Well here I am – I’ve made it! This week marks my youngest baby’s 2nd birthday. To be honest I’m sure he’s only one, but the calendar and his sudden liking for tantrums, screaming, hair pulling and shouting “MINE” when he steals his siblings’ belongings tell me otherwise.
When I discovered I was pregnant with baby number three, to say I was surprised would have been an epic understatement. We were told that we would be ‘unlikely’ to have any more children after it took 9 years and an ectopic pregnancy to successfully have the first two. And yet, there I was, sitting on the loo with a 10 month old baby on my lap and a positive pregnancy test in my hand!
“OH SHIT!” was my audible cry! Now what?
The first two people I always contact in times of crisis are my mum and Louise. (I do obviously let my husband know when there is a crisis eventually, but he never knows what to do. So I always consult my trusted team!) Mum was on holiday, better not tell her whilst she’s away…she might not come back!
Husband was at work, thank goodness, so I was able to shriek and giggle and text Louise with a photo of a positive test! Within seconds she was on the phone. We both giggled with a sort of edgy laughter. (She knew what was coming having had her two babies close together…I on the other hand, had no idea!) There is a nice 5 year age gap between my first two children.
We chatted and shrieked some more, and then Louise gave me these words of wisdom which have stayed with me for two years.
“When you have babies close together, you will spend much of the first year crying and much of the second year trying not to cry. After that you’ll be fine.”
She was right, of course. And the past two years have, at times, been insanely difficult. They have also been busy, frustrating, exciting, sleepless, exhausting, very funny and full of happiness. Yesterday, whilst I was merrily scrubbing the toilet, I stopped just for a second and realised that I was probably the happiest I’ve ever been.
Having the two little ones 19 months apart has been a challenge, especially when trying to also look after and entertain my now, 8 year old son. We’ve thrown school runs, homework, karate lessons, Minecraft and much more into the mix. All good fun!
So if you too are sitting on the toilet with a baby on your lap and a positive pregnancy test in your hand, here are some survival tips for you, from a mum who has just survived the first two years which began with two under two.
- Tomorrow is another day. It will be full of the monotony and all the jobs that today was filled with, so don’t worry about getting everything done, because you won’t, it’s impossible! Pick a time in the evening to stop, and then sit down and pour yourself a well-deserved glass of wine. Every now and then you might successfully have a shower and wash your hair, but don’t worry about it, you won’t be organised to leave the house before its dark anyway! And if you are a far better mother than me, and you do venture out in the daytime, just buy a nice hat to wear!
- Buy shares in Calpol and other children’s medicines, especially if you have older children at school or nursery. There seems to be a lot of snot, sick and ear infections in the first two years! Also, always know where the thermometer is for when you are phoning 111 (again). They always ask me what their temperature is!
- The more children you have, the more relaxed you become. When I told people that I was expecting baby number three, many mums who had three or more children, told me that I would become more organised and that’s how to get everything done. Hmmmm. Well, I seem to have taken the easier option of simply lowering my standards. I agree to do less for other people, I’m less bothered by the fact that I haven’t cleaned the house from top to bottom for at least three years and small tasks (like getting to a shop to buy bread) feel like huge achievements. I’ve simplified everything as much as I can. Online food shopping has saved my sanity and a wet wipe cleans pretty much everything. One day I might be organised, but for now I’m happy that we are alive!
- Accept that life will be difficult for a while. When I said this to the health visitor on her first visit, she became very concerned for me. Everything, absolutely everything had increased in difficulty, from having a wee, to trying to put my shoes on. Not one task in my life was simple. This was an absolute fact. She was so concerned about my mental health that she arranged another visit to me in a few weeks and left me a contact phone number if I needed her. (Excellent care.)
However, I was possibly the sanest I’ve ever been at this point, because I was completely honest. It was hard, so so difficult. But the fact that I accepted that this would be the case for a while (or longer) meant that I didn’t try to make it anything else. I knew I wasn’t Supermum, I knew that anyone who pretended this was easy was lying. I congratulated myself when I managed to leave the house with all three children. When I’d got some washing done, when I had changed the beds or put the shopping away. And whatever didn’t get done was left in the “too difficult” pile and that was fine, because life with two under two is hard.
- Your parental instincts become incredibly sharp, I think it might be induced by the lack of sleep. Your flight and flight responses are on top form and you start to ‘just know’ what your children want and need, sometimes before they do!
- There will be days when you think you have cracked this parenting lark – you haven’t. There will be days when you think your children have cracked you – they haven’t. Take one day at a time and be thankful for small victories!
So there it is. Some advice from an exhausted, but happy mum who has made it through those first two years with three children and two under two.