My darling girls,
Girls! You see that? Plural! There’s two of you. My mind is still blown by that fact, my heart so full and so in love! Baby Too (because Squidge is my Baby One, but Gabby is my Baby Too!) is almost 2 weeks old and I don’t even know how that happened.
At first, she looked like a baby me. Which was welcome because Squidge only ever looked exactly like her dad, as I’m informed all firstborn daughters should. But more and more, she looks exactly like a Baby Squidge and it’s like the last 3 years didn’t happen. We’ve both caught ourselves calling her Immy. There’s no denying they are sisters.
Squidge is completely in love with her. She cuddles her, checks on her, runs off with her dad to make bottles whenever I ask. She even gets cross if we change nappies without her. (Only wet ones though, apparently we’re welcome to sort the dirty, smelly ones on our own!) I don’t think we could have asked for more. She is still so young and dealing with so much.
But time after time, Squidge, the combination of the “coughs and sneezes” and Mummy’s “sore tummy where Gabby came out!” stealing our freedoms and routines, you have amazed us. Yes, there have been tantrums and tears, but not one has been directed at your new baby sister like it might have been reasonable to expect. There’s only love there, for “your” baby.
Mummy has been a grump, terrified that your swinging feet will land square in my tummy. The truth is, the pain and limitations have been a lot less this time. There might have been something in all the compliments I got from midwives throughout my pregnancy about the strong tummy muscles I didn’t even know I had. But still, it is so hard now there are two of you. Your daddy works himself into the floor taking care of us all, but soon, so horribly soon, he needs to be back at work and it’ll be just us 3. Not for long, because your routines are coming back, which is a blessed relief.
However, I am so scared you’re going to feel like I’m sending you away. After all, it has been just us in the sanctuary of our home for months now. But oh, you deserve having other outlets, playmates, other places to belong and grow. So, yesterday, we sat and looked at my calendar. Come September, you will be back at nursery 3 days a week and back at gymnastics on Wednesday afternoon.
We have been working together on meditation and mindfulness. Breathing when we feel worried or restless or overwhelmed. After a “worries” meditation yesterday (God bless Headspace + Sesame Street) I asked if you had any worries.
“I’m worried about the coughs and sneezes when I go back to nursery.”
I threw my arms around you, amazed at how articulate you, my tiny little lady, were.
And I don’t believe in telling you lies, telling you that all you need to be is brave. Because you already are the bravest girl I know. So I took my lead from you.
“Me too, beautiful girl. But you know what? Nursery is where you go to have fun, and that’s so important. You’re already doing everything you can about the coughs and sneezes.”
“Yes.” you replied. “When I am at nursery, I will wash my hands and I will get my friends to wash their hands so we don’t share our germs.”
You amaze me, little one. Between the pandemic and the pregnancy and now your sister’s arrival into our lives, I know we have absolutely bombarded you with information and new expectations. Yet, as ever, you’re taking it in your stride.
“It’s OK to feel worried, Squidge.” I told you. “You can always tell me what you feel, because we have Andy (Puddicombe, founder of Headspace) to help us feel calm, don’t we? We’ll always be OK.”
I know this too. But it is so strange that simple little things are hard now. When Squidge was born, we lived in a first floor flat. Now, we live in a house. For the first week, I slept on a chair bed in our lounge to avoid the stairs. Now, I’m back upstairs with Kev and the baby in her cot, but I really don’t want to make that trip more than once a day. Which means I’m currently missing bedtime stories with Squidge. I think I might ask to do a story with her downstairs from now on, because I miss it.
It means that I can’t face going up and downstairs 2 or 3 times a night to prep Gabby’s bottles on demand. We’re still trying to work this one out before Kev goes back to work otherwise he’ll be trudging up and down the stairs for me and never sleeping. He is my greatest support, I can’t be killing him off now!
