Tag Archives: Two Babies

To the brand-new mother of two: embrace the chaos. Feel excellent about your pyjamas. This is all going to be fine.

To the brand-new mother of two,

Hello! Are you up and about today? Does your head feel like it’s above water?

It’s ok if not. It’s ok if not.

Listen, you probably don’t know which end is up at the minute. You are used to being one half of a double act with your first and adored child – your eldest, you’ll need to say now, and that’s what he’ll always be, and it will start to shape him from now on, this being the eldest – and suddenly there are twice as many children clamouring for your attention. It’s probably making you dizzy.

They need entirely different things.
They need them simultaneously.
They need them all the blooming time.
And there’s only one of you.

If it feels like you’re running from one to the other, patting out need-fires, that’s because you are, my love. Babies, toddlers and even preschoolers don’t have a pause button. You are it for them, and they don’t know how to wait for you, and they certainly don’t know how to take turns.

But isn’t it something, knowing you can love this much, that it wasn’t just a one-off with your eldest? Isn’t it a wild discovery, that two people can put the same genetic material together to make two babies, and those babies are entirely different from each other? I expected mine to be carbon copies of each other and they didn’t even feel like copies of me. They were fiery with their own life. Bursting with it. From the moment they left me to breathe their own air. It only ever felt like I’d set them loose on a path they were always going to take.

Some reality: it will be several months before you feel vaguely in control, and several more months before you can go anywhere near a routine. Chaos is part of your circumstances and is no reflection on you, so just go with it. Don’t feel bad about pyjama days. Feel good, feel excellent about keeping everyone fed and safe and (mostly) happy. Don’t forget to include yourself in the happiness equation. Assess yourself honestly, every day. If you really don’t feel right then ask for help.

Some advice (if you want it?): spend time with other adults during the day if you can. It doesn’t need to be a playgroup (I always hated playgroups) – it can just be a friend. If your partner works full time then, lovely as they undoubtedly are, they can’t understand what it’s like to interact with tiny irrational tyrants every day, never seeing another person with a fully developed and logical brain. They can’t understand it because they’ve never done it, don’t know the particular madness that creeps in when adults don’t interact with other adults. Please seek out conversation, sympathy. Come to my house. I will buy in biscuits and tell you you’re doing a wonderful job.

Some hope: every day they will both get a little more independent. They will understand and interact more, make you laugh more. The three of you will be like a little gang, conspiratorial, fond of each other’s company. Your going-out bag will get smaller. They will start to play with each other. They will forget there was ever a time they didn’t have each other. Watching the siblingness of them will add a new level of delight and send you back to your own siblings in appreciation.

And your new baby, your second, this stranger to you. You love him already, but wait till you see the first shoots of his personality pushing out. It will consume you all over again. Do you know how I feel about my second boy? I don’t have the words for it. He is such a bracing, blazing force of life, of nature. I can’t believe there was ever a time we lived without him. It feels like the world is infinitely brighter and more hopeful with him in it. It will be like that for you too.

Oh, is it feeding time again already? Of course it is.

Here, put Cbeebies back on for the toddler (don’t worry about it rotting his brain; it’s definitely not rotting his brain).

Here’s a biscuit. I’ll make you a cup of tea.

It might not help (because I’m just a person on the internet), but if it helps, I promise you: this is all going to be fine.

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The bottle-thrower in my head

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The other day I was hayfevered up to the max, and found myself in a quandary.

Oh gosh, Thursday, I texted Tim in the morning. If we go out the pollen will kill me, and if we stay in the boys will.

I mean, what is a girl to do?

When I just had Henry, we’d spend some days indoors, and most of the rest between a few familiar places. Now neither of those things are an option. Henry’s old enough to get bored if we go to the same places too often, and bored toddler + demented crawler is the stuff of fearful legend. Especially if we don’t leave the house at all. Great Scott. You know in How to Train Your Dragon, where Hiccup is leafing through the village Dragon Book, and the Night Fury page is ominously empty? That’s what a description of an indoor day would look like in my journal. Just fingernail scratches, and screams.

So – and let’s continue with the movie theme for a minute if we may – you know that scene in films where some unhinged character screeches ‘get out, GET OOOOOOUT!’ And then throws their cigarette/jewellery box/whiskey bottle at the offending guest? That’s what my head does around 10am every day. Breakfast, lovely. Bath, great. Clothes, uh-oh, here comes the whiskey bottle yes here it comes GET OUT GET OUT GET OOOOOOOUT.

I scramble for supplies and we get the heck outta Dodge before another jewellery box crashes around our ears.

