My maternity leave adventures: Our real life
I started writing this blog post in October. Then I got distracted. That pretty much sums up my life right now. I have become a mothering cliché.
I had intended to focus on the day to day life of managing three children aged three and under, but all I can think of right now is: I’m so tired.
Completely exhausted. Pooped, tired to the bone, done in, bushed, bloody knackered. The lines on my face are noticeably deeper and there is considerably more grey in my hair. Sleep deprivation is torturous and the last 2-3 months have been brutal. The initial adrenalin you get after having a baby has well and truly worn off.
Things had actually started to fall into a pattern when the babies were four months old and we had a manageable routine of sorts. Then we moved house. We are incredibly lucky that an opportunity for our forever home came up, so we had to jump (or in my case, stumble) at the opportunity. But it was a lot of work with three little ones in tow. After the house move, there was a barrage of illnesses- all three got chicken pox one after the other, which was awful. The littlest baby was so unwell. We’ve had weeks upon weeks of bad coughs, an ear infection and colds.
There were weeks of hardly any sleep. For the first time in my parenting experience, I think I felt a bit depressed and could not see an end to feeling so tired and (sorry) pissed off with everyone. I was not a nice person. I cried a lot and felt very anxious a lot of the time. On my lowest day, I had to get us all out of the house; I was walking slowly to the park, pushing the pram, unable to stop the tears running down my face. Dave just put his arm around me and quietly said: ‘it’ll all be ok.’ I am normally the one to rally the family; but that day, Dave knew it was all on him.
Of course, all this takes its toll on your relationship. At the end of the day, I have nothing left to give to Dave, no emotional energy. I don’t even want to speak a lot of the time. Parenting three young children is the biggest marriage challenge.
I feel uneasy sharing all these details. It’s not glamorous, it’s not Facebook perfect. But it’s the truth. All this doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. I love all my guys so much. But as one friend said: ‘It’s worth it. But it will never not be the sacrifice of a lifetime.’
And this with the clear understanding that we are in a very fortunate position, with help and resource available to us. We have unbelievable help from family and friends: dinner sent over, babysitting, cups of tea, taking Alfie out…people are amazing. I am grateful every day. But in equal measure, I think- almost to the point of feeling constantly guilty- what do people do who have no help? Through this experience, I am being taught greater empathy and understanding.
I’m at a place right now where I feel if I just had 24 hours to sleep and reset, everything would be fine again. Of course, in parenting nobody has that luxury. My brain is realising that I need to re-calibrate my expectations of what I can get done, and that family life can be relentless. This is really like nothing I’ve experienced before. For sure it’s the biggest challenge of my life so far.
People ask a lot ‘how do you cope?’ So I thought I’d share a little about our day to day. We cope with a lot of help, but also by following a routine, keeping the week simple and planning ahead for everyone’s needs.
Monday to Wednesdays are on the whole manageable. I’m at home alone with the babies, while Dave is at work and Alfie is at nursery or at granny’s. With the experience of having had one baby, second time round with two babies is ok. I make sure I do one ‘activity’ every day to keep us sane. The rest of the day is spent feeding, changing, expressing milk, washing, making dinner, bath time, life admin, cleaning up.
Here are our daily headline stats:
Bottles used, washed and sterilised: 22
Nappies changed: 14
Outfit changes: 6
Time spent feeding babies: 5 hours
Time spent expressing breast milk: 4 hours
Washings done and hung up: 2
Toddler play and bath time: 3-5 hours
Hours sleep: 4-7 broken (usually in two sets, sometimes three, sometimes much more)
Feeding the twins has taken up a lot of my time and has been a big part of our life up until this point. They have received a mixture of expressed breast milk and formula milk. To save time, I was bottle feeding them together on bouncy chairs while I expressed. It took a lot of managing and I felt awkward if people came over, but we stuck to a stringent routine and with very careful planning, somehow made the day work around it. Dave has been very supportive as I know it’s not been the easiest path for any of us. But this week, after eight months and twelve days, I ‘hung up’ my breast pump. I feel a little guilty that I could have gone on for longer, but mostly I feel that we’ve done a good job and am focusing on the next stage. The babies are now eating solid food (so I’m adding making healthy baby food to the list of daily tasks) and starting to sleep a little better.
Thursdays and Fridays have been hard, as loveable, energetic Alfie is in the mix. We couldn’t have coped without the grannies coming to help. We usually head out late morning with friends and do an Alfie-focused activity. The hardest part of the day is 4-6pm, when everyone is tired and fractious. Often Dave comes in from work and I throw a baby in his general direction to get a break. I know it’s hard for him to come home to a noisy household after a busy day at work, but I have little time or energy to feel sympathy. I just need him there to get on with it. This is a two person job. Honestly at times it’s a three person job. Again, thank you one and all for being in this with us together.
After eight months, Alfie is finally starting to get used to being a big brother. I asked him the other day if we should keep the babies and if he liked them. ‘No mummy’, he said: ‘I love the babies’. He even thanked us for the babies on the Valentine’s card he made for us at nursery. After a tough transition for him, he really is blooming and I’m so proud of him.
Dave is now off on a month’s worth of Shared Parental Leave. It has come at the perfect time for us as a family. It enables me some time to catch my breath and for him a chance to spend more time with the children. Next time I may even dedicate a bit more of the blog to the person who is 50% responsible for all of this!
I feel spring in the air and after a few nights of better sleep, I’m starting to feel more positive again.
Onwards and upwards.