Everyone said we were mad going for a second child so soon. And we knew that. But it still didn’t stop us.
When we decided to try for a second baby, our first was six months old and all we knew was a six-month-old’s behaviour. We knew ‘in theory’ what a toddler was like, but we hadn’t yet experienced OUR child as a toddler.
Don’t get me wrong, it was the best decision we’ve ever made. We fell pregnant when our first was just eight months. Our children will grow up close in age, exactly like we wanted, and I hope that means closeness on many levels. But having two kids under 17 months was a shock to the system, to say the least.
Our first, a boy, was 17 months old when his sister was born seven weeks ago. If I had to describe my first few weeks of life as mum to two kids under 18 months in one word it would be WOAH.
Before I go on, here are some facts about our situation: my husband works 12 hour days, our toddler won’t play by himself and is incapable of ‘gentle’ around his sister (he’s a little dictator, as boys tend to be at that age), our newborn ‘snack feeds’ and has reflux, our boy hates staying in and we have no family help. So, the first few weeks after my husband went back to work went a little like this:
Day 1: “I’ve totally got this” (spring in my step, optimistic!)
Day 2: Crying into my cereal from exhaustion (and it’s only JUST begun?!)
Day 3: “I’m getting there, this isn’t too bad…”
Day 4: “This is WAY harder than I thought it would be.”
Day 5: “How do other mums make this look so easy???”
Day 6: “Coffee. Is. Life.”
Day 7: “This is actually easier than being heavily pregnant with a toddler... at least I can move!”
On day one it was raining, so a little walk down to the park to give the toddler some exercise was out. Cue a trip to the shopping centre to hit up the indoor play area and the supermarket. Getting both kids into the car including the double pram took a good 20 minutes and by the end of it I was sweating like it was a 40 degree day.
The toddler got cranky and I was ‘that Mum’ wrestling my toddler into the pram while he screamed (because I took him away from The Wiggles ride, even though he’d been on it for a good 15 minutes) while my newborn made squawking noises from the pram and needed burping yet again. I gave up and came home.
By 11.30am I’d managed to get both of them in bed, but not before my toddler had hit me in the face repeatedly while I was trying to breastfeed and the newborn had vomited on me five times. I was covered in milk and sweat, and was exhausted. It was time to wolf down some lunch quickly before round two that afternoon!
And so it went for a few days. By the end of that week we had a suspicion our newborn had reflux. She wouldn’t be put down at all without crying and was in some serious pain.
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One day I literally spent most of the day crying. Reflux means no rest, whatsoever. Along with bringing everything up, she also wanted to feed constantly and was inconsolable except when on the boob. It means pretty much 24/7 mum duty. I was so stressed, frustrated and beside myself that I had one of those moments where I was crying and screaming uncontrollably while rocking her around the room. I felt completely out of control. It was one of the darkest times I’ve ever had.
But I’ve also had the highest of highs. When our boy stops what he’s doing in the park just to run over to the pram to check how his sister is. When his first word (apart from Mum and Dad) was her name. When he learned how to cuddle her gently. And funny moments like when he decided to grab my boob while I was feeding, yelling and pointing at it (yes, it was yours once buddy, but not for a while now).
A few weeks in we were starting to get a rhythm. An outing in the morning after I’ve managed the long and tedious task that is feeding both of them. Home for lunch then a nap for both of them (well, hopefully). In the afternoons it takes a while to feed the newborn so I’ve learned less is more - we stay in or take a quick wander down the beach. Nothing fancy. I’ve learned to lower my expectations about what I can achieve in a day. At night, if they have both had fun, and are happy, fed, clean and asleep, I’ve done my job (never mind that the house looks like a bomb hit it).
So there are good days and bad. At first the adrenaline gets you through. Then the exhaustion can set in. But it DOES get easier, as the days go on.
My tips for staying sane:
- It’s easier to get them both in the pram than the car, and an added bonus is the fresh air and exercise.
- Parks are important for toddler entertainment, just get out!
- If you have a young toddler who runs off, like I do, strap them into the pram with a snack while you’re trying to breastfeed out and about.
- Shrek, The Wiggles, Playschool are great for feeding times when you have a toddler who's too young/too inquisitive to play on their own. No, you're not a bad mum, whatever gets you through.
- Involve your toddler - I thought this impossible as our guy is pretty overzealous but we taught him ‘gentle’ and he's really getting it. He loves helping bath his sister (even though it’s super stressful for me).
- If breastfeeding, you’ll learn how to do it on the go - you’ll just have no choice (this time around you won’t care who sees your nipple as long as the child is actually getting fed).
- Accept help if it’s offered - don’t feel like you’re putting anyone out.
- Have loads of learning toys and craft in the house for the toddler.
- Have some one-on-one time with the older child when the youngest is asleep - make this time ‘special’.
The best advice I’ve ever heard is; one of them will cry and you can’t do anything about it. Don’t feel like a bad mum - you can’t keep both of them happy at the same time all the time.
Another piece of advice that’s worked well for me is, if they’re both crying go to the toddler first, because they’ll remember if you don’t and can feel abandoned (the baby won’t know).
It really is the best of times and the worst. But the good outweighs the bad, by a long shot. You’ve got this.
What have you found most challenging as a parent?