I wish I had been organised enough to organise a support system before the babies came – but I have to say I was completely deluded about my ability to cope under pressure!
What I discovered though was when I was allowed to sleep it gave me the strength to cope with anything that was thrown at me in those hectic blurry early days. The days I felt I couldn’t cope were the ones where I did not sleep at all well the previous night – managing MY sleep was the key and the rest seemed to fall into place.
My main support system were my mother in law and my mother in turns – with hugely varying roles. It helped for me to be flexible and adapt to the help that was offered.
My mother in law by and large stayed with us for the first ten weeks after the girls were born with my mum giving her respite whenever she needed it. She is seventy and so I avoided giving her the night time shift throughout this period. She mainly like cleaning and cooking and feeding the girls. Which was brilliant – I got plenty of time with my girls and she did all the stuff that would have annoyed me and stopped me sleeping when I needed it.
When my mother was there it was completely different – she hated cleaning and in fact created more mess than anything else when she did cook. But she always woke up early and loved doing the 3 am and 7 am feeds – meaning I got a huge amount of sleep when she was there.
I am definitely a better mother once I have had some sleep.
It also helped to organise my husband and myself into a routine where we got sleep where we could. For example either he or his mum would do the 11pm/dream feed so I could go to bed with the girls at 7pm then wake up having had eight hours sleep at 3am do do the night feeds.
I gradually weaned off my support system after my mother in law went home by reducing the number of days my (opinionated) mum came in and had my (not opinionated) niece to come in and help with the feeding times. This way I had to make more decisions myself and do more myself and take charge of my home again.
In preparation for going back, to work – I hired a live-in nanny – my husband I have unpredictable jobs. I have not regretted that decision at all.