We’ve all got something we’d like the big bearded man from the North to bring us on the 25th, right? This year my Christmas list is depressingly short. I don’t want clothes because the fanciest place I go to is baby group. I don’t want books cause the last time I read a book was during my first pregnancy. Alcohol and chocolates are both out of the equation. And I have far too many socks already.
So I got to thinking, what would I REALLY like as a mother this year? Aside from all that guff about cheer and happiness and world peace. What would make my life about a zillion times better? Here is my by-no-means-exhaustive-at-all-I-just-wrote-this-while-they-napped-SIMULTANEOUSLY-for-once-HURRAH list:
The ability to go for a shower and not have to stop the water at least five times because I can hear imaginary baby cries. Or just to learn that they’re never crying and it IS just my imagination.
To go to the shops without coming back with some sweets that I had to bribe the toddler with and a new outfit for the baby even though he has more clothes than the Kardashians.
To go out and come back with all the baby socks, dummies and sippy cups I left the house with.
A Sunday morning where you look at the clock and say ‘nah, it’s only half nine, I won’t get up just yet’.
Naps to continue until both children go to school.
Delivery drivers to never arrive when either child is sleeping.
The toddler to decide she wants the first thing I suggest for lunch, not the 47th.
A washing up fairy.
Never to have that awful feeling when you lose sight of your kid at soft play, frantically search for them for a minute and then they suddenly appear in a place you’ve already looked five times.
For them to finally make the episode of Bing where Flop finally flips and tells him what an ungrateful, whiny little nause he is.
Failing all that, just no tantrums for a week.
Failing all that, just no tantrums for a day.
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x
I almost forgot to do this update! Max has been eight months old since Sunday. Just look at his smiley face!
Movement: Still commando crawling and rolling around everywhere.
Sitting: Making good progress here and he’s sometimes now able to sit unaided for a couple of seconds.
Teeth: None but potentially some signs that he’s starting to teethe.
Brain: His MRI results came back and they’re confident it’s just a blood vessel anomaly and absolutely nothing to worry about which is reassuring.
Cough: Max is just getting over a bout of bronchiolitis which has been tough for him – lots of coughing, disturbed sleep, coughing so hard he’s sick, he’s been off his food, just not a good week at all.
Bottles: He’s only really having three now and it’s been a real struggle to get any milk into him, that may be the illness so I haven’t cut down expressing yet just in case he goes back up to four once he’s fully better.
Food: Potentially there was a reaction to lamb or turnip so we took both of those out of his diet and were due to re-try lamb on the dietician’s advice, but then he got ill so we haven’t added anything as it’d be difficult to tell if he was reacting or just poorly. He’s now having Neocate Spoon supplements to add some more calories into his diet. We’ve really struggled getting much food into him recently but hopefully his appetite will come back. We’re now down to: cauliflower, broccoli, parsnip, avocado, blueberries, strawberries, peach, plum, Nutribrex cereal and coconut milk/yoghurt.
Toys: He absolutely loves some pom poms Alex won in a game of Halloween pass the parcel. Also liking his Nuby teething toy that goes in the fridge, his inflatable ring he can sit in (kindly donated by his cousin), jumparoo and anything that Alex plays with too, so he spends a lot of time ‘helping’ her build towers with her Lego!
Weight: He weighs 16lb 12 which puts him just above the 9th centile which is great news! We go back to his consultant in January who will be thrilled if he’s still following the same curve. Max is wearing mostly 6-9m clothes now and although most of his tops and t-shirts are fairly roomy, I think he’ll move up to the next size trousers roughly when he turns nine months if he carries on growing at the same rate.
Naps: Normally, Max has a nap in the morning from around 9.30am (slightly later sometimes) til approx. 11am. Then in the afternoon he’s most happy if we can get him to sleep from about 1.30pm to 3pm. This all varies of course depending on what we’re doing that day.
Babbling: He’s much more talkative than I remember his sister being at this age. He babbles constantly and it sounds like he says ‘okay’, ‘yeah’ and ‘hiya’ quite a lot although clearly he has absolutely no idea he’s doing it. He’s very expressive and one of those babies who ends up making friends in the queue at the supermarket as he’s normally very smiley.
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x
Among the many glib cliché phrases used around/to/about mothers is this idea of ‘finding the balance’.
