Don't get my wrong, my two children are not yet literate. Their combined age is not even two-and-a-half. Since it is Mother's Day (or Mothering Sunday- sorry, Olde English sticklers) I write this for a time when they will truly appreciate what a mother is and does; in short, a time when they have become parents themselves.
What's more, our understanding of what it's like to have extra and subsequent babies will increase our grasp of our parents' own similar experience, as I have my parents'. And what an experience: in such a family efficiency and corner-cutting mean that what was done for the first-born may well be done more shabbily, or not at all, for the next newborn. Even for the firstborn there will now be many compromises that were not there before.
But you know what? I hope that in my case they'll see me not as half a mother to each of them, but a Double Mother who they love not despite but because of these cut corners, as I see my own mum.
All this stuff will have been character building, kids, do you hear?
Dear Daughter (currently four weeks old),
I hope you understand that second time around (and, if relevant, subsequent times thereafter), we are basically more relaxed than we were with your brother, as follows:
1) Physically, you see, we treated him like a delicate chick, always held carefully in two hands. However you are more of a chinchilla, often carried floppily in or on one hand. This happens a lot when I need to wipe your baby vom off your and neck and the back of your head (how the hell...)
2) Your brother was attended to at all times; you I often leave lying lost in the middle of my bed, on the sofa, wherever. Only when I eventually remember I left you there do I return, to find you scrabbling about like a little woodlouse on its back.
3) Breastfeeding is no longer a sedentary, even stationary, activity for me. Oh no. I often feed you in motion when making a cup of tea, trying to dress your wriggling brother, brushing my teeth, even (sigh) nipping for a wee. I like to think of this a homage to more traditional cultures. I also like to think that I have drawn the line at answering the door in this state, though I can't completely remember.
4) Baby massage? You'll be lucky.
5) Upon re-entering the house, I sometimes leave you asleep in the car seat for a few minutes. And maybe a couple more minutes. You don't seem to mind this as you stay asleep, despite the position of your head being at a curious right angle to your neck and body. This happened with your brother, too, except the guilt and Safety First concerns ate us up much sooner.
6) Finally, your nappy is not changed with anywhere near the previous frequency. With Huggies and the like, The Thin Blue Line of wetness once signalled mayday. Now: no way! Sometimes you don't get changed until your loincloth has swelled up like a bouyancy aid, usually because I haven't wanted to wake you up.
Your Mum xxx
Dear Son (now two years, three months)
You can probably glean from the above the more focused, one-one-one treatment you received as our firstborn. But since your sister has now come along things have changed a little for you too, haven't they? For example:
1) Your nappies may once merely have flirted with soiled-ness before being whipped away. Now, at night time, desperate not to wake you, we leave you be. In fact, we are reminded only of our laxness when we come back to your room to check on you and are strangled, upon re-entering, by the sweet fog of a petting zoo. You sleep happily, though, so we still think it's for the best.
2) Not remembering your own infancy, you have a new fascination with breastfeeding. You are now of the opinion that should you squeeze your own tiny nipples, they may at some point help to nurse your sister. If, upon reading this in adulthood, you still require me to explain this concept more fully, I will be happy to do so.
3) We now allow more screen time than the government recommended dose. Have you seen the amount of TV I watched as a kid? You'll be...fine.
So remember, my children, next time you show brilliance or resilience, think of your mother and how she crafted you in this way. On Father's Day, you can pretty much apply any of this to your dear father (except maybe point #3 of the first section).
And if you can't do that, then at least know that upon having two tots, the fun times for us have definitely not halved.
Love, Your Mum xxx
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