Henry calls our morning trips ‘adbentures’. There is nothing that makes you feel more like the Winner of Everything than helping two tiny energetic people have a nice time in an unfamiliar place, and I really kind of love it. But there are two problems, going adbenturing. One, you’re much more likely [read: certain] to get the pushchair stuck or run out of hands when there’s only one of you. And two, I am absolutely awful at predicting the weather.

Here’s the week that was, and the weather-inappropriate things we wore.

Monday: playdate to Mapledurham lock and Purley Park. I dressed the boys in summer clothes, and we froze. Also, cattle grids and pushchairs are unmixy items.

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Tuesday: museum date in Reading Town Hall. Remembering the previous day, we all wore long sleeves. And boiled.

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Wednesday: investigation into the Roman walls at Silchester. I tried to be cautious, and we wore shorts with long sleeves. And boiled, and the path was VERY unsuitable for pushchairs, so I half-carried it for two miles. TEDDY IS NOT LIGHT, FYI.

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Thursday: Caversham park by the river. Ho ho, I thought, looking at the overcast sky. You don’t fool me. Short sleeves and shorts today. And we froze.

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Friday: Rhymetime and library, and it looked like rain. Long sleeves. You know what happened. *wipes sweat from everywhere, shakily stuffs chocolate in mouth*

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Still. New house this summer (we hope we hope) and nursery for Henry after that. I slow down when we’re on the verge of something new, wondering how much I really want it. While we’re here waiting, on the verge, I can’t think of a better thing to do than adbenture, on and on till we get to September and something entirely different.

Pregnancy crib-notes: some things I wish I’d known about two

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‘How are you doing with those two boys?’ people ask.

The answer is: ‘Today I am awake. So today is good’.

Do you remember those guest posts I published back at the beginning of July, with people giving advice about moving from one to two children? I loved them. I still read them now, since seven months and 1278 dirty nappies isn’t nearly long enough to feel like you know what you’re doing. But I have discovered some things, and not all of them are chocolate button-related. If I could do some sort of spiffy time machine action and land right in the middle of 30th June, 2013, I’d…tell myself to give birth on the BATHROOM FLOOR, NOT THE CARPET, IDIOT. And I’d also say this.

(I know I’ve been going a bit Buzzfeed, lately, with all these lists. That’s 11pm talking. I’ll write something with paragraphs this week, I promise.)

you can love them both…

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I worried about this the way everyone worries about this, even while knowing that it was silly. This boy I’d poured heart and soul into for almost two years – how could I love someone else in exactly the same way, without taking away from what I had with my first, or feeling like I was somehow cheating on him? Well, it just happens: gradually and subconsciously at first, then on it comes, like a tidal wave – implacable, deep-seated love. Oh, my little Teddy. He exists in a whole different chamber of my heart, and I love them both for themselves, and together. It just happens, honest.

…but choosing between them still hurts.

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Perhaps this gets easier. I never seem to have enough time to do all of the things I want with them both. I know that making them share and take turns with my attention is extremely good for them, but I always feel a twinge of guilt for the boy I’ve put to one side. You can’t help comparing them, either, and that’s a guilt-maker too. It helps to remind myself that Henry was at this stage once, and Edward will be at this stage soon, and neither of them can help being where they are at the moment. Which is true of everyone, anyway.

you’ve done this once already. You can do what you want now.

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The biggest surprise for me was how much more confidence I had to follow my instincts. The first time I handed Teddy over to Tim for a bottle, after four long weeks of feeding him every two hours, I screwed myself up in bed and cried. Then I stopped, because I’ve done this before. And it was unquestionably the right thing to do with Henry, and it happened to be the right thing here, too. It’s not that you can repeat the experience with your first child exactly, because they’re both very different. But I have a better idea now of when to follow the book, and when to trust my gut. Most of the time I still feel like I’m winging it. But this time I know that one day, I’ll wake up and realise that this thing I’ve been agonising over for months and months has just gone away, without me noticing.

for three months, embrace the chaos

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Those early days of newborn-and-two-year-old. Oh, my giddy aunt. When the boiling needs of your children consume every waking minute, and your waking minutes are nearly all the minutes there are. A good friend told me just afterwards that it took her three months to start climbing out of the chaos, and I clung onto that like a life raft. It was true for me, too – and I would add that it then took six months to get them both to a stage where proper routine is possible. So I tried very hard not to feel guilty about anything in the early months. Getting to the end of the day with us all alive, fed, clean(ish) and happy was more than enough. I slept whenever they both slept, whatever else I could have been doing. What I’m basically saying is that I spent three months with crazy hair and ignoring the vacuuming. And it was fine, and it got better.

the baby phases are even better than you remember

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I’d forgotten about that furious look of concentration when they spy something they want to pick up. Or the way they tell you how nice you are by grabbing your face. Or the way their whole body tenses with excitement when you come into the room. Or that phase where all they want to do is ride around on your hip, because the view is so much better from up here. We’ve been delighted all over again – and watching Henry be delighted by them too is wonderful.

there has never in this universe been so much poo

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You know how when women live together, their cycles start to coincide? Small children have the same thing, only with bowel movements. My text messages to Tim these days are all in capitals, with fractured sentences like ‘BETWEEN THE TOES THIS TIME’, and ‘SEVENTEEN WIPES REQUIRED’ and ‘HAVE STRIPPED THEM BOTH NAKED AGAIN’. I have discovered, too late, that you cannot have too many wipes, or nappies, or disinfectant, or protective head-gear. I have become a form and texture expert. WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME.

