For one year now we have been a family of four. Something I had wished for but could never be certain was in my future has been my reality for a whole year. One year ago Little T was born. Our sunny, radiant little guy has fitted into our family with such ease I don’t know how we ever got along without him.
It has been a year of decided ups and downs. Birth is an emotional journey. That first 3 months with a baby is another journey. And the first year with a baby – well let’s just say his birthday party was less for him and more to celebrate US making it through the year.
To start, Little T’s birth was long and arduous. After labouring well for about 24 hours, he got stuck and I began to complain of tummy pain, a sign that my previous c-section scar wasn’t tolerating the labour. So for my second birth, as with my first, I was whisked off to the operating theatre. However, this time I was in a completely different frame of mind and aware of what to expect. Little T emerged into the world to a calm, delighted mother, who held him close and stroked his tiny face. Throughout all our ups and downs I have never struggled bonding with him as I did with CC, something I attribute strongly to the wildly different birth experiences.
After a few days recovery my little (actually 4.6kg!) bundle and I arrived home to our bus. CC spent her time helping with nappies and dressing, fetching books for me to read to her while I fed him, and learning patience, resilience and how to share her parents with an interloper. K kept me topped up with water, snacks, nappies and hugs.
We were so privileged to have help from K’s parents – who stayed a few weeks in their own caravan beside the bus – kind neighbours who took CC or Little T for hours at a time, and friends who brought meals, treats and company.
It wasn’t as hard as we had thought to fit a 4th onto the bus. He hated the ingenious baby hammock we had set up, so he mostly slept beside me in his bassinet, or in the swing chair (link) which he LOVED. He hated the flat pram but slept like an angel in the carrier. I spent many hours walking him outside in the cool air during those awful ‘witching hours’ where nothing seems to soothe babies. All his toys fit in one basket. We go to the local Toy Library for anything else. All his clothes and cloth nappies fit in the dresser, which K’s clothes were evicted from. (His clothes now live in a box under the bed.) I keep the pram in the car and the boxes of clothes he doesn’t fit into yet live in the shed outside.
I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture. Two is stunningly hard. I have been so tired on occasion I felt drunk. All of us have had our turn screaming. Little T has cried piteously while I attended to CC, and vice versa. And some mornings all 3 of us have cried as I struggled to get us ready for the day. I have taken long, circuitous drives, just so that they would both fall asleep and give me a break. CC has watched an inordinate amount of TV and YouTube. I have left tasks unfinished and half-started for days on end. Laundry and dishes have piled up so high they have overflowed onto the floor. I have never eaten so much chocolate and ice cream in my life.
Some days I feel like it’s all falling apart, then other days come along that lift me up again. I have watched CC lovingly tuck her precious bunny in beside Little T. I have watched her fetch a pile of books and read them to him, showing him all the pictures. I have watched his gaze adoringly follow her every move. She has made him presents, made him laugh, held his hand when he cried. She has sung lullabys, held toys and given big squishy hugs.
Our first Christmas as a family of four was spent with K’s family, in Kaikoura. I Skyped with my family back in Ireland. At 3 months old Little T wasn’t up to opening many presents, but CC was there to help him out! My strongest memory from that trip was walking. I paced up and down the hallway, jiggling hard so that T in the carrier might fall asleep. And if I felt up to it, I walked outside, up and down the streets untill sleep finally took him over.
He’s never been a great sleeper. He needs so much support to fall asleep, and there are so many interesting things he can’t bear to be missing out on. One of the most exhausting things about living on this bus is the sleeping. In the day the slightest bump or noise would wake him, and I’d spent 20 minutes settling him again, or he might just stay awake no matter what I tried. And try getting a 3-year-old to stay perfectly quiet for an hour. She might yell for a drink of water, charge noisily in from the garden, go to the toilet (opposite the bunks) and inadvertantly wake him. Once all she did was sneeeze and it woke him up. Sleeplessness makes us all grouchy. He often napped in the pram or carrier as a result, though that made me more tired. As the year progressed he has gotten better at sleeping through the general sounds of bus life.
With every new stage we have made shifts and changes to accomodate the little guy. CC’s toy area became his cot. (She got an outside play house so I feel like she got the better end of the deal.) We put child locks on the drawers. K rigged up a safety gate out of an old playpen (the bus steps are too narrow for a normal gate). Now that he has started climbing we need to make the gate higher somehow. We found a camping high chair that folds away between meals. I have learned to cook one-handed. Although I still can’t quite manage spreading butter on bread while holding a baby.
Every stage has brought double joy because along with the changes in T I can see the delight in CC. CC brims with joy when she tells me she made him laugh, or saw him stand up. She giggles as she shows me a funny face he made. She squeals with delight when he reaches for a ball or toy she proffers. She pushes him in the pram in circles round the garden while I hang up the washing, smiles lighting up both their faces. She spent days showing him how to crawl, and now does crawling races with him. They play together in the sand pit. She tried her best to be understanding when he whacks her.
T loves animals. Lucky for him we live with a LOT of animals around us. Whether it’s a hulking great horse or a teeny tiny sparrow, he wants to touch and pet and explore it. He has followed next door’s cat halfway across a paddock, a distance I don’t think he’d ever crawl on his own. He simply adroes animals. Every morning he likes to look out he window and wave at the sheep. When we see the 5 resident ducks waddling past he kicks and jiggles with delight.
In one year I have watched a tiny snuffly bundle grow and develop into a crawling, babbling, determined baby, who loves water, sand, books, cuddles, music and food. Who hates getting his nappy changed or his nose wiped. Who loves bath lilys and kitchen whisks over any ‘proper’ toy. Who attacks life with gusto, exploring it with all his senses. Who adores his sister and wants to do whatever she is doing (whether she likes it or not!).
My amazing, snuggly, happy little guy is one year old. I can hardly believe it, and I am so excited to see what the next year holds.