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The things they don’t tell you about parenthood

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I have some news. I’m 31 weeks pregnant. So this week, instead of a recipe, I’m going to share some thoughts on parenthood the second time around. (If you would prefer a recipe, then have a look here – I can’t believe I now have over 100 recipes listed).

My tummy is getting bigger and I am just beginning to waddle. Our daughter is due on 19 April. It looks like I’ll be having a c-section and the planned date will probably be some days earlier. I’m so looking forward to having a daughter, a sister for JP. I also can’t wait to get to know our second child and see how different and similar she is to JP at her milestones. At the same time I have a better idea of the hard work involved in parenting a new born and yet I have no idea what it’s going to be like with JP charging around at the same time.

These past few months have been a rollercoaster of emotions. Since JP was born, a number of friends and acquaintances have had miscarriages or lost babies. Having had JP I know what joy he brings and so I Dave have approached this pregnancy more cautiously. We were aware that things might not go as planned or as hoped. This time far more than last time, we had some idea of what we would miss if that were to happen. For that reason I think I have waited until now to share the news that I am pregnant. I can’t wait to be holding our daughter and to know that everything is OK.

The rollercoaster hasn’t just been around the pregnancy. It’s also about managing life in general and here’s an example of what I mean. Recently we needed to go to John Lewis to buy some fabric. We arrived early and, knowing that JP wasn’t going to exactly enjoy fabric shopping, Dave had downloaded some Postman Pat before we left the house. And so with JP’s attention glued on Dave’s mobile, we started our fabric search knowing we had exactly 12 minutes. Before having JP I might have walked through John Lewis and when I saw a child in his buggy watching something on a phone, I probably would have judged those parents! I would have thought, is that the best thing for your child? Is that the best you can do as parents? Why have you brought your child to John Lewis if only to put them in front of a TV? Oh how sanctimonious I would have been in my head. That pre JP me, DIDN’T HAVE A CLUE. She didn’t know about all being awake since 5.45a.m., about then working our hardest to keep everyone happy, while also trying to achieve all those non-child things that had to be done that weekend – and that sometimes a Postman Pat episode keeps everything feeling manageable.

We didn’t quite make the 12 minute fabric choosing challenge as we hadn’t realised we then needed to order the fabric and that required some more joint thinking. So JP enjoyed two episodes of Postman Pat. After that we felt like we had really achieved something and therefore deserved a treat. So we went up to the café on the fourth floor. On our way up Dave saw a shirt in the men’s department that he liked. We all enjoyed a drink in the café and then JP and I stayed while Dave went down to try the shirt on. We had our normal conversation before he went – basically a negotiation about how long he had, and agreed on 20 minutes. Did I open a story book at that point in the café? No, of course I didn’t, because I didn’t have a story book as I hadn’t thought that far ahead as we were leaving home. I’m simply not that organised, so this time my phone came out and I tried to engage JP in conversation about what he was watching to make myself feel less bad that again he was watching TV. The problem is that Peppa Pig is so entrancing, no one wants to speak to their Mum while watching it!

When 18 minutes were up we walked through the women’s clothing to get to the men’s department. The women’s clothing looked so beautiful and clean hanging on it’s racks. I gazed at the women feeling the clothes, picking up some to try on. I couldn’t remember when I had last been clothes shopping by myself or with a friend. I looked at my watch – it was near lunch time and we needed to find Dave and get out of here so that JP slept at home rather than in the car on the way home. This would mean Dave and I could sleep while JP slept. I told myself I didn’t want to look at the clothes and that I didn’t really like clothes anyway! We got to the men’s department; Dave had only just found the shirt and was in the changing room. Dave quickly made his choice, paid for the shirt and a jumper and we walked backed through the women’s department where I tried to ignore the lovely clothes and placed my concentration on the top of the buggy. We reached the lift and Dave asked if I thought the shirt was the right size.

I hope as a parent my ability to be a generous partner hasn’t disappeared completely. I’m sometimes aware that I snap at Dave only to turn to JP and speak to him in a normal voice. So I said ‘It’s horrible to get the wrong sized shirt, why don’t we go back and you can try on the other size and see what you think’. We walked back through the women’s department to the men’s, again my full concentration was on the buggy and this time I was taking deep lungs full of air trying to hold back the tears. It’s not that I’m pining for clothes, or even have much cash that I want to spend on clothes. I would just like not to rush everywhere and to have some time and space to stop and look and just have some me-time that didn’t involve catching up on sleep.

