Surviving life with two under two!

I’ve spent the past few weeks doing lots of reflecting and celebrating. My first born has just turned two, my second born’s first birthday is looming. We made it. We muddled through. It’s a massive mile stone and I finally see that although slightly manic at times, it has been a super intense but relatively short period of our lives.  

When I found out I was almost over the first trimester of my second pregnancy, 7 months after my first pregnancy, I was desperately searching for advice on how people actually manage it! I was so worried and frightened about how we were going to keep two tiny people alive, let alone happy and function as a family. I needn’t have worried. You really do just muddle through to make the best of things! It’s probably mostly the same as going from one to two children, regardless of the age gap!  

Here are some of the things that I wish somebody could have told/shown me in those weeks, when I was desperately soul searching, after I found out I was expecting so soon again:

  • Ask for help – I wrote a post about elephant parenting (see further down the blog!). I really could not have got through the past two years without the help of my ‘herd’ of family and friends.  Don’t be too proud. It really makes such a massive difference when you have two (or more!) little ones who need you equally.  
  • Take the easy option – easy oven or no prep dinners, shop online, get a cleaner, ask someone to do your ironing. Whatever it is, give yourself a break. Looking after the babes is hard enough and all-consuming without all the other life admin to manage. It’s for a short period of time.
  • Put the TV on! – I still beat myself up about the amount of screen time Harrison has while I catch 20 minutes to myself or am trying to sort the washing or dinner. Cbeebies has been my imaginary knight in shining armour in the past year. I quite like watching it too! We do lots of activities and go out and about to counter balance it. TV is ok, really it is.    
  • Coordinate if you can – nap times, nappy changes, bed times, meal times; whatever it is, coordination has been key for us, for our sanity and to make life manageable. Obviously there have been plenty of occasions where this does not happen at all, but when it has, I have made sure I’ve sat down with a cuppa before ploughing on with the million and one jobs I’ve had.   
  • Get out – Give your day a purpose. Shortly after Molly was born, we had some very heavy snow and were pretty stuck at home for most of that week. I HATED it. We couldn’t get out. Harrison was like a caged animal! Since then, we plan our days to go out in the morning (usually to a group of some sort – I crave interaction/company of other grown ups!!), nap, lunch and then another activity either at home or out again in the afternoon. Do what works for you, but always give your day a purpose, it allows you to stay in charge and helps stop the sometimes lonnnnnng days at home from dragging.  
  • Reach out – I really didn’t realise how common it is to have children close together. I really felt quite alone at the thought of having two really small children, however I’ve made some nice friends and have been able to compare notes with so many other families who have been going through the exact same thing as us, from lots of the toddler groups, singing groups and classes we have been to.
  • Use childcare – We kept Harrison going to the childminder for two mornings a week A) to keep him in his routine, B) to reserve his space for when I needed to return to work (even though I was still unsure about when that would be!) C) So that Molly and I had some time and space to bond without an energetic toddler monopolising our time together.  
  • Accept that some days will just be a bit shit – illness, teething, tantrums, poonamis just as you’re about to go out, trying to discipline a toddler, sleep deprivation. Need I go on?! Tomorrow is always another day.
  • If in doubt – BISCUITS, GIN, CALPOL. In no particular order. You’re welcome.

To summarise. You will get through it. You may even enjoy it! It really does go so quickly and just when you feel like it is a never ending race of changing nappies, making bottles and wiping multiple snotty noses, you’ll look at these perfect little human beings that you have made and wish you could go back to the early days of them needing you constantly!

The next big milestone for us all is my return to work. Wish us luck!

Birthing Like A Boss

I feel incredibly lucky to have had two relatively straight forward birth experiences. I put this largely down to hypnobirthing (which is offered for free on the NHS in Colchester) during both of my pregnancies. In short, it wasn’t ‘hippy dippy’ hypnosis, as I thought it would be, but about your state of mind and believing that your body is made to birth your baby. The biological knowledge that was shared with us was invaluable too! It allowed James to take an active role throughout both my labours – dream team.  

Despite them being quite close together, both births were completely different! Harrison was overdue and I’d had countless sweeps to try and evict him from his nice cosy little home, but to no avail. Despite knowing that only 5% of babies arrive on their due date, I got myself in a bit of a stew about it as I was the size of a whale and I’d waddled into the second week past my due date with stretch marks that were making me twitch to look at! I also couldn’t get behind the wheel of the car which was more than annoying! I’d tried every old wives tale to get me going – none of them work! It got to day 12 and I was induced with a pessary. My contractions started immediately, they were very close together and stung quite a bit, we ended up staying on the ward until 9:30pm which was pure yuck, because we’d missed out on dinner (a big deal for me and completely against the hypnobirthing mantra about staying well fed during the latent phase of labour) We ended up discharging ourselves by this point because Harrison was not distressed and I was desperate to go home and be in my own surroundings to get into labour properly! I was in the latent phase of labour all night. I had about 5 baths, used my candles and played my hypnobirthing CD which helped to keep me calm.

