I’ve been a mother of two little girls under the age of 4 for around nine months now. I always knew I wanted children close in age so, hopefully, they would be good friends as they grew older. I myself have a sister two years younger than me and she is basically my best friend. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Of course, the reality of having two children under the age of 4 was not something that I could have ever truly understood. No amount of reading books, blog posts, forums or even asking other mothers with multiple children close in age could have prepared me.
If I thought I was exhausted raising one child, I was dead wrong.
If I thought disciplining her was tough, I had no idea of the struggles that were coming.
Every single struggle I had with one child is only amplified ten times over when I have a screaming baby in one arm and a bored toddler in another.
When my little one was born, and we brought her home, I felt confident having done the whole newborn thing before. We settled into sleep easier, not because she was a better sleeper, but because I knew that having a 45 minute, one hour or two hour stretch of sleep before she woke for a feed was normal. So basically my expectations were significantly less than with my first.
I revelled in beautiful baby toes, and wrinkly skin, and rolls of chub, delicious naps in the sunlit afternoon while my husband and mum, who had both taken the week off work, took care of the house, the cooking, and my 2. 5 year old.
Well, that ‘baby moon’ was blissful while it lasted. By the end of the first week, mum and the hubby both had to go back to work and I faced the daunting task of being at home by myself with these two babies.
A distinct memory I have of that first day is when, for God knows what reason, my eldest threw a tantrum and she was hanging off my legs, while my one week old who desperately needed to sleep was screaming in my arms. I was in a narrow corridor of my house with two screaming children hanging off me. Did I laugh out of sheer disbelief or did I cry along with them, accepting this as my fate henceforth?
I don’t actually remember. Or I subconsciously wiped my memory of how I dealt with it.
Or maybe the nine months since have been a brutal “one step forward, TEN steps back” dance that has permanently addled my memory. I like to call it “momnesia”. It’s my excuse for having slips in memory lately.
The struggle these past few months has actually been unlike anything I have experienced as a mother thus far. My little one, although starting off as a ‘model’ newborn (i.e. eating, sleeping well), a few weeks in we hit some serious struggles with feeding and sleeping. She became incredibly difficult to settle, and would, days in a row, scream for two hours or so, for reasons I still can’t fathom.
By the end of her screaming fits I would sit with her lying on the bed next to me because my arms could no longer carry her, numb to her crying. Numb to the world around me. Numb to the three year old girl who was becoming so intelligent, beautiful, inquisitive, patient…and bored because her mother wasn’t there to play with her. I kept telling myself that ‘this too shall pass’. I sought medical advice. I sought grandmother advice. My husband was supportive. Nothing helped.
What I remember holding onto though was this idea that ‘things HAVE to get better.’ That there will be an easier phase. That time will magically solve all problems.
I think I understand now though that this just isn’t going to happen. I speak to older mothers with older children who tell me to “just appreciate babies because it gets so tough later”. I really want to tell them that at least they get to sleep, or have time to themselves, but what I realise is that it is just NEVER going to get easier.
That might sound pessimistic. But actually it’s not. This epiphany helped me to simply accept my reality for what it was, and to not keep desperately hoping for some distant time in the future that just HAD to be better, but I had no guarantee of.
It made me simply appreciate and to be content with my present, with all of its flaws, and struggles, and challenges, and highs, and lows, and tears, and laughter, and hours of bubbles, of colouring, of reading books, of changing nappy after nappy, of the miracle of nursing a baby and sustaining her life just with my body, of having two pairs of eyes following everything I do and taking it in, and learning from it but most of all, of the incredible love that emanates and fills every single day that I spend with these two little humans.
So no, this mothering job might not necessarily get any easier, but I know without a doubt that it will get better as we grow together, and learn together, and face every phase that life brings and that this wonderful, crazy, achingly difficult role I have as a mother will be the most fulfilling I’ll ever have.