Last year we underwent a momentous change: we added a second baby to our family. Like most things that you think or say before having (or, as I learned, adding) a kid, I was throughly convinced that I had this whole “mom” thing down. My first was a breeze; she would go to anyone and chill with everyone (solely because of my mothering skills, obv). And there was nothing I couldn’t handle. Gross-out factor? I had intentionally caught chunky milk vomit in my bare hands. New mom worries? I had slept on the floor by her crib because I was afraid she might cough too hard and somehow aspirate in her sleep (she had a minor head cold). Overwhelmed by the mother/child bond? I had wept from the sheer beauty of my child. Overwhelmed by the mother/child bond? I had wept from the sheer exhaustion caused by my child. “Damnit,” I thought, “I am a mother. Been there, done that. How different can two be? I GOT THIS.”
Well, as I found out, I was indeed a mother. But I was a mother to one easy baby. I was not yet prepared for the shit storm that was a mother of two- a developing toddler and a picky newborn. (Any moms with 2+ need not snigger too loudly. I have already bowed to your superiority. And I recognize that I know nothing at all about mothering because I am a mere mother of two in comparison with whatever (cray cray) number above 2 is in your brood.)
Let me put it bluntly: the transition from 1-2 kids was an absolute flogging. It began when I was pregnant. Gone were the days of my first pregnancy lounging on the sofa and inhaling Chick-fil-a (my reward after every OB appointment during the third trimester. And I wonder why I gained 46 pounds because…?).
Nope, the second time around Baby 1 said, “I am a quickly developing 2 year old. Repeatedly pick me up and then immediately set me back down because I am simultaneously extremely needy and fiercely independent. I don’t care if you are already carrying a watermelon around your waist; I don’t have the capacity for empathy yet. Lay down? Think again. I just threw my dinner on the floor and made myself throw up a little. And let’s face it: you’ll stoop over (grunting like a boar all the while) and clean it up because you are tired and your threats are hollow. All you really want to do is plop down and elevate those swollen gams. Waging a war with me over the dinner/floor fiasco isn’t worth it. Broom’s over there.”
Baby 1 was also born during the early spring, i.e., comfortable weather and relatively sweatless brows. But with Baby 2 I made the mistake of being pregnant during a central Arkansas summer. I was the Michelin man, lumbering through an oven with inner thighs ablaze with friction. The sheer amount of water retention my body endured…unspeakable.
But hey, I thought, just stay positive: make it through this pregnancy and all will be well again.
Having two kids was immeasurably more difficult than I had imagined. Baby 1 would go to anyone. Baby 2 wanted me. Only me. And for all of the times it was endearing it was a hundred times more taxing. May I go get a drink of water, Baby 2? Negative. May I take you off of my nipple for a moment? Its been 4 hours. Negative. May I stand, Baby 2? We have been feeding all day and I believe I have a sore developing. That’s going to be a negative.
I really struggled to bond with the baby too. I don’t think I was depressed; I think I was adjusting to a new person in my life and in my family. Our dynamic had fundamentally changed in ways I couldn’t have anticipated when I was pregnant with the second. There were many, many days I wondered if I would ever love my baby like I loved my toddler. And I’m not talking about before Baby 2 came; I incessantly worried about our bond months into her life. There were times when I wondered if I had discovered the sad truth about subsequent children: you just don’t feel the same about them as you do your first. Would Baby 2 always be second fiddle to our first? The guilt…the handwringing. Even the shame: everyone else was transitioning to two so effortlessly. What was wrong with me?!
And in those early months, it seemed like we would be doomed to tread water in total chaos until the babies were in grade school. I struggled to balance my marriage, career, and the relationship with my toddler. No matter how hard I tried to organize and prepare for the week ahead, it was total madness. As rote task managers, evenings and weekends devolved into a race to check the next item off the never ending to-do list. Groceries: check. Crock pot: check. Bath time: check. Pumped milk: check. Breast pump washed and packed: check. And on, and on, and on.
But I’m here to tell you something: take heart new mama of 2. Now I’m 10 months in and things are so-SOOO-much better. I am in love with my baby. She’s amazing and squishy– I’m absolutely obsessed with her. Her smell. Her thighs. Her giggles. I love her just as much as Baby 1. She completes our family. It’s beautiful.
As a family, we have found a good routine and a better balance too. I’m enjoying being a mother of two. And even though Baby 2 and I had a very special breastfeeding relationship that I cherished, we weaned about two months ago. That has made things easier and more fun too. I also have 0 guilt about weaning or ever using formula with her, which we often did even while breastfeeding. Chalk it up to one of the easier things about the second kid- better perspective about things you incessantly pondered the first time around (same handwringing, different story).
So now I’m peering at her first birthday on the horizon and I’m feeling nostalgic. I wish I wouldn’t have stressed so much over making the transition “work.” I wish I wouldn’t have demanded that I feel a certain way by a certain time. I wish I wouldn’t have compared myself to the mother I was when I was just a mother of 1, compared my toddler to my new baby, and compared everyone else and their seemingly better experience to mine. The transition simply took time (more than I thought it would/should). I needed to give more grace to my toddler, my husband, my baby, and maybe most of all- myself.
Going from 1-2 kids is no joke. Like wow. If you’re there, and you’re feeling like wtfishappeningmylifeisruined- take it from this fellow handwringer: it gets better.