Single Dose or Double the Double?

It was only this week that I ventured a delicate subject with a friend – a fellow mummy of three. It is a subject which I never discussed with anyone, basically from fear of the looks I would get from other mothers. I have always wanted to pose the question, from the moment we started talking about children right up until the minute Bettina was born. I never found the courage to ask the question, not even to my own mother, but somehow I have been thinking about this subject recently and this week the topic popped up when talking to my friend.

Looking back now, it is a ridiculous question, one I have no idea why I feared, but at the time it was on my mind. Constantly.

Do you ever love the second child as much as you do the first?

Motherhood opens up a universe of emotions. Everything comes to surface, all is new, and the amount of love you feel towards this small and fragile stranger is amazing. You find yourself doing things you never imagined you could, and you smile through it all. Everything is fresh and bursting with love. It is the reason why many mothers say how they can never imagine going back to a life pre-baby. It is because life and priorities shift so tremendously that even if you put feelings aside, there is no rational way of ever going back. You give birth, you become a parent and your children are with you always and forever.

So big and enormous is this mass of love you feel for this tiny little baby that it is frightening, elating and surprising. Ten years ago, would someone have ever told me that I would be waking up at 6.30am on a Saturday and Sunday morning to a cooing baby, and smile about it, I would have called them crazy. Whenever we went out I would start preparing for the night out for at least an hour before. Now I am lucky if I get fifteen minutes to prepare myself for an evening out. My bags are full of baby wipes and empty biscuit wrappers and my pots of makeup are now under lock and key or else destroyed. And somehow it is okay and I don’t mind.

Now imagine being so enamoured and so wrapped up in this tiny being who you’d move earth for, and then find out another little on is on its’ way. With our situation, we were waiting for Bettina eagerly. She came at the perfect period for us all. Cesca needed a sibling to ground her a bit and we did not want to let too much time pass for a second baby because we knew that the more time passed, the more difficult it would be to start the baby-routine again. Things were happening in the background, and add to that the silent fear I would sometimes experience when I’d think of a new baby, my panic attacks started and they threw me off balance.

I now know that the cause of it all was fear. Too many things were happening at the same time and I did not know if I was prepared for it all. Funny really, considering how I did the first two and a half years of Cesca’s life alone with her and I never ever doubted I could do it. But a second baby, a job and a new school for Cesca, made me worry about handling it all. Luckily enough they all turned out to be unfounded worries, but try telling that to a pregnant woman midway through her pregnancy. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to handle.

Underneath it all, and perhaps at the root of it all, I would start questioning how I could love another baby as much as I did Cesca. I spent so many hours during Bettina’s pregnancy thinking how I would be cheating Cesca out of my love for her, with the arrival of a new baby. I feared showing preference towards Cesca in front of the new baby and having the latter notice this.

And then Bettina arrived and everything shifted. Suddenly everything was clearer and simple. I had gone round the whole issue the wrong way. For it was not halving the love I had for Cesca in order to share it with Bettina. But it simply was doubling the love I had for one, for two. The enormity of emotions Cesca brought with her just doubled. As my friend told me, each child comes with their own universe of love. And that is true. I then understood so much more than I did before. Cesca and Bettina have different characters, each come with their own baggage of love, they are both unique and I can not think of one without thinking about the other. Cesca makes me laugh, and a minute later we’re both smiling at something Bettina did. There is never any hint of jealousy, of preference, for they are two separate portals of love.

So I finally got the answer to the question which had been brewing in my mind for ages. Each child is a blessing, and the most amazing thing is that whether you have one, two or six, you love them equally, in different ways perhaps, but somehow they all hold your heart. Parenthood is an amazing blessing. It baffles you at times, drives you up the wall at others, but rewards you with the simplest and purest form of love. Or loves.

