Babies – how to handle two under twos…?

This post title is potentially slightly misleading: I have no freaking clue how to handle two under twos. Please note the question mark. If you do know any two under two magical tricks or spells – please feel free to share! The title of the this post should really read “how to attempt to survive two under twos” by someone a mere month in.

I remember skim reading a post on the same topic when I was in the mid-stage of pregnancy; i.e. I knew I may be getting into some hot water with two little people to look after, and I wanted to understand more specifically if it was tepid hot, hot hot or freaking boilymcboilerson.  The post was written from both the perspective of the new mother of two, and the new father of two, and to say it was slightly terrifying is an understatement. I have clearly blocked it from my memory now as I can’t recall the specific details, but they were both “au fond du seau” as they say in France – literally at the bottom of the bucket, or more accurately in a pit of despair. They each resented the other. Suffice it to say the boily hot water option was portrayed as being most accurate.

Determined not to let that shocking read get me down, I approached this new phase of life mindful of that old adage “this too shall pass“.  Yes it will be hard, intense, taxing… but it will last such a short period of time, it will be over before we know it. We will be looking back at it and (hopefully) laughing, crying at how quickly les petites change, and generally being delighted that we got to where we are today.  Considering we truly believed we would not have our own children (we even went to an initial adoption meeting) how magical and insane that we are here now with two little people we can call our own.

Two babies is hard. We knew this would be the case. We knew there would be adaptation period and we are very much still in that period. So how are we coping so far?  Here’s the truth, and the reasons why:

Number 1 : Monsieur FF. We literally could not function without him right now. Everyone needs a partner just like him (for the avoidance of doubt he’s not up for grabs, sossles, but he could happily offer up some tips to fellow malians over a beer).  The man has just survived 9++ months with a grumpy, super-sized wifeball of hormones; he is then accosted with the broken version of that wife ball, still with a John Wayne waddle, plus an additional, smaller wailing ball of hormones. This is to accompany the existing Boddler who incidentally is rapidly approaching terrible twos with a vengeance. I’m not saying we should feel sorry for him: let’s be honest he brought this on himself, and he also got off pretty lightly in the grand scheme of things (quick reminder that it was the wifeball that carried and birthed the bebette). However, credit where credit is due, Monsieur FF is going above and beyond on father and hubber duties right now. Cooking and cleaning and generally keeping the Boddler in a happy place whilst maman is losing her sh*t silently in the room next door.  You are a legend Monsieur FF.  As I keep saying to him, this time will pass and we will look back and laugh. Meanwhile, just enjoy the craziness that is our life right now. And try to shower. In that five second window you have to yourself.  That is more important than researching holidays…. (Anyone that knows him will appreciate this man does. not. stop).

Also just a quick sidenote that I can’t put into words how much I take my hat off to those single parents out there that are parenting solo: epic levels of kudos to you.

Number 2: Boddler is in nursery. That’s right, I’m basically cheating. I am not really caring for two under twos at all. I’m caring for just one most of the day.  That said, the hours where we are doubling up are intense.  I’m still only a month in so things will change in the next weeks, but so far Boddler has continued in his usual routine at nursery with some surprise visits and treat days out interspersed.  This is working really well for everyone as it means he continues in his routine and isn’t too discombobulated by all the changes going on at home. It means we know he is properly watered and fed so that if we end up having a crazy soiree of screaming madness (there have been a couple) and I can only prepare cereal and cheese for dinner, he’s not going to starve.  If I’m beyond tired and have Bebette attached to my boob, it’s ok that we just read some stories with raisins, because I know he’s had a good day of energy releasing at nursery.  And when Papa gets home, we do our best to both have some time where we are completely focused on the Boddler. Nowadays bath time and story time are particularly raucous.

Number 3: Books are your friend.  Luckily the arrival of Bebette has coincided with a deep and intense love of reading for Boddler. By that I mean when he goes to bed, he needs at least three books in his bed with him.  And he needs the light on so he can work through each of the books, silently studying the images (I assume he’s not studying the words but wouldn’t be surprised obvs #childgenius).  That is after we have read the stories to him.  Whenever he gets a bit distressed, because Bebette is getting in the way of him having a cuddle with mummy, or he starts to throw things in my direction with a menacing look in his eye, I simply offer up a story and off he poddles to fetch the relevant story and plops himself down so we can get on with reading.

