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One to Two

It was inevitable, this post. What it’s like now. How it feels.

There is a scene that plays out in our home every day.

Joel has been away for a long time – either at work, or at the other house, renovating. I am up to my ears in kids and mess and beauty and dirty nappies and paint mummy and food spills and love-sick staring. Joel comes home. He says, “How was your day?”. I stare back. He looks worried.

What a ridiculous question, I think. But I don’t say that.

Because it’s like this.

At 10:32 am, I am gazing at my children. I am soaked in love. Absolutely drenched. I want ten kids. Twelve perhaps, all stacked in bunk beds in every nook of our home. Nothing beats this, I think. This is everything, right here. I text Joel a cute photo of them. I instagram some happy moment.

At 10:39 am, I am clench-jawed and sweating. Literally, the sweat is pouring off me. Because it’s so freaking hot and I’ve been breastfeeding a sauna for the past 15 minutes, knowing full-well I’ll be stuck here for another 30. I’m trapped to the couch with a don’t-stop-feeding-me-and-certainly-don’t-think-about-putting-me-down-or-I’ll-scream newborn. Meanwhile, my other child wants water, wants paint, wants Peppa Pig, wants an apple, wants her nappy changed, wants me to cuddle her, and in the end, wants her daddy.

And I start to resent this baby, just a little, for taking me away from her – from how it was. When it wasn’t all, not now Ella and don’t do that and just hang on one minute and gentle Ella and no, Ella and stop, Ella. I want to paint her toenails and read stories in bed and play dress ups and take long bubble baths and give her a massage afterwards.

And then, with every tantrum she hits me with – and I’ve been hit hard lately – I start to resent her, just a little. For taking me away from him. From the staring and the smelling and the getting to know him and the outlining every feature of his with my mind, etching him deep into my memory.

I’m like a yo-yo as I fling between the two of them, and I realize that though they fill my day so entirely, I’m rarely actually ever with them.

And that doesn’t feel good to me.

And sometimes, by the end of the day, my senses have been so thoroughly ASSAULTED that I don’t actually want to be with either of them.

And that especially doesn’t feel good to me.

I realize now I need to be diligent with my choices, like I never had to before.

The challenges I now face, the questions now which hit hard are not why is she crying? or  what the hell am I supposed to be doing? or what exactly just happened to my life? There is an ease to mothering now I find absolutely empowering. I feel so capable in reading my babies, in knowing what they need, in sacrificing so much of myself in order to love them the way I like to, realizing this extra-needy newborn phase is just that – a phase, which I will look back upon with longing, nostalgic for the very days I am in. I feel ferocious in my mothering now, more free to appreciate the beauty of a newborn, since my hands are no longer tied to wringing themselves with anxiety. The challenges I face now having nothing to do self-doubt or role adjustments. The challenges now are: how do I make moments count in the time-poor days I have? How do I feel connected to each of my children when my focus is continually split?

Some days are effortless. Some days everything comes so naturally, it’s like breathing. We all rest at the same time, entwined in each other like I spent months dreaming about. We find balance, and with balance comes those moments you stop and say to yourself, oh my god, look at my life. Inside, I feel driven to my knees in gratitude, making wild promises to stay down there for days.

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But, like anything worthwhile, there is a whole lot of hard which underpins these moments of euphoria. Some days are not effortless. And those moments, mornings, days, or weeks, we need to make conscious decisions about how we shape our choices within them. In a time-poor, focus-spread agenda, we need – more than ever – to make our choices count.

I can choose to notice the dirty handprints on the mirror, or the little girl reflected within it.

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I can choose to shout at her for dropping her lunch all over the floor, for making more work for me in my already-maxed-out life, or I can choose to remember she is a little girl trying.

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I can choose to grow frustrated at the neediness of a newborn, or I can choose to remember he will be big and gone before I know it and I – like I do now with Ella – will nostalgically miss the way he fits into the crook of my neck, into the bend of my arm, across the warmth of my chest.

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I can choose to give Ella a massage – like I promised – instead of filling the last hours of the day with cleaning, tidying and sorting, sending her to bed without one.

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I can choose to spend hours of an evening pacing a dark room, trying to get my baby to drift off to sleep, or I can choose to go outside, to rock him under the moon, to walk with him through our neighbourhood, making special moments out of an otherwise tedious exercise.

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I can choose to embed myself in their every moment, to keep flinging myself between them day in day out, or I can choose to have dates with each of them separately. To take my daughter to the beach, just us, looking for hermit crabs and collecting shells, me paying attention to the way she bravely runs into the waves at the shoreline now, no longer the little girl I knew. To lie with my son for an uninterrupted length of time, drinking him in like a big, thirsty sponge.

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I can choose to ignore my daughter and vacuum the floors, do the washing, make the bed, or I can choose to jump on it with her, watching her eyes light up as she looks at me like, “Really?? We can do this??”

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I can choose to put her in front of a television show, or I can choose to spend time painting with her, letting her loose with paintbrushes and – just for good measure – a whole heap of bubbles.

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I can choose to spend the afternoon cleaning the house, or I can choose to jump in the car with my family, pick up some fish and chips, and spend the evening by the water.

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There are so many balls to juggle. There are. And some balls – I realize now – just have to drop. They just have to. The biggest question I face now is: which ones?

And, like a good writing session always blesses me with, it’s clear now which balls I want in my hands and which balls I want on the floor.

I choose my children.

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I choose my family.

