I am a mother of two. TWO.
(Wow…saying this out loud certainly takes getting used to.)
And the truth is…I didn’t think I would be this happy.
I knew being a mother of two would be very challenging, and that the equilibrium we have finally worked out for our family of three would tilt out of our favour in the early months of becoming four; I was deeply concerned about how we would cope, especially when F became more clingy as the pregnancy progressed. Over the past few months, I could barely manage my frustration and guilt when I had to say no to some of her requests (AND face the consequences of saying no); I knew then that becoming four would be an uphill task.
And uphill, it is.
It has been two weeks since E was born. For two weeks now, I feel like I have been thrown into the deep end once again, albeit for different reasons. I had expected the sleepless nights, the much-too-frequent diaper changes, jaundice and challenges that come with breastfeeding. We have been there, done that. But to care for a newborn round the clock, on top of looking after AND looking out for a toddler…now, that’s a different ball game altogether. Often, I wish there were two of me. Yes, I am taking the sleepless nights surprisingly well (starkly different to when F was a newborn…back then, even the first few sleepless nights were akin to episodes of going into shock). Yes, F is adjusting as well as a parent can hope for. Yes, M no longer has to work overnight shifts and it’s really lovely to know that he is around, even if he is unable to help me with E in the middle of the night. Things are more manageable somewhat but having to, at times, choose between my two children is downright awful.
Every morning, my eyes fly open at 6am, either to the cries of my newborn or to my husband’s alarm clock. I curse if I had just fallen asleep after the previous night feed and quickly utter a silent prayer for only one of my kids to be awake/needing my attention at any one time, then it’s all-systems-go. I quickly wash up if E hasn’t woken up, and nurse him back to sleep if he does. Then, I wake F up at 7.30am and begin my negotiations with her. Everything is debatable these days, from what she wants for breakfast to the button on her school uniform that she would like to fasten before all others. By the time I get her fed, showered and dressed for school, I am barely coherent. On good days, E would only wake up to nurse after I am done preparing F for school. Even then, we get to school fashionably late (well, hardly, because I am dressed in pyjamas most of the time) after a tantrum or two…and this counts as a fairly good morning. Evenings can be quite the harrowing experience. I struggle to get E ready for bedtime. Even though there isn’t much of a routine at this stage, I’d say goodnight to E, nurse him in his dim and quiet room before putting him to bed. But, little miss F insists on being in the room, making a ruckus most of the time; she does not always respond to gentle reminders to pipe down and I eventually resort to giving her stern warnings. She also lunges at E a little too enthusiastically and smothers him with kisses whilst I try to nurse E and keep F from crushing him. Sometimes, F jumps on the bed, wrings my neck from behind as she tries to ride piggyback and accidentally pulls my hair whilst she is at it. I count my lucky stars when all she wants to do is to shove books in my face and demand to be read to. All this whilst I struggle to make sure E doesn’t choke and sputter on my overactive let-down, or stir from my conversations (that’s putting it mildly) with F. On good days, after E goes to bed, we get through a tantrum-free rest of the evening. On bad days (which are unfortunately more frequent), F protests at dinner, refuses to brush her teeth and gives me a hard time as I put her to bed. Sometimes, both of us end up in tears. During these struggles, E might wake up to nurse and I get bamboozled by the madness of it all. I am unable to tell you exactly how I get through the night because the truth is I don’t remember anything save for how it feels like I have to jump through hoops of fire to make sure both kids are settled down, but I do make it out alive, somehow.
Regardless, there is comfort in the chaos. Harassed, frustrated and exhausted as I might be when I juggle the needs of my (at times, screaming) children, I relish the love that we now share as a family of four. That love, which I thought I would lack as a mother of two, has surprised me with its power to keep me going during sleepless nights, amidst tantrums and piercing cries, and when I feel the keen sting of having to choose to attend to one child over the other. Yes, there have been times when I walked away from the madness and sat huddled in a corner of my bedroom to weep my guts out, but I always head back to the little dumplings of mine because there is nowhere else I’d rather be. Nowhere else.
Because I am very fortunate to be made the mother of these two, and I cannot be happier.