Not long ago I was at a child’s birthday party. They had a serve yourself buffet lunch and as I tried to dish my plate while stopping my one year old from running off and unpacking all the ice and drinks from the esky I thought ‘how will I do this when I have a newborn?’ Seriously how do people manage two? (or more??) Surely you need two hands for one child?
As I emerge from the dark cloud of pregnancy sickness, I have started to contemplate life with two kids – a newborn and a one year old. Let me start by saying I am so excited to be having another one. The desire to have a second filled my heart almost the exact day my daughter was born. I remember a few months into her life when I was discussing pregnancy sickness with a friend she asked if I would ever do it again. And I said, “yes. I don’t know how, but I know I will.” And as my daughter grew and I saw how much she loved growing up with other kids I started to desire a brother or sister for her. Someone for her to play with the moment they both woke up, someone to fill our home with even more laughter. I have known, since my daughter was born, that our family was not complete, that there was someone we are still going to meet, someone who was missing.
But as it draws nearer I’ve realised I’m also a little scared about just how much life is going to change with two. And, though I think few people would realise it, for me becoming a mother of two feels bigger, or at least just as big, as when I became a mum for the first time. It feels bigger because in some ways one can fit into your preexisiting life. You can still meet a friend for a coffee (though admittedly it is getting harder now I have a toddler), you can still work and pay for childcare and come home with a profit, you can get a break during nap times, you can still do shopping because you only have to stop one child jumping out of the trolley, you can ask someone to mind them or leave them with your partner and take some time for yourself.
There’s so many things I’m scared of about having two. Some relate to the practicalities of day to day life. Like how do you clean the highchair and get out of the house when you have a demanding toddler and a crying newborn? How do you stop your life descending into chaos when you have a toddler that unpacks everything in the house, but you can’t pick everything up because your hands are full with a newborn?
And some relate to much a deeper fear of losing myself. Of losing who I was before I had kids. Of realising that I will be off work for much longer than I originally thought. Of putting dreams, like finishing my Masters, on hold. Of wondering if being a mum is ‘enough’ for me. Of not having time for the things I need to do for me. Of forgetting my goals.
And there’s a third fear, which is perhaps more of a grief than a fear. And that is the grief that my one-on-one time with my daughter is coming to an end and that I will never have that same one-on-one time with my second child. Newborn days cuddled up on the couch breastfeeding. Knowing that this time around the cuddles will be so different – much less quiet, much less calm, likely to be either disrupted to stop my toddler jumping off the back of the couch or disturbed by her climbing on my head. In truth I love having one child. And before I had one, I don’t think I realised just how much one child can fill up your house and your heart.
I have beautiful memories of the newborn days with my daughter – time just the two of us. I do have a sadness that I wont have the same one-on-one time with my second as I have had with my first. I shared this with a friend, who is a mum of three, and she said, “the reality is that they are born into a different place in the family. For all the lack of one-on-one time they have with you they have so much love and colour and noise and life around them, it’s just simply different. They don’t know anything else and I have to say they are happier babies because of it. You will enjoy it too, all in a completely new way”. And I know that by having two my kids are not missing out on anything. That it is my grief and not theirs, that what they will gain is so much more than the attention they will lose from me.
I actually had a similar grief when we moved from a family of two to a family of three. Not straight away, but almost a year later when I was looking at photos of a friend’s travel with her husband. I realised that holidays will never be the same for us again. Well at least not for the next 15 – 20 years. And I felt strangely jealous, of her time, of two complete weeks just with her husband, of a season of life that I loved but that has past. I hadn’t realised that by adding something to our life, we’d have to say goodbye to something else.
And that is what we’re doing now, adding another life and more laughter to our family. But, it is rarely acknowledged that this means saying goodbye to something else. Saying goodbye to our family of three.
So, to process this, I’ve turned to the trusty internet. And I’ve found so many mums that have written things that have really encouraged me. Here are two of my favourite blogs about having two children:
These posts, and others I have read, have addressed my exact fears, so I’ve learnt that I’m not the only mum who has these thoughts before baby number two arrives. So, because I haven’t got to the end of this story yet, because I don’t know what life will be like with two, I’ll end with words from Jordan Reid’s blog:
“…I don’t feel like my attention is split…I feel like it’s fuller, somehow. They say you don’t just have “space” in your heart for more than one child, but that your heart actually grows with each baby…and it’s true.
And finally, there’s this: life starts to feel like it’s running more smoothly when a child grows older, and of course the fact that he or she is more mature is part of it…but it’s also because of you. Because you’ve come into who you are as a parent, and because you know how to be a mother and be part of a family and all those things that you didn’t know the first time around.
Don’t underestimate how much you are capable of, or how extraordinary you will be when asked to rise to the challenge of parenting two people who completely hold your heart.
You will be extraordinary, and you won’t regret your choice for one single moment. I promise.”
So, I’ll hold her to that promise. Here’s to the chaos of two kids under two.