Balls (and the juggling thereof)

Given my lack of blogging recently, you might fairly assume that I have gone into hibernation, like an old hedgehog, OR perhaps that my embarrassing parenting anecdotes have run dry. Mais non! ‘Edgehoggin I am not (I wish). I continue to embarrass myself and my family on a frequent basis. The only thing that’s run dry is my energy. I’m struggling with time management. Really struggling. It turns out that the juggling of deux children, busy job, a marriage, a relatively new home, family, friends and “other” (blogging) is actually quite the challenge (*imagine “challenge” pronounced in a dramatic french accent*).

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I’m not exactly sure what it is about having two little people as opposed to “just” one that makes daily life 359% more complicated, clearly the maths do not stack up, but it’s a parenting truth.

One —> two does not equal double the work. It equals there is no end to the work.

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The ball juggling skills required are next level magician standard. Quite often you are required to juggle with one hand behind your back, because one of the parenting duo arms are out of action (at work/ at social event/ hiding in toilet… not mentioning any names…). Or, you’re challenged in some other way like being exhausted, or hangry, or both of the above in a cafe with irritable children and you realise your wallet is not where you had hoped…

The balls you are juggling aren’t those cool squishy beany clown ones that bounce back if you accidentally drop one, they are fragile like eggs (smash eggs in shopping whilst trying to carry and grab Big Bro making a break for freedom), and hard like rocks when they hit you in the head (subjected to various head kicks and other bodily abuse with whichever child failed to find comfort in their own bed so came to occupy ours). The balls you are juggling aren’t easily replaceable (can’t readily replace child or house or car if I fail to protect and maintain them…probably best to lock them up then.)

Like most people, our day starts with getting up. That simple task that once used to mean exiting bed – to shower – to kitchen – to door – to commute – to work, with multiple coffees. patisseries and pleasant perusal of interweb en route. Then with Bebe FF I could just about manage changing and dressing and feeding him before myself and, with the help of Mondeiur FF, getting us all where we needed to be, but now, with two, it feels that little bit more like mission impossible. Unless I’m barking orders (which goes down a treat as you can imagine) the chances of both children having everything done plus the adults being anything close to ready are similar odds to Brexit ever making any sense…. It’s like we’ve got an egg timer above our heads and it’s constantly on “one tiny drop of sand to go! Hurry the F up!”

If I’m not jogging through the shower and putting my pants on whilst applying makeup and managing my hair (whatever that means, usually rubbing it against something to maximise the backcombed, never-washed look) then I am unlikely to leave the house on time. ‘On time’ means at any point. Certainly I won’t have coffee or food, and most likely I will forget some element of the necessary equipment for the day (wallet, keys, eco-friendly repurposed coffee recipient….) And that’s on the days when Monsieur FF does the drop. I know. The days that I drop, I’m lucky to have any semblance of warm clothing on my body and there’s little to no chance of the “nice to haves”. I have that slightly dazed, chaotic appearance about me that means the carers at nursery approach with caution. “Do you need a hand?” they kindly offer as they glance furtively at my dishevelled appearance and the children attached to my legs and arms. YES PLEASE you absolute wonder women and menfolk! I am rubbish at the “drop” because it’s more like a reluctant, slow and painful pulling at a plaster, twice, because I have to drop one child in after the other, and on a bad day we are all just clinging to each other. I truly enjoy my job, but it doesn’t make it any easier to be parted from the kids. I don’t like dropping them off.

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But look how cute they can be!

Short interlude whilst I work and juggle a few more manageable balls: load some washing, identify food required, have a hot hot drink, etc. Strangely, work time can be some of the calmest time of the day, especially when I don’t have to commute; I’m relatively in control, I am achieving small things without it causing me or anyone else to have a meltdown, and when I talk people (sometimes) listen, as opposed to having a loud chorus of “I want AN ICE CREAM” screamed at me whilst I explain how good vegetables are for you. Especially runner beans which make you run fast FYI. Btw you can’t have ice cream when it’s blinking freezing outside?!? I digress.

