Saturday, June 12, 2010

And then there were two

I'm writing this while England play the USA (football), and I should probably be sleeping, because it's a rare moment when both our children are sleeping and the house is blissfully quiet, apart from my lovely husband yelling at the TV as the USA have just scored their first goal. But the blog calls and all two of my readership have been asking for an update, so here goes.

I had our little boy almost four weeks ago - my god it's gone quickly. That tends to happen when you have two children it seems - time flies. With Julia those first few weeks and months seemed to take forever, both in a good and a bad way. The bad being that I felt as though I had been hit by a truck, and my life as I knew it was gone forever and now seemed to slow down into a blurred Groundhog Day of sleep deprivation, extremely sore breasts, and baby baby baby.

I imagine there are women, specifically those that have had experience with babies or small children, or who have grown up in big families, who take to motherhood naturally and instinctively. With me it was a learning experience, and while I loved my little girl from the start, I had to learn how to be a mother in the weeks and months following her birth. I'd say I'm still learning. And there were also times where the relentless responsibility of the undertaking had me wanting to run into the street screaming. Probably a good thing then that when it comes to exercise I am inherently lazy. But yes, a pretty serious and life changing shock to the system.

This time round the responsibility is no less full-on or relentless, and times it by two because we have another child, but it feels easier somehow. We're used to bad or broken sleep (although it never fails to suck), we know how to take care of an infant, how to hold him, that he won't break, that every little skin imperfection is probably not the start of meningitis, and also, that the hectic nature of these early weeks passes and things get easier.

The first time round you don't know that it gets easier. I mean, people tell you that, but you don't believe them, because there are the same bastards that told you having a baby was wonderful and amazing. And here you are manically sleep deprived, emotional and hormonal, fighting with your husband because he had 6 minutes and 30 seconds more sleep than you and didn't get you a cup of tea, and your body and breasts are desperately sore. What in god's name is amazing and wonderful about any of this? With our second all of this is still the case, but somehow it's in perspective.

I had a C-section again which was OK, but you know, quite frankly, I don't want to go through that experience a third time. The epidural for one thing is horrible - there's just something perversely disturbing about having someone, and indeed knowingly and willingly allowing someone to stick a sharp thick needle in your spine, especially while you cannot see what they are up to back there. They give you a local anaesthetic to numb the area before they dicky about with your spine, but that in itself hurts like the bejesus, and then you feel this weird sensation as the anaesthetic enters into your spinal column. Oh god, even remembering it makes me feel sick.

This wipes out all sensation in your legs, and let me tell you, that messes with your head big time. I had this overwhelming desire to shift my right buttock and couldn't. And I wanted to move my legs too and couldn't, and then had anxiety about the fact. I think the nurses were getting a bit tired of me asking, 'But I will get feeling back right? I mean, how long will this last?' while nervously gnawing on my lower lip.

But I was in good hands and as far as these things go it was swift, expertly done, and before I knew it I had our little boy in my arms and the rest seemed to fade into the background. That is until the blood pressure machine in the recovery room started playing up and I had a few nurses standing around looking very worried because my blood pressure was so very low - so very worryingly low. There I was holding my little one, looking at their worried faces and asking, 'Should I be worried?' followed by, 'so when will I be able to feel and move my legs again?' Fortunately someone cottoned on that it might be the machine and a new one was brought in and I was deemed OK.

The recovery has been fine, but it's major surgery and they cut through quite a few layers and this hurts. For a few weeks after you cannot lift anything heavier than your baby, which is tough when you have a toddler that needs lifting in and out of a high chair or onto a toilet. Plus just walking around is difficult. I'm starting to get to the point now where I can go out and do a fair walk and it not hurting too much, but I still have a few aches and pains and days when I need to take something for it.

So back at home and the big question everyone has been asking is how is J, our little girl, who is two and a half, taking to the whole thing. The fact is she's been pretty amazing actually - remarkably patient and understanding and also, it has to be said, a bit indifferent. She frequently asks to have the baby on her lap, but always, as it would seem, when the poor little guy is about to feed or in desperate need of winding and not wanting a zealous little sister fawning all over him. And there are also times when she doesn't seem to notice him and happily carries on with whatever she is doing.

I try and include her in things as much as possible and we have this system where while I am nursing she turns the pages of a book so I can read to her at the same time. But yes, she's a star and happily tells people she has a little brother and there have been no threats or proclamations to the effect of, 'I hate that baby' or 'I want to kill that baby'. Thank god. She calls him 'a little peanut' and when he cries tells me he most likely needs to have milk. Her tolerance, understanding, and patience for someone her age blows me away.

Juggling two children on the other hand can be tricky. I have someone that helps me with Julia in the mornings, but until she arrives, and in the afternoons it can be difficult, and there's a bit too much TV watching for my liking. The other morning I was sitting at the kitchen table nursing our son, feeding our daughter her breakfast (she's not a big fan of eating), and trying to read to her all at the same time. In between spooning cereal into my own mouth. It brings a whole new meaning to the words multi-tasking. Or other times, nursing our son while watching our daugher clutching 'down there' knowing I have minutes to get her to a toilet before she christines the floor, while she stubbornly insists she doesn't need to loo.

Before number two, Roberto and I were an excellent tag team and would take it in turns on the weekends to have lie-ins or playing with my daughter in the afternoons so one of us could have a nap. Now he's pretty much responsible mostly for J, and I am responsible for our son, because I am nursing so it just makes more sense that way, and we briefly swap so we can spend time with the other. There is no break for either of us at the moment, so we have to remember that and be kind to each other, which sometimes we forget, mostly because we're tired and wondering where that scrap of personal freedom we'd managed to salvage for ourselves after having our daughter has gone.

We're going to start easing our little guy into some sort of routine now, which is really a lot less malevolent that what it sounds. For some reason a lot of people have this terrible notion of what it involves - like it's some sort of Victorian torture of small children, but it's really just a good tool for everyone in the house, and J certainly thrived on it. The idea is that the baby eats regularly to avoid dehydration and gets their daily nutritional intake, and then has these good chunks of sleep in between. Babies also don't really distinguish between night and day, so again the routine just helps things along so you don't have a little guy wide awake for two to three hours in the early hours - as has happened to us for a couple of nights recently.

And now I need to quickly grab an hour or two of sleep before our son wakes up to feed, and hope and pray we have a better night ahead of us. If I get five hours I'll be laughing.