So Long, Paternity Leave – Hello, Outnumbered

When Talitha saw Ophelia she exclaimed: “Mummy, your baby’s not in your tummy anymore! Your baby is in your sling!” I smiled and felt relieved that I still loved her this much – that she was still so little and beguiling to me.

While pregnant I wondered how I could possibly love another child as much as I did Talitha. Yet, in the fourteen hours since Ophelia’s birth, we’d bonded so well that I worried that when I finally saw my two-and-a-half-year-old again, I might feel…ambivalent.

In that moment, I enjoyed them both and wanted to gather them to me. I breastfed Talitha and was glad that it wasn’t suddenly strange.

So started our babymoon, this loved up baby bubble that the four of us have existed in for the last three weeks.

I could not have asked for Talitha to be more besotted with her baby sister. She covers her in kisses, “reads” to her and even comforts her in the car: “It’s OK, Ophelia. We’re nearly home. The Wheels on the Bus go round and round…”

Friends have been asking how Talitha’s adjusting. It’s really too early to tell. I think the one who’s finding it more of a challenge is me.

I’ve spent a lot of these weeks just snuggled up in bed, nursing Ophelia while Laurence and Talitha have been off having all sorts of outdoor fun. It’s been really easy for me to give in to my natural instinct to be all-consumed by my new baby.

And yet I have an older baby who still needs me. I’m having to consciously pull myself out of this newborn bubble to acknowledge, accept and meet those needs. I feel a little bit off kilter, to be honest.

Talitha reading to little Ophelia.jpg

It’s sometimes flustered me when they’ve both cried for me. I’ve even found myself resenting Talitha wanting to be breastfed when I’m breastfeeding Ophelia. It’s been OK with Laurence being around to distract and help but, as of today, I’m outnumbered with him having gone back to work.

And what a day it’s been. While putting on makeup in the morning, out of the corner of my eye I saw Talitha putting pillows on top of Ophelia, announcing that she was going to lie down on her! Later, I wasn’t really thinking when I changed Ophelia on the floor next to the sofa where Talitha was jumping. Of course, she fell on top of the baby. It’s just typical that nothing like this happens the full three weeks that Laurence is home then, THE DAY he goes back to work, it all does.

Part of me is ready for us to get on with life and start figuring out how things are going to be. I’m not (overly) worried about that. I’m just being realistic about it being a learning curve for us all.

My doula gave me some great practical advice about getting everything ready the night before, making sure to get out first thing and doing something more restful in the afternoons. It’s pretty obvious, I know, but I’ve realised I do need an action plan. So that’s what I did and it was a pretty successful first morning meeting friends for coffee.

I did, however, get really tired as the day wore on and Talitha and I started playing off each other’s negative energy. The more impatient I got, the less cooperative she got. Then throw Ophelia in the mix and the more tense we got, the more unsettled she was.

Thankfully, I’m already friendly with my slings so that gives me freedom to get on with the day with a baby who doesn’t like to be laid down for more than a few minutes (too right!). I’ve already been able to breastfeed while on the floor helping with puzzles or playing with toys so that makes me feel a bit more confident too.

Our first bus ride.jpg

But I’m remembering just how draining it is to be needed this much by someone and how important self-care is. Despite having a pretty good first day, all-in-all, I felt completely wiped out by the time Laurence got home (thank God, it wasn’t late as I thought it would be). I wanted a glass of wine, a hired cleaner and a bit of a stupid “woe is me” sob.

Instead I’ve settled for a few minutes chilling out in front of the computer, writing this with a baby still on me while Laurence puts our bigger baby to bed and munching on the chocolate coin I found in Talitha’s party bag (hoping she won’t remember it was there…). It’s an early one tonight. That’s for sure.

I’m also thinking that I might take out a magazine subscription* for Talitha, something like Story Box, so we have something quieter already prepared to do instead of trying to stumble upon inspiration when we’re both tired and a bit crabby. Goodness knows, I’ve lots on Pinterest and craft cupboards filled to bursting to give me inspiration when I’m lacking! It seems worth planning some of our activities beforehand, at least for now.

