I felt like a mom when I had one child, but there’s something about having two that takes it to another level.
Can I ride in your car? you might ask. You can, but only if you can squeeze in between two car seats. Do you want to go shopping? you might ask. Yes, but only if you can help me wrangle my toddler or stay with my baby when my toddler makes his mad dash through the store. Sam is two and a half and he will fool you with his grown-up mannerisms and height, but he cannot be trusted. He says please and thank you and can reach things on the counter but he also tries to eat plants. Do you want to talk about something non-kid related? you might ask. Sure, I can manage that for a while, but I’m a stay-at-home mom with two kids now. That’s pretty much my day. Oh, you had a big meeting with a client on Friday?, well I have two different kids with diaper explosions and tantrums and needs and sweet moments to savor.
I have two kids. I have two kids! So many different emotions to unpack with those four words.
I’m five weeks into this whole two kids thing, but this is what I’ve learned so far.
Every baby is different. I heard this a million times when I had Sam, but now I know it for a fact. Sam had eating issues—he couldn’t latch so we had to feed him through a series of tubes first, and then we pumped and supplemented with formula—and he had acid reflux so we had to keep him upright for twenty minutes after each feeding, and on top of that he did not sleep well at all. So every feeding took about 1.5 hours because we were getting things set up for the feeding, feeding him, holding him upright, rocking him to sleep and then rocking him to sleep again, and then washing pump parts for the next round. That left about an hour for me to sleep, and then I would be jerked out of sleep by the horrific sound of my baby crying. I was miserable and highly anxious and depressed, although I only talked about that with Daniel for the longest time. I have none of those feeding or sleeping issues with Raymond. It’s still not easy to have a newborn, and I still occasionally complain and huff when his needs (and Sam’s) and my needs or wants aren’t compatible, but my God, it’s been so much easier to have a newborn this time around. These are superficial differences that I've noted, and I can’t wait to see how my boys are similar and different as they get older.
And going with the first point, having two kids has allowed me to extend more grace toward myself as a parent. I knew that it was tough being a parent to a newborn the first time, but I blamed most of that on myself. I don’t have enough patience. I’m not as good of a mom as other moms. This must mean that I don’t love my child enough if the day-to-day tasks associated with raising this baby bother me that much. I’m too selfish. I miss my old life. Now that I’m having a different newborn experience, I realize how extraordinarily difficult my first experience was. Now, I’m actually proud that I nursed Sam for six months instead of being vaguely ashamed of it, because I’m aware of just how much time and effort I spent on each nursing. Now, when I think back on what my sleep was like and those quiet, isolated hours in Sam’s rocker when I thought over and over again that I wasn’t a good mom (and worse), it’s easy for me to understand how it was possible for me to love my baby but also be angry and depressed.
Family saves the day. The first time around, I wanted to have a few days with Sam and Daniel right after Sam was born so that we could have time figuring it out as a family. This time, I said, screw that!, and I wanted all hands on deck so that people could help us figure out what life with two was like. We've had so much help from our family during this season of our lives--with moving and with our kids--and it's been freely and generously given. Thank you to our families for giving your time, your patience, and your love to keeping our kids entertained and taken care of, and for not suggesting to me that eating chocolate was the reason why my newborn did not sleep well.
With two kids I have an increased amount of responsibilities (and sometimes frustrations), but also more of those good feelings. You know, like love, pride, and excitement. Yesterday I took a picture of Raymond with his arm raised and a video of Sam wearing a hat and sunglasses, riding a play giraffe and saying “yee haw.” Both of these moments were highly adorable to me, and I’m assuming would be adorable to every other person in the world. My kids are cute, you all. But there are also moments where I have two kids crying and two sets of diapers to change and two kids to get to sleep. (Getting both kids down for naps at the same time can only be comparable to choreographing a synchronized swim routine for one of those Esther Williams movies. In other words, it’s near impossible.) I say bad words sometimes and try not to lose my s*it every time my toddler does something objectionable—especially when he does something objectionable on purpose—and I’m reminding myself that these are phases and that my boys are sweet and so is our life. I take my right to complain to my husband, friends, and family very seriously if I want to—because everyone needs to vent on occasion—but I remind myself to focus on my gratitude, because it definitely carries the day.
On that subject: please don't tell me to enjoy every moment when I have the need to share a moment of frustration. I enjoy so much about being a parent, and I think that kids are miraculous and magical and amazing, but there are some moments that. just. aren't. enjoyable. I appreciate that you're trying to help me see the positive, but I think you can do that without suggesting that every moment of being a parent is amazing and wonderful. Be a good friend to me and find a way to commiserate and help me find the positive, without making me feel like something in me is lacking because I don't enjoy being up in the middle of the night, night after night. And yes, I know that's not your intention, but I'm insecure and anxious and imperfect and I resent that blanket statement. Sue me.
But I'm enjoying moments more often than not, including how much my toddler loves his little brother. Sam loves Raymond, and it’s there in every kiss, every stroke of his head, every time he leans over Raymond’s crib or bouncer and croons “baby.” I’m so excited for every one of Raymond’s milestones for myself and for Sam, because I know that he’s going to be just as delighted as I am. There is such bottomless love in Sam, and it thrills me every time he shows it to us, his extended family, and now his beautiful baby brother. That’s when I know that we’re doing something right.
Other discoveries: toddlers can get into a lot of trouble while you’re distracted changing a diaper (moral of the story: toddler life is hard, you all), it's difficult being touched all day long, my breasts are magic and after I’m done breastfeeding Raymond they’ll be off limits for ever and ever, Amen, I can get a lot of reading done while I’m holding a baby and sitting on the couch, and my husband and I don’t have a lot of time to spend together anymore, but there is such sweetness and love in the moments we snatch for ourselves.
There have been those awful moments when I’ve cried and thought that I couldn’t do it or that I’m miserable (real talk), but there have been a lot more moments when I realize that we are doing it, and it’s pretty great.