PARENTS

​Three Into Four: Back To Being Me

11/01/2015 23:59 | Updated 20 May 2015

Mother and daughter hugging on the lawnKeywords2 people, adult, affection, african american, african-american, afro american

While January may be a time for resolutions and change, I'm actually feeling pretty happy with the status quo for once.

The reason? I feel comfortable in my own skin again, like I've finally got back to being me after having my second baby.

This might sound insane considering my second baby is turning two this month, but it's the truth. It's only in the last few months (since September, really), that I haven't felt completely chaotic, unkempt and exhausted.

When I found myself bulk-ordering printed spandex leggings online in November, that was the moment I knew: the old Jen was more or less back. A) I cared enough about myself to buy a new article of clothing and B) I felt confident enough to pull off an obscene-for-someone-in-their-30s Disney print. Hang on - not only was I back to being me, I was becoming a more exciting, adventurous version of me than I had been pre-babies.

Recovering from childbirth the second time around has been a long time coming. My theory on why can be summed up in two words: Sleep deprivation.

When I only had Diana, even though I had broken sleep for much of the first year and started working from home quite soon after her birth, I had a lot of time to myself: when she'd sleep in the day, when I would breastfeed for hours and watch marathon episodes of my favourite series. Even though I felt supremely busy at the time, most of my day was, happily, spent on the couch.

When Liv arrived, I sort-of assumed that scenario would happen again and then realised: I have a two-and-a-half year old at home who's not yet in nursery and who needs entertainment and attention.

Couple that with a newborn who refuses to sleep in the day and regularly wakes in the night, and I had no time for myself. No surprise that I was soon grumpy, irritable and so, so tired.

When Diana started having sleep issues of her own after we moved her into a big girl bed aged three (she rewarded us with habitual pre-5am wake-ups), it suddenly felt like there wasn't enough time or energy to manage work and childcare duties, let alone stay sane or look presentable while doing it.

This was particularly scary for me because at this point I no longer had a newborn. As Liv approached the 12-month mark, I kept waiting for the day when I would wake up, phoenix-like, and shed off my breastmilk-sodden clothes and hormonally challenged, acne-ridden complexion so that I see the energised and enthusiastic woman I once was in the mirror again.

Spoiler alert: didn't happen.

Another reason I think it took me a while to get my post-baby-number-two groove back is because I didn't have the discipline of an office job structuring my life and incentivising me to get dressed like a human being, to socialise and to pull myself together, even on days when I wasn't feeling so super.

These days, both the girls are more settled in their sleep routines, wake up at more humane hours and are generally lovely to be around in the day. I am getting better at doing my work when I'm supposed to (as opposed to the classic freelancer nights-and-weekends routine that inevitably messes up sleep further) and I am trying something new: Putting myself first. Or at least not last.

The past couple of months – even when we've had a difficult night of sleep, illness, teething issues, or whatever else – I've made a real effort to take those extra 20 minutes for myself and pick out an outfit I like, or do some inappropriate-for-the-school-run winged eyeliner or dry my hair in the morning. It isn't indulgent; it makes me feel human.

And even if I started out the day feeling grumpy and tired, my mood has usually improved once I've had a coffee or spent 30 minutes doing a workout (another thing I've gotten back into doing that has worked wonders for making me feel strong, sane and healthy).

Even though I say the 'old' me is back, I know that's not strictly true: motherhood changed me the first time, and again when I had my second baby. So I like to think I am a better version of myself these days, with the added self-possession and contentment that comes from being older, wiser and a bit battle-worn.

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