No more baby days 

I’m on the sofa this morning, after dropping my biggest girl at nursery. The smallest one is fast asleep on me after a rough night of wide awake snuggles and sore teeth. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by how big and clever and grown up the two of them are now. And it hurts. 
I don’t have a baby anymore. The days of having two under two are long behind me, and Iris is very nearly three. She starts nursery class at a school this September, with a tiny school uniform and everything. She’s excited. I’m excited too, because I know she’s going to have such a fabulous time, but I’m also sad and a tiny bit terrified. Astrid is 16 months old now, and like a tiny wrecking ball. She is sturdy and speedy, and charges through life at 100 miles per hour. She climbs and runs and has no fear of hurting herself. I can’t leave her alone in a room for even a minute. Not even if I can’t see a single hazard. She will find one. It’s not unusual to catch her dancing on tables or scaling window sills. 
They are not babies. 
The first year after Astrid was born I went to bed every single night feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. Seriously. While they pleasantly surprised me often and it wasn’t always as hard as I’d imagined, it was exhausting. Iris needed constant interactions at the time, too young yet to create games and play alone while I fed Astrid. Little one was a screamer, and a complete mystery to me a lot of the time. I didn’t instinctively know what she was crying for like I had with Iris. I had PND (I can see now in hindsight) and was having a huge identity crisis when I should have been focussing on my babies. 
I really feel like it’s over now. The hard bit. Obviously I know there are many many many hard bits to come. I’m not daft. But I can’t imagine it being that consistently hard again for such a long period of time. I can’t imagine slipping back into the black cloud I lived in for a long time either. I’ve been making sure I look after myself too, and I plan to keep it up. 
Besides some health issues (for another day) life is really very good at the moment, but I can’t help but feel some sadness at the baby days being behind us.

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Iris at sixteen months

  
I find it strange now, on the odd occasion that somebody refers to Iris as a baby. Despite the chubby thighs and lack of hair (it is growing though!) she’s very much a toddler now. She’s been walking for three whole months and is very stable now. She runs too, at a speed I can’t quite match at 28 weeks pregnant. She’s less and less keen on being carried or strapped into anything, and desperately wants to use her feet at all times. To kill an hour we regularly go to the park, where I plonk her down among the trees and fallen leaves and just follow her. One end of the park to the other can take up a whole afternoon, as Iris charges around and picks up every single interesting object she comes across. I love autumn, and she seems to love it too.  

 

Sleep is an issue at the moment. More an issue for me, than her. I have such terrible insomnia and she’s having some kind of sleep regression. Some nights I’m only managing 2 or 3 hours sleep, and we’ve slipped back into sleeping in late which means we miss the playgroups I rely on for adult human interaction. Hopefully we’ll be back on track soon, because I’m exhausted. Watching Peppa Pig at 3am is not my favourite thing. Co sleeping is what keeps us going. At least when she wakes and needs cuddling back to sleep she’s right there. I just don’t have the energy to get up and walk back and forth to the nursery so many times a night. 

 

She still loves food. A lot of her buddies seem to be going through  a fussy eating phase and I’ve been told they all do. I’m hoping they’re wrong, as she’s the easiest kid ever to feed. She’s eats very nearly everything. She’s not keen on baked beans, but I think that’s about it. She prefers me not to cut her food up and absolutely will not be spoon fed, and even manages to eat messy stuff like cereal completely independently.

