Recently I was thinking - at 3 a.m. as I was pumping - that the difference between having one child and two children is that having one is like a crazy dream. It's fun and chaotic and new and confusing. The second time around it's Bipolar City. Seriously, it's the most ups and downs I've ever experienced. It's not an entire great day and then an entire bad day. It's more like an entire great 10-minute span followed by a whole awfully challenging 10-minute span. It doesn't stop with two kids. Ever. There is always somebody waiting, something more to do.
It's literally up and down all day long. It can sort of drive you crazy at times - or at least make you sigh a whole lot and close your eyes real tight to fight back the almost tears forming and make you wish things were different for one second. Not wish away baby #2, never, ever do you think that, but wish things were different in some way - wish that your firstborn knew he was still so special to you and doesn't need to be so super jealous and acting out; wish that your husband didn't have to work so much to pay for this fiasco and instead could be here now in this second, helping to diffuse the jealous boy or the newborn screaming; wish that it was almost bed time or that the newborn would just sleep, please, just sleep! wish that one was a little older or that you were a little younger to keep up with their energy or wish that it wasn't so hot outside to make you all crabby or wish for... well, something to make it easier in this moment.
And then all that wishing makes you feel guilty. It's not like I had this second baby to wish away her life. I love the newborn stage, in spite of its lack of sleep and full out awkwardness. When my daughter turned 3 weeks old I already felt sappy sadness at how much bigger she'd become and how I'd never have those first days again. I don't want to spend this chaotic time wishing it away or praying for bed time to come sooner, I really don't.
But it's hard. Damn hard. And I have no shame in admitting that. I think admitting that I struggle at this new-mommy-of-two-thing makes me a stronger mom actually. It means I'm real and not living in some la la land where it's full of fairy tale endings and babies who sleep through the night at week two or toddlers who have not learned the word "no" yet.
Being real and honest doesn't mean I don't love my life. It doesn't mean I don't know how truly lucky I am, seriously I know.
There are many days I don't shower, or if I do somebody is in the bathroom asking me 10 questions I have to pop my head out every two seconds. I have to put off my walk until both kids are fed and one has had time to sit up straight for 30 minutes so she doesn't puke and after I get the stroller ready - and even then if we somehow manage to get out the door at a decent hour before the sun is way too hot outside for the kids to be out there, even then some days I have to turn around after only busting a move walking for 10 minutes instead of my preferred 45-60 because somebody is screaming and somebody else is wanting to "gooo hooomeee mommmmmyyyy!" There are plenty of nights where my husband and I can't finish a single conversation and it makes me laugh thinking we'd be on the phone for three hours at a time back in the day or drive around making things up to talk about because we'd run out of things to say. Now it's "hey can you get some milk" and "do you know what day it is?"
(Do you see those smiles on our faces?! that's date night #1 post-baby #2's arrival! We practically ran out of here that night, unlike our first night out with #1 when I cried and we came back home like an hour later!)
It's just, well, different with two kids.
My sister-in-law told me the difference with having a second child as a newborn is that life does not stop like it did when you brought home child #1 from the hospital. With one child you can sit and hold him all day long and rock him a while before bed and fall asleep together as a little family of three on the couch if you want. With a second child, life keeps moving. Your toddler needs a lunch made and to keep going to play dates and you can't stop washing laundry because he needs to be changed. It's just different.
There are so many incredible things about having two kids that truly do make up for the rough moments. The smile on my baby's face when she hears my husband's voice at night, and how my son lights up a room with his laugh at how silly mom and dad are at the dinner table.Or how everyone says my daughter looks like me. After two years of hearing my son only looks like his father, this is nice, very nice. The way my son runs to the bathroom to get his potty chair that he also uses as a stool so he can put it next to me in order to see better when I'm changing his sister's diaper and he coos to her in his little baby voice, "Hi baby Addisyn, hiiii, it's O here, O's here, hold my hand..." Or when in the backseat the newborn is screaming and my two-year-old reaches over to touch the edge of her car seat and says to me, "I help baby Addisyn, mama, I help," then turns to his sister and says, "O here, don't worry, O here," as in Owen is here, your brother, I'm right here with you. Those moments make it worth it, for sure. They make me cry in fact, all the time.
