Isn’t it funny how life can change? I was chatting to an old school friend the other day and she casually mentioned her 30th next year. I was like wow she’s got that wrong – til I realised she was indeed completely correct. Mine’s not til the following year as she was older in the year and I was one of the youngest. But still, it’s been ten years since I did my A-Levels this year. Ten years since I left school and started journalism college. Nine years since I moved out of my parents’ home and into my first little flat with a grand sum of a microwave, a couple of towels and some clothes to my name.
Nine years since I took a job at a newspaper as a junior reporter (which means I’ve known Dylan nine years) and eight since I moved and settled in a new town where my job was based. Eight years since I became acting deputy and seven since I passed my senior exams. Six since I moved again and five since I ran a half-marathon, launched a paper and also began running a mental health group. Four since my own mental health took a turn for the worse and I spent a summer as an inpatient on a ward. But also four since the guy I sort of liked who I knew through work asked me on a date and also four since we got engaged and booked our wedding (it took five years for him to ask me out but once we got past that hurdle, we moved fast!).
Three years since we found out we were expecting a baby girl, since we moved in together, since we had our amazing honeymoon in Thailand and since Alexandra Cavanagh was born. Yeah, three years ago was incredible but also some of the hardest days of our lives. Three years since we were forced to cancel our wedding 48 hours beforehand, since I spent what should have been my wedding day on oxygen being taken to the bathroom in a wheelchair, since Dylan was told I might not make it. But also three years since we put our middle fingers up to a CAPS diagnosis and the shoddy odds of survival that offer and three years since I came home and we began life as a family.
Which makes it two years since we got married! Finally! The best day of our lives, so incredibly full of happiness and love. And two years since we found out that a baby boy would be joining our family (oops! But also yay!). Two years since we took Alexandra abroad for the first time.
And a year since Max Llewellyn Arturs was born. A year since the days of NICU and operations and ventilators and medicine and nurses and so many ups and downs. A year since we brought him home and settled into our new life together. A month since the turn of the year, bringing with it the hope of a calm and peaceful 2018!
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x
The brighter and more mathematically minded among you will have worked out by now that Alexandra doesn’t turn two until late summer and we’re due our second baby in the spring, which means we’re soon joining the magical ‘Two Under Two’ club. I say magical, more apt words could include terrifying, scary or frightening.
There is probably no age gap in the world which is perfect and every family (and every child) is completely different so in reality, what works for one set of parents probably won’t work for another. I think it’s pretty much universally accepted though that popping out two tiddlers in less time than it takes for us to orbit the sun twice is either really brave or really stupid. We’ve been very open about the fact Baby 2 was a complete surprise to us, and I genuinely don’t know what we would have done had we planned to have him in terms of the timing (I suspect Alex would have been closer to two by the time we started trying but we’ll never know). As it was I was five weeks pregnant when we found out a few days after her first birthday that she was set to become a big sister, add in a planned early delivery on the cards for 2 and you’ve got yourself an estimated 19 month gap.
There are some positive things about Two Under Two (there are, right?): you don’t get used to more independence and no nappies and then have to go back to it all again, they’re more likely to enjoy the same things as they grow up because they’re similar ages, fewer years til both are in school and you can consider your career options, everything you learned with Baby 1 is fresher in your mind.
There are also some things which, quite frankly, scare me: what the hell do you do if they’re both crying at the same time, the likelihood of Baby 2 being a good sleeper considering we were so blessed with Alex is slim – can I cope with that on top of the daily demands of a toddler, Baby 1 is likely to try and climb on/poke/otherwise maim her brother if I leave them alone for even a second and most of all: two turd-factories to change all day, every day.
I’m sure that you just cope. Before I had Alexandra I just didn’t get how it all worked, even after I had her it took a long time before I was fairly confident both of us would survive the day until daddy got home. I’m sure the TV will be on more, I’m sure the hoover will be out less and I’m sure there will be more than one day where I phone Dylan to have a little cry even though the extent of how much he can help when he’s 20 miles down the road and working is very minimal. But I’m also fairly sure that we’ll get along okay.
Harriet, Alexandra and bump x
Still enjoying her food!
Alexandra turns 14 months old tomorrow, which really doesn’t seem that far away from 18 months which then turns into two and then she’ll be at school and then basically she’ll be 40 with a mortgage and 2.4 kids next time we blink.
