Living on borrowed time

So, eventually, six months in, all the chaos of having a newborn and a toddler settles down. You all begin to understand each others’ foibles as a family, and how everyone fits in. The baby settles into something resembling a routine. Life becomes more structured and orderly.

At the same time, it’s like you’re in a Bruce Willis film from the 80s. Think ‘Die Hard: Mum of Two’. You’re living on borrowed time, but you just get used to it.

I feel on top of things now, but only if I’m one step ahead of myself at every turn. I get up, and if by some miracle both little ones are still asleep, I dash downstairs and wash and sterilise bottles and prepare breakfast. During the day, I get bathtime equipment ready to the point of laying the towels out, as I know that these are the tiny ‘stress points’ that cause the enormous distress (“I NEEEEED MY PURPLE TOWEL, MUMMEEEE!!!. NOW, MUMMEEEE, NOOOWWW!!”).

In fact, as I write this I realize that I’ve also found new joy in doing housework?! Today, for example, I did two lots of washing, dried them on the line (yes, the line- that thing I thought was a handy stopping off point for birds in days of yonder), did the cat’s tray, cleaned out the fridge and put a new lot of shopping away, changed two sets of bed sheets and made several trips to the bins. I still managed a trip with the family to Delamere Forest, with a pre-prepared picnic and well-packed car. Plus, I gave my partner a lie in until 9:15am!!

Erm, yep maybe it’s time to get back to work before I turn into something akin to Aggie and Kim and start writing a blog posts such as “My Top Ten Natural Cleaning Tips”.

It is rewarding, doing all this for your family, but when you find yourself itching for your partner to go to the loo so you can quickly change the bedsheets, it’s time to tone it down, I realise.

Talking of bedsheets, a post on what life is like with a new baby six months in wouldn’t be complete without mention of one word: sleep.

Oh blessed sleep, where have you been all this time? I feel like a new person. Granted, littlest one doesn’t sleep through (do any babies sleep through- really?!), but she will only wake once or twice now, is in her own room, and can hold her own bottle.

Bliss!! It’s only now that I’m getting a reasonable amount of sleep that I realise how all over the place I was previously. Hurrah! It can only get better from now on, surely?! *cue teething, separation anxiety, growth spurts…arghhh!!*.

The Early Weeks

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Well, our second little one is now six months old. She’s smiling and laughing away, rolling over, sitting, eating and becoming more of a little girl every day. She looks up to her big sister, who is the only person who can make her really laugh.

I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the experience of a new baby the second time around. It’s been surprising. The parts I thought would be easy this time haven’t, but other parts have been ridiculously easy compared to the first (“Weaning? Just hand me the spoon and bowl and let me get on with it, woman!”).

I was going to do this in one post, but realised that there’s just so much to write that I’m going to have to do this in parts. A series, if you like! So here’s Part 1..

The early weeks

What. A. Shocker.

This is an example of me thinking it would be ‘easier’. I wouldn’t obsessively keep note on my iPhone of how much milk the baby was drinking this time around? In fact, breast feeding would go like a breeze this time, so bottle feeding wouldn’t be necessary at all, surely? I wouldn’t be so neurotic about sleep patterns? Second babies just ‘fit in’.

Surely?!

Oh boy, did we get a shock there. Breastfeeding was frequent and painful, just like the first time. As with my first, I turned to health visitors and midwives for help, determined that it would work. As always, they gave me the usual tosh advice of “keep going- it will get better”. It never did, and after 5 painful weeks I had to concede that bottle was best for all the family, not just baby and me.

And so ensued the constant record-keeping of how many ounces of milk baby had drunk, with careful comparison to various googled articles entitled “how much milk should my baby be drinking?”.

Sleep. Well – I thought I was knackered the first time round, but nothing compared to this! This time, I had a toddler who was feeling just a little bit unsettled at baby’s arrival. I remember one night when partner and I were like a tag team, shuttling between toddler and baby.

I also missed the ending of the most recent series of Downton Abbey, due to simply falling asleep during the last few minutes. This whole sentence must be italicised, to emphasise how wrong this is!!! In fact, I’m so traumatised, I can’t write anymore about it.

Moses baskets. Good for piling washing in. That’s what number two thought, anyway. She was not for going in it – no way. We tried everything- used breast pads, t- shirts which smelled of me, a warm lamb skin fleece bought especially from John Lewis, hot water bottles, tilting the mattress, a special mattress which supports the head and neck..nothing worked. We would get her off to sleep, place her in, two minutes later and, hey presto!, awake again and looking mightily angry.

For many nights, she slept with me in our double bed, as this was the only way I could get any sleep myself. Obviously, we were acutely aware that this couldn’t carry on due to safety issues.