When you’re younger, finding the balance maybe means not getting completely off your face every weekend so that occasionally you can spend a Sunday doing something other than watching Netflix and crying cause your face feels like it’s going to fall off. Or sometimes not working late and coming home to actually cook something in your own kitchen.
Then you have a baby, and you’re encouraged to spend all your time gazing at this little tiny newborn because you’ll NEVER have this time back again and who cares about having clean pants anyway? But in reality did any of us heed this advice and stop doing the housework completely?
And then you get to a point in life where you have two children who basically take up 100 per cent of your brain space and most of your time, energy (and patience of course). And you find yourself wondering whether you’ve got the balance right?
I mean sure, on the face of it, we’re swimming along kind of okay and nothing has sunk yet and we all normally get fed and washed during the course of any one day. Some days the baby naps on me and I get to watch mindless television for two hours while also looking at Instagram because there’s nothing else you can do when squashed beneath a quietly snoring infant. Some days I cook something vaguely presentable for dinner that isn’t beige and has more than one vegetable in it. Some days I wear make up. I’ve had a shower every day since I got home from hospital with Alexandra, my firstborn, because I decided not showering dipped below my ‘lowest acceptable standard’.
But the thought of all the things I didn’t do again – well I try not to go there else I’d never switch off and go to sleep at the end of each day.
Between feeding (a lovely mixture of bottles, weaning and food for the toddler too, as well as eating ourselves), expressing, changing bums, getting dressed, going out and actually doing something with the kids, nursery drop off, nursery pick up, baby class, endless shopping trips for avocado and parsnips (because the baby can actually eat them), rocking to sleep for naps, baths, washing up (I have no idea how we manage to use the entire contents of our kitchen cupboards approximately 46 times every single day), I feel like there are so many things which get pushed to the bottom of the list.
I agreed to write a press release for someone weeks ago and only just did it today, I have more ironing than I’d like hanging on the back of the bedroom door, the house is vacuumed fairly regularly but jobs like wiping down the skirting boards and cleaning the oven get left or just half arsed very occasionally, there are all sorts of other things languishing at the bottom of my to do list which may just never get done.
And yet, I do have spare time. Maybe if I used the time while I’m expressing more effectively, or didn’t watch as much Netflix in the evening, or maybe got up a bit earlier, then I could achieve so much more with my day. I’ve joked before that when Dylan comes home and asks me what I’ve done, my stock answer is: ‘kept the children alive’. Sometimes, I’m actually deadly serious and I couldn’t tell you anything else I’ve managed.
Have any of us really got the balance right?
Does anyone go to bed thinking: yep done everything without burning myself out? Does it matter that some days I look like I got dressed in the dark? That I’ve been to the gym three times I think since Max was born back in March? That I have utterly no idea how I’m going to squeeze any work into this scenario once I finish my maternity leave at the end of the year?
I would put ‘try and find a balance’ on my to do list, but we all know it’d end up right at the bottom somewhere between ‘learn how to make soup’ and ‘pluck your eyebrows – they’re a state’.
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x
(You know when you think you’ve posted something then suddenly remember at 4.30am while expressing that you totally didn’t? I can still use the baby brain excuse, right?)
Tuesday was a milestone in our house as the baby turned six months. Yes, Mr Max has been around for half a year now – and what a half year it’s been!
He’s doing so well and we’re really proud of the leaps he’s taking each day and the new things he’s learning. Of course, anyone is proud whenever their child achieves something but considering how poorly he was we often look at his progress in amazement!
I will no doubt post many times about his weaning journey, but I can’t update you at six months without talking about food. He’s not sitting up unaided yet but we decided to try him on some solids when he turned six months to see how things go. We’re doing the traditional purée route as well as giving him some bits and bobs to try and pick up and gum and starting off with two weeks of just veg before moving on to the fun stuff like fruit and the really fun stuff (carbs).
Max is a little wriggler and he’s very confident at getting from his front to his back. He can roll from back to front but spends a lot of time on his side and somehow managing to move across the floor using a complication system of lying-down lunges and half rolls.
His head strength is much better and he’s also enjoying being sat up more, although he still needs some support with that. He’s now reaching out and grabbing toys and he LOVES bouncing in his jumparoo and being on his playmat surrounded by toys.
