When Chaos was born it felt so right. He was a part of the missing piece of our puzzle. Hubbie and I had a pretty similar upbringing, both the youngest of three kids and we really wanted kids of our own. We didn’t meet until we were 32/33 and only felt ready to have kids four years later. We had moved from London to Kent for Uni and work and had begun to feel pretty bored without them in our lives and wondered what we’d do when we got older if we didn’t have kids to keep us busy…I’m sure we could have coped but, as I said, we really wanted kids…We were concerned that we couldn’t have kids so we had a couple of months of doubt, well four, very long months at the time…but luckily we got pregnant and Chaos came along to enrich and brighten up our lives.
Whatever anybody tells you, whatever you read, nothing can prepare you for the reality of being a parent. It’s all encompassing, all consuming. Your baby is born and you are reborn. Parenthood changes you as a person, hopefully for the better, as you learn to give yourself completely and entirely to this helpless, entirely dependent, screaming, pooping and vomiting little bundle. A little bundle that you will fiercely protect and care for, defend and comfort, kiss and cuddle, marvel and revel at, for the rest of your life…Oh boy and when they smile…when they laugh…when they chuckle as only a baby can…it is truly the best, the most amazing feeling and there is so much more to come as they develop and grow. Parenthood is hard work, so difficult and challenging but so fantastically rewarding (keep telling yourself that when having a bad day).
When Chaos was tiny, the whole breastfeeding and tongue tie saga nearly sent me fruit loopy to say the least, but when I finally switched to formula, grieved for the loss of our nursing relationship, I got over it, and finally I started to enjoy being a mummy. Chaos has always been full of spirit, in other words, if things don’t go his way, you will soon know about it. A sensitive little boy, he doesn’t like to get changed from long to short sleeves even if it’s boiling hot, he likes to be carried by Daddy, rather than walk (unless distracted, the best parenting tool known to man) and if he feels he’s being ignored or if it gets too loud for him, or simply if he feels like it, he sings…for the past nine months his theme tune has been Jingle Bells…always Jingle Bells…at full blast..fantastic!
On the other hand Chaos is so easily excitable, enthusiastic and has such an extensive imagination! When he sees something new or interesting he is engrossed and animated; who would imagine that a bit of pipe and a stick are treasure! He talks non-stop and so loudly about his discovery and fascination. Chaos is soooo amazingly articulate, he never said Mama or Dada, he has always said words correctly, mouthing your own words, and speaking only once he knew he could say them properly. At five months old he was saying Mummy, by seven months Daddy and a handful of other words. Since he could, has been speaking in sentences and saying difficult words, now as a threenager his vocabulary is pretty extensive. Although Mummy was Chaos’first word, that was my concession, as he is such a Daddy’s boy. I went back to work full-time when he was six months old, Daddy worked part-time and looked after Chaos 3 days a week and he had the most amazing childminder for the remainder.
When I was working as a full-time teacher I always came home as soon as I could and tired to spend as much quality time with Chaos as possible, play with him, read him his story and put him to bed…but it was tough, on a good day when I didn’t have to work late we probably only had a maximum of 3 hours spent together and sometimes this wasn’t enough. I felt I only truly reconnected with him during the school holidays when we were together 24-7.
Being a working mum was really hard work for me but I did it to pay the bills and so that we could have holidays together. The great thing about being a teacher was the kids and of course as a mum, the 13 weeks holiday a year. The bad thing, all of the work you had to take home (boy was there a lot of that) and all of the extras; after school clubs, parents evenings, awards evenings, events, other after school commitments and expectations of others. I worked very hard and was good at my job, yet I still ended up having to justify myself and my commitment to the job, something I never had to before. Teaching is a career and you are expected to put it first, not your kids. When I became pregnant with Mayhem I thought I would cause ripples of descent but things levelled out and most people were happy for me. All of my students achieved good results, in the end this was my saving grace.
Pregnancy was pretty breezy though, I had a little bit of nausea during the early weeks, SPD and full-on cankles for a couple of weeks, when I was nearly full-term with Chaos. With Mayhem everything was so easy and in fact, I felt great, better than normal and most of my usual complaints vanished! I may have waddled somewhat towards the end and both were overdue, 8 and 12 days respectively (awful), but mostly being pregnant was a wonderful experience…Unlike giving birth (read more about that in this post), which was just prolonged and painful, particularly so with Chaos, enough to put you off having another really!