Eventually, we bought a co-sleeping cot. This is one of the best things I have ever bought! Number two obviously felt safer and more secure being so close to us. From our point of view, she would wake and (combined with a benefit of bottle feeding), we would just have to reach over to give her the bottle (even better when she learned to hold it herself). To comfort her, we could just put an arm on her tummy or lie close to her.

What was so joyful about this time was seeing the ‘rebirth’ of our family unit. Number one now has a little sister. Watching her bring her toys, talk to her, ask me “can we bring my baby sister?”, or “one day, my baby sister’s gonna talk to me and bounce on my bed with me” (you’re going to have that bed till you’re 18, young lady!!) really is special.

Of course number two is developing a personality of her own now, and all of the above has settled down hugely. But I’ll save that for further postings…

A birth story of reflection

When wondering about the topic of my next blog post, I realised I had never written my birth story for either of my children.

Most birth stories I read are utterly terrifying, heartwarming, and uplifting. Most new Mums are shocked by the ordeal of labour, followed by the joy of a new baby mixed with the new terror of navigating an exceptionally difficult journey of healing whilst tending to the needs of a very small human being who solely depends on you.

All of the above was exactly what I experienced with my first. Basically, it was like a car cash in slow motion (18 1/2 hours, that last half hour being the worst/best). The end.

So you can imagine that, upon realising I was pregnant with my second, I was naturally apprehensive about the birth, right from the off.

At every appointment, the midwife would say “oh, don’t worry- it’ll be much quicker the second time round”. I didn’t believe that for a second! They were just trying to make me feel better, surely?! I couldn’t imagine anything other than the long, looooong time-and-space-stopping horror film I’d endured previously.

So- imagine my surprise when it took 17 minutes? 17 minutes!!! I almost wish it had been 18 1/2 minutes, as the irony would have been perfect. What a story that would have been to the young ‘uns in later life. “Well- you were born in 18 1/2 hours, and you in 18 1/2 minutes!”.

Yes, I had prepped partner in crime to request an epidural as many times as possible, and as frequently as possible, on arrival to hospital. He did, right up to the point where they were saying “erm, but honestly, the head is waiting to come out?”.

I really didn’t believe it even then. But something did click inside my head at some point, to the effect of “oh bloody hell, this is it, I’ll have to push”. Minutes later, little one was looking up at me looking bemused and slightly grumpy.

I guess I’m writing this just to let second time Mums know that the second birth really can be that quick. Don’t pack too much in that hospital bag!

A rare moment of peace

I just tweeted that I was having a ‘rare moment of peace’ as the little one sleeps, and my two year old girl is at the childminder.

What does a mum of two do in a rare moment of peace, after a morning which consisted of a 6:30am wake-up, trying to get a two year old dressed (“NO TROUSERS, MUMMY!!!”) and both her and the now-weaned baby breakfasted and to the childminder by 9am? (phew!)

Make a cup of coffee, obviously. Sit staring into space for a while, while my brain rewires itself a little. Read Facebook and Twitter. Try not to think about the washing piles and state of the kitchen. Write a blog post. Contemplate watching coverage of the Thatcher funeral…ah wait, what?! Thatcher funeral?! Why am I not having a nap?! Where’s my bed?! Oh no now little one’s woken up.

Oh well, maybe we’ll watch the coverage together..and I’ll have another life-saving coffee.

Phases

I don’t want this to be a gushy ‘it’s so wonderful to be a Mum and aren’t I so lucky?’ post. It is wonderful, and the single most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done, both physically and emotionally. At the end of a typical day, for example, my limbs ache as though I’ve been doing hard, physical exercise.

I’ve been reflecting recently on the phases my children have been through, and milestones they have reached. Some are major, such as my baby’s first tastes of solid food, or my 2 year old learning the concept of telling the time. Others are only small, for example my 2 year old has decided she no longer wants milk before bed.

So much hardwork, worry, excitement, joy, guilt and a whole raft of other emotions has preceded each of these phases. Many sleepless nights of milk feeds preceded the baby-weaning (and agonising over which food to introduce first). Months of painstaking attempts at discipline have preceded the 2 year old’s first uttering of “I don’t draw on the walls, Mummy, it’s naughty” (excuse me while I faint).

I guess this is what makes it so rewarding- that, each time they reach a new milestone, you know that you’ve got them there. It’s ace.

A day at the spa: a review

Yesterday, I had the amazing good fortune to spend an entire day – yes that’s from 9am until actual tea time – at a local spa, whilst my partner looked after both children (he had a stunned look of residual terror on his face upon my return, but that’s another story..).

