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"I was totally unprepared": 19 mums on how things changed when they had a second child.

There's a lot of attention that comes with being a first-time parent (as there should be). 

Going from zero to one child is a huge life change for new parents, but many parents find they're left to their own devices when it comes to baby number two.

So we asked the Mamamia community what their experience was going from one to two kids, and the response was, let's just say, varied. 

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From feeling immeasurable guilt to increased confidence, here's what 19 women had to say: 

Katie

I really struggled going from one to two.

My first child was a dream baby, and I was able to be that idealistic first-time parent who never raised their voice, breastfed, always fed them home-cooked, organic whole foods, and was able to maintain my own fitness and mental health, because he slept through the night from five weeks of age. 

I obviously had the whole parenting thing down pat and congratulated myself often.

Then along came number two. 

He was 4.7kg, and hungry, and cranky, from birth. 

He didn't sleep longer than two hours until he was almost two. My idealistic parenting bubble burst, and I remember having an actual panic attack from the guilt I felt after feeding him from a pouch. 

I was so sleep deprived I was having hallucinations about him being a girl, and that I had adopted him. 

I breastfed him on demand for two years so I never got the chance to catch up on sleep. I never had enough time to spend with either child and everything was causing me intense anxiety. 

I basically lived in a cloud of guilt for two years. I spent a lot of time in and out of counselling trying to sort my head out.

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Then, my darling boy started sleeping through the night. 

Once I stopped waking in fright and checking him every hour, I also started getting some sleep and life started to feel rosy again. 

You can never underestimate the toll that lack of sleep can take on your mental health.

My boys are now eight, six and my third is three... My boys bring me immense joy each day and I'm so grateful to be their mum.

Brodie

I had so much guilt about losing special time with my firstborn when I welcomed number two to our home. 

However, I learned how to juggle and adapt to managing two kids who both needed me a lot (21 months between them) and my heart just expanded. 

I was able to cope better with the sleep deprivation and apply a lot that I'd learned with my first. 

I got so comfortable with number two that I changed it up and I had my third two weeks ago. He's slotted in so easily. This is the day my girls met their baby brother.

Image: Supplied 

Amelia

The feeling of isolation from my friends without kids has intensified with parenthood being a 24/7 job now. 

I maintain my friendships because I love them, but at the moment, catching up feels a lot like pretending I’m not living on a different planet.

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Sarah

My firstborn didn’t sleep through the night until he was three and a half years old, so by comparison my second child was a dream. 

She self settled, went with the flow and adores her brother. 

I’m so glad I got the crappy sleeper first so I could appreciate my experience the second time.

My son was a normal toddler in terms of his reaction to his sister - he was jealous. 

I feel guilty at how harsh I was to him, especially now we know he had some minor medical issues impacting his behaviour.

On the upside, by baby two I was much better at prioritising myself. Baby two got dragged to a lot of clinical Pilates so I could heal myself!

Susan

The guilt is overwhelming at times. I feel like I need to cut myself in half to be the full-time mum both my girls deserve.

Letting one get upset so that I can tend to the other breaks my heart. I feel like my eldest grew up overnight when my second was born. That made me feel so incredibly sad. 

I didn't have the same time to spend with her as I did before baby was born. 

I also feel terribly guilty that my younger baby doesn't get the attention my first did. It's a vicious cycle of feelings.

Don't even get me started about the extreme sleep deprivation, social isolation, the change in relationship with my partner, lack of time for any self care, and housework.

At the end of the day, I wouldn't change having my two girls. They are my universe and the reason I get up every morning, paste a smile on my exhausted face and just be a mum to the two most precious things in my world.

Katie

I was totally unprepared for how different my two children would be! 

My oldest slept well from the three month mark, she was not a messy eater, would happily take a bottle, and hit all of her milestones like a textbook. 

My partner and I credited it to our awesome parenting, but my second daughter couldn’t have been more different. 

She is a terrible sleeper, refused to be bottle or spoon fed, wouldn’t eat solids until she was nearly 13 months old, started crawling at four and a half months, and furniture walking at seven months. 

I’m very serious when I say that if she were my first, she would be an only child!

They are very different, but best friends who seem to balance each other out.

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Image: Supplied. Simone

It just feels chaotic. All. The. Time. 

Today I needed to go to Coles and by the time we were out the door it was 3pm. (My second is only seven weeks old). 

Every night before we do the nighttime routine my husband and I look at each other to work out how we will make it. You’d think we’d be into a groove by now, but no. 

He joked that it feels like we’re both a single parent to one child, and he couldn’t be more accurate.

