So you decide to start a family… What an adventure lies ahead of you!
You obsessively check the ‘What to expect’ app every day – thrilled when it ticks over to the next week, send copies of your scan pictures to all your family and make repeated trips to the John Lewis nursery section to agonise over which travel system to buy. You attend your local antenatal classes and meet a small handful of equally baby focussed new mums with whom to discuss every intricacy of the birthing process, breast feeding and other staggeringly private details!
The stage is set. The baby arrives. You fall utterly, completely, helplessly in love and a whole new story begins.
You’re suddenly a family. Amazing. Life changing. Utterly exquisite.
But what happens after that?
After those first few pyjama-dominated weeks; from breast to bottle; bottle to spoon; turning to crawling to walking… Possibly, probably, at some point not terribly long later, you decide to do it all again.
It’s a little different this time round. No less exciting of course, no less magical but rather it’s the next chapter rather than a new book and, by and large, you know the plot.
Or do you?
If you are anything like me, the transition from one to two was just as steep a learning curve as from none to one. I really couldn’t imagine how I could manage to do bath, bed and story on my own with a toddler and a newborn. How could I get the toddler off for a nap when the baby was yelling? How could I dash after the elder child when I was lumbering along with a pram? The answer, for me, to so many of these questions – and a habit I still stick to now that baby number three has arrived, is the sling! My sling of choice – having tried tons – is the Baby Bjorn carrier (baby always facing into me). With my eldest son, I’d spend hours trying to get him to sleep in the pram or the moses basket before I realised that if I put him in the sling, walked around for a bit and maybe gave them a dummy, they’d sleep for hours happy and content next to me, leaving my hands free to get on with whatever needed doing or – later on – playing with or dressing my older children.
Similarly when it comes to sleeping, I’ve learnt that, in my experience, it remains utterly hopeless to try and get the baby to sleep in moses basket or alongside crib for any more than ten minutes! The hours and hours I spent on this endeavour…! The result? Frustration, exhaustion and absolutely no bloody sleep for anyone! Pretty early on, I realised that if I copied what women did all over the world and brought my baby into bed with me, we’d all get more rest. Now I bank the pillows up behind me and to both sides to prop my arms up and lie the baby on me. I cover us up from the waist upwards with a large baby blanket and keep the heavy duvet just over my lower half to prevent overheating her. She sleeps and feeds as she wants to and I can spend a whole night asleep – admittedly a lighter sleep than I might other have as you’re always partly on alert – but I’m certainly not in and out of bed trying to calm or wind a crying baby. Co-sleeping, when you’re sensible and follow the guidelines, is safe and natural and when you actually ask around you realise that most mothers take their babies into their beds. Lovely.
Another thing I very quickly learnt when we had more than one child was that you have to be very organised. This is something that every parent will tell you! Honestly I reckon that all parents would do well in the military! It’s little practical things such as making more food than you need for one particular meal. It’s no more effort to triple the quantities for a spag bol or a chicken pie and then you can smugly put something away in the freezer and give yourself an easy day the following week.
Everyone develops their own little systems. One of my friends does teeth cleaning in the bath and reads the children a story then too. Then she takes them all out, bundles them up in towels and lets them have ten minutes of CBeebies or looking at books quietly on the sofa whilst she picks off one by one doing moisturiser, pyjamas story and tuck up in bed – rather than the free-for-all chaos or trying to get three, wet, tired children sorted simultaneously. The point is to go easy on yourself and be open to adapting your old way of doing things to suit your new set up. Remember, this phase feels like it’ll last forever but in reality it’s the blink of an eye.
One of the biggest fears mothers often have the second time round is how it could be possible to love another child as much as you love your first. How could that be possible? You will find though, that amazingly, you will suddenly have a whole, brand new overflowing pot of love specifically for that new child. And the child after. And all the children you may have. Because love doesn’t divide – it multiplies.
And that’s worth every moment of chaos! x”