This is my motherhood diary, documenting what life is like as I adjust to becoming a mum of two. I wrote my first motherhood diary in the year following my first son's first year of life. I call him Baby Bird on this blog. He became a big brother to my second son, Baby JJ, in November 2018 and so I have returned to writing weekly updates about what life is like becoming a mother to two young boys. (I wrote about my first son's birth here). You can find all of the first year's diary entries here, and you can start at the beginning of year one here, and year two here.
"I think we're alone now..."
That's what I've been singing to my baby son this week. I've never been one for singing lullabies or nursery rhymes to my kids. The most imaginative I was with my first son was singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to him every night before bed, and I had to look up the words for half the songs we sang together at the playgroups we went to. When I would have play-dates at friends' houses they would play "baby music" or "toddler tunes" for the children to enjoy (and the parents, or at least me, to grin and bear with gritted teeth) while at home our son was much more likely to play to the backdrop of INXS or TLC (we don't just like music by bands with initial names by the way). I have a vague recollection of my partner and I talking about this one day before we became parents and we agreed we would sooner play a playlist of our favourite 90s hits than a compilation of children's songs. And we have. Of course, our son has still learned several LPs' worth of kid songs - in both English and Dutch - but if you asked him his favourite song he'd probably say "We Will Rock You" or "Here Comes the Sun" before "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes". And now here I am singing one of the biggest one hit wonders from the 1980s, because this week, he and I were alone now. Alone, and exhausted. It's the week I've been both dreading and craving in equal measure, which by the way is a jolly disconcerting feeling.
Finally after a busy first week of maternity nurse and midwives, and then a second week of having his father around most days, this week saw us have a lot more time to just the two of us. Big brother goes to daycare all day on Monday, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and then on Thursday and Friday he is at preschool in the morning. My partner normally does the pick-ups so I have been staying at home a lot, curled up on the couch with my three week old baby for as long as I can when it is just him and me. As per my diary entry last week, I'm still not sleeping much during the day, but I am resting. In fact, I've never been better at resting. If there were awards for taking it easy and being horizontal as much as possible, I would win one, although I'd be too busy lying in bed in my PJs to go and collect it.
And there's no denying just how good it's been to rest. It's also been a bit necessary as yet another bodily fluid has made its way into our post-partum lives. Snot. And quite a lot of it.
At the end of last week we had to leave our baby bubble to attend an appointment relating to the house my partner and I are hoping to buy, and I took our two week old baby with us. He slept soundly in the carrier on my chest for the most part, and only got upset when he was due a feed. After the appointment we went to pick up his big brother from daycare and to spend some time at a party for Sinterklaas, the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus which happens much earlier in December. There were, of course, kids everywhere. And adults. And my baby boy was the centre of a lot of attention. Proudly, I passed him to the workers and some of the other parents for cuddles as I played with my eldest son, admiring the gift Sint had brought him, seeing in his dark eyes just how much it meant for him to see his mum at daycare after it's been a number of weeks since I had been there. after, we all went home, exhausted but riding a sugar high thanks to pepernoten, the small spiced biscuits everyone eats at this time of year.
And then the next day I started sneezing. And so did my brand new baby boy. There is something so confronting about a very small newborn baby getting sick, even if it is just a common cold. It pained me so to see my boy congested and struggling to breathe through his nose. I mean he's barely got his head round the fact he's not enjoying a constant jacuzzi in my tummy and now he can't even do this breathing thing he's only just mastered. Feeds became something of a stop-start affair as he would pull off the breast every few seconds just to breathe, and when he cried, his congestion worsened. His sleep was always a little restless and I would watch him to make sure his mouth was open and air was coming in and out of it. It became a painful thing to watch and so one morning, when there was just too much of it, the snot, and he couldn't breathe properly, couldn't feed, couldn't rest, I found myself doing something I thought I would never do. I bent my head to my son's face and placed my mouth around his nose. And I sucked, hard. Pulling on one nostril at a time, I felt warm slime land in my mouth and I swallowed without really thinking too much about it. Then I went back for more. It worked. One side of his nose sounded almost clear and he was able to latch on and feed until he fell asleep. Only then did I question what I'd just done and have a sudden urge to drink something with a strong flavour.
I can't say if it was mother's instinct or just sheer desperation that led me to suck the snot out of my son's nostrils but I felt more proud than disgusted by it all. I also laughed about it. To myself, and to those I sent messages to telling them the story. Many replied telling me about special sucking gadgets you can buy rather than using my approach, and I did send my partner out the next day to buy one, but there was something satisfying this week about knowing that I had helped my son without too much fuss or fury. It wasn't fun watching him continue to suffer for a few more days, and I was pretty fed up with my own stuffed nose, but it served as all the more reason to rest as much as I could so that's what I did, when were alone.
But it's not all been as smooth and amusing as these snot-sucking attempts. In the evenings and at the weekend this week, when we are very much not alone, when my eldest son who is still reeling and reacting to this huge change, is with us, life feels anything but restful, and we have had tense moments when his neediness and high energy clashes with his parents' fading stamina after what has been a demanding month and a half. And so we ask friends for help, and actually I've paid a babysitter to come over more than once in the last two weeks, giving him one-on-one time with someone who doesn't have to cut short playing to feed, change or settle a baby. These are the times I find hardest and most demanding as I am almost physically pulled in two (or more) directions but I tell myself they are temporary as is our fragility as individuals and a family. This does give me some comfort, that and taking as much rest as I possibly can when it is just me and my baby boy. Oh, and singing him my favourite songs, with not a single nursery rhyme ever crossing my lips because I've already forgotten half of those words I looked up...
Frances M. Thompson
Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.