This blog post is dedicated to Gina Henning, author of Going Pecans.
When Twitter pal Gina Henning invited me to join her Blog Hop “Going Pecans” to promote her book of the same name, I readily agreed. The premise is fun; write about a time when you were going nuts, i.e. pecans. But then I thought – what should I write about? Should I blog about the time I unwittingly signed up for HUET (Helicopter Underwater Evacuation Training) so that I could work on an oil rig? Or the time I was pursued by Mormons? Running out of money while backpacking solo across Europe certainly generated a few hairy moments. I eventually decided on the insane period following the birth of my second child.
Husband, two year old son and I were living in a rented house in Cambridge, England. Short story – we had just returned from eighteen months in Mozambique and tenants were living in our own home. We were happy to be back in Cambridge where we’d spent many previous years.
They say that having a baby changes your life. Well, DUH. “They” also say that when you’ve had one baby, the second one is easier. Bull crap. The arrival of my daughter catapulted me into a Twilight Zone of perpetually crying children, an endless laundry pile, and a permanently screwed sleep pattern. I couldn’t even seek solace in a decent Sauvignon Blanc. Nature is cruel.
I didn’t know if I was coming or going. Whole days were spent in a front-opening nightgown with a toddler clinging to my leg and a baby hanging off my breast. Brushing my teeth and showering regularly became dimly remembered luxuries I could no longer indulge in. Sitting on the toilet with the door open became the norm. I needed the door open so that I could yell “It’s OK darling! Mummy’s coming just now!” over the combined wailing of my offspring.
Watching Orange Is The New Black recently brought back vivid breastfeeding memories. It was the episode where Polly answers the door to Larry with a nipple poking out of her unbuttoned shirt Pride goes out of the window when you have a screaming child to feed. I couldn’t give a toss who saw my tits as long as a nipple in her mouth shut my daughter up.
Mealtimes – what mealtimes? – were forgotten altogether. My husband and I wolfed hasty bites of whatever scraps we could find between nappy changes and shoving fish fingers and mash into our son.
I envied my husband’s daily escape to interact with The Real World. I was stuck in an endless cycle of Children’s BBC (I can recite every word of dialogue from every episode of Postman Pat ever made), breastfeeding, and strategic cleaning. (I can’t call it housework. Everything was a mess). I was truly “going pecans”.
Even the simplest of chores became a major undertaking. A trip to the supermarket was a mammoth task. The sheer effort involved in getting a baby and a toddler dressed to face the British winter and strapped into car seats could take the best part of a morning. At least all I had to do was throw on a coat. No-one needed to know I was wearing a grubby T-shirt and sweatpants over yesterday’s knickers. As for make-up, don’t be ridiculous. A good twenty minutes was usually spent tracking down where my son had hidden the car keys. Inside the video recorder and behind the settee were favourite places.
We’d arrive at the supermarket and after parking in one of the coveted “Mother and Children” spaces I would spend the next forty-five minutes hissing at my son through gritted teeth “Benn! Come here! Put that down! Leave it alone!” By the time we got home I would be stressed, my son would be over-excited, and the baby would be cranky.
If it hadn’t been for my local National Childbirth Trust Mother and Baby Group I would have lost it altogether. NCT Group was my salvation. I lived for the weekly encounters with other harassed new mothers, several of whom were also doing the second child shuffle. We spent our meetings exchanging tips to stop Child No 1 from killing Child No 2 and bitching about our irritatingly calm husbands who took the changed family dynamic in their stride instead of having screaming hormonal breakdowns.
For two blessed hours I was in the company of women who were in exactly the same situation and handling it equally badly. There was something strangely comforting, indeed satisfying, in sharing our tales of woe and maternal failure. We bonded over rumpled clothes (who the hell had time to iron?), sleep deprivation, and sore nipples. Misery does indeed love company.
Not for the first time I appreciated the ability of sisterhood to save my sanity while nourishing my soul. As crazy as the time was – days would pass before I remembered to comb my hair – I wouldn’t have swapped the new baby-toddler-circus for anything. I understood this was a learning curve. I was starting at the bottom but I would get better. Or at least better at faking being a Domestic Goddess, with the support of my fellow new mommies.
Did I mention Nature is cruel? So cruel that when you become proficient at faking Domestic Goddesshood, Nature makes you forget the newborn hell and knocks you up again. The arrival of Baby Number Three threw me into a fresh nightmare. But that, my friends, is the subject of a whole ‘nother story.
Going Pecans Blog Hop
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