I thought we were adapting well to life as a family of four, but judging by how keenly my husband was researching vasectomies from the moment we got home, maybe not.
I mean, we agreed we’d probably have two children – it’s just that when he’s actively looking to cut off the supply so soon, I’m somehow broody for another child even though I’m literally holding 8lb of newborn in my arms.
Snip talk aside, it is great to be home and he is playing a blinder providing meals of previously off-limit foods: rare steak with red wine, runny egg, smoked salmon, gin and tonic, sushi, prosecco. “Would you like some blue cheese on crackers?”
Yes, yes I would.
On the bad days, I look and feel like a zombie, the baby won’t latch, my breasts are sore
Like most things in life, there are good days and bad. On the good days, I feel rested, I sleep when the baby sleeps, the feeding is going well and I convince myself that I’m acing parenting two children if I manage to pat the toddler’s back any time she happens to come within arm’s reach. On the good days the public health nurse says, “You’re doing a great job,” and I think thank you, yes I know I am.
On the bad days, I look and feel like a zombie, the baby won’t latch, my breasts are sore, I miss the toddler and I look down at a crying baby and suddenly find myself crying, saying to her, “I know you’re hungry. I’m sorry, baby. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
The days the public health nurse says the baby has gained 200g in a week are good days. The days we’re told she’s lost 5g in a weekend are bad days (no, that is not a typo – she lost the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar in weight). Yes, our mood is very much dictated by the scales – those very sensitive scales.
When she finally reached the appropriate weight for her age at three weeks, having not been at it at two, my dad texted “Great news! It’s like what we called in Teagasc ‘compensatory growth’, following a period of restrictive feeding.”
Not everyone would be comfortable having their children so regularly compared to calves, but I quite enjoy it. I’d want to. I once found my dad’s diary for 1985 and there was a week in March where he recorded the births of calves: weight, time of birth, etc. And in among those entries, on the Tuesday, it read: “Aisling born 7am. 7lbs 1oz.” That was the sum total of emotion recorded for the birth of his first child… then back to the cattle. But, as the Bible says, let she who is without mastitis cast the first complaint about being compared to a cow – and that is not me.
I’m seemingly more comfortable being compared to a cow than being compared to other people. I deleted Instagram because I couldn’t handle the sight of perfectly glamorous new mothers. I don’t know if this was an act of self-care and sign that I was coping well, or a sign that I wasn’t coping at all. I’m not usually bad for making comparisons on social media. The only other time I’ve consciously done it was during the Beast from the East in 2018 when I saw a video of Amy Huberman tobogganing in some Dublin park and thought she’s having a better snow than me. Am I doing the snow right?
We couldn’t do any of that stuff now even if we wanted to but I definitely don’t want to
Even a picture now on Instagram of a mother snuggling a baby on the couch sets me wondering have I cuddled the baby today? Am I enjoying this enough?
Having eliminated the possibility of comparing myself to others, I started instead to compare myself to myself and would look up Google photos to see what I was doing when the toddler was the same age. Example, at three weeks and five days, we went into town shopping for lights and got lunch.
I went to a baby shower and then we visited friends on the other side of the city. Sorry, was I on drugs? There’s no evidence of drugs in the photos but I must have been on drugs.
I know we couldn’t do any of that stuff now even if we wanted to but I definitely don’t want to and 100 per cent would not be able to. Watching three episodes of Breaking Bad under a baby aged three weeks and five days this time was as far as I was gonna get (pandemic or no pandemic) and it felt like a day well spent.
The first few weeks are intense.
Sometimes I feel trapped under the baby and other times I roll with it and revel in it because it’s where I’m meant to be and where else would I be?
Part 1: This is all getting a bit Angela’s Ashes
Part 2: We got bad news at the first baby scan
Part 3: What’s the oldest woman you’ve delivered?
Part 4: Not yet telling your colleagues about the baby
Part 5: It turns out, I do miss my husband
Part 6: Asking if the baby had magically appeared
Part 7: Apprehensive about having a second child
Part 8: I’m living for my monthly maternity check-ups
Part 9: We decide we’ll take a little holiday
Part 10: Maternity leave during lockdown has advantages
Part 11: I bat away suggestions for coping with labour
Part 12: ‘Natural’ is great if the birth is going well
Part 13: My baby is big, so I’m going to be induced
Part 14: I was with epidural and it was glorious
Part 15: I just wanted to sleep for 10 hours