Becoming A Mother Then Adapting To Two

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

Taking Two Under Two Out

Getting ready to leave the house is a day’s work in itself.

When Alexandra was tiny, leaving the house seemed like a massive feat, like a trauma that would surely involve tears (from both of us) and probably a poonami or two (hopefully just from her). Over time I gradually learned to become more confident about taking a tiny human being everywhere with me.

As most the time I’m going to fairly busy civilised places rather than travelling to the jungle or desert, I’ve learned you can pretty much always buy whatever you’ve forgotten or the baby’s ruined. Yes sometimes that’s meant buying an emergency pair of leggings from the supermarket or borrowing a nappy from a friend but clearly neither of those options are the end of the world.

What do you do if the baby cries? Well the simple answer is to have enough food on you to rule that out as the cause any time they cry and then to carry on like you would at home. Work your way through the list of possibilities until you stumble upon the correct one.

I quickly realised that everyone has run home in the rain having forgotten the pram cover, everyone has left a bottle top open and leaked liquid all over the change back, everyone has coped with a baby meltdown so bad they’ve just had to give the sorry eyes to anyone passing.

And then the game changed. I fell pregnant with number two. I then spent a lot of time worrying about how you could possibly take two out when there’s only one of you.

But just as I did with my first, you learn to adapt and you pick up tips along the way. Things like always ensuring you’ve got a snack for the toddler to have during baby’s feeds, even if they wouldn’t normally eat at that time, because they will get bored being strapped into the pushchair not moving for that length of time. Things like taking a blanket for the toddler so they don’t steal the baby’s because they will even if they don’t normally have one anymore. Things like what order to put them in and out of the car to avoid any issues.

Clearly I’m not perfect, I don’t have this parenting thing sorted just yet (does anyone?), mostly I’m just winging two under two. But my point is there is absolutely no need to worry. Parenting is suffocating at first but if you try to remain as calm as possible and not let the fear take over, you CAN get out of the house on your own. There is no need to be trapped. One day everything will click and you’ll look back and wonder why you worried. You got this!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Mother Of Two

The cutest little monkeys.

Being a mother of two is…
– Spending weeks thinking about what you’ll do when they both nap at the same time and then wasting it looking at instagram when it finally happens.
– Sometimes counting the ‘high point’ of your day as the time when the babies poo at the same time so you can use one nappy bag for both. Economic!
– Nodding and smiling nicely about 58 times a day when people tell you you’ve got your hands full.
– Trying to ram the double buggy through doors that aren’t wide enough, down aisles that it clearly doesn’t fit down and around people who have no concept of where it’s appropriate to stand and have a chat.
– Attempting to make important phone calls while feeding the baby, helping the toddler create a crayon masterpiece, eat your breakfast (at 2pm) and change somebody’s nappy.
– Wondering if you could squeeze into a nappy yourself so you save time having to go to the toilet.
– Being more tired than you ever knew possible but also more happy (had to throw a nice one in there cause I do really like my children!).
– Wondering if it looks twee or cute if you’ve accidentally matched the kids’ clothes but going with it anyway because changing one would be more hassle.
– Deciding if going to the loo, eating or sitting down for two minutes are the priorities. Deciding you can actually combine all three!
– Trying to stop the big one squashing the small one.
– Being tempted to write a Facebook bragging status when you get to the bottom of the laundry basket.
– Wondering how baby always has a bigger pile of clean clothing in each load than anyone else despite being much smaller than everyone.
– Deciding you’ll have bulging biceps in no time when you’re carrying round baby in his car seat and toddler at the same time.
– Trying to get both of them to look at the camera simultaneously just once.
– Feeling really responsible when you realise you’re in charge of two human beings.
– Giving yourself a mental high five when you get to the end of every day and they’re both still alive, fed and changed, even if they (and you and the house) are covered in sick, bogeys and food.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Post Birth Recovery

Looking a bit less dead than I did last time.

I’d just like to warn anyone reading that I’m going to talk about lady bits during this post. So maybe look away now if you’ve either never had a baby and don’t want to know about the grizzly details or if you don’t own lady bits and want their postnatal state to remain a mystery forever.

I realised today I’ve talked a lot about my children’s progress on this blog, which is a given really, but not really mentioned my own recovery from the birth this time.

If you put aside all of the other complications that happened postnatally with Alexandra – there was still the small matter of an episiotomy and 27 stitches to recover from. Even if you’ve pushed an entire human out of your body with no lasting damage to your hooha, it’s still going to be a little sore right? So add into that the fact someone’s done a cross stitch in your lady bits and it’s a long slow recovery. I’ve heard of people taking up to a year to recover from an episiotomy.

Thankfully mine didn’t take anywhere near that long but I do remember around day five getting the midwives to check my stitches as I was in so much pain I was convinced there must be some sort of infection going on down there. There wasn’t but it was still pretty unbearable!

This time round I escaped with a small tear that didn’t need stitching. I cannot tell you how much easier that was to cope with! None of that wincing as you sit down (handy when you’re spending all your waking hours in a chair next to your baby’s incubator) and weeing was much more comfortable – although that first post-baby poo is always going to be a terrifying prospect! But the thought is MUCH worse than the reality.

Aside from the hooha situation, I lost weight much more quickly the first time round (obviously being so ill!) so I’m still well over the weight I was when I got pregnant with Max (although I was this fat when I got pregnant with Alexandra!); I’m expressing this time so clearly that’s affected what’s happening up top as my milk had dried up by this point first time round; emotionally I didn’t have the third day baby blues either time but I think that’s because I haven’t had a ‘normal’ postnatal experience – there’s definitely been hormones flying around but isn’t that always the case even when you’ve not just given birth!

I was shocked how well I felt this time having had an unassisted delivery. By the next day I was walking around normal and aside from the lochia, leaky boobs and empty sack of a stomach I hardly knew I’d had a baby! People were commenting how well I looked and it was super refreshing especially having prepped myself to feel pretty shoddy.

It’s nice to know you can go through something as major as birthing a child and feel so good afterwards! It’s kind of empowering really! Which I feel a bit cringe saying but having felt like doctors delivered my first child and everyone else looked after her for months while I was a bit…well…useless, to bounce out of bed the next day and put some proper clothes on having pushed a baby out all by yourself feels pretty amazing actually.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x