I am a mother with two heads. Two faces. Seemingly and unfairly though, one brain, which requires apportioning between the two. JK Rowling wouldn’t have dared put Master Potter up against me. I can definitely breathe fire when pushed. I’m the one at the end of level 9. The one that you search for cheats on how to crack. You think you’ve dealt with the worst monsters, but you see they were my children. And you’ve hurt them, and here I sit, waiting, ready to give you a good fight.
Mini D is suddenly not so mini. Only last week I was asked if her and Rufus were twins. She’s turned six months old, and with that I realise All That Was Missing the first time round. She’s on the move, she’s cheeky, spirited. Hard work of her own accord. Gloriously podgy and pink. Wolf refers to her as Tubs. And I have realised that I am two completely different mothers to my children. I cannot adopt a style of parenting, make it fair. Dulcie allows me to be the Mum I always wanted to be, Rufus has made me the Mum I’ve had to be. But whilst you think that sounds wholeheartedly negative to Rufus, bear with me. Let both my heads tell you something. Remember they have a brain in common.
My conjoined brain often thinks about judgement. Pre Dulcie I was scared, I felt watched, observed. But really it was me, watching you, watching me. I was assuming judgement based on my own fears. You may, or may not have thought things about my child. You may have just wanted to ask, reach out a hand of support, understanding. You may have also thought the bad things I worried about. I don’t blame you. I have no sodding idea who ‘You’ is. So please, don’t think I’m talking about you. You hear?
Here I am as Dulcie’s Mum, swanning around with her in a sling. Breastfeeding her proudly in public. Trying her with finger foods and Baby Led Weaning. Before her, but after Rufus, jealousy would have had me look at this mother as pretentious. Holier than thou. Sanctimonious. Of course she can feed on demand, her child demands it. Her world is timeless. No beeps of pumps, or carefully timed anti vomit feeds. Completely and utterly unmedicalised. Feeds measured by whether Tubs rolls backwards and looks at me with that happy full look in her eyes. Drunk with my own gold top. I feel hazy sometimes when it’s just her and I. We get up without looking at clocks. We go for walks, we’ll both know when it’s time to stop and refresh. It Just Is. Completely uncomplicated. Untherapised.
As Rufus’s Mum I have to be ready to fight. He’s been wounded on every previous level but keeps getting back up again. I have to find reserves, I have to check, and check again. Chase and hunt you down. I have to find that fight when I physically feel like I have none left, when I may be nearly defeated. But that’s what makes me better and stronger. Everyone always loves it when Batman gets up again, when you thought there was nothing left. My day is itemised and scheduled. Things get added to that list all the time. In the last week I now have eye drops and a new reflux medicine to remember. That’s not just remember to give. It’s remember to reorder the prescription, in enough time for it to arrive at the pharmacy, to be able to collect it so that we don’t run out. And that prescription came from the hospital. So I have to take it to the GP, and ask them to write a new ongoing prescription.
I bet you don’t fancy being Rufus’s Mum much right? Dulcie’s Mum’s face gets a lot more chat. Usually because she likes to look you up and down and then give a heartmelting smile. Dulcie that is. Like mother like daughter? But when it’s her and I, we seem to attract chatter. If you’ve ever frequented a ‘feeding room’ in a well known department store, you’ll know the sort. I normally avoid them due to the acrid stench of festering nappies and walls painted in an unappealing shade of blue that can at best be described as ‘Elephant’s Prozac’. Dulcie had decided that public feeding was way too distracting one day and in fear of a) being done for overexposure and b) ensuring she actually ate something, we went for a power feed. There was someone else there, we indulged in some chatter. Both of us had our older children in childcare. There was mention of how the older child had taken to the new addition. Rufus’s Mum appeared and explained that Rufus was in fact either mostly unaware of his new sister, or just unable to tell us that she was doing his head in. Plus some more disability information. Prior to this the other woman had been sat three quarters turned to us, eating her sandwich in this godsaken place. She took a moment, and turned to me. “How could you decide to have another child when your first is so disabled?”. Are you reeling in shock? It wasn’t said nastily. It seemed out of genuine concern. I wasn’t angry. I actually felt proud. I thought of her eating her sad little pre made sandwich in there, afraid to feed in public. I thought, Man Up. Rufus’s Mum feels sorry for you, that you’re a little bit ignorant.
There was also the time that Dulcie and I sat in a cafe and she pulled in some chat. She’s a granny catcher, our Tubs. A lovely lady started to tell me about her babies, all grown up. She had photographs. She came across one, a girl in a wheelchair, splints on her legs. “This is my third child. She only made it to 15. She was born with Spina Bifida, I bet you’ve never heard of that now you all take folic acid whilst pregnant.” I explained gently that I had heard of that condition, in fact, like a bumper sticker might read: My Other Child is Disabled. We shared a moment. Quite then how that descended into tales of her battles with cancer and catching MRSA during an operation and requiring reconstructive work on a very delicate area with a skin graft from her thigh I’m not sure. Not sure what Dulcie’s Mum’s face did then, she was struggling for words of comfort. But still, I felt I could hold my two heads up high then with her. She knew, I knew. Us double headed Mums, some are triple, quadruple headed. We’re rare for a reason.
My two heads talk to each other. Dulcie’s Mum has softened Rufus’s Mum. She says, it will be ok. She says you can do as many therapies as you want but Rufus is his own man, in his own time. So take him to the swings and make him smile. She says, let Wolf have the control. She says, look at me. I would never judge you. And Rufus’s Mum says to Dulcie, don’t take yourself seriously. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Try not to find her independence bittersweet, enjoy the timelessness. It’s a good balance.
Dulcie has made me the Mum I wanted to be, but I realised that’s just a shell. Rufus has made me the Mum I’ve had to be, but it’s a badge I wear with honour. It’s realigned my trajectory, but that trajectory was made of sand, and only now do I see that. And my children’s paths are still unclear, I’ve realised I can’t look too far for either, futures are constructs. Whilst Dulcie may be ticking off milestones like an efficient project manager, clipboard in hand, she’s not older than Rufus. She may be able to do things he can’t, but she’s green, fresh. Rufus has been here two and a half years, he’s seen more. He’s endured more than most of us in a lifetime. He’s somehow more knowing, older, wiser. His clipboard is just the wrong way up.