This month, Alexandra has spent most of her time: walking, walking, walking. She basically doesn’t crawl anywhere now and it’s almost turning into a run (the kind of run you may have seen a friend do when they’re absolutely howling drunk at 4am in the morning outside a chip shop). Tooth-wise, we still have two and a half with the second of the top two looking like it may arrive at any time (although knowing how long the previous three made us wait, she’ll probably be five by the time it does).
She’s interacting a lot more with her cousin Zachary – they love each other! And generally she’s being more loving to people. She’ll sometimes give people a kiss (ie sloppy open mouth dribbly head bash) without them even asking. Alex has started saying yes and no in response to questions – and shaking her head sometimes – so we think she’s grasped the concept of those words. She climbs the stairs confidently on all fours and her favourite hobby is ransacking. Leave her alone for just a second and she’ll fish something out of somewhere you didn’t know she could reach (she’s also terrible for climbing!) and present it to you proudly.
Basically she’s turned into a very cheeky, very active toddler. Definitely not a little baby anymore!
Harriet and Alexandra x
Is it just me who wishes the old saying of ‘if I had a pound’ was true for the phrase ‘treasure them’ or any of its connotations? I think I’d be sunning myself on my own private island right now if I’d started when we announced our pregnancy.
I’ve posted a lot about things people say during pregnancy and motherhood that are either naïve, ridiculous or just plain dumb and it’s probably lead some readers to think I’m ridiculously grumpy (it’s true, I’m not ashamed). But this one’s been rubbing me up the wrong way for a while.
I know it’s true, I just don’t see the value in the phrase? It’s like some throwaway comment people offer when really they have nothing intelligent to add to the conversation. Everyone in the whole wide world knows that the portion of your life you spend being a baby is fleeting and thus it’s not a huge jump to arrive at the thought that being a mother to a baby is all too short an experience. I am (and was from before conception) aware that pretty soon Alexandra will be a toddler and then a pre-schooler and then a child and then a teen and then an adult. It’s logic. It’s the way the entire world operates.
At one point we had no idea if I would ever make those stages and there’s still a part of me that remains convinced my condition will creep up and slap us in the face again one day and that with an already weakened heart I might not be so lucky next time. So I find it fairly insulting when complete strangers tell me to treasure my child. You think every time I hold her or watch her play or learn a new skill, I don’t say a silent thank you to whoever’s out there for that moment? You think every time all three of us wake up happy and healthy in the morning I don’t breathe a sigh of relief? You think I don’t hold back tears every day when I think about what might have been and how much I could have missed. The fact there won’t be a second, another baby to see transform from a newborn to a mobile, babbling infant, makes this feeling even more acute.
There’s hardly a single mother in the world who doesn’t absolutely treasure their child and realise them being tiny is so fleeting. Yes they may get stressed, tired, tear their hair out, despair, cry, moan etc. But believe me they’re still treasuring this little miracle they’ve been entrusted with. It’s a bit patronising to suggest otherwise!
Harriet and Alexandra x
I’ve been thinking this week how many people it actually takes to raise a child. Sure, technically it’s one – one person can quite easily feed a child, put it to bed, buy provisions for it, read to it, love it etc. But in reality when you think about it, even in cases where there’s only one parent on the scene, children are very rarely influenced solely by one primary caregiver. When I think back over the people who’ve affected my life, it’s not just my parents but also grandparents, teachers, parents’ friends etc. I’m sure my younger sister would say I had a hand in raising her.
There are so many different things you can teach a child, and each person who comes into contact with them has their own knowledge base and strengths and weaknesses, that surely it could be said pretty much everyone who has anything to do with them in their formative years is going to pass on some information and have a hand in raising them, even in a very small way?
If you think about it, it could be said even your friends helped to raise you. In the early days, maybe a child at nursery knew more words than you or was more advanced than you in certain areas and thus would have passed on their skills (unknowingly) through playing together. As you got older, trials and tribulations with peers would have taught you many life lessons that your parents, whilst they probably tried telling you verbally, wouldn’t have been able to practically demonstrate.
It feels like we have a very insular society compared to others across the world – when you look at certain tribes they do everything together and really do raise their children communally (and isn’t that where the phrase ‘it takes a whole village to raise a baby’ came from?) – but really we still have an important role to play in helping develop the youngest generation. It’s exciting when you think about it – not only are Dylan and I going to get to pass on our wisdom (!), our passions and the lessons we’ve learned along the way, but our friends and families will also have a hand in teaching our baby such valuable things.
Harriet and bump x