  

We have a proper routine now. It’s totally baby-led still, and I’ve not pushed anything onto her at all. We often sleep til 8 these days, thanks to the sleepless nights, meaning it’s a mad rush to get out for playgroup. I make sure our bag is packed with nappies and spare clothes the night before, and a packed lunch if needed. There’s no time for that in the morning. The only way I can get a shower is to take her into the bathroom with me, and to save time she eats her breakfast in there too. For the first time I’m glad our bathroom is downstairs! I set the iPad up and she eats cereal and watches cartoons while I get a decent shower. She’s down to one nap most days, which usually happens 3 or 4 hours after she gets up. This is around lunchtime, so I either make sure she’s had lunch or give her a snack to get her through until afterwards. With no afternoon nap, we have a bit more freedom. While it’s still warm enough, I’m trying to make sure we get outside for some fresh air every afternoon. Some times we walk the dog, and other times we head to the park. It does both of us so much good. Dinner is at 6 or 7, followed by a bath, some stories and then bed. Most nights Iris goes to sleep easily and quickly, with either me or Trev lying on the bed for cuddles. We never leave her awake. She wouldn’t sleep, she’d just cry. I can’t see the sense in turning bedtime into a battle. At the moment it’s pleasant and she’s happy.  

  

I swear she learns at least one new word a day. They’re never the words you expect to hear next. Sometimes I’m not even sure where they came from. She can let me know she wants ‘snack’ or ‘juice’. She actually rarely has juice, but uses juice to mean water or milk too. She knows so many animal noises, as well as noises of other things. She says ‘car brrrm’ and ‘bus’ and calls the dog ‘Sebby’. The other day she saw me naked and shouted ‘bum!’.

  

One of her favourite things to do is to visit the library and choose some books to take home. She loves books. We have to read several in the evening, and she can often be found sitting on th floor by her bookcase reading to herself. She babbles and points and laughs, it’s so very sweet. 

  
Every stage is more amazing than the last one, and I’ve loved every bit of being her mum. However, I adore this toddler stage! Partly because she’s so affectionate. She’ll come over for a cuddle, and squeeze me tight. She plants big kisses on my face, pats my back and holds my hand. It’s wonderful. She’s noticed my growing belly too, and often kisses and touches it. She says ‘baba’ to it but I don’t think she really understands. I love each new word, and watching her learn. It’s visible, the little cogs turning in her brain. I can see her absorbing and taking in every detail and processing it. It’s such a privilege to watch. 

  
 I’m nervous about the new baby. I feel guilty already for having to share my attention between two babies. I’m hoping Iris is confident and attached enough to not take it so badly. I hope she never feels like she’s lost her place or that I love her less. 

  

Her smiles and laughs floor me every single time. She’s made me the happiest I’ve ever been. She is everything. There is no point in anything else. Thanks kiddo, for 487 wonderful days. I love you. 

  

Sleep

My favourite word at the moment. My favourite thing to do, too. I’m not getting enough though, and it’s leaving me frazzled and dazed.

It became clear on Tuesday last week that something around here had to change. Iris woke up at 8am, pretty normal for her, but then refused naps all day long. She was still awake, screaming her head off, at midnight. 16 hours wide awake. It’s just not good for a 4 month old baby. Or her very flustered mother. But what to do?

I didn’t put this question out there for a very good reason. I know the answer I’ll get from many and I refuse to listen. Cry-it-out. I just don’t get it. I won’t let Iris feel abandoned and alone, distressed in a cot with nobody to answer her cries, just so that I can get more sleep. No, I won’t. If you can do it and it works for your family then that’s cool. It’s not for me. I’ve always believed in trusting my instincts, and the instinctive need (it’s almost painful!) to pick up my little love when she cries is just too strong for me to ignore. It must be there for a reason. I don’t believe for one second that she’s trying to manipulate me or creating a power battle at bedtime. She simply doesn’t feel safe without me or her dad there, because she’s a tiny helpless little human who relies on us for everything.

Still, something had to change. It took a little while but it finally clicked in my silly head. She must be telling me when she’s tired. Maybe I’m just missing the signs? So I tried to look out for yawning or red eyes or eye rubbing or anything else that might show me when it’s nap time. She’ll lead the way, I’ll just follow. But I can’t see any signs a lot of the time! Occasionally she looks tired. Usually she just doesn’t. Then it occurred to me that I don’t really know when she’s hungry either. I just offer her a feed, just in case. Sometimes she takes it, sometimes she doesn’t. Could I do the same with sleep? IMG_4779.JPG For 2 days I tried to offer Iris a nap in her cot. Not happening. I can’t say I blame her. I wouldn’t want to sleep behind bars either.