It’s still 150ml bottles every three hours from 8am to 8pm roughly. He’s up any time from 7am and is the chirpiest morning person I’ve ever met. He’s just started having solids at 12pm and 6pm. Naps are variable but he tends to have one approximately 9.30am for anywhere up to an hour, then another one mid morning or early afternoon then perhaps another one before dinner.
Max is set to be weighed next week so we’re not 100 per cent sure how much he weighs but he’s definitely gaining so that’s positive. He’s fitting most of his 3-6m tops now although a lot of them are still a little baggy. He’s about ready to go into 6-9m babygrows in the next couple of weeks and he’s also rapidly outgrowing most of his trousers. Unfortunately we either have the option of horrendously baggy waist and the right length or less likely to fall down but way too short when it comes to his trousers! He’s still very skinny and people are quite surprised when I tell them he’s six months.
We think he may be teething as there’s a lot of dribbling and hand chewing going on, but I feel like Alexandra did this too and she was nearly 11 months before her first tooth came through so we may be in for another long wait if he takes after his sister!
All in all, he is still so happy and cheery. Yes he has his grumpy moments and he cries and he grumbles (don’t we all) but if he’s fed, not tired and not in pain from his reflux then he is just the loveliest little boy. The kids do this thing where most days at least once they lie together and get the absolute giggles and just spend five minutes laughing at absolutely nothing. Looking at them and how much they love each other is honestly the best feeling and makes any and all of the hard bits of his pregnancy and the early days more than worth it. I wish I could share that moment with anyone worrying about having two babies close together!
Here’s to the next six months and all they have in store for us.
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x
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
I’m back after a small hiatus during which I was in sole charge of two tiny beings for eight days. I’ll talk more about that soon but for now I’d like to share the second half of my survival tips for two under two (first part here):
– Be proud. It’s so easy to beat yourself up because your oldest ate something that wasn’t organically grown and picked by monks singing Mozart, or whatever it is that we’re meant to be doing with our food these days, or the baby has watched more television in one day than your toddler was allowed to watch in their entire first year on earth. But having two children, especially two so close together, is really tough. So try (and the irony of this advice is that I find it ridiculously tough to actually do this) to feel proud when you get to bedtime and you haven’t sold, broken or dropped either of them. Whether it’s getting out for an hour, teaching one of them something new or simply just remembering to feed and change them – there will be something positive that you’ve done that day if you think about it hard enough!
– Be your kind of mom. Basically do it your way. If you want to hire a nanny, babywear, helicopter parent, attachment parent, send them off to boarding school the second they’re old enough, never let them out your site, as long as you’re not harming them in any way (kind of goes without saying) then it’s all good. Having your first baby is a steep learning curve and you generally get advice from every person in your life. By the time that baby becomes a toddler you’ve probably sifted out the bad and ugly advice and only taken on the good. So when you’re doing it second time around – and so soon after the first! – you should absolutely own it and just go with your own flow. Certain things my friends, family and random strangers I follow on social media (creepy) do aren’t for me; I’m sure those people are looking at what I’m doing being all HOW MANY times has she taken them to soft play this week? WHY won’t she let the baby go to nana and Grandad’s on his own yet? WHY do the kids not go to bed at 6pm? But you know what, it’s working for us right now. That’s all that matters.
– Last piece of advice: enjoy it. Look at the two humans you created laughing and smiling at each other and savour the moment. I’m not going to get all hashtag blessed on you but despite its many, many difficulties, rearing two monkeys is incredible because you get to watch their relationship bloom and blossom. Yes sometimes they might be smacking the shit out of each other or trying to roll the baby off the sofa – a new trick in our house – but sometimes you’ll watch them giggling together and your heart will be so incredibly full.
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x
Way back in May, I wrote a somewhat tongue in cheek post about survival tips for those of us lucky enough to have experience the mind-boggle that is two under two. Now that we’ve lived the experience (for five whole months and three days) and come out the other side relatively unscathed (or at least all still alive), I’d like to talk a little more seriously about the things that have got us through the experience. [I’ve now half written this and realised it’s going to be long as so I’m going to split it into two posts] If anyone has similar tips about how to deal with a two year old and a small one too (he’s really not a newborn anymore is he?!) I’m all ears.
