My eyes are barely open, they are puffy with tiredness as I haul myself out of bed to the sound of my baby boy crying. I scoop him out of his cot, bring him in our bed and he thrashes around until he gets what he wants. I attach him to my boob, I haven’t looked at the time but I know it’s early as the alarm I set every day in the vague miracle that we will sleep until it goes off hasn’t rung out its jovial tune to signal me that I am indeed already wide awake and already an hour or so into the day. He settles down and we lie there together peacefully, although I don’t sleep again. Some time later two other little people run into our room, their hair crazy from the night before. They don’t know the meaning of personal space, and why should they? Nor would I want them to. They jump on us, kneeing us in places that shouldn’t be kneed, pulling off the covers and lying on top of us, entwining their warm little bodies into ours.
If it’s the weekend we lie there in relative peace for a while, the girls no doubt plugged into iPads, but not for long. Our baby boy is at a funny age, sometimes he will sit on the bed quietly for a while, causing mischief and throwing numerous things we give him on the floor, but more often than not we have to get straight up, he is at an age where he would just want to lie there feeding and he gets cross if he can’t. I usually can’t face his iron-clad wilfulness and will get up so we aren’t locked in a battle. If it’s a week day the mayhem ensues. There’s three (often different) breakfasts to prepare, two little heads of tangled hair to make presentable, clothes to get out, three sets of teeth to brush, and other little bits of our fine tuned routine to sort out before we bundle into the car for school and nursery.
After this the day begins. For two days a week our four year old is at nursery, but for the other three she’s mine just for a little longer. Some days we spend the day at home and I find a real sense of comfort in those days even though they are as ordinary and as samey as all the days that have come before them. The day revolves around naps, food, playing, work and tidying. Those five things, all combined, take up endless hours. A blur of nappy changes, hoovering up crumbs from the kitchen table for the umpteenth time that day, getting the Paw Patrol toys out, tidying the Paw Patrol toys away, answering an email here and answering an email there. We have 6 hours 15 minutes until our big girl comes home from school, yet those 6 hours fly by at a supersonic speed. Sometimes the days will be mixed up, slightly different from the norm but still so practically similar that they rarely register as any thing different. A trip to the garden centre with my Mum, or a soft play date with friends, retracing the steps I have made hundreds of times in the last six years, paying the lady in the reception who has been there for as long as I have. Eating a soggy panini that each time I say I’m not going to eat, but I always do. Washed down with a Diet Coke and the inevitable chats on how our children are doing this week.
I still remember when it was just me and my big girl. Those first months of motherhood were so overwhelming. Most of the time I would want to be sat at home, snuggling my babe and watching Sex and the City box sets. But I got up and got out, realising the importance of keeping busy. I made friends, I went to nursery rhyme time at the library, to stay and play at the children’s centre. For the first few months they would lie there and feed or sleep on our laps while we ate cake and tried to forge friendships. Then as they got bigger they would crawl about on large mats, sucking grubby toys that were actually full of germs if you really thought about it. We would spend hours discussing our babies sleep, or what they were eating, or going back to work.
Memories are a strange thing. When you are living in this life it all passes by in a blur. I remember the good days, the days walking around the park in the sunshine, pushing my new baby girl in a pram and feeling like the luckiest mum in the world. Sat on a picnic blanket with my new friends with the sun blazing down on my shoulders, with Mads in a beautiful sun dress with strawberries on it. But then there were those other days, those parenting days we all have. Where I would be pacing up and down just waiting to hear my husbands key turning in the door at the end of the day, just so I could get a break. Those days where I felt lonely, or overwhelmed, or where it all just seemed a little bit much. But for all those bad days, there were more of the good ones. The memories are hazy in time, but they are there. Just the two of us. We would cuddle up on the sofa, we’d read a book, do a jigsaw, or just lie there watching Peppa Pig, she’d nestle into the crook of my arm and I’d absentmindedly check social media. We had no distractions. There’s nothing like those first days with your first baby, even if you don’t realise the importance of them until afterwards.
It’s different now. There are way more distractions. Our second daughter came along 26 months later and those first days started again. Except it was harder to fully embrace those snuggly baby days, those days where you are so entwined with each other, where your worlds revolved around each other. Days spent on the sofa together weren’t as frequent when you had a toddler to tend to as well. Then when our baby boy came along 38 months after that. It was even busier. School runs day after day, more work to try and cram in on those quiet moments when we should have just been lying together, emails to answer instead of endless reruns of Gossip Girl. There’s more mess to clean up at the end of a day, there’s homework to nag about and there’s three little people to entertain, feed and get to bed.
In a few short months our littlest girl will be starting school. I thought that it wouldn’t be as emotional this time. I’d done the first school day, that overwhelming emotion that things were changing forever. I cried, I mourned the loss of my biggest daughter in a way. At six she’s still very much my little girl, she’s still so beautifully unaware of the world around her, but every week she gets that little bit bigger. I lose a little bit more of her, even though I don’t even know it at the time. She’s growing up and with that comes the sobering fact she won’t need me as much anymore. But I still have a baby boy and that first school day isn’t worth thinking about just yet. I thought that while it was going to be emotional with our middle daughter, that it would be ok and not as hard.
I was wrong. Already I am dreading it. I’m dreading the change. I know I will be ok, I won’t be crying in my car when I leave her every day. No doubt she will love and thrive at school just like her big sister. But that means that’s two. Two of them gone. Two lines drawn under the early days. I will never get them back. I often get people chat to me while we are out and about, whether that’s old ladies, or even people with children a little older than mine. I have lost count of the amount of times that someone has said ‘I miss those days’, or ‘Every stage is wonderful, I love the relationship I have with my teenagers now, but my goodness I miss those early days.’ Just really small passing comments that rarely register, but yet every so often I am reminded of them and they make me stop in my tracks and think.
These days are relentless, they are all consuming, and sometimes they all feel just that little bit intense. How can something be so incredibly mundane and ordinary, but intense at the same time?
These babies of mine are growing up. And I know I will look back and miss it. Just like I miss all the stages before this one.
Because one day it won’t be like this.