Parenting: The one thing you need to know about making the jump from one kid to two

I see mums asking all the time on forums what the jump from one to two kids is really like. I hear their retiscence and curiosity about whether it is harder than the almight seismic shift that is becoming a parent for the first time.

In the answers there are so many different answers, those that are sure gong from zero to one was harder, others who say adding another demanding human to the mix is not going to be easy for goodness sake, and those saying it really depends om circumstances.

Of course, those the in the latter camp are right because it is such an individual issue as we are all unique and have different circumstances but also it might be easier in some ways and harder in others. Also not everyone gets the choice, as the road to subsequent pregnancies can be utterly heartbreaking when it is all you want, and if this you, my heart goes out to you.

When I was blessed with falling pregnant again when my first baby was 9 months old I was over the moon but terrified. Although we were planning another baby and fully wishes for another little blessing, I didn't expect it to happen so soon and we were still in the midst of 2 hourly wakings and breastfeeding round the clock. I very much still felt brand new to this parenting game yet here we were about to jump into being parents to two babies under two.

I didn't know anyone in my immediate friendship group who had them so close together and there is almost 6 years between me and my sibling, so it all felt very untrodden to me. 

I never expected for a minute that it would be easy, but I did acquiesce that there were benefits, such as we were still in the nappies and sleepless night phase, we still had all the gear and our routine wouldn't be that much different. Did I say those things for others comfort more than my own? Maybe. I definitely got my fair share of raised eyebrows and 'wow, so soon' comments. Presumably because most know it is a lot having babies close together but being positive was so important.

But one thing is for sure, whether you find it easy or not probably is unique to your support systems, financial pressures, other caring and work responsibilities, how easy you have found the newborn period the first time, any trauma around birth, breastfeeding or from your past, your mum tribe to vent to, whether you had any postnatal depression etc etc. Plus every baby is different, your first may have slept through from being weeks old but it doesn't mean it will be the same again. Or your subsequent baby might be super chilled and easy to entertain. 

When you look at it like that you can see how foolhardy it is to ask a stranger how hard it is. Of course there are some similarities, commonailities and general wisdom of the crowd you can glean from it but when considering whether to have another child, always consider your own resources and circumstances.

For us, we were plunged into having two under two who didn't sleep well due to reflux and colic, during a season of immense change and stress, but there were elements that did come easier the second time. I had more experience (even if just a little bit) and trusted myself more, he was a different baby with a different personaility, and we were already in the swing of it all. I also had the bittersweet hindsight of knowing just how fast the baby stage goes and clung onto each moment trying to commit it to my memory.

However, if you in your heart of hearts want another baby, then nothing, not even the hardships or sleep deprivation would make you change the decision. I knew I would do anything to have my babies and provide them with a sibling to share life with but equally I did not blame friends for saying that they couldn't go through it again.

Having two under two has been an incredibly challenging but also immensely rewarding time. So full of love and joy, as unique as our two babies are in themselves. Two entirely different journeys, with different hardships along the way but also double the love and joy. 

Watching my babies develop a bond and friendship has been a completely new experience and provided such a sense of joy. I watch them in awe as they interact, have their own way of talking in their little voices and playing. I love how much they love each other, which I would have thought was crazy before I had kids. 

As time has gone on, issues around worrying about the toddler crushing the baby were replaced with friendly play fights (and full on squabbles at times) but they are learning social interaction and group dynamics. During lockdown they have been such friends to each other which I've been grateful for and part of me wishes I could keep adding to our family, but it would change everything again.

Through all the stages we've been through, from nursing two babies, trying to get two diferent nap schedules to align, potty training, gave way to two mobile toddlers cruising around the joint and having to have eyes in the back of my head and the looming prospect of them  being away from me when they head off to school and nursery. But the fun they have together and have brought to our lives is so full and rich I cannot do it justice in words.

I feel truly blessed to have been able ot be at home with my babies through this special time and hope it has bonded us for life, but that does not remove the incredible hardwork, exhaustion and difficulties that it brings with it. I'm sure in years to come I will remember it through rose tinted glasses but I hope I will be aware enough to give a knowing smile to any new mamas carrying a toddler under their arms rugby ball style while rocking a newborn in the other.

From my experience, the fun and friendship between my babies and our family just gets better and better but there have been some back breaking times. Our health and relationship has been tested to its limits at times and so it's important to know how moving from none to one, one to two and so on will change things. 

Rarely do people talk about much beyond pregnancy and labour, other than to give you a knowing look and a comment about enjoying your sleep whilst it lasts. No-one really talks about how it changes your identity, as you give birth to the mother in you, or your relationship with your partner, as the balance you used to have shifts, resentment builds and exhaustion takes over.

They don't talk about the crushing anxiety at times, or the emotional overwhelm as you try your best to protect your babies from what can feel like a scary world at times, or all of the things you have to hold in your head at any one time. The feeding aversions, the dread at going to bed knowing you're going to see every hour on the clock, and how wrestling two babies, a double pram and all the things you need to just pop to a shop will have you gritting your teeth, sometimes with a swear word under your breath.

But similarly, they don't tell you about the overwhelming, life defining love you feel, like nothing else. A sense of purpose like no other before, as you become someone's whole world and how amazing it feels when it's you, only you, they need and can fix any problem. That on the good days you feel like the best and tightest team there is, unbreakable, uniquely bonded and you make memories that will last a lifetime.

The decision to have another baby is deeply personal and precious, whether two, three, four or more and deserves to be treated with utmost respect and dignity. I hope we're learning as a society what a loaded question it can be for some, to enquire if they plan to start a family, or tell them they're running out of time or suggest that it would be cruel to leave little freddie without a sibling, or to judge those that are adding to an already bigger family. 

If you close your eyes and listen to your heart, you will know if its a not now, not ever, not sure yet or not a chance your going to miss out on having more children.

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