Number 4: Building bricks are your friend. Ok, I work at LEGO so I’m slightly biased towards DUPLO bricks. Seriously though one box of the fantastic plastic is good for a LOT of play.  Boddler FF can happily sit for tens of minutes building towers, trains, farms, “colicoptas”, and generally having fun creating and ensuring the bricks are in some sort of colour order.  It’s quite mesmerising to watch.  The only negative (aside from the damage to feet when you inadvertently stand on the stuff) is the noise – if I’ve managed to get Bebette to nap somewhere that’s not on me (hard, but not impossible), then you can rest assured that the sound of Boddler tipping his bricks all over the floor and then throwing himself into them will wake her up.  I recommend parental assistance in preparing the bricks for play and tidying up afterwards.

0BAFC616-508F-4ECE-B7EF-CF5894507182

Concentration levels: HIGH.

Number 5: Snacks are your BEST friend.  The first night I went to pick up Boddler on my own with the Bebette in tow (in the soft sling which was an error; not robust enough for Boddler-catching movements – recommend the BabyBjorn) I was reminded of the critical importance of having a snack handy at all times for bribing. Bribery goes against everything that I am, except in these circumstances.  I needed to get Boddler into the buggy and I needed not to tip Bebbette onto the floor, or give either of them concussion with a head clashing incident. The way to do this? Offer up a snack. Boddler leaps into the buggy and practically straps himself in, panting for his carrot crisp or handful of raisins.  Not entirely strapped in of course, and again, being completely honest I cheated in this specific case  because a fellow kind mama saw me flapping with Bebette dangling out of my coat, and rescued me, ensuring Boddler was properly and safely strapped in.  But I’ve since mastered the art and can also casually push the buggy with one hand whilst ensuring Bebette is fine with the other #winning.  I confess that there are certain things which were not available in abundance before, which now may be more frequently consumed due to arm’s length availability. For example, chocolate or “lolott” as some people call it. For some reason* there is usually some chocolate or cake or a biscuit near me at the moment (in the voice of Ali G it wasn’t me)

Number 6: Slings. Baby carriers. Pouches. Anything to facilitate baby carrying.  One thing you need more than anything with 2+ children is your hands free. There is no time for being trapped on the sofa with a babe in your arms.  I mean it does still happen, and is indeed necessary sometimes (have.a.rest), but if you have to do something with the older one at any point, like prepare food or get them dressed, which is required most day, and your new baby is still fussy and doesn’t like to be put down much (or at all… not mentioning any names…) then you really need to carry the baby in order to function. It means you can do things like get the big one into the buggy.  It also means, at least for the time being, you don’t need to have a double buggy.  Baby carrying is proven to have all sorts of positive effects for you and your babe.

Number 7: Sleep and Eat.  Just whenever you can.  Ok, none of this “sleep when they sleep” anymore – that simply doesn’t work when you’ve got two under twos. Boddler is going to wake up at 7am, or before, whether you like it or not. Bebette is going to need feeding at random intervals throughout the day and night, and will get colicky in the evening.  You need fresh air, coffee and food in your cupboards so – frankly – there isn’t really much opportunity for napping. You have just got to power through and go to bed when the little one lets you.  Ensure you eat because aint nobody got time for a hangry mama.

Number 8: Support network.  Second time round you won’t have you NCT group or equivalent.  I mean you hopefully still have your crew, I certainly do (check out my post on their awesomeness here), but we are first to ’embark’ on the second pregnancy in our group, and so it’s a bit different to the first time when we were all popping at the same time. Most of my crew are happily sleeping through the night and are well beyond worrying about breastfeeding and colic.  However, they are still as supportive as ever.  I’m also lucky enough to have a group of friends who have recently had number twos (lols – I mean babies).  Late night whatsapping, in-between crazed amazon priming, helps to maintain my sanity.  All you ladies rock.

Number 9: Don’t judge yourself.  Don’t forget these babes won’t remember any of this madness. You and your partner will, but even those memories will quickly fade.  Enjoy each day, and be grateful.  If you feel really, really stressed, watch an episode of one of the shows where someone is managing multiples e.g. these quintuplets.  That will quickly remind you that you can totes manage this.

Big love and lots of luck to you x x

79276F5A-A4DD-4EB1-9A64-C98A2FBE4766

 

BFFs

One of the best things about having a baby is making new friends, solidifying existing friendships and generally realising how extraordinary mothers really are.

The BFFs (baby fast friends)

These are your new baby momma friends. They are all in the same boat as you: pregnant, and scared. You have been thrown together, in the same fast moving car, on the epic rollercoaster ride that is impending parenthood. You don’t know each other well, you haven’t checked if anyone is actually licensed to drive, you probably don’t know very much about them at all, but you are about to go on the most remarkable journey together.

