*This is part of a series of posts about having a second child. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for more info, tips and advice on having baby #2 join the family!*
From one to two
Recently I've seen several people pregnant or giving birth to their second child. Having gone through this myself 8 months ago when my second was born, I have it all fresh in my mind to reflect on.
When I found myself pregnant with my second I wanted answers, explanations, ideas, thoughts, experiences, etc. that would show me what it would be like when my second was here. I didn't know what it would be to go from one to two .So I looked to books, I asked co-workers, I talked to friends. Each time asking, "How different is it to have two kids instead of just one? How much harder is it really?" Because that's all they told me - it's hard, woah you're in for it now, wow you're going to be a busy one... etc. That was not helpful. I wanted concrete descriptions, facts, statistics even. I looked on Amazon and I went to the library searching for books that would help me understand. I found very few books. Most books I found only had a chapter or a few pages on the transition from one to two kids.
When I talked with friends and even strangers about their experience going from one to two kids they told me, "It's hard. It's busy. It's more." I'm a visual person though, I wanted real experiences, something to picture. They couldn't find the words. Perhaps because they couldn't exactly remember HOW they got through it, maybe they blocked it out.
I swore that once I figured it out (really? who ever figures it all out?!), I'd write about it and share my experience with other moms.
I am warning you this is the straight up truth, like I was looking for when pregnant with my second. I didn't want it sugarcoated for me, "Oh, you're going to love two babies, it's all bliss and smiles." Because you know what? I'd had one child, I knew of course there were wonderful moments, otherwise I'd never have gotten pregnant with the second, but I also knew there were things nobody told me would be so hard, that I'd wished people had warned me about.
Below are my ideas of what it's like. Read these not like I don't like my second, of course I do! I looove having two children, it's the best thing ever, honest. Read these truths like people talk about how hard their labor pain was. Just because the labor pain was difficult and excruciating at moments and made one cry, does not mean we don't love our kids we got in the end or wish we could go back in any way. The whole "you can do this, it's not that bad" post will come soon, this one is the all-out-honesty one!
So here is my way of describing what it's like, how the change feels, what it looks like exactly. Here is the absolute truth - the bad, the good and the ugly.
-Needy. Someone always needs you. With one kid after you change the diaper or feed them, they're set for a little bit, even if it's just a half hour, you can put them down and they're fine. With two, nobody is EVER fine.Someone always needs something. That was the first thing and the biggest thing that I realized when we brought our second home from the hospital. I wanted to just rest on the couch with the newborn for hours, recover from my C-section, sleep when she slept. But I couldn't. I had a toddler who needed my attention or needed lunch. Even with help around from husband or family, you still need to be on and awake and doing things more when there are two than you did with one. There is no laying around and sleeping a lot. I felt very much in the beginning like I'd never ever get another 5 minutes to myself ever again, even to pee. I went to the bathroom a zillion times in the beginning with the baby in the front carrier on me and my son at my feet asking me questions. This was very challenging for me at first, to accept that now I had no time at all, when I thought I used to have no time, boy was I wrong. Also, when your first gets a cold or some sickness, your second is undoubtedly going to get it soon and vice versa ... aka more doctor's visits and sick babies needing love and attention (also more sick days off from work to care for them). And diaper changes! Ah! I'm lucky that my son wanted to potty train when my daughter was just a few months old, and yet that's complicated also taking him to the potty a zillion times while having a newborn around...
-Loud. The house is much louder the second time around. With our first, it was silent all the time so he could sleep. With the second, our baby screamed for 6 weeks every single night when everyone came home because it was loud. A 2-year-old boy lived amongst us with trucks and trains and new words he was learning to scream. That whole "please let the baby sleep" doesn't really exist with two. You can't expect a toddler to just shut off when the baby is sleeping. My sister-in-law explained it well to me that with the first baby your life stops and revolves around the baby's needs, schedules, etc. Whereas with a second baby, your life never stops, it has to keep going, moving along with your first child. You can't just shut up in your house and be quiet and sleep with the newborn. A toddler still needs to go to birthday parties, doctor's office, daycare, etc. My first used to fall asleep in the car all the time, my second rarely ever does since her older brother talks all the time in there, just a little example of the change of one to two.
