The past four months have been both one of the hardest times of my life and, mercifully, one of the fastest. Here we are, after a summer full of Canadian visitors and weekend trips, back to just the five of us in our little, ramshackle farmhouse. And I’m happy.
I did not spend the past four months feeling happy. Sleep deprived, unnerved and slightly depressed were my main emotions, with brief respites of happiness. But now I’m feeling happy again.
Postpartum Depression is a real thing, and something that shouldn’t be as stigmatized as it is. That said, I don’t think I had it – a form of it, perhaps, caused by a very irritable newborn and no sleep – but it was close enough to the real thing to make me understand how mothers suffering from extreme PPD must feel. It’s certainly not something I want to go through again.
My baby girl is happy now, too, though, which is the reason I’m happy. The hours-long screaming sessions are a thing of the past, she is feeding regularly, finally seems to actually *enjoy* eating and loves being out and about. She’s even handling short car rides with very little crying. We took her for her first “swim” at a local community pool today and she happily floated around in my arms while Maeve splashed, jumped and played (Ciara stayed in her Dad’s arms the entire time – she is not a fan of the pool).
Sure, she still doesn’t sleep through the night. Maybe she never will. But she is happy and content, which makes my life a lot less stressful and worrisome. I can handle the sleep deprivation for a while longer.
So, with a happier baby, my days spent caring for three-under-four have been less daunting. Some days are bad, but for the most part we’re having fun, the house hasn’t been condemned and I haven’t torn out my hair. My mom, after spending two months here, went back to Canada last week, though, so I definitely find myself running low on energy by the end of the day.
I’d love to know what other moms out there do to make their day-to-day more organized and efficient, to the extent that they’re able to sit down and eat something other than toast scraps and cold tea.
I have a small system in place that is mostly working. Mostly. If we’ve had a bad night, the day is going to be terrible – there’s no way around that. But if I was able to get a bit of sleep, my weekdays usually look like this:
- 7am – Maeve comes into my room to let me know she and Ciara are awake (as if I couldn’t already hear them shrieking in their bedroom).
- 7:30am – both kids have eaten breakfast, baby has nursed and is *hopefully* playing in her playpen (sometimes she’s crying).
- 8am – Maeve’s lunch is packed and she is dressed for school.
- 8:30am – Ciara and Aine are dressed and I have somehow managed to make donut dough.
- 9am – I have some kind of outfit on and have plastered my face with BB cream and mascara (though no amount of BB cream will erase the last five years, I fear).
- 9:15am – Kids are in the car (no small feat) and Maeve is dropped at school.
- 9:35am – The other two kids are dropped to my friend for two hours.
- 10am – I make donuts at The Green Sheep (though currently this is only three days per week).
- 11:30am – Collect the two small kids and drive to Maeve’s school.
- 12pm – Collect Maeve from school and drive home.
- 1pm – Ciara goes down for a nap, I try to eat something, Maeve watches TV or goes outside to play.
- 2pm – Hopefully Aine is napping, Ciara is still napping and I am getting housework done. Also starting dinner now.
- 3pm – All kids are awake. We go outside, or to the shop, or if it’s raining and dreary we watch TV, do puzzles and colour.
- 5pm – I call Pat to make sure he’s leaving work (work is a 1.5 hour drive away!). I try to handle a cranky baby, cranky toddler and demanding four year old while keeping my cool and finishing dinner. Sometimes I shout. Ok, I usually shout. Any cleaning I’ve accomplished during naptime has been ruined. The entire house is a mess.
- 6:30pm – Pat arrives. I immediately throw the baby at him (not literally; I’m not that bad… yet). We tackle bedtime together – bathing, a bottle of milk for Ciara, stories, pj’s, songs, teeth-brushing and cuddles.
- 7pm – The bigger girls are in bed. Pat eats his dinner and sometimes I try to tidy again, but not always, then I try to have a shower, but not always and a few nights a week I run, work out or meditate (but not always). I always end up on the couch with a sleeping Aine sprawled over me.
- 10pm: I try to put Aine down in her bassinet, which is sometimes but not usually successful. Sometimes she’ll sleep til 2:30am and sometimes she’ll wake up immediately. She always ends up in bed with me and will wake 2-3 times before we all wake up and start again.
Leftovers have been my saving grace for a healthy mid-day meal, so I try to make larger amounts of our dinner and eat the remainder for lunch. This Coconut Chickpeas with Spinach is one of my favourite meals. It’s tasty, comes together in less than an hour, and is nice with brown rice but stodgy enough to eat on it’s own, like a stew.
If you don’t like chickpeas you can substitute them with: firm white fish (like cod), chicken, paneer (or, if you don’t have paneer, use halloumi – it’s just as good!) or sweet potato. If you don’t like coconut milk, like my husband, you might still like this, like my husband.
It’s a beautiful dish and I’m no nutritionist (I make donuts for a living) but I think it’s also really healthful and makes me feel good. And, bonus for us crazy-busy moms, it’s even better the next day (and the day after that!).
*Most importantly, if you think you or someone you love is suffering from postpartum depression, click on this link for some much-deserved support (and, by the way, you’re doing a great job).
Coconut Chickpeas with Spinach
2 cans drained chickpeas, rinsed in cold water
1 large head/bag of spinach, washed
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 hot chili (I use bird’s eye chilies here but any will do), finely chopped
coriander stalks, finely chopped (a handful)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
750ml/3 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock
2 tsp curry powder
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tsp salt
Fresh coriander leaves, for garnish
- Heat a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven on a medium high hob.
- Add the coconut oil, sliced onion, minced garlic, chili and coriander stalks. Cook until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.
- Add the curry powder. Cook for one minute.
- Add the chicken or vegetable stock; bring to a boil. Then add the rinsed chickpeas.
- Simmer on medium for about 30 minutes, until the stock has reduced by half and the chickpeas are tender. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer once more.
- Continue to cook the chickpeas until they are tender and have taken on the flavour of the broth (you will have to taste to know for sure; canned chickpeas can taste artificial if they haven’t been cooked for long enough).
- Add the spinach to wilt. Season with salt and lemon juice.
- The dish is complete when the coconut milk has thickened into a light, gravy-like sauce and the chickpeas are fully cooked and tender.
- You can eat this like a stew on it’s own, or with hot brown rice. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
- It will keep in the fridge for up to four days. Served with rice or flatbread, this will feed four hungry adults. It’s nice paired with beer – a wheat beer or pale ale goes really well.