I don’t have two under two any more, of course – I have a 2.5 year old and an 11 month old. The Toddler was 21 months old when The Baby came along and, when I was pregnant, I spent hours scouring the internet for some kind of wisdom about dealing with two tiny humans. I was scared. Very scared. Our second was much wanted but the reality of it felt like an insurmountable challenge. The Toddler still needed me – plus I already struggled to get out the door just with him. How was I going to juggle it all? I can’t promise you wisdom, but here are a few things I learned along the way. God knows I’m still learning.
- The birth is unlikely to be the same second time round. The gap between birthing two babies is not that long if there’s less than two years between them. Maybe you had a beautiful, relaxed, hypnobirthing experience for your first. Good for you if you did (and if you did, can you tell me how?) Or, maybe the birth went directly against your carefully laid out and detailed birth plan, leaving you shocked and traumatised for weeks after. If it was the latter, there is hope. The midwife told me time and again it would be easier next time and, guess what? It was.
And I’m sure it had nothing to do with the epidural I went for this time.
- It’s easy to forget the eldest is still a baby himself. He gets frustrated when he’s playing and The Baby starts crawling over to investigate. I often try to appeal to his sense of fairness and general humanity “Come on, she’s only a baby and just wants to look at your toys, ” “She doesn’t understand, just let her hold the train while you play with something else” etc. But, actually, he’s 2. He doesn’t understand this at all and it’s pretty unfair of me to expect him to. I now try to connect with how he’s feeling and get him to help with a solution – “I know it’s annoying when you’re trying to play. How about we find something for The Baby so she doesn’t disturb your game?” It doesn’t always work, I have to admit, but the whole positive parenting approach really does tend to have, well, a more positive effect.
- There will be moments of pure joy. The other day, The Toddler declared he loved The Baby “sooo much.” My heart almost burst. OK, so he had her in a kind of headlock that she wasn’t really enjoying, but the sentiment was real. If another child toddlers over to look at The Baby, he’ll put his arm across her and say “That’s my sister!” Yes, there is a lot of hard work, monotony and frustration. But there are these tiny moments when you realise how lucky you are to have two amazing little people to call your own.
- You will multi-task in ways you never dreamed. I took both kids to the dentist the other day – Baby in the sling, Toddler holding my hand. Before we left the house, I could see The Toddler making “I need a poo” moves, so I ask him if he needed to go. “NO!” (everything is shouted). OK, fine. Off we go. Get to the dentist at 2.50pm, appointment is at 3. He starts crawling under chairs and “hiding.” This is a classic pre poo move. I challenge him once more at 2.54pm “Are you sure you don’t need a poo? Because we’ll be going into the dentist any minute. Now is the time.” “NO!” OK. More crawling ensues and at 2.58pm…”I need a poo.” Of course you do. So I go to the tiny cubicle with The Baby strapped to my front and sit The Toddler on the toilet. The poor baby is sandwiched in between me and her brother. She’s not massively impressed with this, understandably. I start trying to placate her with songs whilst helping The Toddler balance on the toilet. He is being pretty leisurely about it all and I stop my “Incy Wincy” rendition to gently remind him to concentrate on the job in hand because the dentist needs to see us. He is unphased and we continue on in this strange, squashed up situation together for another five minutes.
- You might miss some of those milestones second time round. When I was pregnant with number 1, I kept a pregnancy diary from something silly like week 5. Every week I’d document how I was feeling and how excited I was, and stick in a picture of something I’d done that week (admittedly that only last til about week 20). I have a three and a half minute recording of him shaking a rattle (I called my husband straight after – “HE SHOOK A RATTLE!! YES! Don’t worry, I’ve got it all on camera!”). I watched the footage the other day – it is indescribably dull, but I do remember the excitement of seeing him do something for the first time. My daughter has none of this. I mostly see her doing something new and think “Huh. She’s sitting up now. When did she start doing that?” I feel terrible about it, of course, but time speeds by so much faster when you’re dealing with two. I’ve set up an email address for each of them, so I can send them anything from a quick memory to a full blown essay. It’s a lovely idea, I just have to remember to actually do it…