It reminded me of an article I wrote after I had my youngest, Tyler, and was struggling to find my footing as a new mom of two. I decided to go ahead and share it here. I was hoping to send it in to be published in a magazine somewhere, but never quite got around to it. If you read it, I'd love your feedback, especially if you are a mother (or father) of more than one child!
Making It Through Number Two…and I Don’t Mean Potty Training
By Beth Mann
And So It Begins
You’ve probably heard that once you’ve had two children, adding more siblings is a breeze. That would lead one to assume that the transition from one child to two is anything but. I just recently had my second child, and I would agree, tricky indeed. That’s right, I’ve gone from masterful (or so I thought) mother of one toddler, to the upside-down, barely getting sleep, never getting out, mother of a toddler and an infant.
Don’t get me wrong, I was sleep deprived and sequestered when I had my first baby - there is no paranoia like having your first child, but I have never felt such a need for help in my life! I’m sure there are some mothers out there who are reading this saying, “What’s so hard about it? I did it just fine.” Well, I’m calling your bluff. You must have had help.
Perhaps you were blessed to have a mom, grandma, sister, or best friend nearby that came to your aid while you were adjusting. (Note: I’m not saying husbands can’t be helpful too, but in most cases, they’re just as clueless as we are.) And I’m not talking about for just that first week or two either. I’m talking about those loooong months after the helpful family member or friend leaves, or your spouse goes back to work.
My husband and I found out we were pregnant with our second after just moving a whole state away from our entire family. My naiveté and ridiculous “glass half full” optimism allowed me to convince myself that we wouldn’t need help. I was wrong.
If you insist that you didn’t have, want, or need help making the jump from one child to two, then you truly are a gifted mother and I have much to learn from your expertise. (Ok, that’s not true. I really want to put a stinky diaper in your car that you won’t be able to find for days, but that’s just my own insecurity talking.) For those of you mommies who can relate to my stupor, allow me to elaborate.
The Ignorant Bliss
Remember with me the perfection of those first couple of days of secondary motherhood. You’re lying there in the hospital bed, numerous guests coming in and out of your room claiming how “radiant” and “fantastic” you look, even though you’ve just pushed a watermelon out of you. So what if they’re lying, you choose to believe them for the time being.
You look over at the tiny new life next to you with satisfaction and dream about how well this new baby is going to play with your firstborn when he’s a little older - how they’ll probably share bunk beds and every toy in the closet. The visitors begin to slowly taper off as the evening approaches. (Or the charge nurse tells them to get out…and you love her for it.)
Nighttime arrives, but you don’t panic. You have multiple nurses ready and eager at the press of a button to take the baby to the nursery and allow you some precious sleep. (In my case, that saint of a woman called the Lactation Specialist who comes to your aid when the baby won’t stop crying at three in the morning and wants to take it out on your nipples!) You live in this, often medicated, state of bliss for a few days, and then…you’re sent packing.
The Rude Awakening
Back home. Reality. It hurts worse then your delivery (alright, maybe that’s an exaggeration). You’re still healing, and if you had a c-section like I did, you’re still supposed to be bedridden. How is it possible to be bedridden with a toddler? It’s not. So, up and down you go: making breakfast, changing diapers, holding your pillow to cough in between, and feeding the baby every two to three hours.
I should empathize with you fathers out there as well. More often than not, my husband would come home to a screaming duet in the midst of what I like to call “the bewitching hour”. It usually falls somewhere between five and seven o’clock in the evening.
The children finally calm down, and you manage to re-warm the casserole your gracious neighbor brought over, even though it seems like you’ve been eating it for days - at least you didn’t have to make it, right? Your husband bathes your toddler, and gets him into his bed. Did I mention that toddlers develop interesting new traits when forced to reckon with a new sibling? Mine developed the delightful habit of “the baby sleeps with mommy and daddy and so will I”. Every night, around two in the morning, we had a visitor.
You finally manage to climb into bed after topping off the baby and swaddling him so tightly you might never get him unwrapped. And then, though it seems like you’ve only been asleep for mere minutes, the baby’s up and ready to eat again. You feed baby, and in marches toddler, ready for the middle-of-the-night switcheroo. This goes on for a couple of months, except without the casseroles…those puppies only last about two weeks!
I can’t quite explain it, but it happened with my first baby too. Somewhere around your infant’s three-month birthday, everything clicks. You begin to understand the cries and what they mean. Your toddler (hopefully) understands that he doesn’t have to scream, “Mommy, the baby’s crying!” for the nine hundredth time - as if you were completely unaware of the fact.
Your other child also begins to recognize that the baby is not a threat to them, that they are still a welcome part of the family, and that they are not going to be voted off the island. Hopefully, they will prove it to you and begin sleeping in their own bed again. You may also discover, as I did, that child labor is entirely misunderstood. Put your toddler to work! My two year old learned where the diapers and wipes were kept, and would fetch them when asked. He also knows how to put baby’s pacifier back in when he loses it.
He has also realized that he can make his little brother laugh, and to hear the two of them doing that – as opposed to screaming – is as close to heaven as a mother can be. Daddy still comes home during the bewitching hour, but even Daddy has discovered how to tame the wild beasts.
All’s Not Lost
I suppose what I’m trying to say is… it gets easier with time. The time with your little ones goes by really fast. I only have to look at how huge my oldest looks standing next to my baby to realize that. So, drink it in! Embrace the fact that you can only do what you can do, and the rest doesn’t matter.
If you’re blessed with people in your life who want to help, let them! Take each day at a time, and give yourself credit for the small things. Did you manage to blow dry your hair? Good for you! Did you change the baby’s diaper and teach your toddler how to count at the same time? Fantastic!
Speaking of diapers…my toddler has just pointed out that he wants to go pee-pee on the potty. If I can get through this, then potty training shouldn’t be too hard, right?