Dave found the right shirt and I was pleased because it does look much better. We get back to the lift having walked past all those gorgeous clothes yet again. I have lost the inner battle now and tears are dripping off my nose. In the lift I stand facing the corner hoping that the other women in the lift aren’t aware of my silent tears. I feel Dave’s hand grasping mine as the lift travels down, he squeezes it, a hang in there squeeze, an it will be alright squeeze. And of course it is. We get back to the car and that revives me a little. Dave drives home and, brilliantly, Joe wants to play in the garden for a little bit, which enables me to go upstairs and quietly sort lunch before Dave and JP come up to the flat. JP had a good lunch and then said that he was feeling ‘a little tired’. Music to our ears. I take JP off for a story and nap time while Dave tidies the lunch things. I come back into the kitchen and we hug but the rollercoaster is back, again I’m in tears. I feel pathetic as I say ‘I was so jealous of those women in John Lewis who could stop and looks at clothes’. Dave replies telling me that the day before someone at work had asked him to go to the cinema with them and he hated the fact that his response was ‘I need to check with Holly’. I tell him through the tears and the nose that is now running ‘And we are pregnant again, things are only going to get harder; when oh when do they get easier?’ He tells me ‘He doesn’t know.’ We make a cup of tea and head off to bed, knowing that sleep will make things feel more manageable.

We wake an hour later and we have a good afternoon as a family with no more tears. When I look back on the John Lewis morning I know sleep was a big part of it. That knowledge makes me feel less guilty about things. I sometimes have to go away with work for a few days. I secretly look forward to these breaks, I mean work trips! A night in a hotel with someone else cooking and my alarm clock as the only thing to wake me, is pure luxury. I now feel less guilty about looking forward to these trips, especially as Dave has similar trips with his work. They give me some crucial me- time, even if they don’t involve shopping.

Since JP arrived in my world, my standard response time to a personal email has become about two weeks. I feel guilty about this. At work I try and reply to emails in a day. But given when I’m not at work I’m looking after JP, it isn’t so surprising to me that two weeks can elapse before I get round to replying to an email. While this isn’t brilliant for those emailing me, I do understand it and so hope I can feel less guilty about it.

I’m looking forward to meeting our daughter and I can’t wait for JP to meet her to. He has been putting bean bags up his t-shirt at nursery so he has a big tummy like Mummy. Some unfortunate child managed to get hold of the bean bag and he raced after them shouting “That’s my sister!” I also now know what hard work it will be and I’m hoping I can manage it without too many tears over clothes I wouldn’t normally give two hoots about anyway.

2 thoughts on “The things they don’t tell you about parenthood

  1. Thanks for writing this. Just what I needed to read today while I boarded the eurotunnel in tears ‘alone’ with 2 kids wondering how the hell I was going to entertain them under the channel let alone drive the 4hrs home the other side after a week of sickness and disturbed nights and a very unhappy son (and mummy). Anyway, I’ve made it. I’m a complete wreck and never want to leave the house again let alone ‘travel’. But my wonderful husband now has control of the kids and is cooking dinner. I’ve run a bath and am going to have a good old cry and afterwards I’ll find the energy to deal with the next meltdown.
    We’re all like to present the picture that we’re loving every minute of it, especially as you said when you see friends who would dearly love the chance to become parents and are being cruelly denide. I’ve had many more wonderful times than bad with them but sometimes the truth is it’s a miserable, taxing slog. I totally brought this week on myself, it’s not the kids fault but god it was awful. I’m so glad to be home.

    P.s. I had the same worries about going from one to two but that first year was a delight (*mostly)

    1. Hi Alice,

      Glad you made it home, sounds like a properly tough week. During this whole thing my respect for single parents has shot through the roof. I’ve no idea how I would manage without Dave to step in when I can’t manage anymore.

      I’m going to hold you are your word that the first year was (mostly) a delight. A delight sounds good to me!

      Thanks for reading

      Holly

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