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Togetherness

Our little Bettina is growing up. Now that she’s bottom-shuffling and learning to express herself, she has become Cesca’s perfect buddy in crime. From the day Bettina was born, Cesca was constantly asking me when her little sister would start playing with her. It seems those days are here for now when together, they are inseparable. Their favourite way of playing is very messy and involves all the toys they have, but they spend hours together, playing, fighting (mainly B pulls C’s hair when the latter takes her toys) and giggling. Oh the giggling, how I love hearing them laugh together! Bettina is constantly following Cesca with her eyes, and I swear she gives her big sister a unique look of total love which neither me nor Anthony get. And Cesca (known to us, her parents, as our full-blown diva with the sky-high self-esteem and total love of self), has found her perfect role as a big sister. Bettina is the perfect audience. She claps when Cesca calls her, she claps when Cesca sings, and she claps when Cesca gives her toys. I’ve said it before and I will repeat it now – from the moment we found out we were having another girl, this is what we wanted and wished for. This camaraderie they seem to have, this hidden bond which ties them together. Bettina was a godsend to Cesca. And Bettina is lucky in a way that Cesca wasn’t. Bettina has a full-time entertainer, talker, performer – Cesca only had me as that. And my eldest daughter is a million times better a performer than I ever will be.

They are spending more time together now than in winter, and although tiring (and draining in this awful heat), they are a laugh. Their characters seem to be different. My friends all agree on the First Child Syndrome – the first child is the one who is unarguably spoilt, has a great sense of self-worth, struggles a bit when s/he learns that the world does not revolve around him/her alone and is somewhat a bit bossy. Cesca is all that. She loves an audience, insists on being called a queen, and I’m pretty sure she will start referring to herself in the third person pretty soon. But is so much more. Her sensitivity surprises me and the love she gives is a joy. She surprised me most with Bettina – she fully accepted her without an ounce of jealousy, and every sentence starts with “Me and Bettina…” Unfortunately third parties are sometimes rudely excluded. To their face. With a pointed finger ordering them to go away.

The Second Child Syndrome mainly involves the child being somewhat more of a fighter. S/he fights to find his/her own place in the world. S/he never knows the full and total attention of the parents as the First Child did, and this is due to obvious reasons. But the Second Child is observant, more knowledgeable about what is going on around him/her and although may appear quieter and calmer than the First Child, when need be, s/he will make his/her voice heard. Bettina is more ‘gathered’ than Cesca. She has an air of tranquility around her which makes everyone who meets her remark on her jolly nature. In these nine and a half months she’s been in our lives, the only times I have known her to get upset is when she’s hungry and when it’s time to take her out of the bath. Otherwise it’s mostly she smiles, I smile.

Together they click. And how!

Christmas in July.

Christmas in July.

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This is basically the sum of my lives together with these girls :)

This is basically the sum of my life together with these girls 🙂

Hang On. Tight.

Tomorrow Cesca finishes her first scholastic year. I can’t for the life of me figure out how this year flew by. With so many things happening, and me looking forward and fearing the start of school, it seems like yesterday that I was buying her uniforms and trying to figure out how life with a new student and a new baby would work out.

Like sisterhood, school has been a godsend for Cesca. Both events happened together (quite literally), and although there were early teething problems, she took to both quite well. She has learnt that the world is not all about her, she learnt the importance of sharing, and in both situations she took to the roles of elder sister and fellow pupil very well.

School has helped improve her social skills tremendously. She is still very picky on whom she befriends, and if she does not like you (or the look of you, unfortunately), she will not hesitate one minute in telling you so (much to her parents’ embarrassment). However she is friendlier with her friends and whenever she feels like it, she will talk to strangers like there’s no tomorrow. Her vast vocabulary has now turned into fully-fledged sentences, and she can spend minutes talking about everything. She has learnt new nursery rhymes, she sings all the time and comes up with new expressions and words which sometimes baffle me. I smile whenever she uses ‘otherwise’, ‘in the meantime’ and ‘anyways’ in sentences. She has started using Maltese words and although her use of the language leave a lot to be desired (“Jiena ha taghmel…”), I admire her trying to speak Maltese with new children she meets.

My fear of Kinder One proved to be fruitless. Luckily she had teachers who made her comfortable and who were patient with her, especially in the early days. She has the same group of friends she mentions all the time, and seeing her interact with them makes me feel better about my unfounded fear of her not blending in well. Thankfully she does not seem to be lacking in the confidence department. In fact, she lately refers to herself as “Queen Cesca”. Not “Princess” – that title is saved for Bettina. Cesca is the Queen, I am the Super Queen and Anthony is the Super Hero. We had an episode of sorts last weekend, when we were in a shop full of people and she asked in a loud voice, when we were going back to our castle. Because you see, our little home is a castle in her eyes.

