Becoming a Mother of Two
When you express worries and fears about having a second child, about having enough love for two kids, you mostly get assurances. Assurances that it will be great. The children will be so close to each other as siblings. And assurances that your heart will simply double in size and you’ll have equal love for both.
But the truth is much harder. Instead of feeling like your heart has doubled in size you may feel that it has instead been torn in two. At least that’s how I felt about having a second child with a toddler.
Torn in Two
When my second daughter was born my first daughter was exactly 26 months old. At that age she was considered a toddler but still a baby in many ways. She needs her diaper changed, needs someone to provide her with food, help her up and down the stairs, get her dressed, brush her teeth, and give her a bath.
I suddenly found myself torn between the needs of these two individuals. Between my daughter who’d I’d been with almost every hour of her life able to help her when she needed it. And my infant daughter who needed help with everything.
Double the Trouble
Suddenly I had to tell my oldest more and more to wait and mommy would help her in a while. Wait and I’d get her a snack, wait and I’d help with her puzzle, wait and I’d read that book, wait and we’d go to the park when we had help.
Getting out of the house with a baby is hard when you’re learning it as a new mom. You have to learn how to do it all over again with two.
Wearing an infant in a carrier or pushing a stroller with a baby while keeping track of a rambunctious toddler who doesn’t quite understand not to run into the street is a whole new terrifying ballgame.
The relentless infant feeding schedule is also twice as challenging with two. With my first the 2-3 hour cycle was rough but I could spend time on the couch snuggling her and watching Netflix.
Now, in the short time between feedings I have to hope the baby will sleep somewhere and try to keep my toddler entertained as well.
The crying is also double. Someone always seems to be crying, because someone’s needs are not being met most of the time. You do have to choose between the two. Choose who to deal with first.
When my infant is crying but my toddler needs a nap, she has to cry while I get my toddler to bed. This brings out a primordial reaction and stress at not responding to your infant. This is a choice I never had to face with my first.
It all starts to feel overwhelming, and stressful, and like too much. And you start to wonder why no one warned you about these harsh truths before. The reality is, that as with most things in parenting, it’s not as rosy as it looks on social media.
Even face to face a lot of other moms won’t tell you the whole truth. Mom guilt and mom judgement is real so instead we make things sound easier than they really are or were.
The harsh truth
Because the harsh truth is that the transition to two is hard! You might feel sad, angry, frustrated, even resentful at times.
As I started to be honest about these feelings the support started to come in. First from another mom at church. Then I posted on social media about feeling torn in two. Two old friends reached out via text message and FB messenger to assure me that they had felt the same.
The hardest part to admit was that I sometimes felt resentment towards my new baby.
Resentful that she was disturbing the semi-schedule I had with my toddler. Resentment that she was taking me away from time with my toddler. And resentment that we were all seemingly trapped at home.
I was full of mom guilt for feeling resentment at times towards a helpless baby. And guilty for forcing a sister upon my toddler that she never asked for.
While I know I will eventually be grateful that my girls are close in age the truth is that the early days are hard. You may feel stressed, tired, and sometimes even resentful.
But at least I know I’m not alone and that this too shall pass. And I hope that by sharing my truth someone else will be more prepared or at least know that these feelings are normal. They do not make you a bad mom. And this too shall pass.
3 month update
I wrote most of this post when my new baby was just a couple weeks old. I wanted it to be raw and real and in the moment. My youngest daughter is now 3 months old. A lot of days it’s still hard, but it helps that the postpartum hormone waves have evened out.
We still seem trapped at home often as getting out of the house with 2 young kids is a daunting affair. I still sometimes feel torn between the needs of my two girls and trying to find a moment alone for myself.
But, my toddler has adjusted and mostly seems to be okay with her role as big sister. Baby J is no longer in the infant cluster feeding stage and will sometimes play on her activity mat for a bit. Things have started to fall into a bit of an insane pattern.
I’m still not sure I’d say that I feel that my heart has doubled in size but perhaps the tear is starting to knit itself back together a bit. Moments like the one below, seeing them starting to bond with each other, helps a lot too!
How can you prepare for a second child?
First off, don’t believe the hype. It can be incredibly hard, even harder than it was becoming a mom the first time around. Be prepared that adjusting to life with two kids may be hard even though you’ve been a mom of a baby before.
While you have a general idea what to expect from an infant, every baby is different and baby number two will be a whole new mystery to unravel.
You also never know how your toddler will react. Be prepared for the big emotions as they adjust to having to share their attention with a new little person. I highly recommend Janet Lansbury when you’re in need of parenting inspiration.
Tip #1 The best tip I got was to never blame the baby. Don’t tell your toddler you can’t help them because you’re doing XYZ for the baby. Simply tell them you will gladly help them as soon as you are done with feeding the baby or whatever task you are working on.
Avoiding placing the blame on the baby may help ease your toddlers resentment.
Tip #2 Be sure to let your oldest know you still love them a lot and try to take a few moments alone to do something you loved to do before baby whether it’s reading a book, coloring, whatever your favorite pastime was.
Tip #3 Try to include your toddler in caring for the new baby. Toddlers love to feel helpful and included. Let them fetch your diapers, put a used diaper in the diaper genie, grab a blanket, or even pick an outfit for their new sibling to wear.
Your baby may not win any fashion awards this way but your toddler will feel included and happy that they get to help with their little brother or sister!
Congratulations on being a mom of two!
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