When I found out I was pregnant again the month after my first son turned one year old, I was in a mixed state of shock and panic. I was not planning on having another child…or at least not so soon. I immediately lost myself in the countless blogs and articles dedicated to the subject, and my stress level skyrocketed to over 9,000. Apparently, having two tiny children in diapers was the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. EVER.
I was terrified that I wouldn’t love this baby as much as I did my first. I felt guilty because he would be getting almost all of his things second hand from his brother. I felt like I wouldn’t be a good mother splitting my time and attention between two small boys. I thought that my relationship with my firstborn would be irreparably damaged by jealousy and resentment. I didn’t think I could afford another child. The list goes on and on…I couldn’t seem to stop all of the negative thoughts and anxiety.
Reality Check #1. Women have been doing this since humankind existed. We made it this far…historically with far more spawn in the brood and without baby books and the internet. I admit the culture we live in does make it harder for us in many ways because the community aspect of raising children is now non-existent, but we are resilient modern women with access to more resources than ever before.
Six weeks into the journey with an infant and a two year old, I am here to tell you, it is not so bad. Don’t lose hope. Don’t let all of those stupid articles scare you. Breathe. It’s going to be fine. Yes, it will be hard. You will get frustrated. You will feel like you are being split in two. But you will find your way…and occasionally, it might even be fun!
Reality Check #2. You are going to have to let go of some expectations. I was meticulous with my first boy. Planning, scheduling, stockpiling, reading, reading, and reading some more. I tried my best to be the perfect mom. Outside playtime every day, limited sugar, fast food once a week at most, no more than an hour of screen time per day…blah blah blah.
All of that went out the window about 6 hours after I gave birth to baby boy number two. We don’t have any family in the area, so it was just the husband and me. Luckily, I had a scheduled C-section this time (my first birth was very difficult) and we were able to put number one in daycare during the delivery/recovery time. Naturally, I wanted to see him as soon as I could, so my husband picked him up right after they brought me to my room. He didn’t seem too concerned with the new baby in my arms, but wanted to crawl all over me and touch and pull all of the things. The iPad and candy saved us.
We soon realized that my husband would be spending most of his time at home with our oldest, while I stayed in the hospital alone with our newborn. It wasn’t what I wanted. I had never been away from my boy for a single night in two years…and his dad had never taken care of him full time before. The anxiety and guilt set in, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital.
Reality Check #3. Things are going to be different. The next day when my husband brought number one in for a visit, he was off the walls on a sugar high with his shirt on backwards, no shoes, and a sippy cup that was leaking profusely because daddy didn’t know how to put it together correctly. He also seemed a little distant from me. Anxiety and guilt begin increasing.
Day three. I was in the hospital bed nursing my little one, and I got a text. Pictures of my oldest son and his dad at the park…at the Chinese buffet…at the store. And he looked SO happy. Jealousy sets in. No one mentioned the jealousy in their blogs. At some point, I had forgotten there are TWO parents, and felt entitled to sole ownership of parental rights. I had assumed that my son would be miserable and despondent without me, and I couldn’t help feeling a little betrayed that he was just fine.
Day four. I am discharged in the morning. We get to the house and at this point, my toddler doesn’t even realize I exist because he is so gaga over daddy. He wants nothing to do with me. My worst fears are coming true. He doesn’t love me anymore because I have a new baby and he thinks he has been replaced. Daddy is more fun anyway. I am quietly devastated.
Day five. Husband had to go back to work, so he took our toddler to daycare. The house was quiet, and I snuggled up on the couch for the day savoring my sweet new baby, trying not to let the guilt creep in for sending his brother to daycare. That night, I left my husband in charge of the newborn, forced myself to climb the stairs and put my son to bed. We have a nightly routine of stories and songs before we lay down and cuddle. As soon as we laid down, before I can even open the first book, he falls into my arms, looks at me and says “mama”…then hugs me longer and tighter than he ever has before.
In that moment, I knew everything was going to be OK.
Reality Check #4. Different doesn’t always mean bad. Since those first uncertain days after the hospital, we have slowly but surely found a new family rhythm. I made the decision to keep my toddler in daycare part-time, and it has been a significant relief. I have time to bond with the baby, and I keep telling myself he would be going full-time anyway if I was still at work. I also decided to take my doctors advice and start a low dosage of Zoloft to help ease my anxiety. It has made a tremendous impact on my mood, and I find I am not sweating the small stuff.
So what if we only had time to read two stories tonight instead of five? It’s ok to skip bath time occasionally. My toddler’s brain is not going to rot out if he gets to watch more than an hour of TV while I nurse his brother. It’s a GOOD thing that he now has a closer relationship with his dad (even though he still loves me best). Giving him a popsicle is not going to lead to instant diabetes. Letting my husband give the baby a bottle of formula sometimes so I can take a nap is NOT the end of the world.
Yes, things have changed, but I am honestly starting to love having two under two. Last night, as my my toddler slept on one side and I nursed my newborn on the other, this wave of warmth and emotion spread through me and I felt like the luckiest woman alive. I officially no longer care what anyone thinks of my parenting choices. My children are both healthy, happy, and loved…and that is ALL that matters. Go easy on yourself, momma. You will make mistakes, but just learn and grow as they do.
And by the way, I promise you will love them both equally…it’s magical.
Need some advice on what to buy when preparing for a new baby? Check out my guide to staying thrifty here!
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