Tuesday 17 July 2018

Twice as nice: The joy of having two babies close together

It can at times mean double trouble but new mum Siobhan O'Dowd is also discovering there's lots of joy in having two babies so close in age to each other

Siobhan O'Dowd
Siobhan O'Dowd

There is 14 months between Charlotte (baby 1) and Will (baby 2). "Irish twins, how nice," people say. I also get: "They'll be such great friends," when what they are really dying to ask is "Was it planned, you crazy person?"

On paper it's a strike of brilliance. No need to lug any paraphernalia down from the attic as the Jumperoo is still kicking around the playroom and Bella Baby still stocks the same furniture range, so not much tracking down involved to get a matching second cot bed and put it in the nursery. When nappy changing, dribble mopping and puke cleaning is second nature and the washing machine and tumble dryer are constantly on overdrive, so what's another few babygros and a couple of hours' less sleep?

But it's tough. It's really tough. Try breastfeeding a baby with a toddler who screeches every time you pick him up. Or going out for coffee with both of them when they are guaranteed to do a face plant (Charlotte) at exactly the same time as a nappy explosion (Will). Even the smallest of car journeys becomes an epic pain with loading one in from the house to the car at a time, and leaving the other one screaming as neither are old enough to understand 'Mummy will be back in a minute'.

Will is now almost four-months-old. Charlotte is 18 months next week. Irish twins? Not quite. Such great friends? Hmmm. She seems to be trying to assassinate him less of late, but does substitute a hug for a headlock, rob his dummy (even though she doesn't like them) and try to Houdini out of her car seat straps to clobber him for entertainment value when I'm driving.

The best thing about second time around is that you care less. Not about the baby, but about what other people think. With Charlotte, I cried when I came home from the breastfeeding group because I didn't know what baby-led weaning was, or about the four-month regression. I now know this is what Google is for.

When I made an effort to dress up it seemed like all the other mums wore tracksuits, and I felt like an eejit. This time, if putting on make-up makes me feel human, I don't give a hoot that I'm the only mum in Waterbabies wearing mascara. I just need to remember to make sure it's waterproof, after the underwater miscalculation last week.

Yes, there are weeks when everyone else's babies seem to be sleeping longer, eating better and are monitored by amazing earth mothers who know how much they are eating to the nearest ounce, and can converse freely about what percentile growth track they are on. And yes, there will always be the Size 6 mum in the group, who snapped back into shape effortlessly, and the ones doing the slings and cloth nappies and co-sleeping, and the babies that are shattering world records in tummy time and milestones. But dig a little deeper and you'll see that it's all a balancing act. And what's right for one isn't right for another.

I prefer keeping Will up to midnight and getting his long stretch when I'm asleep; others prefer putting them down at 8pm and having baby-free time with their partner in the evenings and waking for feeds at 3am. I think it's amazing that other mums are doing cloth nappies, but with a toddler and a dog who both love getting stuck into anything they shouldn't be, really, can you imagine the potential for disaster? And I'm not sure if it's because of Will being a second baby or the C-section, but I have definitely not 'snapped back' as much as I would ideally like. But the weight is pretty much off and crop tops are best left to 16-year-olds anyway, right?

There are times where everyone is crying, at least one of us is covered in poo or puke and it's rained solidly all day so even if I could muster the energy to load up the double buggy, the prospect of getting out is even more grim than the cabin fever caused by staying in. And when I trowel on the slap to cover the dark circles and try to squeeze myself into a pre-pregnancy dress, I feel awful.

But moments such as when Charlotte is doing her hilarious toddler dance to Chaka Khan in a nappy before her bath, and Will is gurgling and flashing little gummy baby smiles and looking at me adoringly, like I am his universe, makes all that other stuff unimportant and a bit ridiculous.

I haven't a notion what percentile Will is on because his three-month check was rescheduled by the public health nurse and I haven't gotten around to registering Charlotte in the move from Westport to Galway. But my little 'prop forward' Will is fat and smiley and happy and chilled, and Charlotte is a mischievous little imp who puts paid to the theory that girls wreck your head and boys wreck your house, because she wrecks everything. They are doing fine. And despite everything, I love them both so much my heart hurts.

Irish Independent

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