Hot Mess Mama
That was the standard response I’d get from moms when I asked how they were.
I’d just nod and smile but inside I would gasp, “How do they do it?”
I am the mother of beautiful twin girls. That’s right; twins. From no babies to two babies; from lazing on the couch on weekends to not having enough time or energy to do anything not baby-related. Like washing dishes. Or myself.
I was a hot mess mama when my babies were small.
Clueless, sleep deprived, and a little punch drunk from the conflicting parenting info out there; I was definitely not ‘fine’.
But, after 12 months, our twins are alive, we are alive, and the house is still standing.
It feels like we’ve painstakingly clawed our way up a mountain of rocks, blindfolded and without a map, and have finally reached the top, covered in fatigue mixed with awe and elation.
Because it didn’t come naturally to me I had to learn how to survive. For those of you who, like me, are not ‘fine’, I give to you what I’ve learnt along the way:
1. Coffee, and lots of it
Sleep deprivation is used by marble-faced military people with brutal efficiency. If I just knew what they wanted me to confess, I would have… gladly!
Whether you like instant, percolated, beans or ground, this will be your constant companion in the early days. Try limiting it to two or three cups a day though as more than that becomes counterproductive and will keep you from sleep.
Note to self: If you’re breastfeeding avoid coffee for the first few months.
2. Friends, family and foresight
For advice, a shoulder to cry on, or an empathetic sounding board, there’s nothing that comes close to friends and family.
I called my best friend and asked her, in a wobbly voice, “Does it ever go back to normal?” – ‘it’ being our lives. She gave me these short-term goals for the future:
- At three months they start sleeping longer, and you start thinking clearer.
- At five months they start getting interested in solids, and the day is more manageable.
- At eight months they start crawling and become more mobile.
- At a year they’re practically toddlers and you have a semblance of your life back.
It wasn’t as if my life became instantly easier with each milestone, it was more like a gradual improvement where one day I realised, “I almost feel like my old self again.” That was a happy day for everyone.
These little gems are worth their weight in gold. I got the extra-long ones from Little Bo Babies that can be used until your child is four years old. The sleeves zip on and off for cold or warm nights. I think it’s that secure in-the-womb feeling they get that helps them settle quickly and sleep deeply.
I remember the first time they slept through – I felt like I’d had a holiday when I woke up. A full night’s sleep can change your life. Or, at least, give it back to you.
4. Sense of humour
Picture this: Me in über cool oversized sunnies, leopard-print scarf, stylish JJ Cole baby travel bag, and pureed butternut smeared on my branded skinnies.
It had taken me literally an hour to finish getting dressed that day, what with changing nappies, feeding, wiping, feeding again, dressing babies and finally dressing myself. I’d actually thought I looked like a mommy who had it going on! Until my husband pointed out the offensive tangerine stripe, that is.
We had a good laugh. At least my sunnies made me look pseudo-famous. At least my baby travel bag was to die for. At least it wasn’t ‘recycled’ butternut, I thought to myself with a chuckle. But that’s a story for another day.
5. Hands-on partner
I remember sitting on the floor of the nursery one afternoon, crying in a heap next to my screaming baby. After trying everything, my exhausted mind just couldn’t take it anymore; I just didn’t know how to fix the crying. I was, in a word, overwhelmed.
Strong, sensitive and ever-so-practical, my husband walked in, looked at my wet puffy face, and picked up our daughter. Of course she stopped crying immediately, as they do. Traitor. To be honest, I was just happy I could leave the room and make myself a cup of coffee to sip quietly for five minutes while he took care of her. After five minutes, I was good to go.
6. Me time
Which leads me to this point.
It doesn’t need to be a three hour massage and pedicure session (oh, would that it were) so schedule in what you can. I say schedule because if you don’t plan it, it won’t happen.
- A coffee date for you and your spouse when grandparents are visiting – it’s not as long as a date, but it’s long enough to semi-reconnect.
- A little nap while baby’s napping.
- New nail polish to make you feel girlie again.
- Whatever it takes to have a bit of a mental vacation from the constant demands of parenting.
So the next time someone asks you how you are, with these helpful tools in one hand, and your baby in the other, you can beam and answer, “Well I’m just fine, thank you.”