Motherhood x 2
Recently I have had a number of prenatal yoga practitioners who are expecting their second little one ask me what the transition from 1 to 2 is like. Now that my oldest is 3 and youngest is 1 it seems a good time to tackle this frequently asked question. The short answer is this: everyone will adjust, you have more than enough love for each child, and what works for one family is different than what works for another.
The long answer includes my experience, but as mentioned above every family is unique, including the spacing between children, which can be a big (or small) factor in the adjustment of expanding a family. First, there is an abundance of love for both children! If you have read or listened to my daughter’s birth story you may recall that right before birthing her I told my midwife I was worried there wouldn’t be enough love. After voicing that fear and realizing that my heart had enough space for another she was born! There is no way to explain how your heart doubles in size and capacity until that sweet moment that you meet your newest little one and even more so when your oldest meets their sibling for that first time. Here’s how that looked for my littles:
Now the first newborn days are a bit of a blur, but mostly involved a lot of snuggles in bed, reading books to my biggest, toy cars being shared with baby sister to “play” with and evolved into lots of special outings with daddy as I healed and my youngest and I bonded more. A few things we did in advance that seemed to help was get a 3 book series from Daniel the Tiger about getting a baby sister. My son got one of the books (talked about preparing for baby etc.) before she was born, then one as a gift once born + a tiny duplos airplane (that book was about baby arriving), and about a week or so later the last book which discussed sharing mommy and daddy and learning to wait for attention sometimes. We talked to him a lot about baby coming, and let him be as involved as possible in the prep including coming to almost all my midwife appointments where he often got to help listen to baby’s heartbeat (something he LOVED). I think involving him helped continue that trend after where he’d often want to help grab a burp cloth if I needed it or diapers. Even now he will notice if she is drooling a lot due to teething and grab a burp cloth for me to clean it up.
Two special outings that I believe made a world of difference for my oldest was when I was a little over a week postpartum I took him for a special mama-son date. We just went up the street to the donut place for a quick treat, but he was on cloud 9 for days having mama all to himself and getting to tell me all about his imaginative adventures. The second adventure was with my husband, who took him to his first baseball game about 2 weeks after our daughter was born. He loved every minute of it and still remembers that daddy adventure fondly even though he was only a little over 2 at the time. This gave me time to snuggle and nap with my daughter, again giving us some bonding time.
We also took advantage of some childcare so that both my son got time to interact with other kids, get some stimulation outside of the house and burn off some energy. He was already used to being at the gym childcare 3x a week prior to baby arriving, so this was important to keep that part of his life going. This also gave me time to get to know my daughter more, what her unique needs were and time to continue to heal from childbirth.
Which leads me to the good ‘ole saying “what works for one kid doesn’t work for another”. We quickly discovered that was more than true! Every soothing trick that worked for my son did not for my daughter. She has very expressive eyebrows and even as an infant would raise them giving us this look of “really? you think that’ll work on me?”. Examples include that she liked to snuggle to sleep, but then liked her space during the night sleeping (we co-sleep to at least 6 months), whereas my son has always been a super snuggler wanting someone near him or now surrounded by loads of pillows, blankets and stuffed animals. Our daughter also had colic from 3 weeks to around 10/11 weeks. We had a growing list of ways to soothe her, as every night at 6pm she’d start and we never knew what would finally settle her (eventually I had to get real strict with my vegan diet so there was no trace of dairy at all in my milk). Even a year later, our daughter is more of our “caution child” aka fearless and could care less if you say no vs. our son who is literally cautious and a people pleaser. Two different kids, personalities and ways of parenting them.
The biggest adjustment was understanding that we are always adjusting. With one little one it’s simply adjusting to their needs and shifts with each growth developmentally. With two it’s more than one kiddo who is adjusting- the one growing and the one figuring out this “new” baby/toddler. The most challenging for us were when my daughter started to eat and juggling feeding two little ones at the same time and when she really started to move around surprising my son as to why baby sister could now grab his toys. In many ways this is where I feel being a mom also includes the role of referee as I sometimes have to foresee when squabbles may happen, or assist them in navigating them compassionately when they do (I’m far from perfect with this!).
Other practical things that worked were creating kits for myself and each kids prior to birth. I had one postpartum care kit in the bathroom so that bathroom visits were a bit quicker (since you know having a toddler and an infant don’t allow for those long bathroom stops that include all the works as you heal!). That way I had my peri bottle, perineal spray and balm and pads ready to go to make the visit as short as possible, especially when having a little one tugging on my leg and another one crying for more milkies. Which leads me to the kids kits. One was more for me as well, as it was a nursing kit for those long breastfeeding sessions. In it was a large water bottle with straw, snacks (for both me and my son), nipple cream, a remote phone charger, ear buds, The Wonder Weeks book, and some diaper supplies for a quick change if my daughter had a blowout. For my son he had an activity kit with stickers, crayons, toy cars, and a few books for those long nursing sessions to occupy him vs. always using screen time (which there was a lot of that first month or so!).
Now for us bedtime is usually the challenging part as the kids go down at the same time. We’ve learned to make it work and you will do with all the adjustments that come with parenting more than one little one! Remember you’ve got this, there is enough love even for your self in this crazy ride that is motherhood.