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Finding our way through the fourth trimester with two (mainly) under two

Finding our way through the fourth trimester with two (mainly) under two

My last blog was posted a day before the arrival of our second lovely daughter, Mia, and now suddenly here we are, with a smiley, active 3 month-old! So with the arrival of a new season, and technically no longer armed with the excuse of having a 'newborn', I thought it was about time to get back to a bit of writing. As my last entry touched on the concerns I had about the arrival of number two, it seems apt to share a few of the things I've learnt so far, second time around. 

  • Labour was (in my fortunate case) much easier second time around. That's not say I wasn't tempted to punch my husband when he said 'yeah, sometimes I couldn't even tell when you were having a contraction' (are you f***ing kidding me?! And, also, thanks hypnobirthing) – but it was definitely a smoother ride.
  • Ditto breastfeeding, swaddling, calming a crying baby etc etc. It's surprising how quickly the parental autopilot kicks in.
  • I had, though, forgotten how tiring those first few days are. The endless feeding and inability to be put down. Probably just as well...
  • It's true what they say about number two having to just fit in with established routines. There's less opportunity for hunkering down in bed for days on end when you have a tenacious toddler clawing at the walls.
  • But, when 'downtime' (i.e. time just with the baby – funny how that never seemed like downtime first time round!) comes, you treasure it more. A newborn doesn't need much stimulation, and this time I'm not going to feel any guilt at all for lying back with a book for two glorious hours whilst she sleeps on my chest. These hours are precious and won't last long. 
 The BEST way to spend a spare hour or two

The BEST way to spend a spare hour or two

  • With my firstborn, I was always impatient for her to reach the next milestone, to 'do' more, to be more interesting. This time I'm treasuring the relative quiet and inability to move far from one spot for as long as possible! 
  • Conversely, I'm enjoying each new development our newly turned 2 year-old makes even more (well, maybe not every step – the nap refusal can do one). Because – let's face it – newborns can be a bit boring. By contrast, the language development, the improved understanding, the independent play of a toddler – it's staggering how quickly this independent little person has come to be.
  • The logistics of managing two little ones who can't be left alone in the same space for any length of time is TOUGH. Loo trips have to be scheduled around naps and getting out of the house is like that riddle about getting the fox, hen and bag of grain across the river....
  • But when you finally make it out you feel like an actual superhero.
  • At first the thought of flying solo with a toddler and a newborn is terrifying. Fortunately, just like most things in parenthood, it soon becomes second nature. (And who hasn't had to call the fire brigade out before 9.30am on their first morning home alone with two small children? Oh, just me?!)
  • Aside from bath and bedtime (which can deteriorate in to a total sh*t show within minutes and must always be concluded with wine once both are finally down), I weirdly think I mind my husband travelling less now than I did when it was just me and one kid. I don't know if the bigger challenge means I'm just better at psyching myself up for it, or whether the fact that there are three of us makes it feel more like he's missing out on family time rather than us having been left behind, but it's definitely not as bad as I thought it would be. 
  • The caveat to this is the impact flying solo has on personal grooming. When I had my first child, I had to let go of daily hair straightening. When I'm home alone with two, I have to let go of daily showers. A 'wet wipe wash' just doesn't have the same effect.
  • Where wet wipes come in to their own, however, is in dealing with what we shall term a 'second child spillage.' First time around, the slightest bit of spit-up would have necessitated a full outfit change for both mama and baby. Now I know that even if life weren't too short, the laundry pile is already definitely too big. A swift wipe and we're good to go.
  • Time alone with my older daughter is obviously fewer and farther between, but all the more enjoyable when it happens. The 2nd birthday party scene has been intense this summer, and I've enjoyed the excuse to have some one-on-one time with her as her party buddy, whilst my husband has stolen a few hours of newborn cuddles without a toddler trying to sit on his head.
  • It took us 11 months to feel comfortable leaving our firstborn with a babysitter. This time round it was 9 weeks. I'm going to put that down to perspective! 
 Doesn't seem to have affected her too much...

Doesn't seem to have affected her too much...

  • We've been fortunate to have lots of family visitors this summer, and it's been wonderful having them spend time with both of our girls: one of the joys of living far away is that when we do see family, we get extended chunks of quality time and they fit in to the fabric of our daily lives rather than stopping in for an afternoon here and there. But the decision to take some of our guests for a week's holiday at the beach 90 mins drive from home was just right this summer – it relieved me of the feeling of hosting (which you can never escape in your own home, no matter how helpful the guests!) on top of all the other changes we've had going on, and meant we could all relax on an equal footing. I would highly recommend that any other faraway families in a similar situation also plan a getaway staycation! 
  • You don't realise how much of what a baby does is down to their temperament until you've got a control case. As a first-time parent, you berate and commend yourself for every single thing your child does, believing it to be as a direct result of your own decisions. Second time round with a different kid, same choices, different outcomes – you realise personality has a huge role to play. Which is actually quite reassuring.
  • As the weeks go on and the baby becomes sturdier, there will be less direct intervention when the older child attempts to give 'hugs' or be helpful by shoving a dropped dummy in to the sleeping baby's mouth with the force of a juggernaut, but the 'hovering' will not cease for some time yet. I support the idea that you can't break a baby, but a toddler will give it a better go than most. 
 No infants were harmed in the taking of this photograph

No infants were harmed in the taking of this photograph

  • That said, seeing your older child (who, just a few months ago, was your baby) assume the qualities of a responsible big sibling, is nothing short of amazing. The pride at showing her off, the patience with witching hour cries that detract Mummy and Daddy's attention, the concerned expressions of 'don't worry, Mia' in response to whimpers – it honestly brings tears to my eyes sometimes, and makes me want to hug her even closer.
  • Nothing beats snuggling down with a baby tucked in to each side of your body. Except, maybe, witnessing their smiles at one another. Which is just as well, as I have a feeling once weaning, crawling and squabbling kick in in a few months, we’re going to need those smiles to preserve our sanity! 
 Sisterly love. How long will it last?!

Sisterly love. How long will it last?!

The last weeks of pregnancy, second time around: is this normal?

The last weeks of pregnancy, second time around: is this normal?