We bed share at night anyway, and I’d already bought a safety rail for my side of the bed, so why not try there? Whenever Iris became irritable I’d offer her a feed, just like before, only I switched it to a lying down on the bed feed. And she nodded off! Sometimes she falls asleep, and sometimes she stops feeding when she’s full and grins at me. I never push it. If she becomes at all annoyed we get up and try again later. IMG_4739.JPG The web cam we use to keep an eye on the dog when we’re out now doubles as a video monitor. I can see her sleeping, anytime I like, just by opening an app on my phone. I’ve ordered another one to use for the dog! We use a normal sound baby monitor too, and now have safety rails on both sides of the bed. IMG_4915-0.JPG Next it was time for a bedtime routine. We decided to try 7:30 bathtime and 8 o’clock to bed. Any earlier and there will just be too many days when Iris and Trev don’t see each other. It worked! The first day! I nursed her to sleep lying on our bed, then crept away. I was downstairs, hands free, watching a sleeping baby on the iPad screen and drinking a big glass of gin! A miracle! Well, it felt like it anyway. It’s continued to work for a week and I’m really excited about it. I get a little bit of time in the evening to spend with Trev and it’s lovely. Ok, so we usually can’t take our eyes off Iris sleeping on the screen, but at least both of us get to eat with both hands. Sometimes it takes 10 minutes to get her to sleep. Sometimes it takes a lot longer. Last night was an hour! We usually have to pop up a couple of times to resettle her because she wriggles herself awake, but it only takes a few minutes. If at any point she gets upset I bring her downstairs and just try again a bit later. No big deal. No bedtime battle.

Of course Iris still takes some brief naps in the carrier while we walk the dog/catch a bus/make our way to baby groups but she has bigger naps in bed too, and that’s what she really needed. If she didn’t nap on the go we’d never be able to go anywhere. The times and lengths of naps still vary greatly. There’s no routine! But sometimes she’ll take 3 or 4 naps, occasionally up to 2 hours long. It’s totally true for Iris that the more she sleeps the more she sleeps. Bigger naps mean easier bedtimes. IMG_4928.JPG Although things are generally going very well (I hope I haven’t messed things up by talking about it!) there are bad days too. Today she woke up at 6 and decided it was morning. It’s only an hour earlier than usual (her 8am wake ups moved to 7am with the clock change, which is actually useful as most baby groups seem to be in the morning) it’s really messed me up. Although she only took two very brief and easy night feeds, I was awake until after 2am.

It returns this time of year, every year. The dreaded insomnia. I have other periods of it too, but I definitely have a long run of it around Halloween. I can see all the moaning I’ve done on twitter over the years by looking at TimeHop! It’s worse now, because when I do finally get to sleep it’s broken by a hungry baby.

It’s such a vicious circle. I’m awake because I’m fretting about things I need to do. This leaves me feeling absolutely shattered. So when Iris naps, I sometimes do too. But then I get less done and feel even more guilty at bedtime. Or I don’t nap, and I do housework, which leaves me frazzled and exhausted, which weirdly also keeps me up. I think it’s in Fight Club where the main character says something along the lines of ‘with insomnia you are never asleep, but you’re never really awake either’. It’s probably worded differently from that but it’s so so true. I’m a zombie.

This morning, after our 6am wake up, both me and Iris returned to bed for a long nap. I’m lucky that I can now do that. I’m lucky that I had that little bit of extra sleep. I’m lucky that I now have a baby that sleeps well, that goes back to sleep quickly after a 4am feed. But I don’t feel lucky. I feel terrible. It affects you both physically and mentally and destroys your health. It’s no surprise to me that sleep deprivation has been used in torture, as a way to get people to talk in interrogations. I’d pretty much do anything right now for 8 hours unbroken sleep. Oh, and a tidy house. That’d be nice too. IMG_4614.JPG