There is nothing quite like the shock to the maternal psyche that is meeting your brand new baby to discover that your first ‘baby’ has overnight become enormous. We don’t notice them grow – I think that is a kindness nature grants us to stop us mourning the loss of the baby stage. We know that they’ve changed but we aren’t ever actually aware of the changes taking place. I think, in our heads, they are still our tiny babies. That is until you find yourself face-to-face with a newborn and the illusion is unceremoniously shattered.
Just before I left for hospital to have the youngest of my boys, I went into my first-born’s room and stroked his sleeping head. I silently promised him that no matter what the next few weeks and months might bring, nothing would change my utter devotion to him.
And on the first day in hospital, I pined. Despite the fact that I’d struggle to tell newborn pictures of them apart now, the little baby in my arms seemed foreign and unfamiliar. I wanted my baby, the one I’d spent 19 months nurturing. I took me by surprise that it wasn’t the 19 month old I was pining for, it was his newborn self. Seeing my new son made me realise what I’d lost and could never, ever, get back.
That first day was slightly hellish. I was exhausted, uncomfortable and in the grip of some very powerful hormones. The elation I felt after my first birth was conspicuously missing and I was consumed by feelings of guilt and a very real sense of loss. In the midst of all that, there was this tiny new being who desperately needed me. I suspect he was hoping there’d been a mistake and at any moment this slightly hysterical, constantly sobbing woman would be ushered from the room allowing his real mother to take over.
I couldn’t tell you when or how the tide turned but at some point in that first 24 hours, it all changed. I’d been going through the motions of feeding, nappy changing and putting him down to sleep, mostly while tears dripped off me onto him. And all the while, he’d been slowly and without warning wriggling his way into my heart.
The moment that I realised for the first time that it was all going to be alright was when he was being returned to me after a couple of hours in the nursery. I heard him crying all the way along the corridor and I knew he was crying for me. I couldn’t get to him fast enough. It was done, I was in love. Still am.
I’ve done it, taken the plunge, jumped in at the deep end and several other (not necessarily swimming-related) clichés. I quit.
To be fair, I’m probably not going to be winning any ‘Employee of the Year’ awards – I started at my firm five months pregnant, went on maternity leave for a year (got to love British maternity legislation), returned to work four months pregnant and swanned off on maternity leave again three months later. My firm was forced to pay me a ‘return to work’ bonus despite the fact that I was already on maternity leave again, because to refuse to do so would have been discrimination on the basis of pregnancy (a big no-no in the UK). Admittedly this seemed unfair even to me, causing me to worry about the bad karma I might be attracting.
I was all set to return after my second year of maternity leave and duly submitted a flexible working application. Having returned to work three days a week between babies, I was hoping to agree something similar this time around. My boss was having none of it. Every request I made was turned down with extensive reasons. As is the norm at any top ten London law firm, to go back full time would effectively mean not seeing my boys at all during the working week. I would leave before they were up in the mornings and return after they’d gone to bed. I realise that there are thousands of parents for whom this is unavoidable but I am lucky enough to have a choice, and it took me about four seconds to decide that resigning was the only option for me.
We managed to part company on relatively good terms which is surprising given I was immediately put on gardening leave (security would have been informed that I was not to enter the building unaccompanied, nice!) and we had to get through the unpleasant task of negotiating my termination payment. Negotiating with senior partners at a law firm is not the barrel of laughs you might expect it to be.
So for now, I be full time mum-of-two. Never thought I’d see the day…
My oldest friend has never given up smoking. She hasn’t smoked a cigarette in over six years but she’s never given up. She just isn’t smoking today. Tomorrow might be a different story. I feel the same way about breastfeeding. The babiest of beans is now nearly 10 months old and has pretty much lost interest in the whole breastfeeding malarkey, what with all the distractions of walking, burbling and devising new and interesting ways to torment his older brother.
I won’t lie, a big part of me is delighted. After nine months of pregnancy and ten months of breastfeeding, my body will be my own again. I will not miss feeding bras for even a moment. I will happily embrace guilt-free drinking and nurofen will, once again, be my friend. No food is off limits and my body will stop clinging to its fat stores to ensure we’ve got enough to go around. And let’s not forget the tiny, surprisingly sharp, teeth…
But another part of me is sad. Very sad. I read somewhere that there is no closeness on earth like that between a mother and her baby, and we’re never closer to our babies than when we’re feeding them. I’m not even going to attempt to describe the phenomenal feeling of oneness, I could never do it justice, but for me breastfeeding is an oasis in the wall-to-wall chaos that heralds the arrival of a new bundle of joy. It’s a time when no one else exists, just me and my baby. And whilst the fact that he can speed around the room, keep himself entertained and interact meaningfully with us are all undeniable signs that he’s growing up, the end of our breastfeeding relationship is the milestone that seals the deal. The baby is gone. The toddler is beautiful, I’m every bit as in love with him, but the baby is gone. I’m not sure I’m ready to accept that yet. So for the moment, I am still breastfeeding – just not today.
Right, I think I’ve gone wrong somewhere. I’m not a fan of smacking so I’ve been trying to institute the naughty corner as a time-out place for my two year old. I probably would have been more inclined to set up a naughty step but as his nursery school uses a corner, I thought consistency was probably the way forward. So naughty corner it was. I picked a corner, waited patiently for the next full-blown floor-pounding tantrum (not a long wait!) and off he went to said corner. He wailed in the corner for a bit and once the storm had passed, we went on with our day. ‘Excellent. Easy as..’, I thought.