I know in my gut it will all settle – after all, so many of you have more than one child and it’s not the big disaster my melodramatic side worries it will be – but it just feels big, you know? I guess that’s not a bad thing. Going from one child to two kind of is big.

* sent us a voucher to buy something for Talitha (or for me – I might consider this part of the self-care plan). They have just launched a Spin2Win competition to win money off Kindle Fires and magazine subscriptions. You can play the game and win here.

mother • freelance writer • home educator • #revillagingpodcast • breastfeeding counsellor • no dig farm • Trini in Cornwall [she/her]

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  • sounds like you are doing just fine. Thank you for sharing openly and honestly, it helped me write this evening. It does settle down and I remember one day with three wondering how I was ever going to do anything again and having had the same thought when we had just had our second, then M taking the baby out and me having the boys for a couple of hours and I was amazed at how much fun, school and housework I was able to accomplish. It just takes time to get to that place but it will come, and I am trusting the same can be said for having three.

  • I remember this well. It does get easier (though ice now found it gets harder again!), ups and downs I guess. I don’t know how I would have coped without the wrap! Hope you start to settle into things soon

  • Oh, I remember those newborn baby and toddler days. It is hard at first making sure everyone gets the attention they need, but you will get into a lovely routine (and then it will change again as your youngest starts crawling nd walking along!). In the early days of feeding my babies, the rules with the older kids were they had to let mummy get baby to latch on properly, then once we were settled they could come over with a book and we would read the book together so my toddler always looked forward to baby needing feeding too as it meant snuggle with mummy time. xxx

  • Great advice from your doula. Best advice I was given was as far as possible try and stick to the established routine you have with your toddler and the baby will fit in, rather than try and start a brand-new routine for the baby and have the toddler fit in.

    For about the first four months of Violet’s life Cherry’s feet seemed permanently about 1mm away from her head. That’s toddlers for you 🙂

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  • I think you are doing SO WELL. I love those photos, especially the one of Talitha reading to her! I literally cannot imagine two but love seeing and reading about’s actually making me quite broody! x
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  • The change is a huge one but you are doing so well. In fact reading this has helped me understand where I went wrong in that I got too absorbed in the baby bubble and didn’t give as much of my time to Cherry as I should have done. Matt isn’t very good with tiny babies, usually because they need the boob all the time, so he just did everything with Cherry while I sat and held / fed J. Then when Cherry started really getting angry and lashing out at him I found it ever harder. Ah well, things are fine now and like what Polly said it will all just feel normal some time soon xx
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    • Those are the roles we’ve fallen into – Laurence looking after Talitha and me looking after Ophelia. I haven’t even let him change nappies most of the time, which is just silly. I’ve benefited from lots of other people (like you) sharing their experiences with me, so I’m really conscious that I don’t want to forget Talitha’s needs. But it’s so hard juggling it all, my needs too! But I know it will settle and it encourages me when you say that things are fine now. x

  • This is such a lovely post and made me laugh out loud and also brought tears to my eyes!! It is all so familiar. I never wanted my other half to go back to work after paternity leave was over, I felt alone and just sad that the happy family had to be broken up by boring work. Life with more than one is stressful, fun, tiring and full of adventure! It all comes together in the end and now I have three I can honestly say it gets so much easier….my three play happily (sometimes!) together for long chunks of time…it’s lovely to watch and listen to. Good luck…it looks like you are doing brilliantly!

  • Well done on your first day, and getting out the house! That’s probably one of my biggest worries about having another child – trying to get out with them both! Hopefully it will just continue to get easier!
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  • From what I’ve seen with Alex the planning piece is key, far to hard to try and do that in the morning with 2 around. When Henry was little I also started making lunch for her when I did mine for work, so I knew while I wasn’t there she didn’t have to think about preparing a meal for her as well as the babies. Far too easy to not eat properly which just makes the tiredness and breastfeeding even harder.
    As I’m sure you know also good to meet friends with children Talitha’s age for her to play with and let you have some time to focus on feeding.
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