I remember waiting in line to see Santa with my eighteen-month-old son, Oliver at our local shopping centre in Newcastle. The mum in front had two little girls, close in age dressed in matching summer dresses. We started chatting and as I was five months pregnant with my second child, blindly asked, “So what’s it like having two kids pretty close together?”
I was unprepared for her reaction. Her girls seemed well-behaved and looked like they got on. “Look,” she confessed. “It’s great now. They’re pretty much best friends and they entertain each other all day.” She shuddered. But when I think back to those early days… it was bloody tough.”
Before I could get clarification; she’d slipped away and I was left thinking, “Cripes, what have I done?”
The thing was, it was not as if I had the motherhood thing down pat by the time I became pregnant with my second child. Not at all. Shop bought foods were my best friend at that stage, as they didn’t end up on the floor as often as my homemade dinners and lordy, I was tired.
I don’t mean pregnancy tired. I’m saying we still hadn’t got to grips with the whole sleep thing with our toddler. Most nights, he would end up with me during the early hours and hubby would slope off to Ol’s room which handily, still housed a spare bed. As my hubbie worked odd hours, it just seemed easier that we all got some sleep any way we could. And it was nice cuddling up to Ol during just another phase I told myself. But as I got bigger and my due date loomed closer, it was clearly going to be an issue.
And then there was our international move right after that Christmas. As it panned out, hubby had to go on ahead to sort things out which meant pregnant-me and Ol had a hideous nine hour flight by ourselves. But help can come from unexpected places. The big guy travelling solo sat beside us, "Teddy" turned out to be some kind of angel. Tirelessly, he sang songs with Ol, didn’t flinch once at the on-off crying and basically had my back the entire journey. I still thank my lucky stars for that kind man.
We settled into our new home and seven weeks before Ol turned two, along came our Evan. With days to spare, we had finally sorted out Ol’s sleeping (for a while at least). And so began life with a toddler and a newborn. Seriously, I don’t know how parents of twins (triplets?!) manage it but there were soooo many nappies during that first year.
We were lucky to have two beautiful, healthy boys but at times the fog of tiredness meant it was hard to fully appreciate that. As is the way with babies, life was pared down into segments day in, day out, rolling one day to the next. As I fed Evan, his toddler brother still needed entertaining, food, baths and so on. Mum came to help for a few weeks which was a godsend and enabled me to build up my confidence managing the boys together, get into a semi-routine and realise that yes, it was possible to leave the house with both a baby and a toddler... eventually.
There were two-year-old tantrums to placate, dinners to make, a house to clean (rarely) and naps to try and make happen. And let me tell you; when the stars aligned, or bribes were made and the boys and I managed to have a delicious afternoon nap together; it was sheer heaven. Their dad was fantastic when home but was often away with work. Communal naps saved my sanity. Coffee and wine helped too.
Getting out and about typically meant stocking up the mummy-sack, AKA the huge nappy bag needed to cart round the different nappies, bottles, snacks etc and the trusty beast that was our double-pram. That contraption served its purpose well and despite my tummy having none of it, my arms sure toned-up pushing that thing around.
But once when Evan was a couple of months old, the kids and I had driven to the shopping centre but had left early due to it being one-of-those-mornings. Back at the car, I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to fold up the double-pram until yet again, a stranger (a mum this time) came to my rescue. That little act of kindness pulled me back up that day.
Thankfully, Ev turned out to be a fairly good sleeper at night and despite another big move, remained pretty chilled. And on reflection, it wasn’t all that long before the boys were eating the same food or at least splattering the same colour across the floor. And as the boys became nappy free, the mummy-sack steadily deflated until we recklessly began to leave the house with nothing but a snack and water. The mammoth pram was replaced by a nippy one-seater and before we knew it, that too was put out to pasture.
And now the boys are aged eight and six. At times, Ol’s still not the world’s best solo-sleeper but that’s okay – these days, we’re all getting our full sleep quotas. And as I watch my sons run around the yard together; I’m glad how it turned out for us.
Yes, they sometimes fight over the same miniscule piece of Lego from an entire-box but when we hit the park or play centre, they don’t need anyone but each other. They’ve each got school friends but will often all play together at break. They’re partners in crime and I really hope the close bond they share now means they’ll always be there for each other as they journey through life.
To paraphrase the mum in the Santa line, ‘Yep, it was tough… but so worth it.’
Were you pregnant with a toddler? How did you manage? Tell us in the comments section below.