Even on the less good days, there’s this. Two really is better than one.

Hey, are you incubating a foetus right now? There are more pregnancy crib-notes here: 

What you’ll actually need in your hospital bag, and why

Things to do at thirty weeks: an alternative list for the anti-nester

Five maternity styles I’ve learned to love…and five I love to hate

Open your hands

We were five days into this two-baby experiment, and something felt off. Of course, it was unbearably hot, I hadn’t slept for longer than two hours all week, and I was hurting everywhere, so there was plenty of off to go around. But this was something else. Tim put Henry to bed and Henry got back up, which had been the usual state of affairs since Edward and the heat arrived together, so I fetched him a drink of water and put him back down again. It was dark in his room, and quiet. I sat by his bed while he drank with his legs in the air. I hadn’t seen this much of him in days. Once he saw I wasn’t moving, he smiled so big it looked like the birthday of his life was here at last, instead of just a sleep-deprived crazy woman with a baby permanently attached to her angry chest.

I started to cry. And I realised I missed him, and there was the off. He was confused and displaced, and I missed him. Now everything was different, and he knew it and didn’t know why. I couldn’t even give him a drink of water without crying like a lunatic.

Was I actually sad because I’d just given my boy a sibling? This is what five days of crazy will do to you. I love this tiny arrival like I grew another heart to accommodate him. He is the most laid-back and lovely of things, all furrowed forehead and delicate fingers. He has a pointy chin and an actual jawline, for which marvel we must thank his father’s genes, because what business do I have producing a child with a jawline? You have never seen anything like the look of resigned dismay on his miniature face when Henry tries to sit on him for the fourteenth time. I cannot imagine not having him here.

And yet, and yet. Henry and I have spent two years as two halves. Not all of our days in each other’s company have been good ones, but we are used to weekdays as a pair. Now he would never have all of me, ever again, and things would never be the same for him, or me. Brothers are wonderful, and it will be so unbelievably good in the end. But in that minute I looked straight into what we were losing, and I was afraid.

Well, I took him out for an hour the next morning, just the two of us. We bought a Thomas the Tank Engine magazine and read it over chocolate buttons on the front step. I worked out the art of feeding Edward with one arm and reading to Henry with the other. I remembered that there are bunk-beds and lego sets in their future, and a million jokes at my expense. Now we’re in the middle of a halfway normal week, I can see that it’s going to be fine. And in this strange, delirious, breathtaking month I am loving this day, this minute, as hard as I possibly can. Even the bits where Henry accidentally headbutts me in the face because he doesn’t want to go to bed without his shoes on (?), or that point where I’m ready to drop at night and Teddy wakes up, all ‘I AM REFRESHED AND HUNGRY AND I WANT YOU TO KNOW IT’.

Because everything is a phase. Everything will be over soon. And since I can’t spend my time wishing for the bits we left behind, this is what mothering means: love it all as hard as you possibly can. And then open your hands, and let it go.

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Text messages from the first day I flew solo

It took me half an hour to assemble the double pushchair – while stopping Hen from jollying off down the road and running up and down the stairs to check on Edward (seriously, how is this done?). And the health visitor stayed for an hour, and Henry took his nap in the pushchair, which meant no catching up on sleep deprivation today. But we are all alive, so FIST BUMPS TO YOU, Monday.

Poor Timothy generally gets a running commentary. It’s not like he has a ton of work, or anything.

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10.05am – positive thinking.

We are all fed, clean and dressed by 10am – I am counting this as a win.

10.55am – slightly unnerved.

Also, Henry just tried to…suckle. I was wondering how long that would take. Um.

2.37pm – hot and bothered.

Both asleep. YES.

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3.18pm – calling down powers of heaven.

H is praying over his ice lolly. Unprompted.

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4.10pm – frayed round the edges.

Hen would like to know why Teddy is ‘seepin inna bag’. BECAUSE IT WORKS, THAT’S WHY.

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5.01pm – crash and burn.

We were doing so well until H just broke my favourite pottery bowl. Actual tears.

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Tuesday, you are cordially invited to bring it on.

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