Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A slave to routine?

In The Time Before Babies, I had an idea of how I'd approach motherhood. I thought I'd be a laid back take-it-as-it-comes kind of mother. I had daydreams of myself spending those seemingly endless days of maternity leave doing all those things around London I've always wanted to do, but never quite got round to. Yes, I'd have a baby, but a baby can travel on the train and the tube, right? I wouldn't be one of those mothers who don't go anywhere, just because they've got a baby. No, I'd definitely be out and about enjoying myself, with a lovely baby to keep me company.

Finding out, at five weeks pregnant, that I was expecting twins blew those reveries right out of the water. Suddenly, motherhood looked very different. Faced with the prospect of two babies, I felt terrified and overwhelmed. I grieved the loss of the life I thought I was going to have. To the outside world I was business as usual, always there with a smile and a joke, but the reality was that I was scared stiff of how I was going to manage. I had no idea what to expect, and I couldn't picture my new life at all. To cope with the fear of the unknown I did what I'm best at - organising, researching and preparing. Creating lists. Oh, endless lists and spreadsheets. I diligently did my research, reading books and trawling twin websites and messageboards for advice. And the one thing I kept hearing was, 'routine is vital.'

The old, laid back mother I once dreamed I'd be would have shunned the idea of routine, preferring to let my baby find his/her own rhythm. And in the early days of struggling to follow Gina Ford's routine for twins (if any twin mum out there, apart from Alice Beer, has actually succeeded in doing this without the aid of a full-time nanny please do let me know, as I honestly don't believe it's possible!), I was sorely tempted to revert back to the anti-routine me. But we fared better with the Baby Whisperer, and gradually the babies fell into a pattern of feeds and naps that gave us at least some respite from the demands of caring for two babies.

The success of our day hinges on the two-hour lunchtime nap. Without this, I'm scuppered. If they don't get enough sleep the babies are miserable, and trying to comfort two over-tired small people is not a pleasant task. I can't be sure the babies will sleep in the pushchair so I design every day to ensure that I am at home for that vital lunchtime slot. But I feel trapped by this routine I've created. It's become like a ball and chain, keeping me prisoner. It slices my day in half, leaving me little time in the morning or afternoon to go anywhere too far afield, and no chance of meeting up with friends for lunch (unless they come to my place).

I know it won't last forever. I know I should just brave it and see what happens. It probably wouldn't be as bad as I imagine, but I'm scared. Having one baby kick off when you're out and about is stressful enough - just thinking about the two of them screaming in unison sets my pulse racing and my heart thumping. But I'm miserable stuck at home, and hate having to say no when I'm invited out. I can't bear being so inflexible and worry that people think I'm being difficult and uncompromising. I hate 'playing the twin card' but I guess sometimes I have to. I'll just try not to play it too often, and start masterminding an escape plan, or even better, a way to clone myself.

This was written in response to Josie at Sleep is for the Weak's prompt, 'What is making you feel under pressure right now?' for this week's Writing Workshop.
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