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When the end of the working day comes, it’s another mad rush to get to the kids before they hit the ‘extremely tired and unreasonable’ stage. For the avoidance of doubt, I’ve not worked out when that starts exactly, but it’s almost always well underway by the time we get home. I make food whilst the kids are playing (even though they’ve already had about 5 meals at nursery) and then watch them both spray it around their clothes, faces and the floor, chairs, and anything else within a 2 m radius, excluding their mouths, before I give up. Inevitably a “big boy cup” of something will by now be splashed across the table. I try to “whizz” around with the handy little Dyson and it immediately gets clogged with pasta. Should I wait for it to solidify?! I clean away, to make it look semi-passable for the rest of the grown up evening (lol!), and as I hoist the children out of their seats *merde* another portion of pasta falls from their laps and onto my semi-clean floor.

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Gimme gimme gimme 

Next is bath time which entails reservoirs of water, eczema-friendly bubbles and enough bath toys to amuse half of the United Kingdom. That’s not to say one doesn’t need to add some more, as Bebette did when she casually took some apple into the bath last night. Pourquoi pas. Of course then Big Bro desperately wanted to play with the apple and none of the other purpose-built jouets.

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Pretty much bathtime every night in our house… 

Big Brother generously offers to wash Bebette’s hair but isn’t so keen on doing his own, so we have a small battle/dance trying to get his hair clean whilst Bebette looks on in amusement, nibbling her bath-apple. Then we’ve got to exit both children, dry, cream, nappy-up, PJJ on and all trying to maintain some level of calm and pre-bed tranquility. One of the two-person gang (if we are fully armed) needs to disappear to locate milk/ water and sucking devices, as well as ensure beds are ready to receive children.  Stories are told, multiple rounds of Burglar Bill, “Grandma wolf”, Tabby McTat, and then a negotiation that any further reading is solo. “Ok but I want the big book Mummy!” Obviously the most ginormous book of vehicles is the final literature of choice before sleep time, and sleep is signalled by the dulcet sound of that huge book hitting the floor. ONE DOWN! Bebette has decided she doesn’t like to go down at the same time as Big Brother; I’m not sure if she’s cottoned on to the fact she gets all the attention in the evening or she genuinely just finds BB to be too noisey but she ain’t got time for bed with him. So she nods off eventually with us downstairs as we continue to attempt to nourish ourselves/ render the floor passable for another 6 hours/ catch up on any work that is outstanding and urgent/ generally not speak to each other or relax.

And this is the hardest of truths: with two small children and two full time jobs, the main thing that suffers is your relationship. The “leisure” time to unwind and politely converse about the highs and lows of the day is gone, for now. There is barking of further orders, refusal to follow orders, frustrated unclogging of Dyson, emptying of bins, cleaning of kitchen area, and then it’s time to hit the sack because otherwise there is a real risk that hours of sleep may total less than one hands’ worth. The absolute minimum for healthy survival is really 6 hours. Of late, with sickness and excitement and any other excuse they can come up with we’ve been receiving nightly visits to our bed. BB can wander in and just clambers over us and adopts a comfortable position such that he can headbutt one of us and kick the other. Bebette starts mewing when she wants to join the party and also has a magic ability to adopt the most bizarre positions to minimise the available space for the “growmops”. Real life:

 

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This matin

We wouldnt have it any other way. Of course. We are so super lucky. But jeezlouise, this is not easy! Mega hi5s to all parents out there, as always my understanding and respect levels of all that our parents have done, and all that those around me have been doing (don’t even go there with multiples) you are absolutely AMAZEBOOBS. Now to keep it up!

Awesome photos by the talented Clare Long Photography 💕

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Breastfeeding: the sequel

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Love this by Amen Photography

I have blogged before about the mad journey that is breastfeeding and the wondrousness of boobies (here is the first instalment). Since then I have enjoyed the consequences of breastfeeding (read: saggymcsaggerson babylons) and I have produced a second Bebe, that I have also been feeding with my boobs. Even writing it like that reminds me how mind-boggling it is to nourish a human bean with something produced by my very own breasts. Crazy. (Obviously growing the bean in the first place is pretty stupenduous, but this part you can actually see with your own eyes!)

As I alluded to in the first post written last year, I am entirely mindful that this is a very sensitive subject. Plenty of new mamas don’t breastfeed, either out of choice or because it’s not physically possible, or for many reasons they start and then have to stop, or have to modify what they are doing to suit their babe. No one journey is the same and whatever happens, having a happy, fed bebe is all that matters.  

