Mum left a couple of weeks ago, and for about that long, it didn't feel like we sat down once. If we weren't juggling our baby while simultaneously preparing a meal for our toddler, or washing something while soothing cries, I was steralising bottles and washing my face at the same time.
It's been thoroughly mental.
A few things have dominoed over this time:
1) superhuman multi-tasking skills;
2) food poisoning (the Brit and I, three days after my mum left, rendering us half-dying and trying to do all the above while lying horizontal while emitting fluids from both ends);
3) the above knocking the wheels off breastfeeding completely, which threw me into what has now been diagnosed as post-natal depression;
4) establishing "systems" and routines to cope with everything.
The first point is something I'll pat myself and the Brit on the back for. Together we have managed to tumble our way through to Flo now being almost 8 weeks, where she is now crying less, sleeping a bit more, feeds stretching to almost 4 hourly. While tending to Sebastian's life, while the poor little chap battles through potty training, and therefore, peeing and poohing everywhere/on things.
We seem to mostly have a handle on this now. It's full-on-full-go all day, everyday, but by the end of of the day when they are both tucked in and sleeping, we can even enjoy a glass of wine and watch Stranger Things on Netflix like other normal people. I can brush my hair sometimes. I can wipe vomit from my trousers before I leave the house. I can leave the house!
Point 2. Don't get food poisoning when you have a newborn and a toddler. Honestly, besides thinking we were going to die - delirious, aching, vomiting, the whole hog - I had to get up to breastfeed Flo every three hours, while also checking on Seb who I hoped wasn't turning the gas on downstairs as we groaned and yacked in bed upstairs. To his credit, the little guy mostly got on with things, while running in every little while to say, "Mummy, Daddy poorly!" He knew. Bless him.
The problem with food poisoning, or any affliction, is that Florence had just started breastfeeding properly. Latching, drinking, not fussing and crying so much at every feed. This knocked it all out again, and I also got the beginnings of mastitis in my (then) engorged boob, so after a few bottle feeds I was back at square one all over again. She just doesn't like feeding from my boobs.
I was too tired to go down the feeding-her-with-a-tube thing again, so here we are: bottle feeding. I express about 5 times a day to at least give her breast milk for most of the day, while she is on formula at night.
I steralise about 8 000 bottles a day, and this is where the "system" comes in and my trying to be organised, amongst the chaos.
Not being able to breastfeed has hit me tremendously hard. After all the trying and succeeding in the beginning, only to fail now, it launched me into a depression I didn't think was possible. In my logical mind, I know my baby is happier and fuller on bottles, and we are generally less stressed. However I am so sad I can't breastfeed her. I never thought I'd feel so cut up about it, but here we are. She rejected me, not the other way around. So I should just go with it. But with all the pressure and subliminal messaging (and ease and convenience) of breastfeeding, I really feel like a sub-optimal mother.
I'm finally getting over myself, but it's taken some time. I have cried and cried and I feel down as fuck. Post Natal Depression, or PND, affects 1 in 10 in the UK. And apparently, I am now one of them. I am taking this on the chin and I'm going to sort it out. Starting Monday, depending on what the doctor prescribes me. Anxiety, constant worry, and just general sadness is what I have become; and I don't want to feel like this anymore.
That said, there are three small things I've discovered that can make and break a day when you have a new baby in the house. Three things that make the survival easier. Because that's what it is; it's survival, until you start to see that light at 12-15 weeks.
1) Go for a walk/leave the house once a day.
2) Make time for a bath/something just for you. It restores everything.
3) If you can get a nap, in between it all, you've bonused out.
An excellent day is if you can do all three in one day. Most days I get to do one or two of these things. A daytime nap is rare; sometimes I may steal 10 minutes because I am slumped on the couch with her on my chest and I fall asleep while sitting.
But one or two of these a day, is good innings. This is what I'm telling myself.
I have also made a new friend; someone I vaguely know through another friend - a Saffa who is also a mum. This is terribly exciting, and the familiarity of having someone around who is from the same background but who also lives in this town, is just wonderful.
I've also had a few friends come and visit, whisk me out for some wine, and helped me get an hour's break to put the world to rights.
I still feel anxiety at an unprecedented scale. But I can see a small twinkling of light at the end of what feels like a dark and unrelenting tunnel.
I love them so much. I look at my beautiful children and still cannot believe they're mine. Florence is smiling, and Sebastian is saying adorable things like "Ooh, I'm balarmed!" (Alarmed). He has also acclimatised to having a new little person in the house, and his tantrums are less.
It's going to be OK.
My blue-eyed baba.
Sebastian 0; yoghurt 1.
Smiling for mama
Sleeping in his sister's moses basket. Because he's a baby too.