I have to admit that I was nervous about the jump from one to two children. If you’re familiar with my blog, you’ll know that Max, my first son, is quite a demanding child who does need a lot of attention, so I worried a lot about having to split my attention in two. But not to worry, everyone said – the jump from one to two is the easiest! From none to one is hard – your life is completely turned upside down and you’re learning everything from scratch. From 2 to 3 is hard – suddenly the parent to child ratio is tipped in favour of the kids and chaos ensues. But 1 to 2? You’ll be fine!
7 months in, and I’m not so sure!
I definitely found it difficult first time around. Max was a pretty difficult baby – he resisted daytime sleep with every fibre of his being, which meant that he would get massively overtired, grumpy, and impossible to settle. We were finding our way blindly, desperately trying every method we read about in the hope that it might settle him. And eventually we did manage to find a way that worked (The Baby Whisperer’s ‘Shhh Pat’, in his cot, in a darkened room, white noise playing, and a lot of patience), but that did lead to a baby who was ruled by routine, who couldn’t sleep anywhere other than in his cot.
Second time around, and it’s … different.
In so many ways it’s easier.
Those long days aren’t lonely any more – I have a lively 3 year old to keep me company, who sympathises with me on the days when all Ben seems to do is cry. We have to get out and about, because keeping a 3 year old cooped up inside the house isn’t something that I want to experience, so I rarely feel like we’ve not managed to do anything all day – Ben comes with us wherever we’re going.
My expectations of being the perfect parent have gone out of the window and I’m much happier for it. First time around I was determined to do everything right. Now I understand that what’s right one day won’t necessarily be right the next, and that it’s ok to just do the best I can.
I’m not tracking milestones or reading baby books this time around – there’s no time for that! And I’m far more laid back as a result. I know Ben will get to them in his own time, and if he doesn’t, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I’m in no hurry for first teeth, crawling, walking, talking – they’ll happen in their own good time. I’m a far less worried parent than I was first time around.
I’m more confident in my instincts as a parent. You always hear people say ‘Mum’s always right’, but I never had that confidence with Max – how could I know better than the medical professionals who saw hundreds of children every day? Max cried far more than a baby should cry, but whenever I queried it with my Health Visitors, I would just get scoffed at and told, “Well, babies cry”. This time around I’ve found it easier to read the cues from Ben to work out what’s wrong, and I’ve been pushier with getting the right help. We got help with his reflux early on, and we’re having problems now with weaning and suspected allergies, but this time I’m more confident in knowing that the things we’re going through aren’t normal, that there is a real problem.
But in so many other ways, it’s so much harder.
Just in those first few days, the emotion of breastfeeding absolutely tore me up. I found it as painful and difficult as I had first time around. Yet again I had a baby who didn’t seem to know what to do, and despite the fact that I did, it didn’t make it any easier. Ben was diagnosed quickly with a tongue tie, which was corrected on the same day it was spotted, but the feeding remained painful and I’d dread every feed. I had the most fantastic support from my midwives, and the lactation consultant, but still I felt that breastfeeding just wasn’t going to work out. And it was the emotion of that which absolutely floored me. I felt that because I’d found it difficult with Max, that I owed it to Ben to persist with it. But it was so difficult. I was spending hours feeding Ben, missing out on time with Max, and he was starting to feel very neglected. And it wasn’t getting any easier or less painful. Every time I talked about giving up, I would be beside myself in floods of tears. It was causing me so much guilt, and despite knowing that if it was anyone else I would have told them that there was no shame in moving to formula if that was the right thing for them, I just couldn’t see the logic in my own advice. Thankfully things did improve, and breastfeeding worked out for us, but those emotions of juggling the needs of two children are at the heart of adjusting to a second child.
There is the feeling that you’re not being a great mum to either child. Neither of them is getting the best of you, and that they’re both missing out on things. The needs of a 3 year old and a baby are so wildly different that it’s impossible to satisfy them both. As a newborn, Ben needed peace and quiet so that he could sleep a lot, and time to feed. As a 3 year old, Max needed to be able to play and make noise in his own home. Both perfectly reasonable demands, and yet completely incompatible with each other.
Your older child is missing out on all the fun things you used to do together, missing having a mum who isn’t tired and snappy all the time.
Your second baby doesn’t get to be the centre of your world in the same way your first was. They get dragged around to the things the older one wants to do, there’s no semblance of a routine, they get woken up from their nap to head out on the nursery run.
And I’m sorry to bring up that endlessly boring subject again, but the lack of sleep is even more of a killer when you have 2 of them keeping you up! When you didn’t have a good sleeper first time around, you hope and pray that you might be blessed with one this time. And for the first few weeks we thought we had been – then it all went to pot at 6 weeks. Since then, he’s been up every 3 hours on a good night, but those are few and far between. A bad night can see him wake up 10 minutes after getting to sleep, throughout the night. Give me all the coffee!
But ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether it’s easier or harder.
We’re getting through it, and in the middle of getting through it are those magical moments that make it all worth it. The way Ben looks up at Max with his adoring little gaze. When Max will announce out of nowhere, “I love Ben” and give him a huge hug. Holding Ben in the middle of the night as he falls asleep in my arms in the darkness. Wondering at how long Ben’s eyelashes are, and marvelling at how we created such a gorgeous little baby. Seeing Ben’s little hand reach for mine to grasp my fingers as he falls asleep. Hearing the peals of laughter as Max does a ‘show’ for Ben. Just like the first time around, it’s these moments that make it all worthwhile.
But having said all that, I’m pretty confident that we’ll never be testing out the theory on whether the jump to 3 children is easier or harder!