These past two weeks have been trying for us though. She is suddenly scared of everything under the sun. She fears the wind, the fan, her spotted socks and even the red hair-brush. She is also suffering from separation anxiety when it comes to leaving me alone for a minute. For that reason she has refused to go to her crafts lessons for the past fortnight – something she used to love doing. She now visits the bathroom with me, helps me hang the clothes and is always hovering round me. There are some perks to this phase – I get impromptu kisses and hugs, declarations of love and lots and lots of ‘mama’ this and ‘mama’ that. However it is a trying phase for me, especially with another baby in the house and trying to juggle everyone and everything. Hopefully this phase will pass. And I know it will, because if motherhood taught me anything, it is that childhood is one phase right after the other. One phase ends and another one will start immediately afterwards. It’s just that when you’re in the eye of the storm, things look a million times worse. Once out of it, everything resumes calmly. Till the next storm that is.

So if you have a child starting school next September, don’t worry too much. Like everything, the teething phase will be difficult. Believe me when I tell you that it was a hundred times harder for us, because we had Bettina arriving on a Tuesday evening, and Cesca started school on Wednesday morning. I was having closely-timed contractions at home, sorting out Cesca’s school uniform and satchel, telling Anthony’s sister what to prepare for her for school the following morning, clutching my tummy with pain, praying Bettina wouldn’t be born in our kitchen, and feeling useless as a mother for knowing I would miss out on Cesca’s first day of school. Learn to trust in higher powers, in your child’s ability to fend for him/herself and know that it will all be okay in the end. There will be discouraging episodes which will throw you back at times – having your child cry leave when you leave him at school in the morning, times when they wet their pants again (in school, for two straight weeks – yes, we had that too), the first Monday after two-week long Christmas and Easter holidays. But they will pass, don’t worry.

Perhaps the worst part of schooling happens to parents. For me, it was learning to let go of Cesca. I had to learn to trust her by herself, with new people, in a new setting, without being there to check up on her like I usually would. I have to admit that the temptation to call up on the school and ask about her was very tempting in the beginning, and there were days when I would stay for a couple of minutes underneath her class window to see whether she would cry when I left her. I was jealous of the time she spent with her teacher and with her new friends. But then I would see her coming out of school laughing, smiling, with messy hair and paint-stained fingers, with star stickers attached to her forehead, waving good-bye to her friends and teachers, and bursting with the need to tell me what she did at school, so much so that I could barely understand her rushed words, and I knew it would be okay.

So remember, the first cut is the deepest. Hold on and hang in there.

And come next October, I will re-read this post because I know I will need the reassurance again. And again.

This seems like yesterday.  01.10.2014

This seems like yesterday.
01.10.2014

Their bond is enviable. Their smiles and giggles make every second of a hard day worth it.

Their bond is enviable. Their smiles and giggles make every second of a hard day worth it.

Same girl's birthday party, one year apart. Last year she was the grumpiest ever, refusing to join in on the bouncing-castle fun and not letting the entertainer draw glittery doodles on her hand. This year she was the total opposite. Changes.

Same girl’s birthday party, one year apart. Last year she was the grumpiest ever, refusing to join in on the bouncing-castle fun and not letting the entertainer draw glittery doodles on her hand. This year she was the total opposite. Changes.

She drives me up the wall at times. She's stubborn, set in her ways and loves an argument. But she's the most sensible girl I know, and she has my heart.

She drives me up the wall at times. She’s stubborn, set in her ways and loves an argument. But she’s the most sensible girl I know, and she has my heart.

The end result of Kinder One :)

The end result of Kinder One 🙂

This Moment

I never even realize how much time has passed between blog posts until I receive an email from WordPress telling me that it’s been while since I put fingers to keyboard, and typed away. So much is happening, time is never enough and posts which I write in my head just before I go to sleep, somehow never make it here.

The girls are growing up fast and quick. Bettina is now six months old, she just cut her first tooth and is still learning how to sit up unaided. Cesca will be four in three months, she is a human radio and never EVER stops talking (she even talks in her sleep), and has found the perfect role in being a big sister. Bettina is her doll, her property, the recipient of her songs and conversations, mannequin for hair-bands and clips, and just her’s, plain and simple. And even though sometimes I pity little Bettina, who is never left alone when Cesca is with her, I look at them both and my heart fills up with so much love and joy. Because from the very moment we found out that we would be having another girl, today is exactly what we wanted from both girls. We wanted them to be each other’s world, we wanted to give each other looks of unconditional love, secret smiles and giggles. I smile when I see Cesca fiddling around with Bettina’s ear, and Bettina in turn playing with the other ear (it seems to be one of the many things they have in common). My heart warms up when I hear Bettina laughing at Cesca who pretends to gobble up her toes, or play hide and seek with her. Bettina doesn’t move or cry whenever Cesca surrounds her with soft toys and whole regiments of animals, whilst playing. She just looks at her sister, studies her and smiles at her whenever they catch each other’s eyes. For Bettina is a smile-r, she smiles, she laughs, she’s a sweetheart. And Cesca, who sometimes plays up and can be a proper pain, is deep down the most sensitive and gentle girl I have ever seen. Her transformation around her sister is amazing.