It took a while for my mind to relax (and I did get both children dressed, wrote my partner an itinerary, and prepared breakfast for all before I set off). When I arrived with my friend, my mind was still in that ‘argh! I must do everything really quickly and urgently in case one or other child needs feeding/wakes up etc.’ state. After a coffee whilst filling in the ‘how do you feel today?’ card (stressed?: yes. anxious?: yes. need to unwind?: yes), a mud treatment, and a long spell in the most amazing ‘deep relax’ room, my mind slipped into a relaxed state.

I thought it would be useful to review the things my mind chose to dwell on at this point. This was:

– my close friends’ personal lives
– school choices
– recipes
– the pop star Rhianna, and why she has chosen to get back with that rotter Chris Brown

*Aside*: I’m a friend of the bullet point. This is going to be a recurring theme of this blog.

What does this say about me?! Actually it probably shows that I wasn’t quite as relaxed as I thought. My mind is so used to flitting from one pressing issue to the other right now that it simply replaced the usual with the above.

However, a change is as good as a rest, they say! I still feel totally rejuvenated and refreshed. I thoroughly recommend a day at the spa to contemplate popstar plights and healthy eating!

The pressing need for chocolate

I never used to be much of a chocolate eater, I tell myself. I used to have it on occasion, could count years between having actual chocolate bars. A piece of cake would be a treat, or a pudding (spotted dick and custard, obviously).

Now, nary a day goes by when I don’t eat a reasonable portion of some ’empty calorie’ foodstuff (although surely chocolate’s got calcium in it, at least?!).

I have turned into the woman with zero willpower when it comes to sugar. Evening time arrives and, after the often horrifically traumatic event of ‘bedtime’ with a toddler and a baby (should be renamed ‘mental torture time’), I find myself wearily preparing dinner (ok, mostly preparing dinner, as my partner may have the occasional hand in this – in fact, he’s just reminded me of my nightly ‘sofa-curfew’, whereby I seem unable to leave the sofa to make my way to the kitchen after 8pm) and then the ‘sugar itch’ arrives.

This isn’t a good thing in a house full of chocolate, post-Easter. Mini eggs, huge chunky chocolate eggs, those irresistible chocolate bunnies…

Sitting here eating my latest batch of mini eggs, I have arrived at the following conclusions:

1. I developed the habit in pregnancy.

2. I need the energy, and have low blood sugar at the end of a busy day. By busy, I mean **BUSY**. Is it possible to highlight that word any further?!

3. I just can’t be arsed to have any willpower anymore.

So there it is, my confession of the day. I’m addicted to post-‘bedtime’ sugar.

Once upon a time..

..there was a mum of two (raucous, bouncing toddler and 5 month old baby full of alarmingly cheeky smiles) who decided to jump on the bandwagon and start a blog.

Why? I asked myself this very question, when I felt strongly compelled to do this. Why are blogs an increasingly popular past time for such a rich cross-section of people, including Mums like me who, let’s face it, feel like their brains may actually explode at any point in time?

Thinking about this (in the bath, post-bedtime duty) more or less shaped my first blog post. Firstly, I realised that many of us feel the need (or think it’s a good idea if we ever get the time) to diarise or keep a journal. We wish to capture not only life events, but our thoughts and feelings about those events. For myself, how often do I find myself reflecting, even if just for a second or two, on how amazing it is that my little girl has picked up a particular habit of my partner’s, or on how fascinating it is that, having previously been a ‘lie in bed till 11am’ person, my brain now thinks it’s perfectly ok to get no more than a 5-hour stretch of sleep for 6 months? I rarely get the chance to engage with these thoughts and reflect on them, yet always think I should.

Recently, whilst at a toddler group with other Mums (best tasting cup of coffee and piece of cake around, at this toddler group – probably as this group takes place at that very point in the morning when my body screams “caffeine and sugar, please!”), I coined the phrase ‘mental space’. “I just need some mental space”, I said. This proved to be a very popular phrase, with one Mum getting a spa day out of it after saying the very same to her husband. A blog gives us this informal opportunity to get your mental space and make some sense and order out of stuff that’s just been niggling, bugging or even inspiring you.

A blog is more than just a diary or tool for personal reflection, however. Of course its intention is to be public. We might share it with friends, Facebook, Twitter, the world! I want the world to know that my little girl sang the Alphabet Song to the dentist! We baked psychedelic buns the other day – the kitchen looked like it had been flour-bombed by about a hundred mischievous chimpanzees but I didn’t care, it was soooo lovely!

Sharing this stuff is somehow therapeutic – we expect that like-minded people will read and identify, even comment and tell us their own experiences. Of course some will totally disagree with everything you have to say, and some will be somewhere in the middle. It’s as though blogging is this vast, rich spider web of sharing and experience and expression and confession.

So, “what is this blog about?”, I hear you say. “What’s the angle?”. Hmmm. There isn’t one. Just me and my mental space. With the odd psychedelic bun thrown in.