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Pure happiness right there

As I said last time, this is just me talking about my journey.  I’m lucky / unlucky / weird / blessed / happy to have the chance to breastfeed again. However, I must say that living this a second time, it has been decidedly harder than the first time. Strange, as you would think boobs get used to it (they certainly look like they do) and as a second time mum, most likely I am already equipped, mentally and wardrobiley, for the job. Turns out not really.  Well, for me at least, the difference I think is down to (i) the bebe and (ii) the circumstances.  I consider these differences a bit below and then I will introduce you to my favourite breastfeeding clothing, in particular The B Shirt.

The Bebette journey is not the same

The bebe part: No pregnancy is the same, “they” say (the older wiser types) and the same goes for all that follows. This Bebette that we have, this little ray of light, is a petite lady who doesn’t gobble like her big brother. She is delicate. It’s more like she’s taking afternoon tea, or a small glass of champagne, than glugging a gallon of milk; I can almost see her little finger up in the air. Bebette can’t easily cope with the fast flow of milk that I have. She wants a skinny pizza with a side of dust, not the Super Mega menu with XL stuffed crust and extra deep-fried cake, and a beer or 10….

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The problem is that boobie milk systems need some sort of regulation – if Bebe is fussy, you end up with your boobs getting very confused about all this nibbling and they lose track of how much milk to actually make.  This, in my case, led to a bout of (very painful) mastitis (more on this below).  It has also resulted in the washing machine going into overdrive with milk-sodden clothing.  Poor Boddler has had the shock of his life a couple of times when he has come to inspect “Sista mulk” and been sprayed in the face himself. Luckily he has goggles.

After the double whammy hospital adventure we enjoyed last month, I’ve also spent a lot of time pumping this time round. Jeez, the hospital pump is hard.  Massive shout out to all the mamas out there that have had to pump, whether to encourage their milk production, or because their babe is hospitalised at birth or afterwards, or because their babe simply won’t latch. It is harrowing.  But massive cheers to the NHS for providing nourishment for hospital mamas, this really makes a huge difference.  Also, whilst pumping is hard, it is a little intriguing to see how much milk you are making – as a mildly competitive person, I kept challenging myself in hospital to make more and more, gallons of milk, feed my Bebette until she rolls out of hospital…. FYI I lost, but it was a good challenge.

As a side note, any newish breast feeders reading should be aware of the symptoms of mastitis (NHS link here).  When it happened to me, it escalated quickly, my boob felt bruised and sore in the morning, it was a bit red, then more disconcerting was the crazy headache and flu-like symptoms I developed that afternoon: I got fever and the shivers and ended up calling 111 the next morning, a Sunday (again!) and was able to get a prescription for antibiotics very rapidly for later that day. Hot showers, continuous feeding if you can, and massaging helps, but as soon as you feel fluey or sick, you need to get medical help asap, as it can be very painful.  *Shout out to my GP mama friends that helped me (and continue to help) with sound advice through these struggles.  Legends.*

The ease with which you can breastfeed may also be influenced by the circumstances, like whether you already have a child running around, and the time of year: last time I was breastfeeding it was spring – summer; I had little vests I could pull down, and limited additional clothing required in the warm weather (yes, yes, U.K. warm so you still needed a second layer…). I also had the time to sit down and wasn’t likely to get a ball lobbed at my head whilst I was feeding.  Shocker! Back then, Boddler was so greedy I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hand in pulling my top down to get to the food himself. There was almost no spillage or regurgitation. The whole feeding process was quite straight-forward and manageable, except for the odd leak and the teeth *panic face*.

Bebette is quite a different kettle of fish. She likes the warmth and comfort of my boobie area but is less bothered about the actual milk. She also feels more delicate, has a sensitive stomach and needs to be carefully positioned for her feeds.  This is in contrast to Boddler who was like a magnet to the nipple. Bebette needs a compass and guide dog and tends to fall asleep whilst feeding.