Yes, two children are hard work. The days just fly by, our time and energy is consumed by these two little angels. Weekend sleepovers are over – by 7.30am, our bed is normally hosting the whole family. We have to sometimes schedule time for ourselves, because the parent-mode switch is never off. But we would not have it any other way, not for a second. Seeing the girls so much in-sync is our greatest gift as parents, hearing their laughs coming from their rooms is a blessing, and we only pray and hope that this bond which is so beautiful to watch forming between them, lives on, grows stronger and survives all.

Life is made of these…

Yesterday was quite surreal. My brother found a video recording of my dad, taken during a family holiday. It was startling and fascinating to watch. It was a short video, but his voice could be heard clearly and his face is focused. i listened to it over and over again. I closed my eyes whilst doing so, and for a second I imagined he was next to me talking. I had not heard that voice for nearly nine years, and try as I did, my recollection of my father’s voice was next to nil. It is easy to remember a face because a photo and a dream easily trigger the memory. But the voice is a different matter. The voice is perhaps the first memory of a person to fade away. And after nine years, my father’s was a very distant recollection.

I can not believe that in two months time, he will be gone for nine years. So many things happened and so many things changed that it’s difficult to think about how much he missed out in the meantime.

Which makes me affirm our decision to move back to Malta. England was great. England was about new experiences, opportunities, new friends and horizons. But Malta is where our roots our. Our family is here, our friends are here, our familiar places are here. And having children only made us want to settle down here more and more. It was not easy, I’m sure you all remember my posts back then. But over time, we have come to adjust quite well, and even though England will always hold a special place in our heart, Malta is home now. And perhaps the one thing which reaffirms our decision again and again is seeing both sets of families with our children. All faces light up. It is chuckles all round and smiles as big as that of the Cheshire cat itself. Having them experience both children growing up on a daily basis made each difficult step of this journey worth it. We didn’t want them having a weekend every month. I didn’t want the children seeing our families a couple of days a year, not knowing who their parents families and friends are. I have to say that one thing that always puts a smile on my face is seeing Cesca play and interact with children of our friends, and knowing friends who had children around the time Bettina was born. It feels as if a full circle is being drawn and things are being completed.

Because I have learnt that life is all about memories. Small snippets of happy moments is what makes a life worthwhile. And although we may have missed out by moving back to Malta, it definitely does not feel like it. Because my children are making beautiful memories with our families, and the grandparents are in seventh heaven in the meantime. We meet up with old friends and laugh, and have learnt how to be a couple again, with some proper ‘us’ time. My dad’s demise taught me that. It’s all about the little, simple things. The rest does not really matter after all.

And although my dad is not here to experience Cesca and Bettina first-hand, I know and feel that he is their guardian angel. Which makes them lucky children. From every aspect.

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Nearing The End

2014 is nearing its’ end.

It couldn’t have been a more eventful year if we wanted it to be.

We got pregnant.

We had our little Bettina.

We started building our future home.

Cesca started school.

(and other ‘minor’ episodes I won’t bore you with…)

The timing of some events could have been better, granted. But we somehow managed.

We learnt that bit more about ourselves and are better for it.

2014 was a tough bitch at times. It was full of change. It brought us the greatest happiness ever in the form of our little angel Bettina. It taught us hope and persistence, and the amazing power of prayer and positivity. It presented us with our greatest fears, brought us to tears at times, and made us question what we thought we knew. We progressed in some areas, regressed at others. It made us bang our heads against the wall one day, but made us cry with laughter the day after.

We will end 2014 slightly bruised perhaps, but stronger than ever.

So 2014, thank you. I can’t think how 2015 will top this year, but knowing the little I do about life, I’m sure it will.

