Mum of two under two, Anjana Khallouf
Kiwi Anjana Khallouf spent most of 2020 living in lockdown in Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, with her husband James, son Leonardo (now 19 months old) and labradoodle Alf. Last October, when their son Hugo was born, they were fortunate enough to be able to call on their supportive family village once again when the strict lockdown rules were lifted. Having spent eight years working as the head of communications agency OMD Create, Anjana was used to a life of setting targets, mapping out ways to achieve them and carefully controlling every step of the process. As a mum of two boys just 18 months apart, she shares how she’s learnt to embrace relinquishing control and be present in their “beautiful chaos”.
“For as long as I can recall, I wanted to be a mum, and James had also always wanted to have a family of his own. So, not long after we got married we decided we would start trying. We were lucky to fall pregnant quite quickly, however that pregnancy was sadly not meant to be. A few months later we were blessed with another positive pregnancy test and our darling Leo was on the way.
Pregnancy after loss was a little nerve-wracking for me, and though I was confident that everything would be fine, I knew I wouldn’t relax until I had my baby safely in my arms. Once Leo arrived however, I just wanted everything to be perfect and I thought I could control that … how wrong I was. Unfortunately, Leo didn’t come with a handbook and I certainly couldn’t control him, so it was a massive lesson in learning to let go, taking some of the pressure off myself and trusting that it would take time. Becoming as present as possible and allowing myself the grace to get to know Leo helped me to understand his needs.
After experiencing our miscarriage – even though we were honestly so thrilled to have one healthy, happy baby – we decided that we would definitely try to give Leo a sibling if we could. We were planning to try when Leo was two, but at nine months old, the universe had other plans. The excitement and happiness we both felt was instant, however it wasn’t until people started telling us how hard it was going to be having two babies so close together that reality set in.
Everyone was right, it is hard. Having two under 18 months is no joke. We had miraculously forgotten all about the newborn stage and the sleepless nights, exhaustion and the roller coaster of emotions that comes with it. Then you throw a very busy, playful 18-month-old, who has just spent most of the year in lockdown, into the mix and you give new meaning to the word juggle. It’s hard to feel like you are not giving 100 percent of yourself to each child. They now only get 50 percent each, and I know that is challenging for Leo; which makes it really challenging for me.
However, while it’s so hard daily trying to be everything to both of them, to wish I had six arms and eyes in the back of my head, it is honestly the most beautiful thing in the world having our two boys safely earthside – watching their relationship and bond bloom and navigating the daily challenges of being a family of four.
Everyone forgets to mention that mushy, melt-your-heart-every-day side of it. We like to call it our 'beautiful chaos' and we wouldn’t have it any other way. I am just so grateful that we did the sleep training that we did with Leo and invested the time in setting him up with a solid routine, as that has made these newborn days with two under two so much more bearable.
Nothing could prepare us for the exhaustion though; it’s amazing how you wade through that first week or two and then you find your way of surviving with much less sleep and much more busyness in your life. It was different with one baby, because I really did sleep when Leo slept, and so I never felt that true level of exhaustion because I’d make up for a lost night's sleep during the day. That doesn’t work anymore as when one is asleep, most of the time there is another baby to entertain, feed and love.
I think my mothering is far more relaxed now – it has had to be. I’ve learnt to relinquish control, that babies are adaptable, and Hugo can really go with the flow and slot into our busy lifestyle with Leo. It doesn’t always need to be the perfect feeding and sleeping conditions. As long as Hugo is fed and gets some sleep and Leo is kept busy and happy, that’s all that really matters. I was desperately searching for perfection the first time around, only to realise there is no perfect parent.
And honestly, it is far more magical than I ever thought it could be. Seeing my two babies, so close in age and so in love with each other, is nothing I could have expected. It makes me pinch myself daily and is something I will be eternally grateful for.”
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 53 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW