Six months of loving you. Six beautiful, easy, delicious months of having you in our family unit, of you completing us, of you smiling all day every day.
I felt as though I didn’t want another child as Alice began to be able to communicate. She was articulate quite young and our bond was like nothing I had ever known. I hated (and still do!) to leave her, we did everything together and she was an absolute joy to be around.
As my pregnancy developed, so did my mum guilt. I was so anxious at how I would divide my time between Alice and another child, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. As her needs were becoming more complex than just eating, sleeping and basic playing, I was going to bring a tiny human into our world who would interrupt all that. She was so advanced and articulate with her speech; would the baby jeopardise this? I was so panicked at the thought of her feeling left out or pushed aside that rather than awaiting the impending arrival with excitement, it became a feeling of nervous anticipation.
The mum guilt also stretched to my unborn child. It wasn’t that I felt I didn’t want him, but I had no bond with him and there was no emotional connection, which was compounded by my lack of enjoyment of pregnancy. It seems to be that you either love or loathe pregnancy, and although I was fortunate enough that mine was very straightforward and low risk with no significant aches or pains, I just did not enjoy it at all. I hated how my body changed, how much slower it made me, what it restricted me from doing, how it suddenly seemed to give strangers the right to comment on my body all the time. And this in turn created another guilt: gratitude. I should have been grateful to be carrying this healthy baby so smoothly and instead I saw pregnancy as a means to an end. As labour became closer, I became more and more panicked that I wasn’t going to bond with this baby and that the struggles would be as they were in Alice’s early months.
As it transpired, it could not have been more different. I loved my labour and I loved my birth. I truly do think this set the tone for my relationship with Jack as it was so smooth and empowering, a world away from my long, stressed and medical birthing experience with Alice. I had been dreading it so much from before Jack was even conceived, terrified it would be the same as my first. This time however, I worked really hard from early pregnancy to practice breathing and staying calm using tools from hypnobirthing. I cannot recommend it enough, having dismissed it as hippy rubbish before, it allowed me to take control over the birth, making me more relaxed and -I believe- allowing me to avoid any medical intervention. I was adamant that I did not want to be stuck in hospital away from Alice for the sake of an epidural, and hated the sensation of having the emergency one with Alice (after spending 15 hours getting to 9.5cm dilated without one!). The moment I held my sweet perfect little boy my love doubled. The ginger duo became a trio and my heart was fit to burst.
Little did I know that the reasons I worried Alice would be neglected were the very things that made the transition to a family of four that much easier. Because she is so articulate she has always been able to explain to me what she wants and needs without getting frustrated. This of course makes a much more relaxed environment from the outset. In addition, it’s meant she has been able to communicate with Jack and develop a beautiful bond. Her mannerisms are so precious: the way her voice raises by an octave to do ‘baby talk’ with him, the way she tickles his tummy, the way she reads him her favourite stories, the way she strokes his head when he is upset. Now that he is six months old and a little character in his own right, they laugh and play together and they truly to adore one another. Yes, my love grew to make room for Jack, but it grew even more for Alice in a way I just hadn’t anticipated.
Of course, adapting from three to four hasn’t been without it’s challenges. There are no spare pair of hands anymore; it is now a one to one adult to child ratio, and in the week I am now outnumbered. And I desperately miss my quality time with Alice. Our adventures now are curtailed by this tiny dependent little boy. It’s even small things that I’d never considered before. I can’t go into a soft play and help her if she gets stuck and there is no way I can take two of them swimming on my own while Jack is this small, which is something that Alice previously loved to do. These are, of course, minor things; we still go to soft play with friends, and we still go swimming with Matt at the weekend. Alice probably doesn’t even notice the difference. But I do. I’m also tried. So, so tired. Jack is such a horrendous sleeper and a good night is two consecutive undisturbed hours (of which I have had 2 in the last 2 months!). Not only does this make me lethargic for high energy activities with Alice the following day, it also sometimes makes me short and snappy, which is so unfair on her. Having Jack has also had to put time limits on my patience. Whilst I try to give Alice the time she needs to work through emotions when she’s upset, or give her the time to decide what she’s going to wear, sometimes Jack needs feeding and that simply cannot wait three hours while she picks the same scruffy jumper as every other day. But she doesn’t understand why sometimes she’s given more time to do things than others.
Overall, Alice was born to be a big sister. Her kind heart has so much love in it, and as he grows so too does her love for him. Although now that he is all but crawling and can reach for things he wants, suddenly sharing battles are frequent and I feel that those with older children will consider this the honeymoon stage of sibling life, when one can’t fight back! If you have toys that have never been touched or shown any interest in, I would highly advise investing in a sibling; said toys suddenly become more in demand than Jason Momoa on the beach.
As soon as Jack was born I felt I wanted another! I didn’t feel that ‘complete’ feeling people say consumes them as they hold their youngest child. But as time has passed and Jack has reached his half a year milestone, that feeling has well and truly gone. My pigeon pair are so perfect, and quite frankly raising children is hard. I couldn’t go through it all again, and truthfully I don’t think our marriage could survive another child. I feel sad that I’ll never get to give birth again – something I never thought I’d say after having Alice! – but I’ll console myself with continuing to grow my two wonderful children. And, you know, not having to basically wear a nappy ever again, that’s a consolation too.
Here’s to you JackJack, my sweet sweet boy, our absolute geezer, 6 months old and completing the Minetts