That end of summer feeling

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Gooooood morning!

It's morning here, anyway. The washing machine is on, my child is somewhat fed (we had a tantrum incident involving the correct way to cut up a crumpet), and now I have ten minutes of me time while she plays in the garden.

I haven't blogged in ages.

The truth is, I haven't felt like it. Every now and then I just want to give myself some space from it. Because if I'm not enjoying it, what's the point? Besides, looking back on old blog posts, I can tell which ones I've loved writing and felt passionate about and which ones I wrote out of duty because I need to fulfil my 2 x a week posting schedule.

I've gone on a kind of summer wind-down. Which sounds nice, but actually, it's more about survival. We've all been ill, on and off, for the past couple of weeks, a weird summer cold that we think has gone but then suddenly reappears unexpectedly. It makes my head feel all thick and fuzzy, like trying to think through fog. Also, my husband has been working mostly 6 day weeks for the past couple of months, during which time my pelvic joint pain has come back with a vengeance.

I completely forgot how bad it is. In fact, this time, it's been a bit worse. With Jellybean, it hurt, but I still managed to work 40 hours a week mostly on my feet all day (thanks to my lovely former colleagues for helping me out back then), looking after hoards of small children. Now, I walk to the park and back, and that can be enough to leave me unable to get around properly for the rest of the day.

I've been quite frustrated by it because I feel totally useless, and also because I've essentially swapped one pain (trigeminal neuralgia has been temporarily overcome by pregnancy hormones) for another. Some evenings, after Jellybean has finally fallen asleep, I can't get up off the bed again because my leg feels like it might collapse underneath me. One time, Chris was working, Jellybean fell asleep in our bed, and I only realised after I'd scooped her up in my arms and started walking away that I couldn't put any weight on my right leg at all.

It's fun!

But the good news is the baby is super healthy, wriggly, and my bump is normal sized, so it's all good really. Plus, the thing that gets me through is the thought that this is definitely the last time, mostly because I cannot fathom how I would manage another pregnancy like this with two children. Definitely the last one.

On Friday, my little daughter turns three, which is the weirdest thing. I'm not feeling too emotional about it this time round (last year, when everyone had gone home and Chris put Jellybean to bed and I swept up all the cake crumbs/wrapping paper/birthday debris, I had a 'my child is growing up too fast' cry. Just a little one).

Amongst my childcare friends, the general consensus is that three is the hardest age. The hormones, the tiredness, the attitude. But I'm excited about it (even if I'm exhausted in advance). She's a proper little person now. Like a tiny, funny, slightly temperamental friend. I am incredibly proud of her.

I'm looking forward to getting into a routine from next week. Jellybean starts more hours in childcare, all our groups and activities start up again, and I'm going to start blogging properly.

That's the plan, anyway.

In the meantime we are enjoying that end-of-summer feeling. I'm not ready for autumn yet, but I'm quite enjoying the transition. I like that the light is changing and the nights are drawing in, and that I'm having to sit out here with a blanket this morning, but also enjoying the last few day of warmth and dresses and ice lollies in the garden before it starts to cool down again.

Thanks for listening to my waffly post. I'll be back again soon!

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What having kids is actually like.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

It's weird but cool having a second baby, because you don't have so much of the newness to contend with. Pre-babies, I had no idea what it was like to actually be a parent. I had an idea of how much work little kids are (nursery nurses reading this will be nodding their heads) but no idea really what it was like to have one of my own.

Sometimes people ask me (out of curiosity, not in a disparaging way, although how much sleep I have had the night before determines how well I take these questions) what I do all day. And I remember I used to wonder: what is it actually like to have kids?

It looks a bit like this:

You wipe noses and bottoms. You scrub shampoo into hair and brush little teeth and rub suncream into soft, pale skin. You clip toenails and fingernails and use your entire body to do it (ever tried cutting the miniscule toenails of an extremely ticklish toddler? It's a challenge). You make meals and snacks and more meals and more snacks that may or may not be eaten. You clean up sick. You clean up poo. You clean up dribbly leftover yogurt. You clean the floors. Again and again and again. You wash clothes and dry them and immediately have to wash them again.

