I dunno, man… how does anyone do it? One foot in front of the other and all that. But seeing as a couple of people who are expecting number two have asked how I found it, I thought I’d share.
Five months down the track (I KNOW, shut up) I can say that it has gotten way easier. That magic three month mark was indeed magic, and I felt as though finally we were getting on top of things.
But overall… it was easier than it was hard. I felt I had my head screwed on straighter than I did with Abby, even though I really felt as though I hit the ground running with her. I thought clearer and I didn’t feel as though every minute of every day was lost in a newborn fog. We did good, I think.
With an 18-month-age gap, I was curious – how would it pan out? 24 hours in a day is a long bloody time. I wrote this post and asked for advice. And I’m here to tell you I heeded it all! (except the “get a cleaner” thing… and my bathroom is still filthy).
It might not be your thing, but it was mine. I sat. I cuddled. I stared. I just absorbed their greatness and ignored the rest. I do know how fleeting time is when tiny guys are tiny, and I didn’t want to live up to some ideal anyone else placed on me. I was a frizzy-haired, poorly dressed woman sitting on the couch all day every day with her two small children. I ignored all housework bar making the bed and ensuring the kitchen was tidy. In fact, that was the biggest adjustment I had to make – that my house was just going to be in disarray a lot more than I was used to, but I had to accept it.
We also watched a lot of TV. It is only just now that we’re going back to turning it off for the most part during the day. Abby at 18 months was really not very good at entertaining herself or being distracted so she wouldn’t want anything while I was feeding or settling Pepper. And seeing that Pepper was having at least four sleeps a day for a while there, and Abby would play at an activity for a minute and a half before she started eating it, I needed something that would keep her quiet and within my sight a lot of the time. And that was TV. Or an iPad – man, she became a whiz at that thing!
And I got sleep! Sweet lord cheesus, I got sleep right from day one. I had Pepper in bed with me and Veggie Dad slept on the couch for the first three months. I could roll over and feed Pepper (roughly every two hours) and roll right back over and go to sleep. Dad wasn’t disturbed by the constant shuffling and he would deal with Abby in the morning when she got up. Again, it might not be your thing, but DAMMIT I GOT SLEEP!
Nowadays Pepper sleeps on a mattress on the floor next to my bed. When she wakes (still about four times a night), I get on the mattress next to her and feed her til she drifts off again. Then I get back into bed and go back to sleep. It’s still a hell of a lot more sleep than I got in eight months with Abby – I would get out of bed, get her out of the cot, go into the lounge, feed her til she fell asleep, hold her for twenty minutes to ensure she was truly out, put her back in the cot and lay in my bed for an hour too wired to sleep. Well I wasn’t letting that happen again. And where did I get that idea anyway?! This might not be conventional, but did you read my caps back there? It works.
Well, for me anyway. Abby stopped napping during the day for the most part, so when people advised to synchronise the babies’ naps, I smiled politely and cried on the inside. Until I found a way that meant Pepper would be rocked to sleep and Abby (who likes someone to lay with her while she drifts off) could nap long enough to keep the crankies at bay – we would all pile on the rocking chair and mama would watch Dr Phil and both the little guys would snooze. Win-win-win.
And if that didn’t work, well we’d go for a nice scenic drive for an hour. Oh boy it felt GOOD! I would even go through the coffee shop drive through and order a hot chocolate and just cruise the streets, listening to podcasts and not having anyone need me for just a little while.
I also would gauge the mess-to-freedom ratio and sometimes would let Abby go nuts on something if it gave me enough time to put pepper to sleep in the bedroom, or to have a whole hot cup of tea. I swept up rice from one end of the lounge to the other, but it was so worth it.
The biggest thing that I found useful (besides the sleeeeep) was getting into the kitchen with Abby and cooking. This was a little later on when Pepper would be happy in a rocker for a few minutes, but it killed two birds with one stone – there would be bread, or pikelets or muffins or something that was quick for us all to snack on, and it also was quality activity time I was spending with Abby. (Abby stir, mum? Peece?).
Getting out of the house wasn’t an everyday occurence, but I did it to break up a particularly shitty day, or even if I was just feeling energised (heh). Abby has always been very good in the pram, and Pepper loved the Ergo. I found this combo to be vastly more easy to navigate than a double pram, and as a bonus, Pepper’s head was in kissing distance. I never stayed long enough that I would have to sort out nappy changes and baby feedings, but a quick trip for something different, and maybe a nap for them both in the car before or after.
I also went out with Veggie Dad, just the two of us. Only twice in those first months, but boy it made a difference. I really love that guy, and he is a great father. It was so nice to just be with him, even if it was just for an hour.
Sure there were times when two kids by myself was just kicking my ass and I’d sit there and cry. Often they were both looking at me and crying too. In those moments it was hard and overwhelming and once I even wished I could walk out the front door and leave it to someone else to sort out. But there is no-one else. The buck stops with me. That’s a massive responsibility, and the hard moments where I was frazzled and felt out of control were hideous but not altogether unexpected. You just know those times are going to happen, but I guess you realise how good you’ve got it when you’re constantly aware they could happen at any time and they don’t. Makes you grateful. But when it’s bad, it’s really bad and sometimes you shout and sometimes you just have to sit them both where they’re safe and go sit in your room and shut the door for five minutes. And try not to beat yourself up for shouting. It’s emotionally a tough gig, and you’ve got to be firm and pull yourself together. Don’t ruin the rest of the day in a filthy mood, just harden up. If it kicks your ass again, just keep hitting your reset button. I always tried to remember two things: someone would be home soon to help out, and they had to sleep eventually. Even if it wasn’t right at that moment when I desperately wished one or both would!
And sometimes when it’s gross, you just make them do really cute things and you sit there and feel overwhelming love for two little creatures who call you their mum. And you feel as though you can survive the next five minutes, and then you end up surviving another day.
And as for that 18-month gap? It was perfect. It was a surprise, sure, but it ended up being the best thing ever.