Some people say that your first child is the biggest shock to your lifestyle. Others say that one child is easy, she fits into your life; having two is the game-changer. Still others that two is manageable, three is when you don’t have enough hands. For me, when we first had Jackie, she took up every moment: I thought, “my goodness what on earth did I do all day before I had her?” Now, I wonder what I did all day when I had only her. On top of all the appointments, the phone calls, the paperwork, the prescriptions to collect, there are medicines to be administered, purees to puree, sheets to wash, sofas to wash, clothes to wash, nappies to wash, physiotherapy exercises to do, classes to go to, drawings to draw, stickers to stick, swings to swing on, books to read, towers to build, pirates to dress up as, and bubbles to blow.
But two days a week Jackie goes to nursery and it is just me and Benjamin. These are strange days. Quiet. Unscheduled (unless we have an appointment). Torn between trying to catch up with the ever-growing “to do list” and giving Benjy the attention he doesn’t get when there is a noisy toddler making constant demands. When he’s on good form, it seems most important to take advantage of that, to spend time playing with him and doing his exercises. On a bad day, it takes all day (and all night) just to feed him. The worst is when he just wants to sleep: then I’m too nervous to get on with anything; I would spend all day just watching him breathe.
Today is a hungry day. We have spent it on the sofa and at the kitchen table: breast-breast-bottle, breast-breast-bottle, trying to squeeze in a syringe of medicine here, a spoonful of puree there.
My husband says I always exaggerate. Okay, we haven’t spent all day feeding. I had a chat with a delivery man about the weather. I made a coffee. I phoned the geneticist to check where our clinic is. I even changed a lightbulb. And, as I sit here, he has finally dozed off on my lap, head lolling heavily on my arm, mouth open, catching flies, snoring irregularly. Like Jackie, he has their Daddy’s impractically short nose. Like her, he has my mouth, which I can trace back through my father to my grandmother and beyond. When he’s alert, when his eyes are bright, I can see in him my little brother, smiling out of photographs from sunny Spanish holidays.
Soon we shall go and collect Jackie from nursery. I’ll try to do it gently, but in the process of squeezing his limbs into a snowsuit he will wake, and our moment of perfect peace will be over. But it was enough.