I just got used to that feeling that I would never be the perfect mother I'd hoped I would be. Our second son came along three years later - another traumatic birth after which I vowed I would never have another child.
I did. But not in the way you might imagine. I responded to an advert on the back of a bus and persuaded my husband to join me on a fostering course. Strange after all I've said before, right? But when you have your own children and care for them the best you can, your heart breaks for all those children out there who are not receiving adequate love and care. And so our family grew from 3 to 4 to 5 children. Yes, we adopted three extra children and had five children under ten years old. Everyone thought we were crazy. I think we probably were. How did I ever believe I could be the mother of five young children? I had an amazing husband, but he worked full time and had to go abroad with work on occasions.
So how did I survive? I compromised. I let go of all my expectations of ever being perfect and found a way to make peace with being good enough. We've had some pretty tough times over the years, but have made some great memories too and I believe now that my best was just about good enough.
So what's it like bringing up birth children and adopted children in the same family? We've come to love all of our children in different ways because they are all so very different. How I relate to each one is different, how I show my love to each one is different. But not more or less, just different.
When you adopt, motherhood becomes complicated. When my daughter is told she has my curls, what are we to say? When it's Mother's Day and my son says he doesn't know his mum, how am I meant to feel? When a doctor looks to me for maternal medical history, how do I respond?
My kids are all grown up now and have kids of their own. I'm still mum but now I'm grandma too. The family keeps on growing and it's wonderful.
So what does it look like for me now to be a mum and a grandma?
It's taken on a whole new direction. As I reflect on my grandchildren growing up, I imagine what the world will be like. As I learn more and more about the climate emergency, I become more and more terrified for my grandchildren. I cannot stand by and do nothing. Being a mother for me is inextricably linked with speaking out about the climate disaster we are hurtling towards. Caring for my grandchildren means taking action. I do all the normal stuff like cooking meals and playing shops and the occasional sleepover, but activism is as much a part of being a mother for me as all those things.
I hope that as my grandchildren grow up, they will be proud of their grandma. I've sat in roads, I've been arrested, I've had fake oil poured all over me in the street. I've done all this for my children and my grandchildren. Not just for them, but for all the children and grandchildren across the world and all those to come in the future. Being a mother is about caring with all your heart, nurturing life in all its fullness. In some ways, being a mother is as hard today as it was for me thirty years ago. My time is still not my own. My life is still not my own.
For me, being a mother is so much more than being a mother. Being a mother is a life of sacrifice, an outpouring of compassion for all living things.
So this Mother's Day, let's take time to reflect on what it means to be a mother. Let's show compassion for those young mums who are having a tough time of it right now. Let's remember those children who so desperately need to know a mother's love. Let's extend our love and compassion to all living beings, to the planet itself.
However complicated and painful Mother's Day may be for you, I hope this Mother's Day contains glimpses of comfort and joy. Motherhood is a complicated thing. Let's never forget that.