When 1 Becomes 2

Well, as is my consistently inconsistent custom of blogging, I thought it about time that I contribute to the postnatal ponderings once more. Having ever so thankfully emerged from the dark abyss of HG and having been blessed with a beautiful, healthy second daughter, I am now mum of two and entering the sleep-deprived haze that is commonly known as “life with a newborn with ongoing responsibility for keeping pre-schooler alive and well.”

I’ll spare you the gory details of labour except to say that such an experience has confirmed my suspicions that our family unit is now complete and I am absolutely, under no uncertain terms doing it again (probably)…

Almost 4 years on from becoming first-time parents, it turns out that I had erased certain aspects of those early days and weeks with a tiny human from memory. There are, of course, things we learnt from the first time round – like not to buy a pram, sorry ‘Travel-system’ that requires you to re-mortgage your home to pay for it, not being naive in believing that taking just one change of clothes when going out for the day would ever be sufficient, understanding that a muslin square draped across the shoulder is standard parenting fashion and realising that following a “code brown” you can remove those ridiculously awkward vests by pulling them down from baby’s shoulders instead of having to cut them off (best life hack ever, you’re welcome). Anyway, I digress. There are certain experiences that have come flooding back to consciousness and others that are shiny and new to us in our current family dynamic…

Daily routine

First off, let me just emphasise that I use the word ‘routine’ extremely loosely. As in I routinely make sure each child is fed on a daily basis but outside of that, washing, dressing and leaving the house are very much up for negotiation. Weekdays do require depositing the elder Miss Andrews at nursery 5 minutes walk away by 12:30pm – with proximity and timing on her side how’s she going to complain about that I hear you mutter under your breath – stay with me on this. It’s not just a case of grab your jackets kids let’s get out of here. No, no, no it’s a case of beginning the preparation at 10:30am and sometimes still not making it on time! Now, experience has somewhat enhanced my multi-tasking, heck I’ve been known to rustle up a gourmet meal of cheesy beans on toast with one hand (you try grating cheese while holding a screaming baby) but there’s just no accounting for the unpredictability of the screaming baby needing a full change of outfit literally the second you’ve opened the front door or realising it’s Thursday and having to run back to the house to ransack it and locate the library book the preschooler needs to return save she’s blacklisted forever.
What I’ve come to realise is that even if I do manage to get some sort of regular nap time for baby and quality time with pre-schooler, no day is the same. Somedays there’s time and energy for playing doctors, tummy time, reading books and baking cookies. For all other days there’s an iPad and Peppa Pig.

Nocturnal nuances

I was once given a little placard that read: “People who say they sleep like a baby clearly haven’t got one”. Never has there been a truer statement.

Of course, during the day the littlest Andrews sleeps so soundly that the occasional nudge is required to confirm she’s still breathing. Night-time, however, is an entirely different scenario…
Once the usual crimes against humanity such as changing a nappy to ensure she isn’t lying in her own filth and providing more than adequate sustenance aka feeding til she quite literally ‘milked the cow dry’, have been committed, operation ‘settle newborn to sleep’ can commence. After falling into a peaceful slumber in my arms following aforementioned provision of milky goodness, I place her into her Moses basket.

Who knew that such an act during the nighttime hours was akin to lowering someone into a shallow grave as if they were about to be buried alive? The sounds of snorting, shuffling and scrambling around that take place is something to rival a desperate escape from a high security prison. Add some vomiting, a dirty protest and an almighty cry that the neighbours could do nothing but assume someone was being tortured, and voila! you have yourself a newborn sleeping on a muslin square in between you and your husband for the rest of the night. Whilst baby gets her beauty sleep interspersed only to feed and pass wind from both ends simultaneously, the two of you lie awake, clinging on to either side of the bed in an attempt to avoid rolling over and squishing one of those delicate newborn limbs.

I could go on to discuss the madness of mealtimes or the circus that is bath time but I think you get the idea. Better leave myself something to rant blog about in another six months time…

Don’t get me wrong, we are blessed with extremely loving and helpful family and friends who have provided food at just the right moment, cleaned the house when the dust started to settle a little too much and provided much-needed respite to have a shower long enough to wash my hair or have an afternoon nap to recharge the batteries; but there can still be times when the day is long and the routine (or lack of it) is like pushing that travel system with all its accessories through a landfill site of nappies. One of my BFFs who also happens to be my sister-in-law and mother of my two lovely nieces recommended the book ‘Soul Food for Mums’ by Lucinda van der Hart & Anna France-Williams. If you’re like me and feel that as a parent (particularly to a child in their first year) you find it difficult to have some quiet-time with God, this book is really helpful. If you’re not the praying type or aren’t sure that God even cares about your parenting highs and lows, I’d still encourage you to make sure you take some time out for yourself – actually sleep when baby sleeps instead of doing the laundry, go for a walk or swim on your own if you can, read something other than babycentre.com, say no to some things and yes to offers of help. My relatively limited recent experience and the beauty of hindsight has taught me what is probably quite obvious – the more rested, content and happy you are, the easier and less stressful the crazy parenting whirlwind will be*.

As usual, the weight of my parenting challenges have also been coupled with feelings of guilt for feeling overwhelmed whilst dear friends face the agonies of infertility and its harrowing treatment or fellow parents cope with caring for sick children. However, I’ve been brought to the realisation (by aforementioned dear friend) that there’s no room for guilt in situations like this. My advice: be honest with those friends- you’re going through vastly different challenges but they’re both as genuine as the other; cry for them and lift them up in prayer for sure but ask them to do the same for you; if they tell you that they love your children and actually do want to see photos of them, believe them and send them a couple of pics every now and again; finally, as my wise husband encouraged me recently, simply ‘enjoy the joy’. In this moment, you are where you’re meant to be and you have what you’re meant to have.
“…they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”. Isaiah 40:31

*Feel free to remind me I said this when they’re teenagers…

Written by Claire Andrews for her blog, Postnatal Ponderings.