Why is it that with the rose-tinted glasses of hindsight, looking after just one newborn seems like a cinch? I remember being horribly sleep deprived and having days where I felt as if I’d achieved nothing more than getting out of my pyjamas by lunchtime but I can’t quite remember why. I suspect the answer is simply experience; I’ve met and if not quite mastered, certainly developed some strategies for the challenges of a tiny baby. I know which end is up, why you don’t want to change a nappy immediately after a feed, and I’ve got enough confidence in my own instincts to relax about the things that sent me scurrying to Google in the wee small hours of the morning with Kitty (has she eaten too much/not enough? should she be sleeping that long? will she ever stop drenching me in milk after every feed?).
But with H back at work after a wonderfully long paternity leave/Christmas holiday, yesterday was the first day in which tiny girls outnumbered big people in our house.
I knew it was going to be hard. The logical part of my brain told me that with two tiny people with very real but very different demands and only one of me, well, as we said at primary school, “one into two doesn’t go”. Shall we say my expectations were met and perhaps even exceeded.
It was not my finest mothering hour(s); at least I really truly hope not. In one short morning I suspect I bust through every aim and intention of our parenting. TV as an electronic babysitter? Let me recite to you the entire script of Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas. Cool calm parenting replaced by somewhat of a shouty Mama? Hmmm, no comment.
We rallied ourselves by meeting H for lunch, and our afternoon ran a little smoother. We did some colouring, read some stories and even tried a little toddler embroidery before H arrived home to reinforce the parenting team.
The truth is, just as when Kitty arrived I learnt how to nurse, how to sooth a windy baby, and how to trust that I could go to sleep and she’d still be breathing without me watching her, I’m learning all over again. How to make sure that Kitty gets enough Mama-time to keep her topped up with all the love and cuddles that she needs to stay my loving little extrovert, how to make sure that Elma is warm, clean, dry and fed without ever feeling that she’s only getting a poor share of my time, how to do the little things that make the most difference to H, and in all of that, how to find the odd snatch of time to knit or sew or write; to do the things that replenish my reserves.
I didn’t expect to figure it all out in one day (note to inner perfectionist; please read the memo), but I know that there’ll come a point in the weeks or months ahead where I look back and think, “what was so hard about that?”, just as I can’t quite now believe that I once took a 2 week old Kitty all the way to Melton Mowbray to watch H play in a hockey match because I wasn’t quite ready to look after her all by myself.
Perhaps that’s part of the confidence; I trust that we will find our way, that our style and methods of parenting will adapt and evolve, and that I will be the Mama that I want to be; at least some of the time.
But for now, with Kitty enjoying a day out at her fabulous nursery, I’m relishing the decadence of having a whole day with only tiny Elma to look after, of getting to some of those chores that are never going to get done with two tiny girls around (hello tax return!), and of a quiet afternoon spent by the last surviving set of Christmas tree lights with the companionable snores of a tiny dark haired girl in my arms to alleviate the gloom of another short winter’s day.