About a week ago, I called a dear friend who is about to have her second child with a piece of totally unsolicited advice (everyone’s favorite!). I said, “Okay, you’re probably smart enough to have thought of this, but I’m sharing just in case you haven’t. You should talk with your husband about parameters for your toddler touching the baby when she arrives. Get on the same page and start talking to your toddler about it. We were so stupid! We didn’t think of this AT ALL and then M. busted into the hospital room and was all over O. and we just looked at each other like, ‘Um, what are we supposed to do here?!?’”
Just like the first time around, parenting #2 (or beyond!) means there will always be things you failed to think about. And, of course, every family is different, so all that advice – solicited or unsolicited – will only do you so much good.
We’re almost four months into our adventure with two and, I have to say, it’s not been as bad as I thought it would be. And it certainly hasn’t been the adjustment that having the first one was. There’s something about that major life shift with #1 that just smacks you in the face. By the time you have #2 (especially if they’re close in age, I think) it’s more like “well, hey, we’re already sleep-deprived and insane, so what’s one more?” It’s harder, but certainly not twice as hard.
Some of the things that have been better than I had hoped for:
• #2 is a better sleeper than #1 – luck of the draw, but boy is that making a difference in my sanity.
• I finally learned how to nurse and babywear at the same time. Hugely helpful. I’ll never forget schlepping all my work stuff and a bouncer and a diaper bag into my office the first day back at work while wearing my baby and nursing him as I carried it all through the parking lot. Go me.
• Naps. There are even (very occasionally) times when they’ll both sleep simultaneously and I can sneak in a nap. It’s glorious.
• The love. Oh, my, the LOVE. Our older son, M., wakes up every morning and the FIRST thing he wants to do is talk to his brother. He sings him songs. He kisses all over him. He says, “Te amo, baby bruder.” It’s too much. My heart explodes daily.
Some of the things that have been crazier than I anticipated:
• That first month was rough on our two-year-old. There was a lot of acting out on his part – sleep regression; he was scared of everything; he wanted to nurse constantly; he hit his brother all the time. I wish I had thought ahead of time about a containment situation for the baby because we literally could not put him down that first month or two or the toddler would attack. It was terrible.
• The diapers. We were in a great every-third-day washing routine but we now have to wash every other day. I don’t know why I never thought of this, but it doesn’t really help you to have more diapers because you can only put so many in your washer, you know? So we wash every other day now. It’s feels like more than twice as much work.
• Solo parenting. Neither of us could really fly solo at all for those first two months. It was just too much. Mornings when one of us needed to get to work before the toddler went to preschool were just too wild. We had to adjust our schedules so that we could both be home.
And the one thing that’s been every bit as awful as I had anticipated: putting them both to bed when I’m alone. My husband works one night a week and I do solo bedtime (he gets his share, too, on another night of the week). There is just no graceful way to make this happen with a newborn and a two-year-old. It just ain’t pretty. It never happens the same way twice and at least two of us always end up crying. I just keep going through the motions and tell myself, “This, too, shall pass.”
One thing that makes this all easier is having a great community of friends. It’s really helpful to hear from other moms who are going through the transition to two children. And it’s great to be around moms who have already walked this road.
What about you? Are you thinking about a second? What terrifies you or excites you? Do you already have more than one child? What makes your heart explode with joy? What seems impossible to survive?