When little pumpkin and I encountered our next difference of opinion, I sternly informed him that he was headed for the naughty corner. ‘OK’ he said sulkily so off he went. We had a couple of similar run-ins resulting in more corner time. However, I realised something was amiss when one evening at bedtime he was offered the options of either sitting quietly on the couch drinking his milk or going straight to bed. He responded with ‘naughty corner?’. Um, not actually one of the options on offer my love.
My suspicions were confirmed on shower night. My eldest son definitely mistakes hair washing for some kind of torture. Whilst I was struggling with a sobbing, slippery, naked toddler, I was slightly alarmed to hear him howl between sobs ‘I want to go to the naughty corner, I want to go to the naughty corner!!’ Not exactly a raging success then.
I guess I could use the threat of a shower to deter misbehaviour but then I’d only have myself to blame if I ended up with the grubbiest teenager this world has ever known.
Ps while I’ve been typing this, little one’s pet stuffed penguin has been escorted to the naughty corner and told to stay there until he’s ‘finished’. Wonder what Pengu did to deserve that…
Given my eldest child is only two, I’m pretty new to the whole school thing. I’ve managed drop-offs and pick-ups and so far the foul-mouthed toddler has not dropped me in it (as discussed at length in a previous post). I’ve managed to learn other toddlers’ names and have sometimes even asked a fellow parent about the wellbeing of the correct child (not always but sometimes – give me a break, I’m not getting much sleep). So it was all going brilliantly until my little one brought home a book of tickets with an attached note suggesting that parents should sell them. Actually I think the exact words were ‘parents are REQUIRED to sell ten tickets each’. Required? Really?
Of course my husband’s initial reaction was to tell the school to get knotted. My son has only been attending for a nanosecond and is enrolled on a temporary basis. I was tempted to return the book with an attached note simply saying ‘um, no!’ but then fretted about the little pumpkin being ostracised on account of his unco-operative mother. My problem with the concept is that I resent being forced to hit up friends and family for money. I’m not a fan of being pestered for money and can’t bring myself to do it to others. In this instance it’s for a worthy cause so I’m shelving the rebellious streak and buying the book of tickets myself. At least this way I can feel sanctimonious and smug about my charitable donation.
This was all a frightening insight into my future. I’m guessing this is not the last time one of my little lovelies will return home with something I am ‘required’ to sell. If I am to stick to my guns about not annoying my loved ones, in future I may be forced to randomly approach strangers in the street for donations – otherwise this could get expensive.
I am loving watching my toddler learn to speak – it’s nothing short of miraculous. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly get my head around how these tiny cooing and crying beings develop the ability to communicate. I watch in awe as he uses new words every day and despite the fact that most of the human race has acquired this skill, I am immensely proud.
He is a talented mimic. Yay us that he says ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ regularly and often even at appropriate times. Not so yay us that a number of unmentionables have been repeated. I’ve recently enrolled him at the local nursery school (which happens to be run by a church) for a couple of mornings a week. All is going swimmingly – he loves it, they love him – but I live in fear of some of his more colourful vocabulary being used at drop off or pick up. I’m guessing his current favourite expression of frustration would not be appreciated.”Oh God!” my two-year old will announce. Stunned silence and aghast faces from Teacher and other (presumably non-blaspheming) mommies will follow while I cast around desperately trying to work out how to pin this on my hubby.
More terrifying is the fact that he has been known to repeat the F word – I am no potty mouth and I very seldom swear in front of him, but when I forget myself and that word slips out, you can be sure my son will hold onto it for days. My current tactic is to immediately start chanting “truck, truck, Mommy said truck” but a friend correctly pointed out that this will fool no-one when he says “oh for truck’s sake!” This exact phrase was used by a good friend’s toddler on the way into nursery school recently – embarrassing at a secular nursery school but surely grounds for expulsion at mine. Poor pudding will have his stationery ice cream container under one arm, random bits of art under another and a confused expression on his face while Teacher gently suggests that he might be more comfortable elsewhere.
Heavens knows what he says while I’m not there but hey, ignorance is bliss.
Bless my two-year old – his new favourite phrase is “I want to help”. Unfortunately, his help almost always complicates matters. He’s determined to help me feed his little brother. However feeding the wiggly one requires dogged determination, patience and dexterity, all of which are in short supply in his older brother. Steering of the spoon by Mum is not tolerated as my fiercely independent son must do it by himself. As you can imagine, the usual outcome of this ‘giving of help’ is three slightly frazzled participants lightly coated in puree. Not helpful. He has also offered his assistance with nail clipping, scrambled egg making and bottle-feeding of calves. It’s hard to gently decline these offers without worrying that it’ll quash the generous spirit within.
His offers to help with less injurious tasks are, of course, gratefully accepted even though a quick trip to the Spar can become a very protracted affair when a toddler is pushing the trolley (not to mention a tad dangerous for the unsuspecting inattentive shopper!) He’s very good at feeding chickens, putting the hazards on (one times flat battery) and pushing ATM buttons, some times even in the correct order.
Nevertheless I treasure these offers. They’re part of a two-year old him that won’t exist very long. And I’ll miss them.