If you’d have told me 6 years ago I’d be running my own Reflexology business and have two children under two, I’d have quite frankly scoffed, rolled my eyes and probably got really annoyed at your positivity! Back then, I’d already been through 3 IVF cycles, had an early miscarriage (and a thyroid cancer diagnosis and surgery in the midst of it all) and couldn’t have felt further away from having one let alone two children.
Yet a few months and a change of clinic later, my dreams did start to come true and I got that BFP (big fat positive), followed soon after by a heart beat on a scan and my little man arrived a month early in November 2014. Our lives changed forever.
We’d tentatively discussed going back to cycle again to try for a sibling, but I was really unsure whether I could get back on the roller coaster again so soon. My little man was 6 months old, I was still breastfeeding and I wanted to enjoy this little miracle, heal a little from the trauma of those years before and try to find a bit of ‘me’ again. That said, I did start to open my mind to the idea – I got in touch with my consultant and my acupuncturist to start exploring when might be a good time. I joined a gym & went off on our first blissful family holiday. When we returned, I remember sharing a jug of Pimms with a friend in the sunshine and discussing it all, feeling overwhelmed at the thought of going through it all again. And then a few days later, my period still hadn’t arrived (which wasn’t an issue as I’d only had my first one since giving birth the previous month), but something was niggling me. Take a test.
And there it was, just a little over 12 months later I was staring at two lines on a stick in utter disbelief. I was a living, breathing cliché of ‘just relax and it’ll happen’ (and yes, I did get sooo many comments afterwards along the lines of ‘see, I told you…as soon as you stop thinking about it, it happens’). (By the way, that kind of statement is in the top 5 of ‘what not so say to someone who has been through/is going through fertility struggles’ – just don’t say it. A simple ‘wow that’s incredible’ will suffice!).
The disbelief stayed with me pretty much the entire pregnancy. I think I was in shock for most of it. During this pregnancy, the shock overtook the total anxiety I had felt for the entire pregnancy first time round. I was just in this weird little bubble. I had a baby, who was nowhere near being a toddler yet, and here I was expecting another. I had to return to work early for a couple of months before leaving for maternity leave again. It blew my mind if I’m honest.
And then in February 2016, 15 months after my first, my second little boy arrived. Then the enormity of it all started to sink in. We’d already bought a new house and had to move into a rental a couple of months before he arrived and so now, here I was with two babies in a temporary house surrounded by boxes. Luckily through a combination of support from my parents and nursery, I managed to get through those first few weeks after paternity leave ended, and got into a blurry routine of sorts. I’m not going to lie, I struggled and I pretended everything was ‘fine’ and that I was coping because of course everyone expects you to be struggling and tells you how hard it must be. So a bit of me was determined to prove to the ‘you’ve got your hands full’ crew that I was actually just fine thank you very much. Everyone is of course different and maybe I just didn’t have the resilience or the level of support some are lucky enough to have. But I did get through it. And I’ve now made it through the sleepless nights, the weaning and toilet training x 2 and it’s been the most incredible journey.
If you’re about to embark on a similar journey, here are my top 5 lessons learnt from those first 12 months in particular, which hopefully might be useful:
- Accept ALL THE HELP. You are not superwoman. Don’t try to be. If there is nursery, childminder, family, friends, neighbours….ANYONE…who is prepared to offer help in some small or big way, then just take it. If you don’t have the luxury of offers of help, then you must slow the hell down and understand that nothing much will get done aside from trying to keep yourself and your two babies alive. And that, my friend, is good enough.
- Make friends with the guilt fairy. She will sit on your shoulder most of the time, giving you a tap every now and again. She will try to make you feel guilty for everything – not giving the bigger baby enough attention; not giving the little baby enough attention; not keeping on top of anything around the house/in life generally. The list goes on. Don’t allow her to make you feel like you’re failing. I return to point 1 – keeping everyone alive is good enough at this stage.
- Buggy dilemmas are worth thinking through! I agonised for way too long over the whole buggy situation, wondering what I would need. I thought I had it cracked but still ended up with the wrong solution! My best advice would be to think about what you like to do when you’re out and about and what your lifestyle is like, first and foremost. We moved to a more rural location with cross-field daily walks and this meant the brand new second pram we bought soon become a bit of a bone shaker (and a heavy one at that). We later bought a second hand side by side buggy with off road tyres – best purchase EVER. Just really think about what your day to day life with two will be like and let that drive your purchase decisions.
- Routines are your friend. I’ve always been a fan of routine in life and motherhood, but honestly I don’t know how I’d have coped without one. Bathtimes/bedtimes in particular became a military operation as most of the week I was doing this solo every night. Just to get them both washed, dried, dressed and fed meant that everything had to be done in a certain order in a certain way, but those foundations are still with us now at bedtime and the boys are calm, settled and know what to expect (even though they might fight it occasionally). I always have (and still do), sigh with relief when we are all lying on the bed, cuddling and watching a bit of TV while they have their milk and toast before bed. Mission accomplished!
- Get out of the house. Even if its raining, even if you’ve not really got anywhere to go, just try and make it out. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t showered. It doesn’t matter if the babies still have their babygrows on from the night before. Just get out whether it be walking, in the car or getting on the bus. Yes it’s a monumental effort and the thought can be exhausting, but 9 times out of 10 you’ll all feel better for it. That fresh air, change of scenery and sometimes just that ‘clunk’ as you lock in the car seat and take a breath as you walk round to get in the car gives you a little bit of space. Of course feeding and cuddles and changing are all important and necessary parts of nurturing your little ones, but so is having a little bit of personal space and time to breathe for a few minutes a day.
And my final biggest piece of advice is simply be kind to yourself. Carve out little pockets of time for yourself whenever this is humanly possible. Chat to a friend, listen to a podcast, take a long bath, book in a reflexology treatment. That old saying of ‘you can’t fill from an empty cup’ is so true. Self-care isn’t selfish, its totally necessary so that you continue to do this incredibly hard but bloody amazing job of being a mum to two under two. Remember, you’re awesome mama!
Jane Singleton is mum to two boys aged 3.5 and 4 and is a women’s health reflexologist at Jane Singleton Reflexology based in Kettering, Northants. She specialises in relaxation, stress, anxiety, fertility, reproductive and hormonal health, pregnancy & post-natal, peri-menopause & menopause and reflexology for babies & tots to teens.
Jane is also a Tiny Toes Reflexology & Massage Instructor, and manages Tiny Toes Kettering – Baby Reflexology & Massage, supporting new mums through her small, nurturing classes which she runs from her home in Barton Seagrave on Mondays.