Fishponds Mum: The Second Baby comes at last…

October 29 2019

By Claire Stewart-Hall

I don’t think we could have prepared for a second child any better than we did. And by that, I mean hardly any preparation at all. Just as we were sounding slightly smug about how we’d cracked dry nights and got the start of school under our belts, we are back in it again. Right back at the start. Only this time, we have two of different ages, different needs and the pace is twice as quick.

We are thrown into taking it in turns doing night feeding. We have suddenly remembered the whole sterilising process and the explosive nappies = four outfits a day routine. Is it naïve to say that we had forgotten about these aspects of baby-hood?

I had felt ahead of the game – there I was reusing my baby bath, getting more use of the super expensive pram I had bought, retrieving from the loft all of the baby clothes organised by months. I felt ahead, ready. I had looked out my baby blankets to rotate when they get covered in three hourly vomit. I couldn’t have been more ready, I told myself. Last time, I was a mere novice. This time, I had a sling alreadyand was browsing local The Gentle Touch and Baby Sensory classes…

I had pictured family days out to Westonbirt Arboretum. I hadn’t really taken the time to think about how it might be for us juggling two sets of needs. The time-limited school drop-offs, now leaving ever earlier in Bristol traffic or how small the car really is and where do I put any shopping with two car seats and a pram in the boot?

We forgot about the timed sleeps and feeding whenever and wherever needed. Bottle feeding ought to be easier, one might argue, but the various stages of washing, sterilising, buying the actual milk (to get the milk-machine thing or not?) proves it arguably easier to breast feed, if at all possible, for sheer efficiency and transport reasons. That is not to underplay the other health benefits of breast feeding, which can save many a trip to the doctors in later years.

Together with a four year old, the whole thing is proving a wonderful challenge. I’m confident that our four year old loves this new little bundle, but I can see the reduced time we now have for her. A newborn awake all night and a four year old wide awake from 6am. Everyone’s needs have shot down the agenda and the dog is looking longingly at me each time I pass by the door.

Working full-time seems absurd in light of the mounting jobs that need doing. I’m looking with awe at couples and singles with three or four children and wondering how on earth they do it and work full-time.

How have we not yet created a better support system for parental care, flexible hours, childcare and education? How can it be in the 21stCentury that I am still expected to drop off one child at school and still get to work by 8.30am? Where is she meant to go from 3.15pm until 6pm when I rock up from work?

This is what happens when people make laws for centuries based on stereotypes and on behalf of other people. It usually falls fantastically short of what is actually happening and is manageable. I do actually fantasize about what the situation would be if working mothers and grandmothers had been making our laws for the past two hundred years and how different all of our lives would be then.

For our family, we are bracing ourselves for a reduction in pretty much everything else and just high-fiving that we got through another day.