Aoibheann and Aileen

Sleep deprivation

I think for me, this was the greatest shock to my system as my body constantly craved sleep. I remember the advice at the time was to sleep when they sleep but I could never sleep during the day when they did. I don’t know if this was because they were my first and I was over anxious, or I was on my own during the day with my two girls or something else.  I used to go to bed at about half eight and sleep until midnight, (it helped that the girls were bottlefed so my husband did the feed at ten). I always heard them cry so my husband made dashes to the kitchen to get the bottles so I wouldn’t wake up. After midnight I took over and it was pot luck whether I got any more sleep after that. My girls both day and night woke religiously every three hours. I could set my clock by them. One of my daughters was a very slow feeder and it was difficult to keep her awake during feeds. The girls were very difficult to wind it mostly  took about half an hour to wind. If I didn’t wind them properly, they wouldn’t settle back to sleep . There were many nights when I would only just get the two of them to feed, winded and settled when it would be time to start again. I could never manage to feed them together at night because if I did no matter what I did, they brought the bottle back up.  They still did this during the day as well! and I remember in the morning counting how many hours it would be till I could sleep again and also crying because I was so exhausted. Although I had lots of support in the first six weeks, I was then on my own during the day, my husband had gone back to work and my family who live abroad had gone back home. I felt I was in a whirlwind of feeding, changing (as they would often bring up feeds, I had to keep changing clothes), washing and winding on very little sleep.

However I soon found ways of helping myself to cope.

The best thing for me was to get into a routine around feeds, prioritising jobs and building in what I called rest periods. I used to do all the jobs that I had to do first thing in the morning, sterilising bottles, putting washes on, cleaning the kitchen. Once that was done, I could relax and know that I could now rest when they were asleep. Prioritising jobs was quite liberating. Only work shirts were ironed, (in hindsight should have outsourced this), all non essential cleaning abandoned.

Cooking dinner for us was always last on the priority list, ready meals and take-aways were always an option. I invested in a sandwich maker for quick tasty lunches.

I was a big believer in getting out the house, whether it be meeting other mums, going to baby groups, or twin groups.  I didn’t notice the time passing. I used to go for a walk every day, even in the rain in Brockwell Park. A bit of fresh air works wonders! It also meant that my babies slept in tandem so I could get more rest time. Whilst in the park, people used to stop me because of the size of the buggy presumably and always have a few kind words. You’d see the same people in the park all the time and for me this cheered me up no end. We moved to the area we live in, one month before we had the girls so I knew no one in the area. Many of the other mums I met whilst out walking are my friends today. My husband is always amazed by the amount of people I say hello to when we now go to the local playgrounds.

The girls were always very cranky from about four until seven in the evening. It seemed they wanted non-stop feeding. I found this period particularly trying. After trying many things to settle them I found this CD I had forgotten to give as a present, some welsh valley singers. I stuck it on one day, lay down on the couch and with one arm, wheeled them in their buggy in the living room. It was like a drug and there was peace for the whole length of the CD. Forget Mozart for babies, it was the Welsh valley singers for me. After two weeks I knew every word on that CD but it remains a major triumph for that period of time.

I did find having two crying babies at the same time quite difficult to deal with especially when I was tired. I felt my brain was almost paralysed, I couldn’t think how to deal with it. I tried to remember what my Mum had said, which was crying is the way babies communicate, are they hungry, tired, soiled etc but sometimes I used to leave the room, shut the door, turn on some music and count to 30 (ten was never quite long enough), take a deep breath and go back in and sort it out.

Sitting down to write this, I was amazed that I had forgotten so much of these early days and I had to think hard to recall the first three months. It does go in a blur, it does pass and as I now chase two two and a half year olds around the same park on their scooters, I just think what a lucky mum I am.

Karen from Herne Hill, mum to Aoibheann and Aileen, 3

Big Lottery Fund logo

Dulwich and District Twins Club monkeys