Going From One Child To Two
When Greg and I chatted about expanding our brood at the tail end of last year, I (not realising I was already pregnant) expressed a desire to wait a while before taking the plunge. We’d always chatted about having a big family, but I disliked being pregnant and really, REALLY disliked the newborn stage. I, of course, loved Milo and enjoyed certain parts of being a new mum, but couldn’t get to grips with how utterly disorientated I felt. A difficult birth and difficult baby meant first time motherhood hit me like a train and I found myself almost re-learning how to function and find out the sort of person I was, it left me entirely out of sorts and while some days I was ‘me’, other days I felt like me, stuck in fog. The idea of doing it all over again, with a toddler in tow, was something which tended to send snakes of anxiety up my back and I just didn’t want to entertain it.
During pregnancy, clamours of ‘oh you’ll have your hands full!’ and ‘a newborn and a toddler, good luck with that!’ had me worrying even further. Women would message to tell me how awful recovery from a C section was while juggling family life (the word ‘agony’ was used a lot) and I can’t tell you how many times I’d been told ‘prepare to feel guilty ALL THE TIME for neglecting your first born’. It’s something which I’ll never understand actually; some women just feel the need to get in touch to tell you how dire you’re going to find things. They’re probably the same ones who relay their horrendous birth stories to first time mums without being asked; ‘AND THEN I SPLIT FROM VAG TO BUMHOLE’. Maybe it’s intended with kindness or the whole ‘keeping it real’ malarkey, but it can evoke utter fear to read, let me tell you.
So, the expectation was very, very low and also very, very intimidating. I researched ways in which I could make sure Milo didn’t feel left out, asked other mums for advice, cried a few times here and there while munching on a cucumber and basically, just quietly panicked. Visions of a zombified woman cradling a newborn while a toddler clung to her legs screaming whirred in my head and obviously that idea didn’t thrill me. If I ever had a bad day with Milo, my mind would immediately flip to ‘if I can’t manage just him, how can I manage two?’
BUT. I’m pleased to report, all of that’s been pretty much blown out the water. Yes, I’m knackered. Yes, I’m busy. And no, I don’t have enough ruddy hands. But if you’re someone whose due date is thundering towards you with terrifying gusto and you’re not sure how you’re going to handle the dreaded Two Kids, then I’m here to offer a more positive spin on things. I’m of course not implying people don’t have it tough second time around; we’re all different and there’s plenty of women who do find having an extra child to look after really bloody hard. And believe me, there’s been many a day in the past couple of months where I’ve cried or been frustrated or clawed my way to bedtime like a baby seal trying to escape a bloke with a club, but it can be OK too. And while I’m all over being honest and shouting about the crap stuff, I think it’s important to acknowledge and share when we’ve been pleasantly surprised too.
- You’re going to be exhausted
You probably are, yes. But when you go from having no children to one, you’ve really got no idea quite how tired you’re going to be. You’re thrown in at the deep end without wearing goggles. You’ve been going to bed and then waking up once morning arrives; imagine that luxury! With the second one, you’re either prepared or not had a full night’s sleep in two and a half years anyway. Second time around for me was more wading in to the shallow end of the pool and while there are days when I’m so tired I really do feel like I could nod off next to a chainsaw, more often than not, I’m a-OK once I get going.
- It’s manic and overwhelming
I wouldn’t say I feel more stressed with two, just more busy. Again though, as mums, we’re already used to not having a minute to ourselves. Milo’s always wanted me to take him for a poo/get him juice in the YELLOW CUP, NO, THE YELLOW CUP/put Paw Patrol on/sing Sheriff Callie the second I try to pop a spoon of anything in my mouth and now with Rex along for the ride, I just find I have a couple more things preventing me from eating. I’m not entirely bogged down, more doing everything at a faster pace.
