And so she is two.
Our petite, screaming toddler. Her voice would cut glass, shatter ear drums, send neighbouring dogs into a tail spin.
My husband covers his ears when she kicks off and leaves the room. I frown. I am partially deaf, it does not pain me so much and I think – well how else can you express your frustration when you want something but you don’t have the words?
She seems to be much more advanced than her sister at two. But maybe our memories are blurred.
Her sister did not speak, was silent at this age and so we are amazed when she spews out full sentences, piecing words together, sings nursery ryhmes.
Her confidence astounds us. We let her go places first, in the door ahead of us, to surprise whoever is there.
“Hello!” she waves, stomping, sauntering, as sure of herself as a seasoned adult, a little social setter. Her sister hangs back in the hall, shy, has to be led in by the hand.
Recently, she was put an end to most of our midnight woes, and started sleeping through the night. This arrived without warning – after two years of never sleeping more than a few hours in a row, she went to bed and put in a thirteen hour shift, without telling us first. We lay awake, waiting for her cries and allowed ourselves on night two to relax into a sleep that we thought may not be disturbed. It wasn’t.
Joy. Until night three. When she rose at 4.30am.
Still, her pattern is probably better than it was before, which saw us start bedtime at a normal hour of 8pm or so and continue until well after midnight with numerous trips up the stairs, many boppies of milk and lots and lots of gritting teeth, sighing and occasional wailing. From us.
Now she is hit and miss. We don’t know which nights she will sleep through and which she will waken for. We have to hope that every night will be a good night. Because it has to be. Right? Children get older, they start to sleep, it’s the norm, isn’t it?
Yes. It is. It is what we are living for.
Slowly we have been decluttering the house and I have taken great joy in removing baby items and dropping them off at various charities or attempting to sell them.
“Oh it’s so sad,” said one of my friends recently. “Letting go, all those memories.”
“Um…” I thought. That’s not exactly what I’ve been feeling.
I would probably call it… UTTER EXHILARATION!!!
I am so glad to be moving on to a new phase in our lives, to welcome in a different type of family existence. More communication, more games, more experiences, more getting back to reality. I am hoping to return to work. I am hoping to start bringing in an income that will propel us forward into a new, upgraded life.
Holidays perhaps. A house move. An extension. Something that brings us from our static swell of babyness, into a new, old version of us.
One where we rediscover ourselves. Gain back the parts we used to enjoy.
One of my favourite posts to look back on is this year in the life of August, where I look back on her growth from birth to her first birthday. Suffering from an acute case of second child syndrome (barely a scribble in her baby book, no professional photos, hand me downs galore) I have written very little about Bonnie.
And so here, I wanted to put in a few photos, of Bonnie’s first year to have a keepsake for ourselves, right here in this space of documentation
My pregnancy on Bonnie was a bit different to my first on August. For one, the morning sickness lasted longer. Boo! Two, it was a winter pregnancy, the opposite of my previous summer pregnancy. I feel this played a part in the bad flu/cold I contracted that stayed with me for the last three months of the pregnancy. I felt very unwell most of the time and wasn’t allowed take any medication to relieve the symptoms. In the final weeks I developed pelvic issues and i was in constant pain, could not drive or walk up stairs. I was looking forward to getting baby out, but I was dreading another section. Oh how experienced I was this time round! When I look back on pictures the major thing that strikes is how small I carried. On my first, I felt like a whale. On my second I looked very neat and didn’t have half the swelling. Bonnie, when she was born was only a spriglet at 7lbs 1 ounze. A sprite compared to her bruiser sister at 8lbs 8. Maybe I ate less. Exercised more. (Yeah right!) She was just a tiny wee thing. And still is.
And then we got to meet her! A girl. We had not found out what we were having, a surprise that kept us going through the last difficult few weeks of pregnancy. The surgeon let me see her first, which I really appreciated and she laid her across my face and shoulder (the only free part of me on the operating table!) for skin to skin, which I didn’t have on August.
I bonded with her straight away. It made a huge difference, that contact. I still think of it now when I hold her, something hormonal, primal, a feeling that’s pretty much indescribable.
When I look back on this picture of August meeting her sister, it is not the size of Bonnie that fascinates me, but of August. She is so small, cute and babyish. Her progress in two years is astounding. I feel that she has leapt forward seven or eight years, not just two. But that’s kids, isn’t it. (They grow so fast, sigh!)
