Etta & Uma

MOTHERHOOD: From one to two

On 5th July this year we became a family of four. A lot of people had warned me that going from one child to two was far more than twice the work but I didn't believe them. I had failed to consider quite how much a new addition would impact on our toddler Etta's behaviour and emotional stability, and this for me has created the biggest challenge, one that's been very hard to manage.

With your first born you tend to be full of anxiety and paranoia about what you should be doing, whether you're doing it right and whether the baby is ok. It can feel hellish at times but you get through it as you start to trust your instincts and realise that you're doing a good job, and they're more robust than you first thought. You have the option to sleep when they sleep and people flock round in those early weeks with offers of help (if you're lucky) and coo's of love over your little bundle of joy. The bubble is large, full of wonder and love.

Fast forward to number two and wow it's another level of emotional and logistical challenges. Yes you're probably far more relaxed about the new minature human, remembering that everything does tend to be a phase and that you know what you're doing (although it's perhaps a little hazy...) Quite frankly you don't have time to fuss and fret as much as the first time around.

You life becomes the ultimate juggle: Time with the overly emotionally toddler who needs reassurance, stimulation and lots of cuddles, not to mention constant supervision that they're not being TOO loving to their new baby brother or sister, whilst also looking after a tiny human who's completely and utterly reliant on you for survival.

The first born has gone from being the sole focus of your attention, an only child effectively, to having to share you with a more needy, less fun minature human who people tend to coo and fuss over far more than them. The best analogy that I've heard is that it's how you'd feel if your partner brought home a second partner. Your partner could tell you that they still loved you just as much as before but that they're going to have to split their time between you and someone new - and that new person is pretty needy. They're also expecting you to be happy and excited to have someone else in your life, and that they love your equally, but even so my god you'd be mightily pissed off wouldn't you? So I can fully understand what Etta is going through.

The timing of our second meant that it also coincided with a move to a new town - so a new nursery and home - alongside her changing to a toddler bed and some failed attempts at potty training  - aka the poo that broke the camels back.

I feel like we're coming through the worst of it, 13 weeks in, but it's not without its epic meltdowns, occasional karate chops and flying kicks to all three of us, and the need for a whole lot of cuddling, chocolate / bribery and wine for me. I now feel virtually zero guilt when i bite into a wedge of brie like an apple because no doubt i bloody well earnt it.

To end on a huge positive, having Uma has brought my husband even closer to Etta as he showers her with love and attention to distract her from my seemingly constant need to feed or shush Uma. I also adore catching those moments when Etta strokes Uma when she's crying and tells her she's ok, or when she kisses her on the head and says "I love you Uma" when she thinks i'm not looking. That is real, not to get chocolate or praise, and it's the start of something really special.

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PARENTHOOD: Changing bag essentials. What NEVER to forget

I was never the organised one in our mum group. I often forgot muslins (the irony) or any kind of toys for Etta, sometimes even nappies and wipes, to dire consequences. It wasn't intentional, I just forgot in the heady rush of actually leaving the house to meet other adult humans.

Also one of the benefits of breastfeeding is not really needing anything but you and a muslin, so it was all too easy to forget that your little darling might also need some other bits and bobs to keep them calm and keep you clean..

So here's what I'll be endeavouring to remember in the change bag for trips out with number two, due in July:

  • Nappies, probably five at any one time. Please god don't forget these. Also it's nice to occasionally be the hero by being able to save a fellow mum in a sticky situation (you'll know those mums, the wide eyed look of panic, scouting the cafe for a friendly understanding face of a mum who looks like they've got their shit together). 
  • Wipes. Every mums saviour. I'm amazed at what little these guys can't get out of clothes or off tables. 
  • Muslins. For slinging over your shoulder for winding and cuddling, covering up if you prefer it for breastfeeding, generally mopping bodily fluid off your baby and everything in between. I've even seen them used as impromptu nappies when the wide eyed no-nappy panic has set in.
  • Toys. Whatever your baby seems interested in at that moment. It could be our muslins (double whammy and less needed in the bag) a rattle, a high contrast book or comforter. But you always need a backup if food and changing don't calm the grumbles. 
  • Snacks for you - cereal bars, jellybabies or just chocolate. Whatever you need as a little pick you up whilst endlessly pacing the streets trying to get your mini off to sleep.
  • A bottle of water - hydrate hydrate hydrate people!
  • Portable change mat. For those nasty cafe toilets or the ground in the park.
  • Hand sanitiser. I've never had so much poo on my hands as those first six months... And some cafes don't have soap, or parks don't have any toilets so this is a must! (despite the havoc it reeks on your skin)
  • Oh and this time round i'm going for a rucksack. super easy to carry and might take some of the pressure off my permanently rocking and shusshing back.

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