One of the many things no-one warns you about before you become a mother is the guilt that comes with it.
It’s difficult to explain and even more difficult to quantify, but it happens virtually overnight.
Pre-children, I would feel guilty about stuff now and then, but it could normally be pinpointed down to a heavy night in the pub.
I’d have that hungover, jumpy feeling when someone didn’t respond to a text within five seconds of me sending it. Thinking it must be because I told an inappropriate gag or attempted a misplaced heart-to-heart the night before.
But THAT was a walk in the park compared to mum guilt, because, one phone call and a couple of paracetamol later and I’d be back to normalish again.
Mum guilt lasts a lifetime.
It’s that feeling that you’re never quite doing enough. Of anything.
You need to replicate yourself about ten times to be successful at everything: being a good parent, making a go of a career, having a social life that extends beyond ‘liking’ an old school friend’s holiday snap of them riding an elephant in India on Facebook, having a decent relationship where you talk about ‘proper’ things instead of whether Beth should have gone to Latvia for that boob job on Corrie.
I had just about learnt to live with the guilt. The buzzy-headed feeling that whilst I was doing one thing, I was thinking about the hundred other things that I should also be doing.
But then a second child comes along. And, massively unfairly, the guilt doubles.
I’d spent that last 32 months telling my daughter that she was the most important person in my life. That I loved her more than anyone on the planet.
And now I’ve brought a brand new person into our house and our lives and asked her to budge over. That she is no longer the centre of our world, that she needs to share that pedestal with another person.
Half the time I can’t even give her a cuddle as I’m breastfeeding the hungriest baby in East Sussex.
Then when we do play together, that often means leaving Thomas to lie in his Moses basket or be strapped to me in a sling. Whereas when Nancy was the same age, it would be all singing nursery rhymes, baby massage and hours just staring at her in wonder.
But very occasionally there’s a shining light.
Like when I’m sitting on the sofa with both children, no-one’s crying or needing the loo, and we’re all, in that moment, content.
Now, I realise the published book and four-bedroom house might have to wait a few years, but if I can clock up a few more moments like that, then I can, just for a second, beat the guilts and feel like we’re getting somewhere.