There’s always a lot of talk on ‘mommy forums’ about what’s harder – the leap from no children to one, or from one to two (obviously higher as well but I have no experience of that and the thought of four/five children is a little hive-inducing to say the least).
Personally, the leap from being childless to having a baby was huge. It completely tilted my world on its axis and made me think, behave and feel totally differently about pretty much everything. I think that may have been amplified by the fact I hadn’t been with Dylan for very long (Alexandra was born 13 months after we began officially dating, although we had known each other for years beforehand so he wasn’t a stranger!) so in the space of little over a year I had gone from single journalist, living in a house share, doing pretty well what I wanted with my life, seeing friends ALL the time – to being engaged, living with my partner and now having a brand new baby.
Of course, add a two and a half month hospital stay into the mix, the emotional aftermath of an intensive care stay and the long recovery and struggle to get my body back to as ‘normal’ as possible, and things were never going to be easy. I was so incredibly lucky, especially given a history of mental health issues, to not get post natal depression or become unwell with anxiety and depression again. But it was hard.
Like any new mom, I had days where I just thought it’d be easier to stay in the house than try and transport this whole other person and all the things she needed around. I had so many days where I just wanted to hand Alexandra over to her dad when he got home from work and let him deal with the bath and bedtime routine to enable me to have some space and time.
I didn’t really wear make up or do my hair much, a real change from before when I was working and had nice nails and made an effort most days. I would scroll through past instagram pictures and feel a bit nostalgic for that old person. And then I got to a point where I thought you know what, I can get some of that back. I can make time to wear make up or do something I want to do. But I’m never going to get it all back. I’m never going to be Harriet first anymore, I’m always going to be Alexandra’s mom first.
And so as our bond grew I tried to relish it a bit more, to enjoy my new life rather than comparing it to my old one. And I still had days where it was rough – it’s NEVER going to be easy when you’re a parent. This was our new normal.
Then the world tilted again, we found out we were expecting our baby boy. Max’s arrival certainly came with its own set of problems. No one can watch their child on a ventilator or get diagnosed with a condition with a 50 per cent mortality rate or go down for surgery at 11 days old and not feel like a different person.
But crucially this time round I didn’t have to learn to be a mom. I was already well practised in the practical side of things – the bath time routine, the nappy changing, the changing bag packing. There were places I simply had to be with Alexandra like nursery or Tumble Tots or just getting out the house for a walk to stop her chucking all her crayons on the floor for the 95th time that hour.
So it was no longer a case of sitting there thinking about how different life was and building up the confidence to not think someone in Starbucks is going to judge me if my kid starts crying. It was all about adapting to being outnumbered. I’m not going to lie, two instead of one is an adjustment. You have to think about the logistics of everything – and sometimes you just have to let one of them cry.
If you’ll excuse the language, I said to Dylan the other day: sometimes one of them is being a dick, sometimes both of them are being dicks, sometimes neither of them are being dicks. If no one is being a dick it’s great, if one of them is then it’s manageable, if both of them are then it’s terrible!
Do I feel differently being a mother of two? Yes absolutely, but mostly in positive ways (except the fact my hair has genuinely started going grey). I’ve been finding time to do my make up most days and indulging in as much TV that I want to watch when Alexandra is napping to counteract all the CBeebies I watch these days. I haven’t yet managed to use any of the bath bombs I got for my birthday in early July but I will at some point and right now a cuddle with Max or reading a book with Alex is much better than a soak in the tub.
There is something so magical about watching your children interact with each other and I feel so content that we’ve created two babies who will always have each other, who will grow up side by side and – although they may fight and may not get on as adults – will always have that sibling bond that you can’t get from anyone else in life. To me that’s a fair trade for any of the sanity, hair or free time I may have lost by having two children.
The leap from zero to one was monumental and probably the biggest change I’ve ever made in my life. But in a lot of ways one to two felt natural and the learning curve this time was less steep. Life with two is busy, manic, stressful, nonstop but I have at least one moment in every day where I look at them and feel so so glad that we have two. It just feels right.
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x