Candise

Number two made me more relaxed, and I really enjoyed the newborn stage (way more than my first). 

I am only seven months in with my second but I have loved it all knowing that everything is a phase. 

Sleep comes and goes. You can’t control everything. I just feel like I am enjoying it more instead of waiting for the next milestone.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have guilt - that definitely was a new feeling with number two, but nowadays it’s not too bad.

Image: Supplied. 

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Shauna

Honestly, motherhood got a little bit easier for me when I had my second.

I really struggled with my first and had postnatal depression so was nervous to have number two. 

When she came into the picture I felt at ease and knew exactly what to do and she just fit.

Me and my husband said to my mum once, "why does it feel easy? When will something go wrong?".

Clare

I have 15 months between my two and it was such a juggle at the start! 

Regardless, I always made sure I got out for a walk every day and as much as possible, scheduled their sleeps together. 

As soon as the little one can interact and move around the fun really begins and they start to play together, so you get some of your time back.

Hang in there!

Tatiana

I had my twin boys when my first son was 20 months old and it was the worst. 

I felt like I had completely lost him and he was dad's child, while I juggled the twins. 

The guilt was overwhelming. The rage I felt when he would accidentally hurt the twins was hard to manage. It was almost like I forgot he was my baby too.

I look back on the photos of his that age and he was so little and yet I expected so much of him. 

I made sure that on Fridays we had a nanny for the twins, and we would go and do things with just the two of us.

Tamsyn

I'm finding the second time around I have my "meh" mental pants on. 

She's got a rash? Meh - I'll see what it looks like tomorrow.

She hasn't pooped in a few days? Meh - it'll probably happen tonight.

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She's feeding every hour suddenly? Meh - it won't last forever.

I think I look at my toddler and his need for independence and then snuggle down further with number two knowing that she won't want to snuggle forever. 

Also, when he's having a tantrum, I look at the baby and think "thank god you can't talk yet".

Liz

Parenting got real! 

My poor little boy was two-and-a-half years old when he contracted Influenza A and was so sick, all while I was trying to juggle my six-week-old little girl. 

I found it so so challenging to help them both at once, but you learn to prioritise.

Image: Supplied. 

Sienna

My girls are 17 months apart so I didn't have a great deal of time alone with my first. 

We did manage to have long walks around a local lake and the occasional cafe visit though, which was no longer possible with the two of them.

My eldest became understandably jealous of her little sister and I had to co-sleep with both of them, initially.

I’m a lot less precious with my youngest though, and she follows her sister’s lead. They’re now 3 years and 20 months and can actually play together, which gives me a break and is lovely to watch.

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Image: Supplied. 

Katie

Our second child ended up being twins, so life was turned upside down!

I learnt to drop my expectations, be more understanding of other parents, and simply survive.

Some days it feels like I bit off more than I can chew, but I couldn’t imagine life without all three of my amazing kids.

Karen

So many things changed when I went from one to two, but mainly, my care factor dropped. 

I stopped caring about routines, having the new, latest and greatest baby things, and being organised. 

It was both freeing and infuriating. 

I was also ready to go back to work faster. I did the solid 12 months for my first but only made eight months with my second.

Donna

Although I felt at ease with my life as a new mum, it seemed that my workload was multiplied by 10, not two.

It seemed like so much more work, however it was a lot more enjoyable parenting than the first time, without the massive life shock.

Tia

I actually found that having my second child made life much easier for me.

Sure, things were busier but by number two, you are a confident mum and don’t second guess everything you do. 

Once my second was walking, I didn't have to sit and play with my oldest all the time because they played together and I could actually do things like tidy or cook while watching them. 

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My second was my easiest child, and I think that’s a reflection of how much more relaxed I was the second time around. 

Now third children are a whole other story...

Sarah

Going from one to two has rocked my core and changed my world more seismically, more than becoming a mum the first time around. 

It is a daily struggle to meet the unrelenting demands on me, both physically and emotionally from my two little ones who both need their mum so much. 

I have much less time for myself now... but seeing the sibling bond blossom between my daughter and son is pure magic.

Image: Supplied. 

Fleur

I had been told by most friends how difficult the jump between one and two was going to be, but I had a totally different experience. 

I found it made me much more relaxed as a parent, as I couldn’t be everything to everyone all of the time. 

My eldest was two-and-a-half years old when I had my second son, and I became much better at setting up toys and play areas for them to play independently compared to when I just had one and I was constantly involved in the play and problem solving for him. 

I found it to be a good age gap, as I never had two toddlers at the same time. That definitely helped.

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