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Like my maternity wear this time round, I was armed with a bit more knowledge of what was required for nursing a babe. However when I went through my box of neatly organised maternity clothes (read: pile of clothes shoved in a corner that I wasn’t expecting to see for a loooong time) I couldn’t really find any good feeding tops in there. Just a lot of vests and the odd mamalicious or seraphine number. I had a couple of big shirts but, I confess, I hate ironing. So I am not wearing those.

the B shirt

A good feeding top requires stretchiness and also must be a material that can be scrunched up (or down) without being too thick, and without preventing bebe from breathing or making her get too hot. This time round I also have a decidedly more flabby tummy, and it certainly looks more traumatised with my new tiger stripes second time round. I am acutely aware when I try to cobble together my own feeding clothes (ie two tops on top of each other, one pulled down and one pulled up) there is a very high chance of embarrassing flab-flashing.  I am already getting my boob out, I don’t particularly want to extend the nudiness any further.

So, there’s a legit need for something new – where can I find a good breastfeeding top? After lots of googling in the middle of the night I found my answer.  Say bonjour to The B Shirt. The B Shirt is a breastfeeding dream – it keeps your tummy covered whilst you discretely locate your milkers and latch your bebe on. The B Shirt is stretchy and warm, long enough to cover you and your bottom, and it washes well. And it can deal with frequent washing too. But best of all, the B Shirt does good things.  It supports women that are struggling – more on this below.

The top comes in three basic colours; white, grey and black. No garish flower patterns or bold horizontal stripes that make you feel even more ginormous over here.  The boobie “flap” opens upwards discretely, without a full-on untangling or déshabille exercise, revealing two neat little boobie holes, so you won’t be flashing side boob either. It’s not rocket science and yet it is genuinely so hard to find anything even close to suitable for the job. This has been my saviour.

I particularly like the B Shirt because: (a) a couple of real mamas, who themselves have breast fed and supported numerous other mamas with breastfeeding, set up the business not only to help nursing mamas generally;  but also to raise awareness, funds and provide tops and support to breastfeeding mamas out there who are statistically less likely to continue to breastfeed. According to their research, a major reason women stop breastfeeding is embarrassment. Isn’t that sad?

81% of new mothers start off breastfeeding when their babies are born, however when their babies are just 6 weeks old only 36% are still breastfeeding. This means that the UK has some of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world.

Breast milk with all its magic properties is sitting in boobies, ready to go, like a cup of fresh water in the desert, or (more relatable) a delicious steaming pot of coffee on a grey Monday morning, and yet it’s not being served because the barista is embarrassed about the cups he is serving it in. Meanwhile there’s a ginormous advert for Starbucks, with a cup that runneth over, right outside. You get the point.

Money from the sales of the B Shirt and donations will go towards getting those mamas in need the right clothing to do this important job, without feeling embarrassed.  I concur that this top has reduced my embarrassment levels, which are all the higher when there’s also a toddler running around and therefore the possibility of large scale accidental flashing, and much more rushed boob-accessing. A comfortable, affordable top that does good beyond helping you on your breastfeeding journey – pretty epic. (b) it’s called the “B” Shirt – the logo is boobs – it’s like we were destined to be together! And (c) the ladies that came up with this beauty are located in Totnes, which is a magical place in Devon I happen to know thanks to my musical sister and her man who are very happily located there. Side note: it is glorious and definitely worth a visit. (d) they also sell reusable bamboo breast pads which are great.  Another winner, comfortable and environmentally friendly.  Boom.

The one thing missing at the moment with the B Shirt is sleeves, although I expect sleeves are in the pipeline along with more colours.  I also don’t think the lace trim is particularly necessary, but equally it adds something to remind you where the flap is – tired mamas need all the help we can get!  The only good feeding top I’ve found with sleeves is a Seraphine bamboo top, which is super soft, but I can’t find the link to that now, and as far as I’m aware Seraphine doesn’t boast the same mission and aims as the B Shirt so I would rather spend my money with the Totnes ladies.

I’m teaming my B shirt with the Bravado Seamless Nursing Bra, available from John Lewis.  It’s a bestseller and I can see why – super comfy, supportive, and easy to get up and down. Also very easy to wash.  Feeding bras have caused me as much angst as the tops, but this bra has done the job and even comes with conversion kit so when you are done feeding you can continue to wear this.  Unlikely, for my fried eggs, but I appreciate the opportunity.

So, that’s me done on breastfeeding take 2 (so far) and what I’m wearing.  I hope this is helpful and good luck you wonder mamas!

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I leave you with this thought of the day.  Really orange carrots.

 

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.

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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

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