These new friends are your saviours.  You’ve barely had time to learn each other’s surnames before you’re sharing intimate birthing stories and cake recipes (not on my side, obvs. I am excellent at eating cake, but leave the baking to those more qualified).

The friendships are established so quickly that, when a few months go past, you might not actually recognise your BFFs out of context.  That can’t be her, where’s the bump?! Why is she talking about work?  Does she have a job?!

It is around the 3 months post-partum stage, when you emerge from the bubble of new motherhood, briefly, because bébé kind of sleeps and eats regularly enough for you to leave the house without having a nervous breakdown, and you suddenly realise you need to actually get to know these ladies. Properly.  Absent some seriously bad behaviour, I can’t imagine when you could get so personal so quickly with people without actually knowing what they do, where they live, or how they came to be in the present, slightly compromising situation.

These ladies help you get up and out of the house when you feel like you are on a mission impossible (urgent feed, followed by poo, followed by realisation you are still in PJs with a boob out), comfort you during the painful and delicate post-partum recovery phase (don’t ask) and they are there for you, with bells on, in the middle of the night when hubby is snoring away next to you (anything to distract you from Amazon, ASOS *maternity and feeding*, John Lewis, Mothercare…. ).

image

So how do you get these BFFs?

As well as random stalkering, you can pay to do NCT, hypnobirthing or other classes. You can also find local new parent groups through your GPs and community centres, libraries, leisure centres etc.

We did NCT, despite being told we were just “buying friends”. Well, buy friends we did, and frankly we got the Joey, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Ross and Phoebs we could only dream about. Warner Bros would be proud. I told you I’m good at shopping.  (OKKKAY, it was pure luck). Our NCT group is amazing. Genuinely, we couldn’t have wished for a more lovely group of thoughtful, kind and caring individuals. And beautiful babies.  These women and men (and their babes) will be our friends for life, not least because they shared the most precious, exhilarating and terrifying life experience we have ever had.  But they are also just bloody lovely people.  And they live around the corner. Parfait.

The NCT classes themselves are a blast, the highlight is the cup of tea and biscuit, and they are particularly pertinent for the papas, who up until circa 37 weeks into your pregnancy genuinely believe babies come out (from where?!) walking, and talking, and eating fish’n’chips like the rest of us. They think contractions are a type of mathematical operation and meconium is a precious metal. Through the classes they find out that “afterbirth” isn’t a general reference to after the birth but is far more gory, and that the birth itself will be days and days and not 15 mins as seen on TV.

These BFFs are there for you through thick and thin in the last months of preparation through pregnancy, and the first hazy and delirious months of parenthood. From frantic freezer filling to 3am Amazon Prime shopping, you are in this together.

You will also likely have an obligatory WhatsApp group.  On the mum side, we have daily Q&As like:

“What colour are bébé’s poos today?”

“How many feeds are you doing through the night?”

“How can I get Bebe to stop itching?”

“Have you got your period back?”

“When can we go for more cake?” – btw the answer to this is always EVERYDAY.

image

Just in case you had forgotten what cake looks like.                         get. in. my. belly.

 

On the dad side it’s more:

“Are we still going for a beer on thursday?”

“How about that new curry house up the high street?”

“Is your wifey super grumps??”

“So France lost against Portugal, eh Frenchie?!”

“Has Bèbé started rolling yet, I understand it should be happening around now?”

No, just checking you are reading thoroughly. I made that last one up. Aside from a  few comical exchanges during respective labours, alluding to various horror films, I’m pretty sure 90% of the content of the daddy2daddy chats is sport, food and beer. Correct me if I’m wrong lads.

Generally speaking new mommas are up for a chat. Any time. There are so many places and ways to make even more new baby momma friends, including going to baby classes (more on this later), chatting up other young mummies in the baby aisle at the supermarket, and conversing remotely on mumsnet chat rooms.

image

My NCT crew 💞

The EFNMs (Existing friends, new mommas) and M2Bs

If you’re lucky, as I was, there are people in your existing circles who are also growing a bébé.  You’ve probably known these people a while and are close enough to ask the critical yet embarrassing questions in the run up, and immediately post partum. “Are these tiny baby mattresses or sanitary pads as they claim to be?” “Do I look like a fat Pamela Anderson right now?” You can also share tips and impart knowledge as you go.  Some of my friends are doctors and medical professionals and thankfully they put my mind at ease many a time. Thank you guys.

