My Life with Two

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a long time. It just happened that an old friend of mine emailed me on this exact subject, so I’m going to share that rather than write a new post.

I was scared terrified of what would mean to add another child to our family. Change is good, but I was afraid that things would change in a bad way. I didn’t know how I’d handle my high needs child along with a newborn, which is, by definition, also high needs. I didn’t know how I would divide my time. I didn’t know how I’d find time to do the things that keep my sane like knitting, reading, and cleaning my house. Amazingly, at least from my perspective, we’ve made it through this so far. We’ve not only made it through it, but we’ve thrived. We’ve found our rhythm and while things are definitely more hectic and often more challenging, life is better than it was 4 months ago.

I wanted to write this for all of you out there about to add to your family of three or contemplating it. It will be hard. You will be challenged in ways you’ve never imagined. The process of taking that one person who has been your everything and making them not your one-and-only will rip your heart out. Piecing that heart back together so that it can envelop all this new love you have will be amazing.

So without further ado…

Claire,

Hope you don’t mind I am writing you about this. I look up to you as a mom and think you are amazing. Your girls are beautiful and I know how much you put into raising them in a loving way.

I have had a couple periods in recent months, so our conversation lately has turned to the idea of trying for a second child. I have mixed feelings about this. I would love another child soon and want Lydia to have a sibling. But I also remember how hard she was as an infant. I felt like she took all of my energy and then some. She nursed often, didn’t sleep much, and was high needs (my mom would have said colicky like I was, but I didn’t call it colic because I knew why she fussed, she wanted me all the time.) She stopped taking pumped bottles at 1 month, so it’s not like I could pass her off to somebody for an afternoon until recently, now that she eats more solids and drinks from cups (She still nurses 3-4 times a day but I am totally fine with that frequency in the foreseeable future). I am not telling you all this to complain, I would do it again. It was very hard though and I felt close to a breakdown many times until she was about a year.

I guess I don’t really relish a thought of another newborn! I joke that I just want to skip to a 6-12 month old. I also worry about Lydia. What in the world will I do with her in the meantime if I get another infant that is so high needs? She is not the kind that will sit placidly by and play with fluff all day, she demands my attention constantly still, just in the “play with me” way. If I even get on the computer while she is awake she gets mad I am ignoring her. (Luckily she slept in this morning!)  I don’t want to neglect her, and I also don’t want to resent a new baby.

Just thought you might have some good advice for me as you’ve BTDT. Be honest, but hope would be nice too :)

Thanks,

Sarah

And my response…

Sarah,

No problem at all! I wondered this a lot when I was thinking of getting pregnant again and then even more when I was actually pregnant. There were multiple times towards the end of my pregnancy that I was in tears thinking “Oh what have I done?!” because I was so concerned about the idea of adding another to our family and especially what that would do to Dea.

I won’t lie, it hasn’t been easy. Speaking to other parents, it seems that the transition from one to two is much more difficult than the transition to 3 or 4 or even 8. It’s going from a mindset of one person being your whole world to having to divide your time and multitask. When you have one, you can drop everything and cuddle on the couch if they’re sick. If you have two, you can’t drop everything for one child.

Dea was also very high needs as a baby. She nursed every 60-90 minutes around the clock until she was 6 months old. She always had to be held. I couldn’t take my attention off of her for one second. All that kind of stuff. While I can definitely tell you that a lot of that was her (she went from being a high needs baby to a high needs toddler and is very type A), I also wonder how much of it was me. I know I stressed and worried much more than I needed to. So I’m sure that some of that comes from me. I think all first time parents are like that though.

The biggest change for me this time around has been relaxing about things. I couldn’t tell you how often Meredith nurses. I have no idea how many times she wakes in the night (we co-sleep, so I hardly wake myself). I don’t always know when she’ll nap and I nurse her at any little peep instead of trying every other soothing method in my arsenal before finally giving up and nursing her. That kind of stuff. It also helps that she’s a bit more laid back than Dea. I can already tell that she’s not going to be as intense of a person as Dea is as she grows, which makes me both happy and sad. Dea will be a wonderful, independent, assertive child and adult. She will be less prone to give into peer pressure and intrinsically motivated. These are the things I tell myself to get through the day with her being so intense right now. I just don’t know yet how Meredith will be. Part of me relishes in the fact that she’s “easier” as a baby. Part of me regrets that possibly she won’t be all the wonderful things I think about Dea as she grows older. In the end, she’ll be who she is and I’ll do my best to bring out the good parts in her personality.

Anyway, back to your initial question. It’s a hard transition. I know that my relationship with Dea has suffered. It’s impossible for the older child not to suffer in some way when another is introduced into your family. I just try my best to keep in mind that this is difficult for her too. Keeping that in mind makes it easier for me to handle her emotional outbursts and intense need for attention. I work hard to remember that she’s only 3. She needs me just as much as Meredith does, just in her own way.

We’ve gotten into a rhythm though. It was really difficult for me in the beginning because of my postpartum depression (which I didn’t have at all when Dea was born). I felt really detached from Dea. Ingesting my placenta helped a lot with that, along with plenty of sunshine and leafy greens. I’m feeling better every day. We’ve also just developed a rhythm in the fact of getting schedules together and everything. Meredith likes to sleep in (until generally 11 or 12), but doesn’t like to stay in the bed long without me next to her in general. So when Dea wakes up around 7-7:30, we all get out of bed. I change Meredith and nurse her and then she goes in the swing, where she’ll sleep again. I use this time to clean the house, play with Dea (we’ve been doing a “preschool” and we use this time to do the really hands-on stuff), etc. Dea recently stopped napping, but before that I would nurse them both together to get them to nap at the same time in the afternoon. Now it’s more like Meredith napping on me in a wrap while we run errands or other things. I start on dinner early (and have a lot more days where I don’t cook at all), knowing that I may have to stop to nurse a baby, something I’ve become talented at doing in a woven wrap. We all take a bath together in the evening after dinner and the girls go to sleep around 8 or 9, which is when both of them start getting really grouchy and obviously tired. I’m afraid to leave them both in the bed for a long time, so I mostly sit and read or knit in the bed while they sleep. Sometimes I’ll leave the bed for a few minutes if I know something needs to be done like switching laundry or making a loaf of bread. My husband is also very good with helping me around the house these days. I go to bed when I feel tired enough and Meredith nurses throughout the night. It’s not an exact thing, but it’s the rhythm that works best. Some days we leave in the morning and it’ll throw things out of alignment for the rest of the day. Some days we leave during a time that doesn’t normally work and we’re none-the-wiser. I do know that I can only stand leaving the house a couple of mornings a week or I start to get stressed myself.

I’m not excited to start school next week, even though it’s half-time and online only. I don’t like the idea of adding something else to my plate right when I feel like we’re getting things figured out. That’s how life goes though.

Anyway, I hope that wasn’t too long. All-in-all, things have definitely figured themselves out for the better. It’s been tough and a lot of days I have to work harder at life than I used to, but it’s worth it. Meredith is wonderful and Dea is blossoming as a big sister. Did that answer your question alright?

Claire

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