Jessica Faith Surycz was born 4 weeks ago on Thursday 11 September. The birth was quick and intense but utterly empowering and exhilarating. Pushing out each of my baby girls has been the highlight of my life.
The aftermath was as I anticipated – a bit like free falling off an emotional and hormonal cliff. I love being pregnant. There must be something about the hormones that stabilizes my moods and for nine months I feel zenned.
This time round, I expected the hormonal backlash and centred myself by lying in my hospital bed while I played Sudoku and watched Spin City reruns on my iPhone. This differed from the days after Megan’s birth when I wandered aimlessly through the corridors of the maternity ward in my gaping hospital gown, barefoot and tearful.
The last month has been intense but happy and I am slowly picking myself up after my emotional freefall. I’ve been itching to write a blog for ages. I used to potter about on my computer while Megan napped but now when she is down, Jessica is all rock n roll and vice versa. At night I can’t stay awake beyond 9pm and I face-plant into bed like a felled oak.
Once we’re in bed, Alastair and I have some downtime by watching House of Cards on the iPad. It’s fabulous. I only manage 5 minutes before I fall off to sleep. It’s like my bedtime story. That’s one of the many lessons I have learned about juggling two kids. Every day you must have some form of checkout where you can disconnect or float off with the fairies.
Actually, I have learned loads this past month. Here’s what I discovered:
Love is limitless but your attention, your time and your energy are not
Before Jessica was born, I wondered how I could possibly love another baby as much as I love Megan. That is the most amazing thing about love – it is infinite and keeps multiplying. It is like the universe. The scale of it is staggering. It is vast and endless and there are no words to quantify it.
While my love may be infinite, my attention, my time and my energy are not. I only have two hands. There are only 24 hours in a day. Sometimes I feel so physically drained that I could fall asleep instantly and anywhere, even standing up on one leg like a flamingo. It’s ok. It’s normal. It’s just for a season.
It’s all about project management
Motherhood is project management. I was quite good at that back in the old days when I had a job. It’s all about planning ahead, structure, to-do lists and then improvising when things don’t go as anticipated.
The prerequisites for effective motherhood are certain tools such as Candida my Portuguese cleaner, a tumble drier, a TV and a dishwasher.
Think ahead and buy groceries on the internet. Oh! One thing – don’t buy frozen food! On Saturday morning at 8am, the doorbell rang and – ta da! – the week’s groceries were lying at my feet. It was the first time I used internet shopping in Switzerland and I was an instant convert until I discovered I paid CHF30 for delivery, CHF10 of which was the additional charge for the delivery of frozen foods. The only frozen food I ordered was a little bag of peas and the delivery of it cost 5 times more than the actual item. A few months ago I was suckered into ordering 5kg of frozen peas from a door-to-door company. It’s so annoying – I can’t get things right when it comes to frozen peas.
Evenings are very Faulty Towers. The TV is blaring, pots are boiling over, the phone rings then someone (French!) knocks at the door. Megan rips off her all her clothes, except for her socks, and then pulls at my trousers demanding biscuits or some other snack. I desperately need the toilet but there is no opportunity to go. Jessica lies in her baby bouncer, thrashing and wriggling like a hooked fish. Megan then pees on the floor and Jessica arches her back, puffing with fury and frustration and I can no longer ignore her tense, spiraling cry. My natural coping mechanism is to drift into a numb, trance-like state. I whisper, ‘God help me’, not because I am blaspheming but because I am literally calling on God to PLEASE HELP ME with this chaos.
What I am trying to say is don’t even attempt to cook a meal from scratch in the evenings. I can’t face eating All Bran Flakes every night for the next couple of years so I’ve decided I will either cook big batches on the weekend or prepare something in the slow-cooker in the mornings.
You must roll with the punches because things mostly never go as planned. Murphy’s Law, Jessica does an almighty spray poo after I’ve already used up her change of clothes and it is usually at a venue with no hygienic changing facilities. Murphy’s Law, I run out of nappies at the park. Murphy’s Law, Jessica projectile vomits as I am reversing out the driveway. Murphy’s Law, Megan rips off her nappies and shows an interest in potty training the week Jessica’s born. Just whisper ‘f***’ for a quick vent and then pull yourself together and improvise.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
You can’t sweat the small stuff. Some things have to slide and you must shrug it off. Everyone has different small stuff. One of my friends said she has lots of house guests and now no longer washes the sheets between visitors who stay at her house for less than a week.
Another friend said that she was once out and about and noticed that her son was wearing his left shoe on his right foot and his right shoe on his left foot. Her instinct was to rectify the situation but she felt too drained so she thought, ‘Is he in pain? Is he bothered by it? No.’ She left it. I did the same thing the other day when I noticed Megan’s trousers were on inside out.
To maintain your sanity, you have to eliminate all unnecessary activities. I am stunned that some of my friends spend hours ironing every week. I wash and wear everything. I don’t even know where our iron is. I accept that my house constantly looks as if it has been ransacked by robbers. You have to pick your battles. If Megan won’t eat her dinner every night, it doesn’t matter for now. I can’t face the fight. I force her to brush her teeth but I am less phased about brushing her hair. It’s ok that it looks like a bird’s nest. In fact, I feel the same way about my own hair.
It’s all about crowd control
I’ll never forget what my old boss in London once said, ‘Julie, two or more kids is easy. It’s plain and simple crowd control. You need to immobilize the one while you deal with the other – put one in a cot, playpen, car seat, pram or tie them up with rope if you have to.’
I learned that I must immobilize Megan first. When we go out, she must be strapped into the carseat first and exit the vehicle last or else she will gallop off into the sunset.
It is a mission to strap Megan into anything – she hates being restricted in any way. She makes her body go all rigid, as if she has rigour mortis, and I have to bend her with brute force. I can’t believe how strong she is. She is like Samson. I always said that leaving the house with one child was like coordinating a mission to Mars. With two children, it is like preparing to travel to an outer galaxy. If staying at home wasn’t so isolating and depressing, I wouldn’t leave the house for the next few years.
A valuable crowd control/immobilization technique is to let Megan watch a little TV. Screen time is a contentious issue and I am convinced that those parents who forbid it either work or have almost full-time childcare.
Once I aimed the remote at the screen and nothing happened. I called Alastair at work. He answered the phone and whispered. ‘Julie is this urgent? I’m on a conference call.’
‘Yes, it’s urgent,’ I replied. ‘Well, it is for me. Why is the TV not working?’
Don’t forget your husband
Sometimes I forget to ask Alastair about his day. Sometimes I am too tired to care about share-based payments or fair values or change of estimates. I care about Alastair and if he cares about these things, then I must too. Sometimes I forget that he is also important.
My love for Megan and Jessica is completely unconditional. I imagine I am bound to them with a thick, steel rope. It cannot break. This makes it different to the kind of love I have for Alastair. Both types of love are equally beautiful, just different. Don’t let anyone say their love for their spouse is unconditional. It never is. If Alastair were to have an affair, for example, my love for him would shatter into a million pieces. The love between a husband and wife is not necessarily forever and that’s why you must take great care of it because it so sacred, so precious and so delicate.
I am blessed
This past month I have learned how blessed I am. Sometimes I think, ‘God how lucky am I’, not because I am blaspheming but because I am literally thanking God for the responsibility and privilege it is to love and care for my little family.