Dear friends, seasons greetings to you all! Blog-wise, 2014 was a testing year at times. You all helped me along the bumpy path life led me to at times, and you all cheered our happy events with your sweet words and messages. So thank you friends, all of you near and far, friends and practical strangers. I wish you all the best of the festivities to come. Stay safe x

My sweetheart turned three!

My sweetheart turned three!

The Bump

The Bump

Two friends, two bumps, which resulted in Bettina and Ivy :)

Two friends, two bumps, which resulted in Bettina and Ivy 🙂

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Running to meet her little sister for the first time x

Running to meet her little sister for the first time x

12 hours after her sister was born, Cesca started school!

12 hours after her sister was born, Cesca started school!

She's changed so  much in the seven months it's been since the photo's been taken x

She’s changed so much in the seven months it’s been since the photo’s been taken x

The definition of love.

The definition of love.

No Other Way

If I ever thought having one child was time-consuming, I must have not given a thought as to what having two children would be like. Saying that the days are rolling by is an under-statement. My days are starting earlier than usual and from the moment we wake up, the hours just fly by. Between waking C up, preparing her for school, feeding and changing B, taking C to school, taking B out to run errands and shop for the basics (i.e. food), picking C up from school and then handling two children till A comes from work, feeding and washing them and putting them down for naps and sleep, I hardly, if ever, find a moment for myself. Some days are really good and make having two children look like a manageable job. Others start off bad from the morning and go downhill from there. Let’s just say there is no time to get bored in this house.

Cesca seems to have finally settled down. She seems to be enjoying school, she does not stop narrating her whole school-day when she’s home, and she’s learning her first words of Maltese. Her pronunciation is funny I have to admit, and I have to stop myself from laughing when she starts sentences with ‘Ara mama’…’ Luckily she loves her teacher and seems to have found her group of school-friends whom she calls ‘my cousins’. Her ‘best friends’ are Karolin, Giulia and Gabriel, and every morning she wants to wear a hair-band like Giulia, and she wants a Peppa Pig back-pack like Karolin. Yesterday she spent a whole evening laughing about a “Miss Vanilla” and “Megan” Gabriel and herself talk about at school. She has a wild sense of imagination and makes up the most believable of stories, which I only got to verify last Friday when I had her first Parents Day. It seems that Sister Elsa did not cry all morning long because she wanted her dummy and Sister Stella did not want to give it to her. C made that one up.

Bettina is a little blessing. She’s 8 weeks old now and now smiles and makes the most adorable of noises! It seems she already reacts to C’s voice and turns her head whenever she talks to her. Even though she’s young, you can see the connection these two have. I have to hold C back from hugging her too tight, and poor B gets tens of wet kisses every day. Whenever I bathe B, C has to be there, rolling her sleeves and asking for soap. And when she starts crying, I always find C covering her with a blanket (because according to her she’s feeling cold), and asking her ‘Why are you crying Bettina?…Mama’, Bettina wants milk!!’ I can not wait for B to be a bit older only to see them playing and interacting more with each other. And of course, fighting…

On crazy days B will be crying for milk, I will be trying to feed her while taking C to the bathroom. I have become an expert at one-handedness. I can cook, clean and dress with one-hand, whilst holding and feeding B with the other. We have taken both girls to Malta three times, and each visit had its’ own set of stories. A and myself joke that each trip would qualify as an episode for ‘The Crazy Family’ show…somehow always with a happy ending and the four of us all still alive and in one piece.

We are extremely lucky that Cesca has taken to Bettina from the moment she first laid her eyes upon her. So of course, we praise C, we give her rewards, we try and spend alone time with her even though it’s hard with a newborn. But the weather has been good so far, so we take her out for walks with her scooter, we take her out for lunch at her favourite place and we always read her her favourite book, even when we’re dead-tired after a long day and just want her in bed to enjoy some quiet. Because quiet time with two children is practically non-existent. As is a tidy house. And my reading time. And my Bucilla.

So yes, we’re living crazy days. But I can not imagine life being anything other than what it is today. All that makes this life crazy, is what makes it worthwhile and precious.

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“Mama’, I’m stuck”. Again!

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Yes, they’re all sweets!!

Trying to find some frogs.

Trying to find some frogs.

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The baby gym is out! (Remember this Clare?)

The baby gym is out! (Remember this Clare?)

We've started decorating!!

We’ve started decorating!!