Having had the joy of twins arrive in the last two weeks, it’s probably fair to say that life has somewhat changed a little.
In the run-up to the birth, I think I was trying to do what a lot of new parents do which is to try and figure out how to prepare as much as possible. Going to NCT classes, thinking about what we might need and what to buy, working out what sleeping arrangements look like etc. All of these things to try and give you a sense of somewhat-readiness and a smidge of confidence that you know what you’re doing. At the same time, while talking to other parents, you get a little background-y sense that there basically is no preparing, but you don’t really believe this. After all, you’ve read all the books.
And then, all of a sudden, you have children. And you have no idea what you’re doing. And that’s ok - you’re not meant to. Apparently humans are really good at learning and you have to lean into this a lot, and have faith that you will figure it out, and it will get easier.
I had mostly underestimated what “tiredness” was: I’ve worked hard 36 hour shifts before, I know what tired means, surely? No.
People say “Oh, you’re going to be tired”, but until you experience it, you don’t appreciate that what they mean is you’re going to be permanently tired. Tiredness is no longer a temporary state, it’s a new existence. It’s going to be physically painful to keep your eyes open. You’re going to get annoyed with yourself for not being able to do something that was second-nature before. You’re going to have to learn to be much kinder to yourself.
And through all of this, you now have actual people who are depending on you for survival.
One thing that I’m finding fascinating is realising the way in which some people (especially me) take comfort from pattern matching. A behaviour or an event that repeats regularly is easy to engage with - the regularity provides you with something that you can use to spot abnormalities and do some vague planning about the future. A baby that reliably wakes every 3 hours to feed is actually a very lovely thing, even if it does mean you can only sleep in 2-and-a bit-hour chunks.
When you’re new at something, you have no familiarity. There is no reference point. You have no idea what’s normal and not, and moreover, you’re hyper-aware of this fact. So when it’s 3am and you’re trying to do a feed and a change (which you’ve only done twice before), you’re extremely on-edge and it feels like you’re aging a year every minute. But after a few days, you get into a routine and you start to be able to deal with certain things without necessarily being fully conscious. Or at least, not totally stressed out. Everything is temporary.
Being able to make productive use of the downtime is a skill to be learned as well. I’m pretty bad at context switching, as I like to work on a specific single thing for a longer period of time. Over the last few days, I’ve had to readjust and learn what putting something down and picking it up quickly might look like. I’m still not very good at it, but I’m already better than I used to be.
The worst part of all of this is realising that as soon as you get settled into some routines and you have some patterns of normality to lean on, they’ll change. This is because kids grow up. Even in a few weeks, we’ve seen developments in behaviours that have meant some changes in routines and having to adjust to yet another new normal.
I sort of sense that “parenting” might be summed up right now as “The constant stress of having to figure out something new at any time, just when you started to feel like you knew what you were doing.”
Despite recent news reports, people are still (mostly) the best. We are extremely fortunate to have a pretty constant stream of cake and food arriving from friends and neighbours and it’s difficult to imagine how we’d cope without this.
The twins arrived via C-section, which meant I got to experience the wonder of being a pleb in an operating theatre during someone else’s actual surgery. I don’t have sufficient adjectives to describe this experience. Watching a large team of highly skilled, trained and experienced professionals work together as the most efficient team you have ever seen, focus on a single person (or eventually, people) and a single objective is something I’m not likely to forget. The fact that this was just another day in the maternity department in this hospital, and that they did this 4 more times that day is even more incredible. Everyone likes to think that what they do in life matters, but sometimes you get to experience something which resets your perspective.
I know that some people feel short-changed by C-section delivery (“It’s not natural!”, “It’s a cop-out!”), but I can’t help but feel that the experience of seeing that dedication and commitment from all the medical staff is just another part of the overall joy of birth.
I’m going to stop now, because this is becoming a little soppy. I don’t write here for anyone else, but for me 1, 5, 10 years from now. So, future me, just remember that this time of life was pretty stressful, but also pretty exciting.