-Busy. You thought you were busy with one kid. And perhaps you were. But now "busy" takes on a whole new meaning with two kids. There is literally ALWAYS something more to do. Always. With one kid, I used to finish my to do list. I'd cross off everything over the course of a day or two. Now with two, the to do list is months old. It's neverending. Things are always ongoing now. For example, with one child he'd nap in the morning and during that nap I'd get the entire house cleaned up or at least pick up the clutter from breakfast, put away toys, do laundry, dishes, etc. Now with two - the baby takes a nap and you feel so guilty from not ever having enough time with the older one that instead of clean the house you play one-on-one with your older one. That leaves maybe 30 minutes to throw on some clothes for both of you and pack a bottle, snack, diaper, etc. before it's time to rush out the door before the baby needs another nap in an hour and a half or so! The chores rarely get done until after kids are asleep at night.
-Timeconsuming. However long it takes you to get your daughter dressed or give her a bath or get her ready to play outside or get in and out of the car for a trip or to daycare - times that by 3 and that's how long it takes you with two kids. I say times by 3 because once you get the first one ready you then do the same things to get the second one ready, but by that time the first one has un-done whatever you already did so you have to do it again... thus 3 times as long. I now avoid going to the post office because it takes too long to get the kids in and out of the car and into a stroller to make them sit still, all to do an errand that used to take me 5 minutes pre-kids and maybe 10-15 minutes with one child. Instead of packing one diaper bag you are packing for two kids. Instead of just packing a bottle you are now also packing a sippy cup and snacks and bib for the older one. It just takes more time. Now I understand why those with two say "just getting out of the house is an achievement!" It's very true. I literally breathe a sigh of relief and pride every single time I buckle myself in the driver's seat of my car and look to the rearview mirror to see that yes, I got both kids in the car and that I'm wearing shoes and the diaper bag is there, too!
-Laundry-filled. The amount of laundry one little bitty baby can add to a family of 3 already is crazy, but it's true. Laundry is ALWAYS there. I used to be able to finish the laundry and have none piling up for a few days when I had one child. Now with two, it's non-stop. We always always have laundry. I don't go one single day where there is not one more load to do.
-Complicated. With doctor's visits for our first son, we'd schedule them whenever worked for him and off we went. Now with two it's all more complicated. Starting from the OBGYN visits when pregnant with the second. I used to do my pregnancy appointments after my job got out, rarely missed work for them, no issues scheduling. With a second pregnancy I had to schedule appointments during work so that I had my son in daycare still, as he could not go to the appointments - and I did not want him there. I took him to a couple and it was HELL for all involved (picture active toddler boy who likes to touch everything, is intrigued about being a doctor himself so wants to touch all the instruments that are expensive in the office and who is impatient and doesn't understand why he can't just run around or leave the office when they are running 45 minutes late from my visit starting time!). We also had to rearrange our entire house to add a second child. We had to move my son from crib to big boy bed, which had its own challenges. We had to move my son's toys around to make room for an exercauser, Boppy, swing, bassinet, etc. for the baby. Just things we had to plan and think about.
-Expensive. Since we already had our first child who took up all the maternity leave sick days, then who took all the sick days his first two years of life being sick ... that left barely any sick days for me to take for paid maternity leave with my second. It was very very very expensive to have our second like this, we were broke her whole first three months of life. It's also two kids in daycare... that's a change from the first, yikes!
-Different. From the second we announced we were pregnant with our second to bringing her home from the hospital, it was all different than our first. We had more "oh my what are you in for, yikes" comments when announcing our pregnancy instead of like with the first, "wow that's the most amazing thing ever!" The pregnancy was MUCH harder the second time around instead of the first because I could not rest. There is no time to sit when you already have a toddler. I had sciatic nerve pain with the second pregnancy that I never had with the first, all from picking up my heavy toddler, the doctor told me. I needed physical therapy because of it... which was difficult to even schedule around my child's daycare schedule. Fewer people visited us in the hospital (which wasn't so bad!). It was just overall very different with the second than the first.
-Guilty. Mom's know guilt too well, I'm afraid, and it gets worse with the second child around, because literally everything about you is split in two. You have less time for your first, that's entirely true. Your first has his own emotional and developmental reactions to the fact that you have a newborn attached to you all the time now, and those outbursts, crying fits, defiance, etc. make you feel like it's your fault, like you did this terrible thing to your older child. You feel in the very beginning that there is not enough of you to go around. You wonder how your older one is going to feel when you are in the hospital for days, staying overnight with someone else. You wonder how he'll be seeing you hold a newborn in your arms and not be able to pick him up after birth. You wonder if he'll ever forgive you. You do wonder, as cliche as it is, how you could ever love a second one like you love your first, you imagine it being impossible.