- My first born will feel left out
I’d bet my nan’s teeth on the fact when your baby arrives, your already-existing child gets more attention. I’m dishing out Hollywood style enthusiasm whenever Milo asks me to watch him do something, I’m reading/Lego-ing/sticker-ing/baking/dancing with him whenever Rex naps and he’s never had so much praise in all his life. You’ll be involving your first born in all the fun; bath times, nappy changes, feeds (yep, even if you breastfeed, believe me they’ll find a way to ‘assist’) and as much as some little ones get a bit of the green eye, there’s plenty who take to siblingdom like a duck to water. Obviously, age plays a big part here. Milo’s nearly three now so he’s old enough to understand his baby brother lives with us and he seems to have happily accepted that. While I was pregnant, he had no clue what we were talking about when we kept mentioning a baby and was pretty disinterested until he met him in person. Older siblings can help more, but older siblings may not be so keen on a new addition after years of getting all the focus. If there’s a teeny tiny age gap, then it’ll be no doubt much harder because your ‘oldest’ is still little, but it does mean they can be enjoying the same things together soon enough. And blimey, let’s just give ’em time! We’ve been really, really lucky and Milo’s fully Team Rex, so now I’m happy to do the whole ‘oh you’re such a great big brother/you’re going to have so much fun together’ etc, but beforehand, I tried not to make it a big deal of it. If strangers launched in to Big Brother Chat the second they met the boys, I’d steer conversation another way. It’s all a learning curve and kids don’t have to want to play ball from the go get.
- The recovery’s horrendous
Obviously each birth is different, ergo each recovery’s different, but I think there’s a lot to be said for going through it once already and being aware of how alien your body can feel. I had a natural, assisted birth with Milo and about 12 weeks of readjustment. This time around I had a c section and was plodding round the local garden centre on day 5. I was sore and everything still hurt, but I was mentally prepared for it and in no way was it as bad as being a huge, waddly pregnant woman with a toddler. If you’ve got little ones wanting attention once you’re out of hospital then it is a bit all hands on deck, but it’s totally do-able. We made sure to tee up lots of daddy-one-on-one time, a couple of nursery sessions and a few days out with the grandparents so I at least had a few hours where I wasn’t panicking Milo was about to flying-nut me in the wound. Which he did. A lot.
- The newborn ‘stuff’
I couldn’t remember much of the newborn days to be quiet honest with you and that’s why I was so nervous about doing them all again. All I could piece together was that I was a) knackered b) clueless c) lost and miserable. However, this time around I’m not worrying about the grunty noises coming out of my baby, panicking about checking the Gro Egg, using a bath thermometer, pressing a glass against milk spots, feeling overwhelmed each time he projectile vomits… This time around I’m either too busy watching Milo perform to Justin’s House while CBeebies blares out to notice, or I’m calm enough to know it’s all part of Rex adjusting to life outside the womb cocoon. He’s a chilled baby, I’m a chilled mum. It’s nothing like the 3 month hole I was in first time around.
- Will I ever get out the house?
It takes a bit longer because of course your baby will poo themselves or need a feed just as you’ve convinced your other child to go. and. find. your. shoes. already. But actually, days spent indoors are far more overwhelming and fractious than getting outdoors and blowing off some steam.
- I’m going to be rubbish
I’m afraid you have to just let that one go. Milo watches quite a bit of telly in the mornings while I get everyone’s clothes/breakfast ready and during bath time, Rex has been plonked down on a makeshift towel bed on the floor while I see to Milo (I always forget to bring the Sleepyhead upstairs) more times than I’d care to admit. Guys, we’re not chucking our children in skips or beating them about the head with frozen chicken kievs. It’s OK not to be organised at all times and just doing our best. Second time around I feel so much less like I need to be Supermum. One tip; the earlier I do things, the more productive I feel. Even if we get up at dawn’s crack, I bring them downstairs and get straight on with baby bath/dressing both of them/breakfast/getting myself dressed. It means by the time Bing comes on, I feel all perky.
- Will the first one end up going a bit feral?
Probably yes, but then Milo was always a bit grubby so we’re probably not a good barometer here.
- I’m going to be back to having no time for myself
I don’t have much time for myself but I’ve realised I don’t feel guilty for making time for myself. I was very much ‘I’ll do everything thank you’ when Milo was little and then acted like a martyr/cried I was neglecting myself. With Rex I’m all ‘oi Greg, I’m going for a shower and a moisturise. I’ll be at least 35 minutes so make sure no-one puts their head in the blender’. I now appreciate you’re 100% allowed to give yourself time for self-care, it’s so important.
All in all, my top tip would just be to prepare. You know how you might feel, you know what could go wrong and you’ll no doubt know how you dealt with it first time around. Get your favourite pamper products ready, a little bit of childcare here and there if you can, support, freeze some dinners, de-clutter. Whatever makes you feel ready for that mini whirlwind. But also, try to enjoy this pregnancy as much as you did the first. You don’t owe it to him/her, you owe it to yourself. It’s not worth the worry.