Bettina is four weeks old tomorrow. It’s been four weeks of trying to find our feet and adapting to the experienced, yet somehow new lifestyle of having a newborn in the house. We have all been enchanted by this new member of our family. She is small, perfect and happy. Two children means more than double the love.
But I have learnt that two children are more than double the work of having one child. Two children means extreme time-management, hastily-grabbed snacks, less than perfect meals, showering at odd hours in the day, and waiting three whole days to eat a pomegranate, because the time spent peeling it can be better utilised doing something else. Like going to the bathroom, for example. Or putting another load in the washing machine.
Cesca has taken to Bettina without any problem whatsoever. Everyone asks me how she’s taken to having a younger sister, and I can honestly say that there has not been one moment where she’s shown any sign of jealousy or aggression towards Bettina. On the contrary, I have to keep an extra eye out for her because all she wants to do is hold her sister, pat her head and of course, play with her ears. Bettina is her sister, her property and I thank the higher powers that I’ve seen nothing but love towards her.
However it has not been all easy-peasy. Cesca has had some difficult moments, episodes which I think are school-related more than anything else. I think she was more effected with going to school than having a younger sister. Don’t get me wrong – the majority of times she is the old Cesca. She never had the easiest of characters, but we know her so much, for us it’s all normal. We know that giving her choices works wonders with her. We know that we always have to start with the right shoe, or the right sock – never the left. We know that she is a head-strong girl and if she says ‘no’ there’s no use trying to convince her otherwise. But lately, she’s been having full-blown tantrums over the silliest of things. At the moment it’s twice a day – one usually after school when it’s time for her nap, and one right before bedtime. She says ‘no’ all the time, even when we know she badly wants something. Suddenly everything concerning her is ugly. She has ugly hair, she has an ugly bed and her room is ‘an ugly mess’. Cesca was never a people-pleaser, but she never had these types of ugly episodes, where she screams and cries so much for the better part of an hour. And it is trying on us. Very very trying. Especially with a newborn in the house. This past week has been horrible. I’ve shouted at her everyday, left her to cry herself to sleep every other day, and I’ve had moments where I’ve lost it completely and smacked her – something which keeps me awake at night with regret and sadness because I never was and never wanted to be that sort of mother.
With motherhood comes the guilt feeling. The sensation that you are doing something wrong, that you could have done more and that whatever you’re doing is not enough. I have been thinking and rethinking past episodes over and over in my head, I have been reading online articles on what to do and how to deal with these situations. However the more I do that, the more guilt and remorse I feel.
So today I turned to Instagram with a photo, and got an overwhelming number of messages from friends, near and afar. All offered words of encouragement, and most importantly for me, everyone shared with me the fact that they had passed from my exact situation, and lived to tell. And that, more than anything else, is what is helping me. Beautiful friends gave me advice on books to read, some shared their blog posts with me wherein they went through what I’m going through now, people I’ve never met gave me virtual hugs and cuddles. And I cried. It seems I spent the whole day crying. Crying for the moments I allowed myself to lose it, for the moments where I forgot that she is all but three years old, that in one month her whole life as she knew it was shaken and disappeared completely. I cried because I look at her and still see her as she was at Bettina’s age, so small and vulnerable and my heart goes out for her and the change she has had to go through. And I cried because I love her so much and I don’t want her to remember me as the parent who was always shouting at her, who was always angry at her. I cried so much I felt spent. And when the tears stopped, things suddenly became much clearer.
So today I made a pact with myself. I promised myself that I wouldn’t shout or smack Cesca, even when another full-blown tantrum happened. I would distract and distance myself when the screaming and shouting became too much. And I would live one day at a time, I would take care of myself and therefore be healthier and happier of my children, and I would not let one episode throw me back in doubt and insecurity. Sure, today she had an after-school tantrum where she did not want to change out of her uniform. She removed every piece of clothing I put out for her. So I ignored her. I ignored her running around naked, still suffering from a slight cold she has, and carried on as if nothing happened. I ignored her putting her dummy in the fridge and refusing to eat anything. I kept my calm, counted to hundred hundreds of time, and sure enough after a couple of minutes she stopped screaming. She came to me with her socks and top and asked me to help her put them on. She went on the sofa, drank her milk and asked for a banana. And within minutes she was back to her normal self, the Cesca I love so much. The one who never ceases to chat and ask questions. The one who mentions all the children in her class and tells me what each and everyone of them does in school. The one who wants to know everything, who amazes me with her stories and makes me laugh with her goofy voice and silly dance moves. And even though it was a silly episode, I feel somewhat proud of myself, of this one moment which I’m happy passed by without much ado.
So thank you my online sisterhood of friends. Thank you for your words, for your advice, for your support and for not judging me. Sometimes I write these posts and ask myself why I ought to share my thoughts and life with my readers. What do you get out of reading my experiences and what do I gain from it all. Maybe some people read these posts out of curiousity, maybe it offers them some moments of good gossip or a hearty laugh. It certainly is not easy writing a blog in a small country where everyone knows you and your family. But for me, in many situations, it has offered me support and the knowledge that I am not alone in my worries. I don’t know you all, not personally, but I feel I know you that bit better than others because of your words and comments.
Parenthood isn’t easy. Motherhood is perhaps the toughest job out there, utterly rewarding but hard. And sisterhood? Ah, sisterhood rocks. Sisterhood is the helping hand in times of doubt and problems.