Our hallway the night before I was induced. So exciting and nerve wracking! Check out the snack bag – fit to burst 👌😆

It wasn’t until about 9am the next morning that I suddenly felt the contractions ramp up a gear and I knew we needed to get to the hospital. Once in the maternity triage, they established I was already 3cm dilated – WOOP! We were in business, however I was disappointed to learn that I was to be admitted onto the Delivery Suite and not the Juno Suite (the midwife led unit). This was due to my having been induced and being a possible high risk. I needn’t have worried. They had a birthing pool, twinkly lights, a music player – the works. Lauren my midwife was a total babe. She made me feel completely at ease and let me do my thing, just with gas and air. I laboured all day, even though I had to have a few examinations, I felt like I was in a spa (some women have wanted to hit me when I’ve said this!). It got to 7pm – change of shift and we’d been left quite a long time. Sharon the new midwife entered the room and by this point I was pretty tired and completely off my face on gas and air (Apparently ranting about how ‘f***ing’ rubbish Honey G was on the X-Factor)! She insisted on an examination – I wasn’t keen; I was 9cm and there appeared to be meconium in what was left of my waters. Shit. Quite literally. That’s when the lights were all turned on and I was made to get out of the water and onto the chair/bed. Before I knew it, my feet were in stirrups and I was being told to push. I definitely wasn’t going to breathe this baby out, as our hypnobirthing teacher had advocated. An army of people marched in and after pushing for what seemed like 5 minutes (James says it was nearly an hour), I had an assisted delivery and Harrison was dragged out by ventouse after an episiotomy.

Look at the bags under my eyes 😱

Things I  learned after having been induced…

·       I was induced at 1pm, which meant I was in the latent phase of labour all afternoon and all through the night. I’d already been up for hours worrying about what was about to happen. When I was booked in for an induction with Molly, I pushed for a morning appointment to give me the whole day to labour without losing sleep!    

·       As soon as we got home after the pessary had been put in, I really wanted carbs. James made me a massive bowl of pasta with cheese and pesto which was spot on for giving me energy and helping to see me through the night. In the morning, he forced a bowl of porridge down me too, which again was great slow release energy, particularly as I’d gone all night without any sleep!

·       Encourage your birth partner to rest/sleep! He’d have been no use to me on no sleep. We also had my mum as a second birth partner – she was brilliant as she came armed with sausage rolls, cake and drinks to keep us all well fed throughout the day I was in labour. She also took over when James needed a rest, wanted to make a phone call, or go to the toilet. I’m so grateful to her for being there for both of us.

·       Take headphones onto the labour ward for the induction process. I had a woman with severe hyperemesis in the bay opposite and she was literally gagging and yacking every 5 minutes which wasn’t giving me the best positive labour vibes…I have a real thing about sick and people being sick, so I whacked up my relaxation app to drown out the noise and concentrate on myself!

·       Push to go home if you can. After the pessary went in, I found I needed to have ‘the clear out’ and what with Mrs Yacky Pants (I know she couldn’t help it) opposite and the lady next to her who had just had a shower (which was in the same room as the toilet) after only having just given birth; I just couldn’t relax. The what’s app messages between me and my friends during this point in time were hilarious! If I could be bothered, I would love to scroll back to have a read!

My labour with Molly was completely different. I was overdue, but I didn’t mind because she was due on 2nd January. I wanted her birthday to be as far away from Christmas as possible! I was apprehensive about having a sweep once I’d gone a week overdue because I’d had so many false alarms already. I’m confident I’d been contracting from about 35 weeks and the Braxton Hicks were much stronger this time round. Surely it wouldn’t take much longer?! The sweep didn’t hurt at all. Phew! I came home, watched a film and got dinner ready before I went to collect Harrison. I had mild tummy ache and some contractions, but I didn’t pay them much attention, as it was no different from what I’d been feeling for the past month. James took Harry for his bath while I did the washing up. I went to get Harrison’s pyjamas and my waters gushed into my slipper boots. Fit! I sploshed my way to the bathroom to try and hurry the boys along so I could get in the bath. James went into panic mode which is hilarious and so unlike him! My contractions were sharp and taking my breath away – this babe was coming super quick.

By the time my mum arrived to collect Harrison, I was ready to go to hospital! We arrived on Juno – the midwife led suite (hurruh, managed it second time round!) and there was a student midwife, Kate and another midwife (whose name completely escapes me) waiting to greet us and gave me the great news that I was 7cm dilated already. I wanted to jump in that birthing pool quick sharp! It took forever to fill up as the cold tap wasn’t working properly! Both midwives and James ended up filling the little cardboard sick bowls (which look like hats) with cold water from the sink, which was fairly comical, bearing in mind the size of the pool. There was no CD player as they were pretty busy that night, so we had to make do with my relaxation app turned up loud on my phone. I was a bit tetchy by this point and snappy with poor James, but once I was in the pool, it all calmed down and I was pretty much ready to push or rather ‘breathe’ my baby out. Molly was born 2.5 hours after my waters had broken. Result!

