​Three Into Four: Signing Out

Blonde toddler girls leans on another blonde toddler girl with big blue eyes and smile.
Blonde toddler girls leans on another blonde toddler girl with big blue eyes and smile.

It's never easy to say good-bye.

So I'm feeling pretty emotional that after five years, this is my last column for Parentdish.

When I started writing The Newborn Diaries back in 2010, I had no idea what parenthood would have in store for me: I never imagined the euphoria I would feel after giving birth and meeting my darling little Diana, or how confused I would subsequently be for most of the rest of that first year.

I certainly never thought that breastfeeding would take over my life, and that I would spend hours agonising over whether I loved it or hated it (probably a bit of both), and I took for granted how precious my sleep had been until I started losing it.

Other perils from my first year as a mum included how to get on the bus with a buggy, how to handle being turned away from pubs with a baby and, my personal favourite, how to cope when your baby poos all over your friend and your dog eagerly runs to lick it up.

But mostly, I think I was surprised by how much I loved it. All of it. I loved the baby singing (and signing!), making up silly names for my daughter and the cuddling and snuggling. I even loved the unpleasant stuff like the spit-up and dirty nappies.

Most of all, I loved figuring out who I was as a parent and a wife (becoming the former first and then the latter four months later).

I don't think it's easy to start any marriage with a newborn, especially in our case (we were barely functioning adults at the time!). Not to mention trying to be parents to the adorable bulldog puppy we'd acquired that I'd been too morning-sick to train in my pregnancy...

Now, I look back and think that becoming parents was the best thing that happened to my relationship - despite us not feeling ready at the time. It forced us to prioritise things and made us realise that we needed to be a team - where both parties put in the work and respect the other's needs - in order to survive.

As D grew from infant to toddler, I began chronicling our experiences in Toddler Tales: the tantrums, the travelling, the first words and interests (accessories and stuffed handbags all the way).

By the time Diana was two I was successfully juggling a work-from-home lifestyle of writing commissions and taking on short-term contracts with parenthood and feeling like I'd gotten to grips with things.

At which point, I became pregnant again and had my second daughter, Liv (an experience I've been writing about in Three Into Four).

Growing up as an only child, it was especially exciting for me to experience the sibling relationship for the first time. Having Liv was extraordinary and so was seeing D become a big sister - she continues to impress me with her generosity and kindness towards her little sister, even if the lovely gestures are occasionally accompanied by a snatched toy or a shove.

Although I loved the idea of having another baby, in the beginning, the reality of it was a real shock to me - probably even more than the first because I didn't imagine the transition from one to two to feel so dramatically different.

And Liv, with all of her charms, was the angriest, screamiest, least-likely-to-sleep and clingiest baby until about 16 months of age, which is a long time to scream and cry and not sleep. She quickly dispelled any illusions that I'd 'mastered' the whole parenting thing.

It's such a joy to see how happy and funny and wild she has become as a two-year-old (going on about seven, I think), who mimics everything her sister says and is even more obsessed with her father than Diana was at that age, if possible. I am simply in love with them both.

Through all of the ups and downs, the tears and the laughter, the many stressful A&E visits and the many happy moments, I've always felt I can candidly write down what I'm feeling in this column, even if it's silly, unpalatable (eating placenta, anyone?) or something that doesn't particularly glamourise the whole parenting experience.

Everyone has their own journey as a parent and I feel so lucky to have been able to chronicle mine here over the last five years (especially since I've been lazy about taking photos, so I'm pleased I'll have some memories to look back on!).

This column has been therapeutic for me in so many ways and it's also helped me to laugh at my parenting foibles. When people email me to say a particular entry resonated with them, that makes it even better.

I'm excited to be moving on to the next chapter of my parenting life, which for our family, will include welcoming another little girl this summer. And I'm not as naive as I used to be - this time I am expecting complete chaos, and I am fully ready to embrace it with my daughters.

OK, I'm officially a sobbing wreck.

Parentdish will close on April 30.