And so I find myself once again, slowly writing late at night trying not to jog the half slumbering babe resting on my right shoulder.
I’m a mother of two now and it feels like I’ve just levelled up in this game of life. Suddenly the same tasks that I could complete without much challenge on the easier mode have become inexplicably more taxing. Things like having a shower, getting out of the house in clothing that hasn’t been put on back to front and isn’t covered in some sort of child goop (snot, vomit and sticky fingers being the common culprits), being able to have a civilised conversation with my husband without resenting the fact he had 30 minutes all to himself earlier in the day, etc.
My girls are almost exactly two years apart, and this was the plan, thinking being close in age will be nice as they grow up. Although we made the plan when infant number one was a comparatively easy going twelve month old and hadn’t foreseen that a newborn and a wilful toddler might pose certain challenges.
Probably ninety per cent of the time everything goes fairly smoothly and I take genuine delight in parenting these two little beings. It’s in that other ten per cent though where I half jokingly talk of walking out the door and just keeping going for a few years until everything calms down a bit. It’s in that ten per cent where I question whether the whole parenting thing was such a good idea after all.
It’s in that ten per cent where everything snaps and I feel the worst version of myself, being short tempered with the two year old and getting frustrated at the two month old. It’s that ten per cent where they take it in turns to see who can scream the loudest (definitely the two year old) and the longest (usually the two month old). Sometimes they don’t take it in turns.
What I had worried about during pregnancy with number two was how I’d handle the sleep deprivation this time around with a two year old who wouldn’t give two hoots whether or not I’d been up umpteen times a night with their sibling. I’m sure the sleep deprivation doesn’t help with my almost permanently exhausted tiny thread of patience but it hasn’t actually been as bad as I’d expected, certainly a lot easier to adjust to than the first time around. Baby number two hasn’t been a terrible sleeper and it turns out I can function pretty well on a couple of chunks of three hours of sleep.
What I really wasn’t prepared for was the overwhelming feelings of guilt that pervade most of my waking day. I feel guilty that the baby doesn’t get a fraction of the attention her sister got. She won’t get to go to all the baby sensory, baby massage, baby music and baby critiques of 17th century French literature classes that her sister went to because I can’t take her sister to these things. At best she can half listen to the odd tune at toddler rhyme time at the local library whilst I spend the session chasing her sister around the library trying to prevent her either escaping or running wild in the quiet section banging the rattles that have been handed out against the metal shelves.
And then I feel guilty that the toddler doesn’t get my undivided attention any more. That I can’t always just put the baby in her bouncy chair and leave her to get on with it. That I can’t easily scoop her up on demand if baby is strapped to me in the harness. I dread the thought that she feels less special or loved by us now that her sibling is here.
I know these feelings are my burden rather than theirs. I realise that baby will just grow up being used to us dividing our time and attention between her and her sister and I know that the toddler is unlikely to remember the time before the baby arrived. However knowing things and feeling things are very different kettles of fish. It’s like when I’m trapped in the ten percent and I know that in ten, thirty, sixty minutes or so I’ll be back in the ninety per cent, but it can feel like there is no way out of the interminable horror I’m currently battling as I fight to get the toddler back into her pushchair and the baby screams at me because we are already past the time she wanted to be fed, or I struggle to get the screaming baby changed on the park bench while the toddler howls at me because I won’t let her eat the rice cracker she’s dropped into a particularly muddy puddle.
That ninety per cent is pretty amazing though. That’s when big sister is stroking little sisters head and cooing ‘aww baby’ at her, or when I’m managing to enjoy active playtime in the park chasing the bigger one around while the little one sleeps contentedly against my chest in the harness and I know that both are getting exactly what they need from me at that moment.