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And, if there is any room left, I choose this tent.

I choose to write and photograph and store memories and express thoughts, because it always, always makes me love bigger and see wider.

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And that’s why I can’t answer the how was your day question. Because, my day? It was heaven and hell. It was high as the sky and it was deep, deep trenches. It was all and it was everything. And/both.

**

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

11 Responses to “One to Two”

  1. Taryn

    Rachel thank you so much for this reminder on priorities: that it is ok if the laundry doesn’t get done and the sink is full of dishes and dinner is take-out again, if it means that I have given my two girls the love and attention they both need and deserve. Oh, and also to take mot photos 🙂

    Reply
    • The Red Tent

      i think it’s a woman thing – needing order in our house – but it’s so not important in the grand scheme of things. Messy houses unite!

      Reply
  2. Christina Howes

    What a beautiful post. I have a feeling I’m going to be keeping a close eye on your progress.. I see a bit of me in you and I remember feeling so anxious with my first born. Part of it not knowing what the hell you’re doing and what the hell has just happened to my life! These realizations are huge and hard to be rational about. My second baby is due in early May so that’s about 10 weeks to go! I’m feeling myself run out of time. I need to start stock piling food in the freezer, finish the nursery and then give my little boy all my love and attention before I have to share it with his baby brother or sister. So much to do!
    I think you’re doing great by the eay. So inspiring. I look forward to hearing more about it.

    Reply
    • The Red Tent

      Hey Christina,
      Early May! That’ll be here in no time. Lucky you 🙂
      That’s exactly how I felt too – so much to do..and yes – I highly recommend stocking the freezer!
      Enjoy these last ten weeks. Let me know the good news when he/she decides to arrive! x

      Reply
  3. Nat

    Lovely post Rach. While I feel extremely blessed to have my twin girls, I have, at times, felt a little envious watching other first time mums relish in those special, uninterrupted one-on-one moments with their babies. As a second time mum, I’m sure it’s the same. It’s very hard enjoying those intimate moments when there’s another child vying for your attention. Rather than relaxing with your baby, it’s a constant whirlwind of juggling balls. But – how lovely for our babies to have each other. I now relish in the moments the girls share together – lots of giggles and playtimes. And as hard as it can be, I make sure I spend quality time with each of them separately. And yes, totally agree – the washing up can wait!

    Reply
    • The Red Tent

      Hey love. I totally take my hat off to you juggling two babies at once from the very beginning. Twins is a whole nother kind of hard, I can only imagine. Good on you for making time for each of them separately – I think it’s so important. Maybe you can wait a big (ish) gap and then have another one! Then your girls will be off at kindergarten most of the time and you can experience that savouring-just-one-baby thing! 🙂

      Reply
  4. becschoepf

    A really, really, REEEEALLLY beautiful post, Rach. The poem just killed me and sent me to heaven. What an exquisite ending.

    Oh Rach, so much mirrors EXACTLY how I felt when Ivy was born. We are both such intense mamas and it is such a rollercoaster when suddenly that kid you rarely needed to scold for making a huge mess – because you were always painting beside her and subtly controlling the mess levels – is left to her own devices because mama’s focus is split. And that yukky feeling of not wanting them around, wanting to be alone – I remember crying my heart out once in the early days because when Norbert took the kids off me for one hour, and then later rang to tell me he would be out with both kids for a bit longer, i.e. giving me more me-time, and I was SO happy that I immediately felt guilty for passionately loving not having them there. Separate dates with each child is awesome, as you have already discovered. And I am softer now, constantly saying, “She’s just a baby, she doesn’t know any better” – both to Zoe about Ivy, and to myself about Zoe.

    As for the housework: of course it should wait, and jumping on beds is 1000 times the better option…but we also both know it waits, and piles up, and only adds to the stress. So I have found that (a) the bare minimum is all you should EVER do (i.e. the pantry with sticky honey spots in our house that needs reorganising and wiping out has been scheduled for 4 years’ time); (b) housekeeping routines and rituals that become like breathing, keep things in their place without eating into playtime – e.g. every morning, without fail, we all traipse upstairs (Ivy is aaaall about the stair-climbing at the moment), so Zoe can jump on my bed while I make hers, and then Zoe tries on my shoes whilst Ivy empties condom packets from Papa’s bedside table drawer (!!!) whilst I make our bed. I don’t know; it doesn’t feel like I’m ignoring them – it’s kind of a playing/tidying mash. And (c) just like going outside with Billy at night turns a tedious task into a memory-making one, folding washing in the loungeroom with your partner after the kids are in bed, whilst – this bit is REALLY important – drinking a wine and chatting about your day, is actually kind of nice.

    Trust me, Rach, you are absolutely owning the tricky newborn-with-toddler phase. And the best part? Knowing it gets easier, and loads more fun, with every blissful-hellish day. xxxxxx

    Reply
    • The Red Tent

      I love your chore ideas Bec. Joel actually helped me fold the washing the other day (!) and it did feel really nice doing it together. I think I’m going to steal some of your ideas – Joel is realizing he needs to do way more at home, and doing it together when kids are in bed over wine is a great idea to stop things from piling up. because – yes – that’s the great dilemma: I want my kids to be more important than the chores, obviously, but when mess and clothes and dishes pile up, my mind feels chaotic because my surroundings are. And it can make me feel stressed.
      Thanks love – it’s nice to hear these things from somebody a bit further ahead on this path than me xoxo

      Reply

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