There are also those friends that are just embarking on the journey. The Mums-To-Be. They are getting or have recently got married, or are starting to take more notice of baby-related chat and generally getting a bit broody.  It may even include the mamas that already have babies and are going for number 2, 3,…

It is tres tres hard to resist the temptation to grab at these people and ask them on every meeting if there is a baby coming. That extends to Facebook stalking and zooming in on pictures trying to determine if there is a bump a-growing. Yes, you all do it, stop pretending. The actual sheer joy when it happens is the best. It’s a combo of excitement, love and a tiny pinch of “just you wait!!! Oh you have a major treat in store.” For a long time we were waiting for bébéFF and I can genuinely say, even through the waiting, hearing someone was pregnant was just the pinnacle of joy. I am always going to believe this is the biggest miracle in life. Can you even believe how monumentally complex it is, biologically speaking, to make a human being? I can’t. But we seem to be able to do it. (And I just want to note here that I am fully aware it isn’t possible or easy for everyone. I will blog about the struggles soon).

There is little more heart-warming than the excitement you feel when your friend is having a baby. Honestly. It’s just the most pure love. It’s also so special when you are on the receiving end of that love from a fellow friend. It certainly makes friendship bonds stronger.

image

You mean “ca roule ma poule?”

The Mommas

These are the ladies in your life that have already *done* their babies. They have had kids and are still alive.  Legendaire.

After giving birth, you will look at these ladies with a new-found awe and appreciation. You will call on their profound knowledge and expertise, having got their bundles of joy to taille grande. Questions to these ladies include “how does the baby ACTUALLY come out?”  “Does this get any easier?” And “will I ever contemplate having another baby ever again? And if so, how might one go about that…?” Etc.

I’ve always found mums to be some of the most inspiring people in my life, even before I was lucky enough to have the chance to become one myself. I had a vague sense of the magnitude of the job they do, without ever fully comprehending. Mums have to balance themselves and the needs of someone else, commit to them and care for them. Unquestioning love and commitment. My own mother has shown us F-sistas how to love, care for and encourage children above all else. My own mother wasn’t satisfied with having 4 under 5s of her own so decided she would challenge herself with child-minding other kiddies too. Seriously. What on earth was she thinking??!

My appreciation of mums is infinite. I am inspired, on a daily basis, by the ladies out there that get on with their own lives, their marriages, their careers, their passions, whilst ensuring that their mini-me(s) have everything they could possibly need to grow and eventually build their own lives. This goes beyond just getting them out of nappies.  This includes getting them to school, to uni, supporting them in their relationships and generally being at the end of the phone when life gets a bit rough.

That’s not to say the dads don’t play an absolutely critical role. But I think we can agree that the roles are different. Growing a person inside you, expelling them somehow, and then nurturing them to adulthood…and beyond. It boggles my mind. Oooo there’s another good “b” word.

One of the reasons I had Momma F in the delivery room with me was a slightly gory and obscure way of recognising and thanking her for getting me to adulthood, and to a place where I was able to give birth, myself. Ultimately it is thanks to her (and Daggghhd, obvs). I also wanted her there to hold my hand (which she mostly squeezed rather than vice versa) and to help her to realise the freaking madness that is giving birth – four times. Holy moly. Her face was a picture. What a woman.

Baby Stuff #3 – Bathing, Dressing and Playing

The last instalment – for now – on baby stuff.

Baby bathing products. Yes, you need to bathe your baby. Eau de fromage can become quite pungent after a while.  You have to be careful about the umbilical cord, but once that’s off, you are free to bath.

When you look at your bath and then your baby, you see there is a distinct disparity in sizes.  For the first few weeks we actually used the sink! When the time comes to upgrade to the actual bath, there are some great bath seats around, some that swivel as your babe grows, and you can of course let them splash around pure and simples on their backs.  Careful though – water in the ear can cause ear infections.

Bébé FF LOVES the bath now.  Usually he demonstrates his excitement with a little piddle as his feet touch the water.  It wasn’t always like this.  The journey to loving bath time took a while – I remember his first bath with Auntie Em and Mary, and there was a lot of screaming.  And a few wees and maybe a trickle of poo. The first months were made up of a cacophony of screams (before, during and post bath) not to mention howling when it came to being dressed.

You may have received hundreds of samples of bath products for your baby, all claiming to make your babe’s super soft skin….softer.  Does it need to be softer?

Nope.  It turns out that – in our experience at least – you do not need the super-gentle-made-of-fluffy-marshmallows-and-clouds cream, in fact, you don’t need much at all.  Especially if your baby has sensitive skin, despite what the marketing tells you.  It is best to keep it very simple. (Every baby is different so do see your GP if you have skin concerns, it could be allergy related (washing detergent, moisturiser, bath products, your perfume, the air…) and lots of babies have baby eczema which will clear up.  We also had cradle cap (dentinox seems to be the universal winner on that). We received lots of mixed advice from the health visitors and the doctors – don’t bathe him, bathe him every day, jump up and down whilst you apply five layers of cream…etc.)