Because this is it, really. This is the reason why we had a second baby, isn't it? To have a sibling for our firstborn. To make his life better - even if it's not right this moment when his sister is needy with all those feedings. We wanted something special for him, something he'd get with nobody else, not even his best buddy he's known since the day he was born or his cousins who he adores. We both come from having three siblings each, all of whom we are very close to now. We wanted that for our son. We wanted another child to share our chaotic life with, someone else who would make us see things in a different way than we saw with our son or when we were just the two of us living in this what seemed like big house then but is now oh-so-crammed full of toys.
We knew it would be hard. We knew it would be such an adjustment adding another member to our family. Was I prepared for this? Yes, mostly. The part I was not comprehending before though was how all the time goes out the window with a second baby around. Literally every single second of the day somebody needs me for something. Always. Nothing is ever finished, always something more to do. Of course it's all relative and it's all based on what we know at a particular time. I don't judge those in the single-kid families boat. It's all hard and challenging and new to them, too. I don't miss that stage of parenting either, the place of having one kid where you are sooo confused on everything and where you think that drool at age 3 months means teething - when really the teeth did not show up until 13 months. I don't wish those moments back. I like that now with my second one I'm more confident and I have half a clue what the hell I'm doing. That's definitely a benefit of the second time around.
And no matter how confident you are there are still "those days." Yesterday was one of those bipolar days I mentioned above. My son woke up happy, smiling, in a great mood. Then I picked up the baby to feed her and he was throwing things around the living room and trying to sit in the baby's car seat again. We get outside and he's happy, and within 10 minutes of walking (took us 45 minutes to prepare to go for a walk...) my son is yelling that he "no like walk" and wants to "goooo hooommmeee" and my newborn has just fallen asleep but will wake the second we stop walking. Awesome. And then we get inside and my son is giving me a hug, thanking me for taking him on a walk today. Great, because we just cut it short because you hated it, but whatever, you split personality toddler.
And then later we get into the car - a huge success in itself when you have two, the whole let's pack up and get into a car all in one piece game - and everybody is happy, we have music on and sun shining and I think it's all great. Until we get 10 minutes to where we're going and baby is screaming because she finally pooped and son is yelling at his sister "no cry baby! no! no cry!" which only makes the baby, well, cry.
We get where we're going, have a great time, until I have to feed the baby and my son starts to throw his shoes and run all over the place - on nasty pavement in public and I can't do much about it holding an infant who easily spits up if I jostle her. Deal with that scenario somehow, and off we go again.
We find a ride-on toy that you put quarters in and my son is happier than I've seen him in a long time, which makes me feel guilty, like I need to do things like this more often with just him so he knows he's still our special boy. He's screaming with delight at this ride-on toy, telling me, "excited mommy! excited!" with a huge grin on his face, that literally makes me tear up, thinking, "See, he's not so bad, this toddler phase is OK. We are OK." Both kids fall asleep in the car on the way home and I again think, "I can do this, it's all OK."
Get in the house and baby has woken up and is screaming her head off wanting to eat, and toddler is now awake from the car wondering why he has to go into bed now, giving me attitude. And I think, "I can't do this. What do I do? When is my husband coming home?! I need a break!" This is the moment where I want to call anyone I know who is considering "trying again" for a second one and shake them into waiting just a tiny bit longer so they know what they are in for. And even that makes no sense and I'd never do it. Insert the ups and downs model here.
At the end of the day my son says out of no where to me, "Had a good day today mommy. Good day. Excited," and wraps his little arms around my neck. I tell him I love him and he says his famous combination of "thank you" and "love you" all in one word that he learned about a year ago and still has not perfected into making them two words yet. Something I adore about him. A thing that reminds me despite all of his toddler tantrums he truly is my little boy in there, just a whole lot taller and with way more attitude than he showed when he was small enough to sit in the Bumbo.
And of course I think, it's all worth it. So what if I can only shower late at night, or if my husband and I never get a warm meal or a full sentence out again? It's OK that about 20 times a day I literally can feel the gray hairs starting to grow in my head because I'm so frustrated I could cry. It's going to be fine.
We are going to manage our way through this challenging time, and we will adjust somehow to something new, something greater, something different. Because that's what this is all for, this family thing. We are here to have a good time together. And at the end of the day if we can end it by saying "that was a good day today, excited," with smiles on all of our tired faces and arms wrapped around one another, I think we must be doing something right.
Everybody says that "the days are long but the years are short." I'm going to hang on to that one, probably for a very long time.