– Organisation is king. You will genuinely never leave the house if you’re not organised – or you will but you’ll end up going mental ripping apart your changing bag wondering why the hell there’s no bibs in there and whether you can fit the baby in his sister’s nappies or the other way round. I’ve posted before about our routine and how much prep I do through the day to get ready for the next stage. Do whatever works for you. Get night clothes laid out on the bed ready to change it to. Have tomorrow’s clothes picked out nice and early. Spend five minutes restocking the bag with wipes, raisins (you can actually get fined by the parent police if you don’t have at least one box of raisins for your toddler in your bag at any time) etc every morning. Just make sure what you’re doing does work. I read somewhere having a second quadruples your workload rather than doubles it but don’t let everything get on top of you! Just like having your first, at one point it’ll become second nature to know how much stuff you need each day and how much time each part of your routine takes.
– Don’t let the laundry win. It’s easy to let it overwhelm you and especially when you’ve got two under two because the little one is producing a horrendous volume of soiled clothes between all the pooing, sicking and dribbling they do, just as the toddler is becoming messier than you ever dared imagine. So instead of sitting mournfully looking at the basket wondering how the hell you’ve got an extra 43 loads of washing a week when babies wear such tiny clothes, just get some done. Some people find it easier to do one a day, I tend to go for doing two or three loads every couple of days. Maybe make it your partner’s job – not the only job they do obviously but one of! So they just whack a load on before work or something like that. Just don’t get to the point where you’re using socks to wipe the baby’s face and turning your underwear inside out. No one needs that.
– Crying is okay. There’s two aspects to this point. Firstly it’s okay to have a little sob yourself sometimes, let the hormones out, do an ugly cry and wonder how the eff you’re going to get through the rest of the day. Secondly, there’s one of you (assuming you’re at home with babies and your other half is at work) and two of them. It would be lovely if they co-ordinated themselves so they cried at different times but they don’t bother to help you out in that matter. Sometimes both of them will be crying at the same time and you can’t beat yourself up about having to leave one of them at it for a while. You just need a ‘who needs me more’ quick evaluation system. If toddler is crying because they want a drink or snack and baby is crying because they need feeding, changing and then cuddling to sleep then clearly it’s going to be easier to spend one minute getting a snack and a drink from the kitchen to keep your toddler happy to then turn your attention to the baby as the feed and cuddle will definitely take longer!
That’s all for now but I’ll be back soon with the second half of this post!
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x
Our lovely Maxi is five months old this weekend – this is the first time I’ve done an update on him separately from his sister’s but she turns two next week so I’ll be doing a special post or two on that and then I’ll be reducing the frequency of her updates, probably to just two a year, although I’ll clearly still mention what she’s up to in other posts I write.
But back to Max, out of interest I just looked back at Alexandra’s five month update (not in a ‘comparing to see which child is better’ way but to see what she was up to at this point). She was majorly interested in hands and feet – Max hasn’t found his feet yet but has spent most of the month chomping away on his hands.
Their routines are roughly the same except she slept in a little later in the morning and went to bed ever so slightly later – and she was having a whopping 210ml five times a day, compared to Max who has 150ml. However it’s importantly to remember Alexandra’s feeds were all formula and only one of his is, and everything I’ve read suggests breastfed babies consume less. Plus he’s smaller too.
So what is he doing this month? There’s a lot of chatting and smiling. He loves to interact and is a real people watcher. He’s generally very contented! Max is trying to roll but hasn’t managed it yet and his head control is getting stronger by the day.
His doctor at our local hospital is very pleased with him and we’ve now got a weaning plan in place, which I shall share the details of once we get to that point.
Overall he is just the most delightful little thing to have around and he’s completely added to our family on the best way possible!
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x
If you’ve read my previous posts (morning routine here and daytime routine here), you’ll know I’ve been sharing what a typical day looks like for us, if there is such thing as ‘typical’ with a 23 month toddler and a four month baby. Do pop and read the past posts to find out more about earlier in our day as this one exclusively focuses on the evening routine and how we go from having two wide awake kids to two hopefully soundly sleeping ones!
The first thing I always do is make sure I have five minutes during the late afternoon/early evening to nip upstairs and prepare everything ready for their bedtime. I just find it so much easier if all the bits and bobs I need are laid out on the bed, especially if Dylan is running late and I’m starting the routine by myself.