I can’t relax my muscles in the bath and my back is incredibly painful just now. I seem to be limpng and swaying a bit, which I think is my body stating its confusion that I’m no longer weighed down at the front. Pregnancy is such hard going, for anyone, but when you factor in the trials of CP too, it’s worse. Here I am now, trying not to aggravate my scar, although 10 days in, it feels what I can only describe as “tweaky”. I’m sure it’s just my insides knitting nicely back together again, but it’s still not fun.
I haven’t braved going outside yet. I have no idea how or when I’ll manage to get our pram down our front steps. I just remember that merely pushing the pram 3 weeks post Squidge’s section felt like fire in my tummy and I am determined not to push things just because I “feel” OK. It is always worth remembering what a massive surgery a c-section is.
But that doesn’t take away from the fact that I now have 2 babies to take care of. Kev will be working from home for a bit longer so that he can be present and available until I feel feel recovered. This took about 10 weeks with Squidge. I hope it will be less this time around because the pain is much less. First time around, I’m pretty sure I was still hobbling around our flat with a pillow tucked into my waistband against the scar. Now I’m (occassionally) climbing stairs and loading the washing machine without too much complaint. I know we’ll get there. But it is a long road.
There is so much to learn. Loading 2 children into the car for example. I watched Kev do it this morning without too much effort, though he makes most things look effortless. I wonder if I’ll be able to lift the pram in, or feel safe using a sling with the baby. I’ve bought one with enough straps it looks like I’m putting her into Fort Knox(!) but will it be feasible? Otherwise I’ll have to take the pram just to do nursery drop off. Do I really have this kind of time, capability and patience?
I guess I’ll have to find it somewhere. And for me, this is what maternity leave will be for. Finding ways to make my new expanded family work, both together and for me. I have been blessed that Squidge is the most helpful, understanding girl in the world, who has yet to question any of my differences or struggles. In fact, she’s often the one telling me it will all be OK. Our mantra is “C’mon [Mummy], you can do it!” (Recently deployed for Gabby this week when she was struggling to bring up wind! See, best big sister ever!)
And I know, because she tells me in her beautiful articulate way, that all Squidge wants is for me to be able to play with her on the floor. She knows that time is not now, but I still hate that it makes her sad. She tries not to let it show though, full of maturity and empathy I could never have expected in such a little girl.
“When your tummy is better Mummy,” she says “you will be able to play trains on the floor with me. I will be happy and you won’t say “Ow”!”
I cannot wait til the day that I can tell her Mummy wants to play trains, that nothing else has to matter that day. It is such a comfort to know that my purpose in life now is to make the two beautiful girls I have been blessed with happy, to make them smile!
It helps that maternity leave negates the need for working. I can focus on my children, my family, myself. It’s hard, being at the start of recovery. Thanks to the pandemic, I haven’t had a massage or seen my physiotherapist for almost 6 months. Thanks to my section, I cannot hope to see either for at least another 6 weeks and am certainly not brave enough to let Kev attempt my at home physio programme yet. My muscles are shortening, tightening and stiffening and there’s no relief available. It’s just another way my independence has been taken from me. I know it will come back, but it has been so long.
This sentiment however, I suppose is true of everything in my own, and the wider world right now.
My driving confidence will return.
My muscles will return.
My sleep pattern will return. (Counting down the days on this one)
My ability to climb stairs without pain will return.
Squidge’s routine will return.
My bellybutton has returned. (Don’t laugh, we were living in fear of a permanent outie there for a second!)
My body confidence will return. (I’m pleased to report that I am feeling relatively slim, after realising how gargantuan I was in pregnancy. It’s funny, even with knowing I’m carrying all this extra weight, messing with my whole disabled body, both times I have been convinced “I’m not that big. It shouldn’t be this hard!” Turns out it absolutely should.) Couldn’t care less what I weigh and I am oddly proud of my stretchmarks. I earnt those, my body is a damn champion for getting my two babies here safely.
It will all come to this little family. Slowly. Surely. One thing, one day at a time.
We got this, girls!