It's obviously not all challenging. Some positives came from having a second child:
-More organized. I am beyond more organized now that I have a second child than I was with one. I'm a super organized person anyway, but now it's a zillion times more. You have to be with two. I write everything down, otherwise it's literally gone the second I thought it from my mind. I do everything for work at night, everything for outings while kids are sleeping during nap. Everything is sort of military style regimented at times. It has to be. Every car is always cleaned and stocked full of supplies we typically need - change of clothes, hats, diapers, wipes, etc. I wake up earlier than the kids to get myself ready before work. Routines are my best friends.
-Teaching my son valuable skills. I grew up the oldest of four. It taught me all that I know about being a leader, helper, caring person, great big sister and now mother. My son has learned so many things the last 8 months with a sibling around - waiting, patience, sharing, kindness, how to be gentle and go slowly, how it's cooler to grow up and be a big boy instead of a baby, etc. He has learned real love I think from becoming a big brother. Of course he loved us before, but now with his sister, he treats her differently than he does his dad or me. It's the sweetest thing I've ever seen in my life, has brought me to tears a thousand times. I know he'll be a better partner, friend, father someday because he has a sister. It's also taught him responsibility. He helps me all day long picking up her pacifier when it fell on the floor, passing me her burp cloth, throwing away her diaper, etc.
-Laughter. There is more laughter in our home than ever before now that we have two. With one, the focus is just on him for so long, watching one way of doing things, one example of growth. With two, it's so different, they are so unique themselves, that it makes us laugh all the time. My son will say something silly that will make our daughter giggle. In fact, the times that she has ever laughed totally on her own without us tickling her or something are all related to her brother doing something funny. It's the sweetest thing in the world.
-Partnership. After my first was born since there is just one baby the childrearing work typically fell to one of us, me in this case. I got tired and sometimes resentful toward my husband, despite that he was helping me a lot. It just felt sometimes like it was just me (pumping can do that to a momma!). With two, it's all hands on deck, both of us had to be doing something for one kid all the time. That made us such a good team, we were the best partners we've ever been in our 13 years of being together this past year having our second child. Since there are two kids who always need something and two of us who have hands to help, we're both always side-by-side doing baths, diapers and dressing the kids, etc. It's brought us closer for sure. I see him as the most incredible father now. Of course I knew he was and saw it often with our first, but now with two, it's amazing to see.
-Letting go. Having two means you are too busy to worry about the small things. There is literally no time to care what others think of you, or to pretend you are not exhausted and that your child is not melting down at some silly party you didn't want to go to in the first place so instead of staying longer you excuse yourself and say "they need naps, sorry!" You're more truthful. You just say it like it is, are honest, and just so much more easygoing about things, letting go of the pressure to be whatever you thought you were supposed to be before.
-Easier. Yes, despite what I wrote above about it being harder to have two kids, it's also easier. I know that doesn't make sense but it's true. It's easier in that instead of boiling the baby bottles every time we use them for 3 months like we did with our first, we boiled them once before the baby came home from the hospital and then did the nipples for like a month and that's it. Instead of washing the pacifier with soapy water every time it drops on the floor we rinse it under water and move on or even just wipe across our shirt and call it good. Instead of wondering and wondering what that drooling is and freaking out about whether giving tylenol is going to kill them or if we should do immunization shots or not, you already know what to do and that it's going to be OK. There is something powerful about having had a first child who survived, who is living and breathing and even laughing a lot - that you raised, that helps you calm down the second time around, knowing you can do this parenting thing. I am more relaxed, too. If my first didn't get a nap I'd freak out, live by the nap. Now with a second, I understand that sometimes the baby is not going to get her typical hour-long nap because my son needs to go out of the house for something at that time, sorry, we'll all survive, it's OK. You also have all the stuff you need, for the most part, for a second child to come.
-Better mom. Because I don't get as much time with my older one as I used to, I'm now even more dedicated, focused and present when I'm with him. When my daughter takes her morning nap on a Saturday instead of clean I try to sit on the floor and play blocks or small toys with him that his baby sister can't touch yet. I also understand what's important now. Playing, being outside, capturing the little moments on film, writing in the baby book since I know it flies by sooo fast I don't want to forget these moments, etc. I'm great now having two.
-Complete. Two has a nice way of rounding things out. I still want a third, so we're not entirely complete, but still having 4 of us instead of 3 now just feels pretty cool.