You seem to be forgotten when you have your second baby… The presumption from a lot of people was that I knew what I was doing and that I must be ok… Some people who visited or sent well wishes after my first baby didn’t after my second. Even though I now have twice as many children as I used to, I am now lonelier than ever.
My name is Erin and among many things, I am a mum, a wife and a teacher. I have 2 beautiful girls. Scarlett is 3 and Josie is 8 months. When I was pregnant with Josie, Scarlett was curious about ‘the baby’ and wanted her to come out. When Scarlett came to the hospital a few hours after Josie was born, she completely ignored Josie. She didn’t really acknowledge or look at Josie. I thought I did everything right. I had a present ready for Scarlett from the new baby, made sure I gave Scarlett hugs, kisses, complements, you name it; but it didn’t work. Scarlett left the hospital in tears and I cried and cried after she had to go. It tore my heart out. I had told Scarlett that I would be going to the hospital to get the baby out, but I had forgotten to tell her that we would be coming home and wouldn’t be at the hospital forever.
The cry of a newborn baby really worried Scarlett. Less than a week after Josie was born Scarlett was asking, ‘Why did Josie come out of your belly? Can she go back in?’ Josie would cry and Scarlett would scream, ‘IT’S TOO NOISEY’ and she would start crying too. It was very overwhelming at times.
The night I birthed Josie, as I had her in a special section of the hospital called the birth centre, they would’ve been happy for me to be discharged 6 hours after Josie’s birth, as it was a natural birth with no complications and it was not my first baby. However, I more or less begged to stay one night and they allowed this due to my history with postnatal depression and anxiety. When I had Scarlett, my first baby, I felt quiet alone at the hospital and one of the midwives said to me, ‘this is your third baby isn’t it Erin?’…’Ummmm, No it’s my first!’. Their reply was, ‘Sorry I’ve been ignoring you, I thought it was your third.’ Even if it was my third, why should I be ignored???? Because everyone presumes that after you have had one baby that you are ok and that you know what you are doing….aaaah….wrong!
I know from just having 2 babies that no baby is the same. My girls look very similar, but they are so very different. Scarlett was a crying baby, everyone I saw - doctors, midwives, child health nurses - would tell me she had colic. She would drink 20mls and scream, and then she would be exhausted and fall asleep and then wake very shortly because she was hungry and drink 20mls and scream. The vicious cycle went round and round for days and days and that turned into months and months. We tried everything: A2 formula, goat’s milk formula, baby Gaviscon, different bottles and teats, wind drops, you name it. Josie on the other hand is a happy smiley baby who loves her food. It’s weird, as Scarlett was still the one who started sleeping through the night first, Josie is over 8 months now and still doesn’t sleep through the night. I think I’m part of the reason for this. When Josie cries we got into the habit of jumping up to her because I didn’t want her to wake Scarlett up. It was not uncommon for me to be sitting up in the middle of the night feeding Josie with Scarlett awake sitting beside me.
When Scarlett was a baby, I used to dedicate one of her day sleeps to having some lunch and having a little rest. That’s one thing I really struggled with when Josie was born. Scarlett was getting to the stage where she was nearly growing out of her day time nap and often by the time Scarlett would drift off to sleep Josie would wake up. I just couldn’t time it properly, I would get irritated and frustrated because I was tired and just wanted and needed a nice cup of tea and a rest. So I had to come up with a plan: instead of trying to force Scarlett to go to sleep, I would put Josie to bed and Scarlett and I would have ‘quiet time’ and I would put a movie on we would relax and watch it quietly. I’m not sure how many hundred times I’ve seen Toy Story now. I also found it difficult during the night when I’d finally get Josie settled and I would get back in bed and try to push all the anxious thoughts out of my head and finally start drifting off only to be woken by Scarlett standing at the side of the bed. Before having kids I would say things like, I’m never letting my kids sleep in our bed. All I can say is, how things change once you actually have kids. It didn’t take long before I just let Scarlett crawl into our bed. It meant more sleep for me and that’s what I needed and that’s what worked for me at the time.
To be honest, outings with both the girls made me very stressed and anxious. It’s actually only just recently that I have the courage to go solo with the girls. Adam, my husband, on the other hand, dove right in when he became a stay at home Dad and I returned to work when Josie was about 14 weeks old. He took Scarlett to swimming lessons, he did the groceries, went to the park. He would go out without anxiety or stress, even forgetting the dreaded nappy bag sometimes. Oh, the difference between me and Adam. That nappy bag for me was always well stocked. So much thought went into packing it before I would even dare leave the house. The dreaded nappy bag was now stocked for both Josie and Scarlett. I was at work one day when I got a text from Adam. It stated that he was at the park and Scarlett went down the slide and she had no undies on. Scarlett would often go to the toilet and forget to put her undies back on and if she was wearing a dress you wouldn’t notice. I text back and said that there were spare undies in the nappy bag. "I didn’t bring the nappy bag", he stated. I nearly had a panic attack. How we are so different.
As I was too anxious and stressed to leave the house with two first up, I would often do my groceries online and have them delivered. This saved me stress. Filling the car with petrol also caused me anxiety. The thought of having to get a runaway toddler and a little baby out of the car to go in and pay. Something so simple turns into something difficult. I found myself driving out of my way to a service station that I knew had pay at the pump, but I did it so I didn’t have to stress about it.
My goal before Josie was born was to have some frozen meals made and in the freezer. I thought this would make it easier as I wished I had have had this kind of thing ready after I had Scarlett. My good intentions didn’t eventuate when we moved house less than a week before Josie was born. All I can say is that I’m very lucky my husband does a lot of the cooking. We would often take it in turns; one would do the baths and one would cook dinner. Scarlett also enjoys helping in the kitchen which is good because she could be kept busy while I was getting things done. The slow cooker is also great as it makes preparing dinner so much less hectic. I’m not sure if it’s just Adam and I, but there was still this sense of who was doing more and who was working harder. We have a routine now that helps us and we have found that this works for us and is what we needed.
Another thing I said before having kids: I don’t know why people who don’t work send their kids to childcare. And I’m going to say again; how things change once you have kids. Scarlett still attends Rene’s Family Day Care a few times a week for 5 hours a day. It just made it that bit easier for me and after returning to work I know it made it easier for Adam too. It was also good for Scarlett, as she enjoyed going, was good for her social skills and Rene provided a great program and many more stimulating and educational activities than I ever could at home. I used to feel guilty about this, but knowing that it’s what’s best for everyone makes it easier.
Getting myself ready probably shouldn’t be a big deal, but it often turns stressful for me. When I was not going to work and was a stay at home Mum, I often found it difficult. I hated being in my pyjamas for too long, but couldn’t get myself ready until the first morning sleep time. When Josie goes back to bed for her morning sleep, I set Scarlett up on my bed with my phone watching an episode of something that’s taking her fancy while I get ready. I wish I could just get up and put my hair in a ponytail and be ready, but if you could see my bags under my eyes and my pregnancy pigmentation without concealer you would know why I’m self-conscious about this. Even if I have had a good night’s sleep, people still say I look tired, but this is just my face now.
These are just a few things I have experienced and am still experiencing with a baby and a threenager. It’s hard and I struggle at times, but my girls are so amazing. I’m so glad the universe picked me to be their Mum, even though ‘this is just my face now!’
Erin is a regular contributor for The Postnatal Project's blog. If you would like to follow Erin's postnatal journey, follow @just_being_erin on Instagram.