14/08/2014 16:51 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Three Into Four: Juggling

Three Into Four: Juggling

When Liv started sleeping 'through the night' within a few days of her birth, I couldn't help thinking things were off to a good start. And feeling a little smug.

Until I realised that the five-to-six hours my newborn was sleeping (she would wake up at 4 or 5am, but in the sleep-deprived world of parenting, that counts as getting through the night) were the only hours she was sleeping, all day, every day. The rest of the time she would scream, unless attached to the nipple.

That's when I began to panic.

My entire plan of having another child revolved around the premise that the newborn would spend the first six months of her life sleeping for most of the day, as Diana had.

This was because I figured I needed these crucial six months to allow me to figure out how to manage it all without losing my mind. Some days, I could pull off the parenting part without a hitch, but wondered how I would ever be able to start working again.

On other days - the bad ones - I'd find myself sobbing in a heap, surrounded by mess, both kids screaming in tandem, while I attempted to clean up my bulldog's vomit and negotiate the burnt-on-the-outside but raw-on-the-inside sea bass with wilted broccoli dinner I'd tried to 'cook' to convince myself I could manage on my own all day with a two-and-a-half year old and a three-weeker.

As with everything in my parenting career so far, I chose to wing it when Liv arrived, employing a technique I like to call 'ignoring the newborn for as long as possible and doing my toddler's bidding first.'

This is basically because I was terrified D would suffer long-term psychological trauma if I didn't let her swap the blue headband for the purple one (yes, my toddler throws evil screaming tantrums on the street about accessories), while I figured most of Liv's needs would be resolved once I put her on the breast (and that's how I ended up having another child who could only fall asleep on the boob. Except this one refuses to sleep at all and just likes using the nipple as a dummy. Looking forward to sorting this out in a few months!)

The early weeks are a blur of having frequent 'book mornings' with Diana - marathon periods of reading every book we and our local library owned - just so I could feed Liv for hours at a time, as well as attempting to encourage D to get in touch with her crafty side, which involved me seating her at the kitchen table with crayons and markers while I slumped on the couch in milk-cow position.

I was also forced to rely on my trusty co-parent, the television. I realised TV was essential for allowing me to maintain a modicum of human dignity, i.e. it's the only way I could sneak in a shower. So instead of feeling guilty about it, I now view the television as my godsend.


Since D still has all of her regular classes and playgroups every week, I wasn't able to have that honeymoon period with Liv where you spend six weeks in various states of undress and feel triumphant the first time you walk down the block with your newborn.


Instead, I'd pop a placenta pill and try and shoo us out of the house in under three hours every morning, with Liv strapped to me in the Bjorn and D on foot or in her pushchair.

Other than the slightly bizarre feeling that it's a bit too soon to be out in public and I'd quite like to crawl back into my nest (and avoid that feeling of sheer terror at being out in public only to find you have forgotten the pack of wipes and both girls have simultaneously pooed in their nappies and are sobbing, which happened on one of our first outings as a trio), it was a relief to know that the three of us were mobile. And even semi-functional.

Even better, Liv actually slept if someone was bothering to lug her around (but would awake the second I stopped moving).

Sometimes, I feel like I'm starting all over again and have no idea what I'm doing, again (I had a baby who slept last time, so encountering one who refuses to has been a rude awakening). At least this time it's not something I feel anxious about, since I can look at D and feel confident about my competence as a parent (most of the time).

It's probably too soon to make the verdict official, but I think D is doing pretty well as a big sister. Sure, she gets furious when she sees Liv wearing one of her old outfits, wants to be wrapped up in a blanket like the baby and isn't particularly impressed with breastfeeding ('Mummy, it's time to put your nip away'), but she is wonderfully affectionate towards Liv, trying to play with her, kissing and cuddling her and regaling her with her favourite stories.

Most importantly, D is being an amazing little helper to me, although I'm not sure she's aware of it. Namely, she's continuing to nap, giving me some precious time to sprawl on the couch - while feeding Liv, of course - and ready myself before performing my next juggling trick.

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