You ask your health visitor things like 'when will the umbilical cord stump drop off?' and then get squeamish when it actually happens. You eat one-handed. You drink lukewarm drinks for approximately six months to a year (maybe even longer). You Google 'six week old projectile vomiting' and you call your Mum to ask how to get the sick smell out of your sofa. You add safety latches to all your doors and you inspect toys for small parts and you start eyeing the toilets and the plug sockets in a new, suspicious way. You sometimes go hours and hours without eating or drinking by accident.

You temporarily do not recognise your own body. You panic when your hair falls out in clumps in the shower. You wonder how you will find clothes that don't look weird on you anymore (this bit is kind of Mum-specific).

You have toilet trips and showers observed by small, bossy people. You learn that no subject is off limits for discussion. You clean up cuts and grazes and kiss bumped heads and bruised knees.

You explain every concept under the sun, from where birds live to how plants grow to the fact that limbs will, no matter how hard you bumped them, not just randomly drop off when you hurt them, to whether or not monsters actually exist.

You buy clothes for them and not for yourself.

You run baths and get splashed so much that you may as well have jumped in anyway.

You think of them constantly. Ideas for birthdays and Christmas presents; activities they would enjoy; books they would like, what school they will end up in. You worry and dream and plan for every aspect of their future.

You survive on three hours of broken sleep night after night.

You steer them through things they don't want to do. Vaccinations, sending them to childcare ... you absorb all their fears and sadness and more because you wish you could do it for them instead. But you can't. So you live with all the feelings because it's your job to do this stuff and you hide how scared you are in the doctors' waiting room and you say 'you're so brave!' and smile even though you want to burst into tears.

You shush babies and pat bottoms and sway them to sleep. You snuggle them close to your skin, let them feel your heart beat. You reassure and cuddle and try to kiss away their fears.

You count to three a lot. You ignore a lot of tantrums. You praise the littlest things. You use the phrase 'well done!' as well as 'that's not nice'. A lot.

You swallow whatever stress you're feeling so they won't feel it. And when you're upset, you think of a child-friendly way to explain it so they don't have to be worried about you.

Sometimes, the constant demands on every aspect of your being will make you so stressed you want to drink an entire bottle of wine. Or eat a whole bag of Kettle chips. Or go on holiday for a while. By yourself.

You show them the world. You observe trees and insects and creatures. You pack a huge bag of supplies for every day trip because the one thing you forget is the one thing you'll definitely need. You deal with all sorts of obscure requests ('Please you draw a dragon?' 'Make up a story about lions.') and you name all the dollies in the shop because they want to know the name of each and every one. You make up silly songs and you do crazy dancing and you sing loudly on the way to the supermarket.

You make trips to doctors offices and dental surgeries and, very occasionally, hospital visits (incidentally these will be the most terrifying times of your life). You might even end up trying to persuade a hyperventilating toddler to use their inhaler and you talk them through it like people did to you when you were in labour. Deep breaths, deep breaths. In and out.

Sometimes you put them to bed and wonder where you'll muster up the energy to wash the bottles/get the washing in/mop the floors/have a shower/clean up the kitchen/empty the bins. But you find it and do it.

Then you give time to your equally frazzled husband/wife/partner because they need you and you need them back.

Then you answer messages and phone calls because other people need you too.

Then you go to bed and you're not sure you will actually get much sleep.

And then ...

Then, your child wakes in the night, upset about something. They fall asleep next to you. And you are totally taken aback by joy and wonder at the sight of them. You know that taking a picture will be pointless, because no picture could ever capture the gorgeousness of that perfect little pout, those long dark eyelashes, that milky skin, that hair damp from tossing and turning in their beds. So you just soak them in. The love that overcomes you is totally overwhelming and unlike anything else in the world. Watching them safely sleeping is like stepping into a bath after a long day but also a bit terrifying because of the force of how much you love them and how vulnerable they are.

And then you wake up the next day and you make a very large coffee and you do it all again.

And, just when you get the hang of it, they grow up a bit more and you realise you have no idea how to deal with what's coming next.

That's what its like.

But you still don't really know until it happens.

So if you're reading this and about to have your first: it is scary and precious and wonderful and awesome and sometimes you'll despair but mostly you'll love it.

And if like me you are about to embark upon having your second, or third, or fourth, and about to realise you'll probably have to re-learn a whole load of stuff again (are you crazy?): good luck!


I've been on a blogging hiatus. But I'm back.

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