My darling friend, the Paramedic, is pregnant with her second child. Our first two were born within three weeks of one another. I’ve seen her a few times recently and each time she looks at me with her beautiful longing eyes and asks the question “how bad is it?”. If you’ve read anything else I’ve written, you will realise I’m not one to shy away from the truth. I know she wants me to tell her that it’s not that bad (it is) and that it’s easy (it’s not) but I just can’t do it to her because in a matter of months she will look as I do now.
I’m only 3 months in and fully aware of the fact it is early days. The first 12 weeks aren’t called the fourth trimester for nothing. The issue is that this time around I thought I would be cool with having a newborn. Our mantra was going to be “babies cry”, said in a flippant, nonchalant I’m-cool kind of way. We wondered how we let ourselves get so freaked out the first time round. We wondered why we were late for everything (“it’s just a baby and a bag?”) and we wondered how we made such a meal out of it all. And then she was here. Girly no2. Being all angry and red and crying loudly all the time. Ragey May we call her. She wriggles constantly and she scratches and she doesn’t sleep. And she is demanding. So demanding! Her cries are like a pneumatic drill in my temple. Her scratches like a fistful of needles scraped down my chest. Her sleeplessness has reduced me to tears on multiple occasions. She has a little dry patch of skin from her eye to her ear where her salty tears run down her face (saddest thing ever, it makes me never want to put her down).
The thing is, none of these things should be a surprise. It has been just two years since I did this last time, how could I have forgotten? But I have. I guess it’s that thing your brain does in its’ efforts to make you reproduce again. Having a newborn is so bloody hard! I had forgotten about that biological thing that means when your baby makes a noise you can’t hear anything else. I forgot that I could be mid-conversation about something really fascinating and yet when hearing that noise, I become possessed. I only hear every third word that is being said to me and my shoulders rise up to my ears with tension. I want to rock back and forth chanting “make it stop” over and over again. Husband reminds me that it was the same last time. But I don’t remember. I had forgotten that you can’t always console them. Sometimes they just carry on screaming regardless of what you do. I think it’s worse this time because whilst under-going this water-board grade torture (apologies for my melodrama if ever you have actually suffered this), I’m also desperately trying to keep my little green-eyed Hulk happy. When they both cry, it is like a jack hammer in each ear. I bristle and I growl. Fortunately for me, I have a good Husband. A great Husband in fact. He has maintained many of the lessons from our first time round including a calming pace that has now pacified both of our daughters in a way I cannot. I tell myself it’s because I smell of milk but I think it is just his resilience is greater than mine. When he is not there, it becomes something of a trial in endurance, far worse than my GCSE bleep test. A trial that I’m not yet very good at, and it often ends in tears or me screaming “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck” into a pillow. Sometimes I go into my cold damp utility room at the back of the garage to “sort the washing out”. I hate doing washing. When they are both eventually at peace I analyse what happened and spend hours berating myself for not stopping them cry quickly enough, or for snapping at no1 when she had done nothing wrong. This part is the hardest.
Getting out of the house has become more difficult than it ever was before. It had become so easy. I was at the point where we whipped out the door. I took one spare nappy, some wipes and a packet of raisins to get me through a day. If I forgot them it was no biggy. Girly no1 was even starting to put her own shoes and coat on. We have regressed. Somehow, we are ready to go, and yet I find 45 minutes has passed until we are driving off our drive. This Bermuda Triangle simply requires shoes, coats and getting in the car. My logical mind tells me this is a 10-minute activity except it’s not. I know I often add 30 seconds at the end because I am doing the weewee dance where I haven’t pee’d all day, but not 30 minutes. Where do they go? Then there is all the stuff. I am permanently laden with bags. As well as all the newborn stuff, let’s not forget the sheer volume of this, I take a spare change of clothes, 4 nappies and 10 snacks for Girly no1 because if I don’t, she’ll throw herself into a muddy puddle (thanks Peppa) face down and the only way I can get her out is by bribing her with food. On the plus side, I have great guns.
Other things are generally more difficult, and I haven’t yet perfected them. The main ones that fox me on a daily basis are:
- Getting them both into the car. I ask this as a serious question – how? How do you get your baby into the car while your toddler is loose? Do you put the baby down in the middle of the grey car park in their grey camouflage car seats while you pin the toddler in? Or do you wrestle the baby into their seat whilst pinning the toddler to the muddy tyre with one knee? I opt for the latter and accept that I have to wash her coat almost daily even though this pisses me off (I obviously don’t wash her coat that often, who could be arsed)
- What do you do when you’re breast feeding your baby and your toddler is pouring a cup of milk all over the seat of a chair with non-removable cushions? You just watch. Some days you attempt to stop it. Other days you sigh and look the other way. There’s no point shouting because by the time they’ve stared you out and stamped their feet it’s soaking anyway.
- My baby cries every day from 4 til bedtime. During which time Girly no1 wants dinner. I can’t always give her ham and cheese because she needs some vegetables in her diet. These are hidden in the depths of Spag Bol we keep in the freezer. We make it in huge batches and all I need to do is defrost it and boil some pasta. Therein lies the difficulty – making pasta with a crying baby on your hip. I have to stand sideways to the hob pushing her as far away as possible and then use my foot to keep Girly no1 away from the boiling splashing water. It’s not my favourite.
- Going to the toilet. When? I can count on one hand the times they have been asleep at the same time. I used this to pick up nappies from around the house. Or throw a washload on. Or once, as a special treat, I ate some food! Wild!
- My final, and least favourite battle, is bedtime. The few times I have done this on my own has felt like a war. That I’ve lost. No2 cries constantly. No1 runs around naked and shouting, her naughtiness directly correlated to how tired she is. Every time no2 is on the brink of dozing off, no1 storms in shouting and throwing toys in her face. I have no wisdom on this time of day. I just have to get through it knowing that prosecco and vape await me.
So, to my darling Paramedic friend, whose baby will be here in a few months, here are all the things I couldn’t say out loud and probably shouldn’t be saying to you now. I sit here in the baby haze, amid the smell of milky sick looking through bloodshot eyes from under an over-grown fringe and I say to you, “honestly? It’s really fucking hard”. However. A BIG however. If you ask me how good it is rather than how bad, an unstoppable smile spreads across my face, my body becomes warm from the inside out and my tummy gets something close to butterflies. Because despite the fact I’ve gone back to cold tea, I don’t fit any of my clothes, will never read a magazine again and can no longer apply eyeliner; having two is twice as much of everything. Love, smiles, giggles, cuddles (sick, poo, tears!), all the things that make little people so wonderful. My little Hulk gets funnier every single day and is starting to demonstrate something that might be tenderness towards Girly no2. It could just be wind of course. And my baby girl is the 3rd love of my life. She is beautiful. I spend hours staring at her. She wakes up in the morning smiling and when she’s finished feeding, she looks up and me and laughs. She literally fills me with love. I adore her. I am blessed in that we have time to bond when Girly no1 is at school and in the mornings when she doesn’t cry as much. We go to yoga and we go swimming. And we lie next to each other staring at one another’s’ eyes. I am besotted (don’t tell no1!). They are both beautiful girls of course and along with Husband, we are a family. We sing stupid songs, we make each other laugh and we love nothing more than to cosy up in front of whatever Pixar film is currently in favour with Girly no1. When we are all snuggled up and I have one little person nestled into each side, I am my happiest. I even, on occasion, find myself wondering where on earth a third one goes!