The Transition From One To Two Kids
I have something to admit. I’m one of those annoying moms who had a perfect baby. The kind who eats, sleeps, plays and travels with ease. Our firstborn could do no wrong. Not because we as his parents had rose colored glasses on when it came to seeing our son, but because he actually was such a happy and well mannered baby. Before having children, I was told time and time again how the first year would be an absolute gong show and the baby would keep us up all night and maybe even cry all day. I braced myself for the worst. I let go of any expectations except that it would be really hard having a baby. But after my son was born, he blew my expectations out of the water by latching right away, feeding with ease, crying only when he was hungry or needed a change. Sure we had multiple nighttime wake ups but by month three, he slept through the night. To add insult to injury, he was an amazing traveler. We flew to Australia when he was four months old, to Orlando when he was seven months old and to Toronto when he was almost a year old with no incidents. I think my husband and I both watched two movies on every flight comfortably. How does that happen with kids?! Basically, he wasn’t a baby. He was a fully grown man in a baby’s body.
But don’t hate me just yet. Because when he turned into a toddler, the poop hit the fan. He more than made up for his angelic first year when he became a toddler. And the crazy basically hasn’t stopped since. I will admit he’s still an amazing sleeper and traveler, but his eating is pickier than ever and his energy is through the roof. I can’t get a minute to sit down when he’s home. School is almost out for the summer and I’m nervously awaiting the non-stop bursts of energy that are about to implode on me for the next two and half months. Lord have mercy on me!
Fast forward to baby number two. My husband and I basically decided to have a second child to create a playmate for our first born. Totally kidding! But sort of, not really. Yes we always knew we were going to have more than one child (exact number is still undecided) but we did hope and pray that having two kids relatively close together (about 2 years) would allow them to be playmates and maybe even cancel out some of that energy, aka use it on each other as opposed to all on me.
When I got pregnant a second time, I was over the moon. But just like my first pregnancy, I had terrible morning sickness. The non-stop nausea was made worse having to keep up with the energy of my toddler. Thankfully my mom lived nearby and I had an amazing support network of friends and family who let my toddler use their energy on them and their kids during the day. My husband took my son to the park after work while I napped. In my final trimester when I had more energy and started approaching my due date, we started to talk to my son about his new title as big brother. We didn’t know the gender of our baby but my son hoped he would have a little brother. The stars aligned for him. My midwife offered a very useful “Becoming a big brother/sister” class for older siblings and how they can successfully transition into that role. Most of the siblings were slightly older than my son but he loved being there sharing that bond of becoming a big brother with them. They had plushy dolls of pregnant stuffed animals and even a stuffed placenta attached to a baby. This was shown to the siblings who would be in the birthing room with their moms. That would not be my child. But he did get to practice swaddling and changing diapers on a baby doll. They also discussed other ways sibling could be helpful with a new baby and what changes might be coming. I think a lot of it may have gone over my 2 year old’s head, but I was still grateful to have some help in helping him adjust once baby was here.
My second son was born about a week before his due date in early May. I had him in the hospital during the wee hours of the morning. My older son came to visit us and meet his baby brother for the first time the next day. He mostly ignored the baby and kept the attention focused on him, which was the status quo up until then. So I didn’t blame him or feel that his non acknowledgment of his brother was malicious or with ill intent. He was just doing what he usually did. But the days following, he soon realized the status quo was about to be shaken up and there was a new kid in town who would be taking up some of mommy and daddy’s time.
I did my best to be conscious of my older son’s feelings and make sure he was getting the time and attention from me that he needed. Sometimes he would want me to be more physically active with him and I would have to explain to him that mommy was healing and unable to walk around much. But we did get our quality time reading books and eating our meals (that my mom prepped) together. Things carried on as peacefully as they can when you have a new baby and toddler to care for, but I was thrown for a loop when I very quickly realized that my older son spoiled me when he was a baby. My second son was nothing like my first, and I forgot to adjust my expectations when I had him. I was expecting another smooth ride into mommy-hood but this second child would not have it. He had more waking hours than my firstborn and cried for seemingly no reason, sometimes hours at a time. I couldn’t leave the house much because he would just cry. He cried even in the house, but at least I wasn’t getting dirty looks by passers-by like I did in public. Or maybe it was my imagination. But it was clear that I was not accustomed to having a baby that cried for no reason. I felt self conscious and defeated. Why wasn’t I able to soothe my own child? The boob, babywearing and stroller rides were all temporary and fleeting fixes. After doing my song and dance to try and soothe him, he would be back to crying and I would feel like a failure as a mother.
Nothing could be further from the truth. But my raging postpartum hormones and the fatigue that cloaks you after having a baby stopped all lines of reasonable thinking. My husband was traveling for a lot of that first month I was a mother of two, so I didn’t have a rational sounding board to bounce my crazy thoughts off of. I did talk to a few friends who helped reassure me that I was doing just fine, and my second child was just a normal baby. Once I adjusted my expectations on how babies are supposed to be (i.e. not perfect all the time), I started to relax and so did my baby. Or maybe my baby stayed the same, and I just rolled with the punches better. By letting go of expectations and comparisons between my kids, I grew more confident and became a happier mother. My kids sensed this too, which I would argue allowed them to be more relaxed and cooperative.
The first few months rolled by and we enjoyed a lazy summer at splash pads and parks. My toddler ran around, while I wore the baby close to me. By about six months, the baby was happy to be sitting on the ground observing his active big brother run around. My older son enrolled in preschool, while the baby and I got valuable bonding time in during the days. As the baby grew more active, the boys started to play more collaboratively. It was still a lot of the baby watching his big brother, but he added his two cents in with squeals of delight from time to time. Now that the baby can walk , he has been dubbed “Wreck It Ralph” due to his tendency to charge into people and their toys (i.e. his big brother’s). This had led to more conflict between the two, so I find myself in the mediator role a lot these days. But I have found that some patient and loving instruction has helped to guide my older son in how he can play with his brother. Right now, it is a lot of him giving the baby alternative toys he can play with so he won’t be so fixated on destroying whatever my older son is playing with. But I know how they “play” with each other will continue to evolve and change as they age. Some days I wish the baby was older so they could play on more equal terms, but I would miss out on the sweet moments where my older son envelops the baby in a sweet, but hearty hug, which always sets off the biggest baby giggles which no mama heart can ever resist.
It is getting “easier” to have two kids as the boys grow, so if you’re in that fresh baby with a toddler stage, hang in their mamas! Dare I say, some days it feels easier with two than with just one very high energy child? They tend to bounce their energy off one another, which gives me a moment (a very quick one) to sip my tea and make them a meal. And please take it from me, and let go of all expectations on how you think the baby should act, based on your firstborn. I honestly thought I had it in the bag to take care of multiple kids, especially since I essentially raised two children, let alone twins, for the better part of a year! But God has created each and every one of us so beautifully different and unique. It’s such a huge joy in life to figure out who He has made your children into. Everyday they surprise me with new parts of their personalities and heart, which I love discovering. And I always want to remain open to who my children are becoming. I will do my best to shape and guide them in what I believe to be are the right morals and values, but I know who they turn out to be is not ultimately up to me. I am trusting in God and putting my faith into my mothering instincts and abilities. So please do yourself a favor and do the same! You’ve got this mama.