So why did we bother…? Both being the youngest of three kids we grew up with siblings and despite the bickering and the taunting we enjoyed sharing our childhood and had fun together, so many good memories. We always said that the greatest gift we could give to Chaos was a brother or sister. I wanted to have two kids before I was 40, so my age necessiated a small age gap between our kids. So a month before Chaos’ first birthday, as the new year started, so did we, trying for a baby that was. I felt a little bit miffed that we fell pregnant literally straight away, I was looking forward to trying for a slightly longer, but you can’t be too upset knowing that you’re growing another life. How amazing we are, we can grow people, Yay!
Chaos used to hug and kiss my bump and knew his little brother was on the way, he was 20 months old when Mayhem came into the world. Chaos dealt with his jealously by firmly attaching himself to Daddy. Whilst I was feeding Mayhem (almost constantly) and couldn’t give him a cuddle, or play with him or bring him…or [insert a request here], it was Daddy he turned to. Luckily Daddy was only working part time and did most of the lesson prep he needed to do at home, which there was a lot of, when Chaos was asleep…so he was there when he was needed. We also coped by going out, lots. If we stayed in there was always a tantrum or upset or boredom. I know most people say how hard work it is getting out of the house, yes, you feel like this when you have one baby, but when you have two, it is sooo much easier to escape and find things to entertain your toddler.
Children’s centre clubs were a Godsend. We were out for the morning, a picnic lunch, then home for nap time, hoping that Chaos fell asleep in the pram on the way home. Mayhem was attached to me in a carrier, almost always feeding, sometimes napping, but mostly feeding. I fed him absolutely everywhere, the Doctors, on buses, trains, in the back of our van, in the pub, even in church at a funeral. Mayhem was a total and utter velcro baby as a newborn, if I tried to put him down asleep, he woke up, if I tried to give him tummy time or playtime he cried, in the end I went with it and did what he wanted…and held him pretty much all day and all night long.
A carrier was my saviour and I would not have been able to cope without it. If I tried to go out in the van Mayhem screamed and screamed, so we walked everywhere or took public transport. Whilst Chaos played and had fun, Mayhem fed. This period of constant attachment seemed to go on forever with Mayhem, in fact, he only seemed to turn a corner when he was around six months old. One lady from a club we went to was surprised to see Mayhem awake, and joked it was the first time she’d seen his face…to be honest, it probably was…He did have wonderful periods when he was awake, of course, but the clubs we went to always seemed to coincide with his nap, or he was tired, or hungry, but yeah, he fed a lot! We now know he was ill and it was probably the reason why he fed so much, as his body was working so hard he needed so many extra calories. I wasn’t just feeding him, I was feeding his Tumour…When he was awake he was such an incredibly happy baby we knew that we must be doing something right, so we just did what worked. You do when you have two under two!
The early days with two under two were really full-on. It was a time of exhaustion and mind-scrambling. At first it was difficult to adjust your adult brain to the way that a toddler and baby think..or don’t think…feel. Sometimes nothing you can do is right, they have a strop anyway…deal with it! Sometimes everything you do is hilarious, try the same thing a few minutes later and it makes them cry…go figure! Sometimes they actually take a nap at the same time and you get a chance for some ‘me time’ and end up falling asleep/cooking/tidying up (in that order). Mostly though, you spend your time getting through each day and counting your blessings that your kids do too.
After Mayhem had the tumour removed at 10 months old, his zest for life became even more evident and he launched himself head first and everything, cruising, climbing and walking…BOOM! A rough and tumble little ball of energy. Not quite as cautious as Chaos, more wilful, determined and quite assertive with it…if he headbutts or whacks you, that means he likes you! Oh boy, if he doesn’t get what he wants…he has such an almighty strop, tantrum city…but he can mostly be distracted (again, it works) by ‘boo boo’ (breastfeeding) in extreme fall-out situations, take him outside he loves it, generally looking for motorbikes, tractors or the cat.
Now Mayhem is 20 months old, the same age Chaos was when I had him, Chaos is now 40 months old (3.4yo). What a difference. It does get easier. Having two under three is way easier. Both boys are still pretty attached to us, and at times we ache and complain how heavy they are getting, but it’s not surprising after they experienced so much in their little lives with Mayhem’s illness…scary times. However, there are glimmers of hope, of independence, of the long sought after ‘playing together nicely’ and ‘entertaining themselves without too much supervision’…
I still look at the boys in complete awe and wonderment. Something I don’t think you can truly appreciate how phenomenal it is until you become a parent (either naturally or by adopting)…or possibly a medical professional (docs/nurses/midwifes)…the fact that humans can grow and make other little humans with such complexity and diversity, is just…truly astounding! I may be going grey (have been for years), have lots of wrinkles (I must smile waaaay toooo much) and have a few too many extra pounds (I like food) but all is not lost. I grew, gave birth to and (their Daddy and I) continue to sustain and nurture two wonderful little people!!! Parenthood, so very tough but so very, very, very worth it.