We have tried lots of lovely stuff, including Mummy & Me, Oilatum and Neal’s Yard, coconut oil (yum) and currently use Aveeno and QV emollients.

image

The post-bath snuggles though are wonderful.   And baby bath towels with the little hood are the BEST.  The more soft and snuggly the better.

Then on to baby clothes, because these are kind of critical and also make up a large volume of the “stuff”.  You might assume clothes will be bargainous.  After all, they use significantly less material. Right?  Wrong. Despite the fact bebe is about 1/6th the size of a normal human being, his clothes are only about 1/2 of the price. Sometimes the same price. Ok slight exaggeration but don’t tell Mr FF….

Bebe won’t like his clothes. He doesn’t want his head shoved through a small hole ever again.  Whoever thought to put poppers on the back of newborn clothes clearly has never tried to dress a screaming newborn.  Think practical.  What is the easiest thing to dress your baby in?  I highly recommend zip-up items for the first few months. If not for your sanity, for the hubs.  (hint:  Don’t put them off dressing the babes, it adds to the general reluctance to change nappies…)

You will also quickly discover that those baby clothes will usually get approximately two wears. Yep, two goes on the item.  And n.b. that does not mean two full days’ wear. That means two wears.  It could quite literally be on and off in the space of a poo.  And, to be fair, the second wear presupposes you know how to fill and activate the washing machine – with one hand – and you have some pretty effective stain remover.  This can be bitterly disappointing and your favourite gift item, the little Petit Bateau onesie or the Bonpoint suit will be ruined…  I digress.

Last there’s the play equipment. This becomes critical after a few weeks of intense cuddling.  Your baby can barely see beyond a black and white cloud of blur at this point. But bien sur he needs a state of the art “gym” including tummy time, scrunkle noises, flying objects, bells, whistles, hooters and insanely bright and clashing colours EVERYWHERE. One similarity with adult life : when he comes out of the gym he is exhausted. When I say “Bebe FF had a great session in the gym and he’s zonked when he comes out” it’s brilliant – you can see people momentarily believing he’s actually been to the gym. Yes, he was totally nailing the cross trainer…

 

He also needs books and cuddly toys so that he can scream every time you place one close to him. Sometimes he will dribble or even vomit on them. Brillo.  He needs things to chew on to help those teef push through. N.b. your finger will always be first choice and you won’t loose that in the bottom of your interminable baby bag (I think I need to post separately about those…!)

All these things take up loads of space in your previously sparsely* inhabited living space and will, naturally, require special “baby” or “nursery” furniture for storage. Bam. Another wad of cash disappears.

So what’s the message here? Three posts about baby stuff.  Likely more to follow.  I haven’t even mentioned nappies, wipes, nappy bins and bags, mussies and milk!

Having a baby actually does cost a fortune, and takes up all the space in the house.  But that’s what a MasterCard is for.  You can’t put a price on your baby’s happiness or safety.  And some of the baby stuff is L’AMAZEBALLS.

New Parents:

If you’re about to embark on this journey of joy and you aren’t made of money, don’t panic.  There are LOADS of ways to get what you want without going bankrupt.

I will try to include tips as I go throughout this blog, but to begin with, a few obvious ones:

  • check out nearly new sales around your area, the NCT organise plenty – you can often get designer attire for primarni prices.  I’ve yet to get to one but Momma F loves a nearly new.  N.B. You have to get there early.
  • Explore Schpock and eBay for equipment that is new or in very good condition.  There are also lots of Facebook pages for local parents selling and looking for goodies.
  • When it comes to nappies and wipes, be sure to test out samples – if you sign up to sites like this one you will get bits and bobs through the post or vouchers to use in stores: http://free.emmasdiary.co.uk.
  • Sign up to Mothercare to get 10% off initial purchases.
  • Amazon Prime. Nuff said.
  • Before you buy your travel system check the auction / second hand sites to see how many are selling and why – useful way to gauge how long they lasted, how much they were used, and why they are being sold!!  If you see someone with a pram shopping for prams… consider asking them why. But don’t act like a stalker.
  • If you are looking the obvious choices are Bugaboo, Joolz, Stokke, Uppababy, MaxiCosi, Cossatto and we went with Venicci.  We also just got the amazing babyzen Yoyo 6+ – more on that later.

 

*anyone that knows me will appreciate the use of “sparse” is possibly slightly misleading.

image