I can’t remember what I was working on here, but it looks like a novel or short story. I was a few months off getting a deal for December Girl here but I do remember sketching out the plan for book two, when she was ten days old. I always felt very creative when I had small babies. Maybe the delirium lends itself to hallucinations that spark ideas. Like LSD.
And then this happened. Never before have I shared this photo because I used to find it so upsetting. Her tiny little face swamped by the oxygen mask. The needles and strappings and her napplyess as we tried to capture clean urine samples. At two weeks everything was fine and I was a glowing new mother, revelling in baby number two and my knowledgeable experience. Then came the week of hell. Of watching her deteriorate and a locum doctor say, she’s grand. Of trying and trying to feed her and watching it all come back up. Of the hacking and wracking coming from her chest, of in desperation, trying and failing to suck the mucus from her nose. Of feeling the most alone I have ever felt in the world, in our bed, just me and her and her illness that petrified me. A second trip in three days to the GP ended up at A&E, an admittance and alert to staff to get ready for a lumbar punture to check for meningitis, should her temperature climb by one degree. And all I really felt, at that point, was relief. Her care was no longer mine – I had given her over to the experts. My poor three week old baba.
After a few days in hospital and recuperation at home, our little baby was okay again. But I wasn’t. The whole thing had marked me. The stress of it changed me. I’ve included this image to show just how tiny she was in Daddy’s arms. I think I was going to Dublin that night, a book launch to get out of the house, a week after all our hospital drama. I felt good. I had no idea what was to come next.
Fast forward a bit and things were settling down, for baby at least. I really wasn’t feeling great and had to attend the GP to try and get my moods and form under control. I was lethargic, cared about nothing and no matter what my husband did to try and cheer me up, nothing worked. It was like a grey bubble – my feelings were numb and no amount of fresh air or talk of holidays or trips away could help. It was something that needed time to heal. Out of everything that year, this was probably the hardest to deal with and so completely different to how I’d felt after August. It took time, a lot of ups and downs and a lot of support from himself, but eventually we got to grips with it and I doubt Miss Bonnie ever noticed at all!
In May, we attend a performance of a play I’ve written that has gotten through to the finals of Wexford Literary Festival. We sit down the back with our two year old and twelve week old praying for peace, armed with our backpack of goodies and toys and timed as best we could with naps and feeds. It is a joy to see my work on stage, to hear people laugh at jokes that have come from my head. The actors are surprised by my ‘youth’ and young family. They expected an older woman. I don’t know what to think of this. We use the chance to have a few nice days away. It is our only holiday for the year.
That’s not to say we don’t get out and about. We do. Babies are pretty portable. And it’s nice to get out in the good weather and do things as a family.
Food is a new sensation.
Bonnies’ hair has been a bit of fascination since she was born. She has tufts that sit in various versions of mohawks and when the wind catches it, it looks like this!
We officially welcome Bonnie to the community with a christening in our local church – it’s also where me and her Daddy were christened, even though we didn’t grow up here. She takes in all in her stride and I think this photo perfectly captures her best pontiff personification. Perhaps acting is in her future.
Bonnie is growing fast and just loves to get out and about and stuck into everything. We’ve yet to see her make strange or act up with anyone – she is full of beans, and full of craic.
One of the best things we observe having had a second child is the developing bond between both our children. A lot of people had mentioned this to us, that it was the best thing about having children, but it is a thrill to see it at hand. August takes on the big sister role with gusto, bossing, minding, showing Bonnie how to do everything. There is jealousy, but it isn’t too bad, yet. That will come later!
One of the good things about having a winter baby is that by the time summer rolls around baby is big enough and easy enough to transport round. We have a little wagon that we bring out places, both girls perched among the cushions, looking out, gathering smiles wherever they go. It is these moments that mean the most, the free walks, evenings in the setting sun, just enjoying being together, even if it’s only for a short time before we start the squabbles and stresses of handling us all back under busy, messy roof
She grows taller, smarter, more able. She sets off walking at eleven months, just like her sister. She moves to bottles at eleven months too. By her first birthday we have a little madam on our hands, a walking, squawking fun machine. She is a dare devil, leaping into the unknown, fierce.
We know we have a special little lady in our midst. There is something so cheeky about her, her eyes sparkle, she fills us with complete and utter joy. We feel so blessed to have her and tell her we love her a zillion times a day.
Just look at her. How could you not love this sparky little thing?
Happy second birthday Bonnie. It only took me two years to get your first year of photos up. Sure I’ve been too busy having fun with you to be bothered blogging here. And there’s nothing wrong with that.