Despite having had to have intervention first time round, I didn’t really feel much. This time however, the third stage of labour was HORRIBLE. It felt like another baby! The placenta seemed to take longer to come out than the Molly had! I felt every stitch again as I had done with Harrison, even though I’d had pain relief and gas and air. I think the process took longer because the student midwife was doing it. Nonetheless she did a great job.

Things I learned second time round…

·       Pack bags for all of you well before they’re needed! It all happened so quickly second time round! I barely had time to think!

·       Have family on stand by for looking after your first born, it’ll help ease the feeling of guilt/worry for leaving them to go and have another baby. I felt so emotional when Harrison was whisked off; I felt like I wanted him near me! Ultimately it was a relief because I could focus on having the baby.

·       Take a pregnancy or breast feeding  pillow if you’re off to a midwife led unit, there are no comfy chairs to sit in because they discourage sitting down and encourage labouring mothers to be either in the pool or mobile. This is great for ‘during’ but for the ‘after’ bit, it’s a bit naff. Molly was born at 9:40pm and we were still sitting waiting to be discharged at 4:30am and for all that time, there was a really uncomfortable chair for me to sit and feed in.

·       Never underestimate how many snacks you’ll need! Whilst I had no time to eat this time round (I’d also just had dinner!), I properly wanted to gorge afterwards. Jelly babies fuelled both my labours!

The thing I’ve learned the most is that every pregnancy, baby and labour is very different and should be treated that way! No matter what your circumstances are, when it comes to it, everybody can birth like a boss. I think women are proper warriors for nurturing and bringing little tiny humans into this world.

Take a peek at the following if you are interested…

Are You An Elephant Mama?

I’ve always been a very independent person since I was very little (apparently). My career requires me to be super organised and good with children. James is very similar and we are both creatures of habit, very fond of a good routine and pre children planned our lives to the nth degree! Despite this, Harrison’s arrival completely shook us both to the core. I felt despite people warning me what was about to happen, I’d have all this baby stuff nailed within a week. While I was getting my knickers in a twist over how much sleep we were getting, which boob was fed from last, sterilising everything in sight and trying to work out why the baby was crying (he’d been fed, winded, changed, cuddled, put down, picked up, sang to and had white noise played to him); we had a lot of family and friends in the background offering support. I saw it as a bit of a sign of weakness or that people thought I wasn’t coping, which is completely ridiculous.

I think I had too higher expectation of myself, Harrison and James too to some extent. I feel sorry about this, but I think it happens a lot. Far too often you see picture perfect families on social media and wonder how on earth they are looking so happy/great/organised/better than you and forget these are the edited versions of real life (the bits that people want you to see. Not the bits where the baby has just shat up his back and ruined outfit number 3 of the day! Or the picture where you’ve just argued with your husband about why he tidied away the bloody muslins)  It was only when I found out that I was expecting Molly that the penny dropped. It’s not weak to ask for or accept help when times get tough. It’s completely normal.  

I returned to work when I was around 6 months pregnant. I actually couldn’t wait to go back to work, I was getting bored at home and was craving to be in a more grown up environment (despite working in a school!). Harrison was about 10 months old, into everything and needed stretching; he started three days a week with a childminder. It started really well and we slipped into a routine really easily, however I forgot how exhausting it is growing a tiny human. Not to mention dealing with all the illnesses Harrison kept picking up while in childcare and having to deal with the stresses and strains of being a teacher. In stepped my family, extended family and a strong army of mum friends. Thank the lord. My granny used to come every Wednesday and often my mum would come on one of my other work days to provide ‘meals on wheels’ . My mother and sister in law also helped us through by babysitting, dropping by with groceries, hand holding through the tough times and always being on the end of the phone. This help has continued since Molly’s arrival and I couldn’t be more grateful.

My ‘mum squad’ (old school friends, uni friends and friends I’ve worked with), who also happen to have been my friends for years before we had children, are often what get me through a day. Our What’s App groups should be published as ‘mum manuals’. The wealth of knowledge we must have between us is probably endless! I read recently that the latest ‘parenting trend’ is to behave like elephants, where they raise their young as a herd and not singularly. Sometimes younger or older females baby sit while the mother goes for a rest, to feed or bathe. They basically lean on and learn from each other or share their knowledge about how to raise a tiny elephant collaboratively. I personally, don’t believe it is a ‘trend’. It’s nothing new, lots of people (and animals!) do it. It’s a choice that I’ve made and I’m sticking by it. I’m an elephant mama and I’m proud of it. I’m extremely lucky and wouldn’t be without my ‘herd’. Learning to accept help has been liberating.