I can’t quite believe that Joel turned 6 months old this week. It only seems like yesterday that he was a newborn, all squishy, little and quiet (most of the time – honestly, he really didn’t cry much at all). Now he’s much bigger and heavier, can roll across the room faster than the time it takes for me to put a load of washing on, and is starting to make some syllabic sounds as he babbles away. I know I experienced these big changes in the first 6 months of Andrew’s life too, but it still never ceases to amaze me just how much my boys are changing all the time. It’s only when I stop and reflect like this that I am totally wowed by the growth and development of the human body – for me this is a real physical reminder of the amazing creator God who I believe in.
On the whole I am loving my role in life of looking after two little boys. I can’t deny that there have been some hard times – I am human myself after all, and despite my best efforts to be ‘super-mum’, I do have limitations like the possession of only two hands and two eyes (neither in the back of my head) and no super power to avoid the effects of sleep deprivation. But given that there is only a 21 month age gap, so I had two kids under two in my care for 3 months of Joel’s life, I think it’s not bad going that there’s so far only been one occasion when all three of us were in tears at one time (there have been other combinations of one or two of us in tears, mainly the boys).
I can’t claim that this is all my own doing though. I am very blessed to have such a supportive husband who helps out so much with the boys, and it’s a real blessing to both of us that his job is only a 15 minute cycle away so he gets home not long after he finishes at 5pm; things would be a lot harder for me if I didn’t have this help. We also have very supportive parents, and although they don’t live in Cambridge, they come as often as possible to help us; my mum is the most regular visitor every couple of weeks or so for a day, and Tom’s mum usually comes at half-term holidays for several days in a row; our dads have been more weekend visitors with our mums. And looking back over these past 6 months, I can see that Jesus has been with us too, helping me get through some difficult days, even those in which I had little time or space (with the demands of two children being my priority) to talk to him properly in prayer. I don’t think I would have got to where I am now in one piece without Him answering our prayers and the prayers of others on our behalf.
For about the first 3 months, I would say that the hardest part of my role wasn’t looking after a newborn – he slept, fed, slept, fed, and not much else, plus I’d looked after a newborn before – no, the hardest part was looking after a newborn AND a 1year old toddler at the same time – I’d not done that before, and was still learning how best to meet Andrew’s needs that were evolving all the time.
There are not many ways in which these past 6 months have been similar to the first 6 months of Andrew’s life – the only big one that I can think of is the similar amount of sleep that I’ve had. In many ways having my first baby and my second have been very different experiences. It could partly be to do with their different personalities, but I think the main difference has been that I know more about what I’m doing and therefore feel less stressed about what I ‘should’ be doing according to society’s parenting wisdom. I always felt I was fairly laid back with how things went with Andrew, and took a mainly baby-led approach with the various aspects of parenting in the early months, but I have noticed that I’ve been even less worried about how things are going this time, I guess because I’ve seen the positive outcomes of the baby-led approach with Andrew.
One particular aspect of these first 6 months that I’ve been reflecting on, and how different it’s been the second time around is breastfeeding (I already blogged some of these thoughts here). Overall it’s been a much more enjoyable experience this time. In Andrew’s first 6 months I kept on breastfeeding more out of determination than anything else (I am a very determined person!) and my goal was just to get to 6 months; but when I got there, breastfeeding fairly soon became something I enjoyed rather than something I thought was my duty to my baby, and that’s why we carried on (that baby turned toddler still doesn’t think he’s too big for mummy milk!) At 6 months feeding became less about calorific intake and more about the non-nutritional aspects, so I felt less stressed when I (with the help of formula in the SNS) wasn’t the only source of food as he started to eat solids.
This time I have been able to enjoy this longer term perspective right from the start, knowing that even in the difficult times of constant feeding as a baby, it would get better and would all be worth it in the end. Although there was a bit of an issue with his weight (in the GP/health visitor’s eyes) around 2 months, this soon righted itself, and I’ve just realised that I haven’t had him weighed for a couple of months, which has helped, I’m sure, in me feeling less stressed about feeding – he is clearly growing and getting heavier. In fact I think the better experience of breastfeeding, and also having learned how the health system sees breastfeeding compared to my own natural instincts as a mum, have together made the biggest difference to how I’ve felt as a mum of a baby in these past 6 months compared to how I felt last time. And as I said above, I’m sure my prayers, even exhausted and fed up at 2am, have helped.
So there we go: I survived the first 6 months of life with 2 kids, and, more to the point, so did they – hooray! Now to carry on with life – looking after a growing baby who’s looking more and more like a little boy rather than a little baby and a toddler whose ability to communicate with me is getting more and more sophisticated.