We get both babies ready for bed in our room which works really well as it means we can all sit together on the bed and have some much-needed family time. Perhaps when they’re older they might separate into their own rooms but for now this arrangement is lovely for the four of us. So on the bed I lay out Max’s sleeping bag unzipped, his open babygrow for the night on top of that and then a nappy folded open on top of that – so everything is ready just to be popped on as quickly as possible. Then next to that there’s always a space with the wipes and empty nappy sack. Then next to that there’s Alexandra’s sleeping bag, pyjamas and nappy.
On the bed post we have talcum powder, Sudocrem and clippers if I’m planning on cutting anybody’s nails. On the bed there’s always at least one book. Then on the nightstand there’s a spare Max sized nappy, nappy sack, muslin cloth and two bibs. The curtains are closed and the lamp on with the main light off then in Alex’s room the blinds are drawn and her fairy lights are on.
If they’re having a bath then I’ll put his bath seat and the bath toys in ready plus have both their towels on the radiator, the shampoo and flannels next to the bath and a stool for comfort for whoever’s washing them.
All of that sounds exhausting but it’s honestly about two minutes’ work now I know what I’m doing with it all.
Max has his penultimate bottle at 5pm and then he will normally be in his bouncer, on his play mat or propped up on some cushions with a toy until we’re ready to go upstairs. Around this time I like to get his last bottle ready as this is a formula one (he has one formula and four expressed bottles a day so this is the only one I have to prepare rather than pump!) and he always has his daily vitamins mixed into this one just because it’s easy to remember to pop the vitamins in while I mix the formula. It then goes into the fridge as he’s happy to have cold milk (and does most the time as I obviously store my milk in there too!).
Then it’s time for Alexandra to have her dinner, which is always at the table on her booster chair – we like to make sure the tv’s off during dinner. If Dylan isn’t home yet I’ll usually eat with Alex then save his ready to heat up later. We then take her water bottle and his dummy, bottle and last dose of ranitidine (anti-reflux medicine) upstairs ready to wind down for the night.
We only bath the children every other night unless they’re spectacularly filthy (let’s be honest I’m talking about toddler not baby here!). Max has his hair washed first then he goes in his towel into the bedroom to get into his night clothes while his sister has a little longer playing then washing her hair and cleaning her teeth. If they’re not having a bath then we obviously just skip this part and get them changed ready for bed.
Alex loves reading books so we normally do one but more often two – she’s at the stage where she doesn’t particularly want to follow the plot but would much prefer to point out all the things she can see on the pages. She also likes to show Max different books which is great as it’s never too early to get them involved!
I’ll be honest there is normally A LOT of laughter, running around, hide and seek, jumping and other activities that wouldn’t happen at bedtime if I was solely in charge. But for Dylan it might be the only half an hour he sees the children in the day so he certainly makes the most of it! (He’s normally the one running around). While I always panic it’ll make her too excited to go to bed, I think the manic half an hour actually helps get rid of her last bit of energy for the day!
Then at some point (could be as early as 7.15pm or as late as 8.30pm depending how tired she is), we all do kisses, cuddles and high fives then Dylan takes Alexandra into her own room where they have a crazy routine involving hitting each other on the head with a balloon, counting in Italian and saying goodbye to the blinds?! It’s very funny to listen to and I can never replicate it properly when I’m in charge of bedtime on the odd occasion Dylan isn’t there (Alex is never too amused when I’m brought on as bedtime substitute!). Then he leaves the room and she’ll go to sleep, sometimes with a bit of shouting ‘ta ta. Night. Bye’.
In the meantime, I’ll have been giving Max his last bottle in our room and then we normally have a bit of a cuddle and he goes down into his Moses basket in there. He’ll also settle himself to sleep although sometimes I do cuddle him to sleep – just not too often so he doesn’t lose the ability to self settle!
And that’s normally the last we hear of either of them until the morning. It’s then time for me to express, Dylan to have his dinner and we both make sure everything’s tidy although that normally takes two minutes because I try and tidy throughout the day.
Writing all that down does make it seem like it’s a really rigid routine – but things do vary each day and the timings also alter depending what we’re doing and how tired the children are. I guess we’ve just found what works and doesn’t over the last four months of adapting to two under two – so these are the things that help us get both of our little sleepy bugs to drift off!
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x