Tuesday, 15 April 2014

the second time around

I've been pondering the differences between having one child to look after and now having two, and I have to say that I think I like having two better. Obviously, I love both my kids and the thought of life without either of them is unimaginable. What I mean, though, is that personally I like the way that my day is filled better with two kids than I did with one.

I'll admit that I was terrified at the thought of having to look after a newborn as well as my never-sit-still-for-more-than-a-few-minutes toddler. I thought of what it was like when Isaac was a newborn: hours of nursing, then hours of trying to get him to nap when he got a little older. It seemed impossible that I could do that while also looking after an active toddler, who I still didn't feel was safe to leave alone for ten minutes while I took a shower (I shower in the evenings...I do shower, I promise). I tried not to worry too much because I knew that lots of people do it and that I would find a way to make it work when the time came.

And those first couple of weeks alone with the kiddos were tough. The postpartum hormones were still raging, I was still physically recovering and sleep deprived. It took me awhile to find a new rhythm and figure out how I could meet both their needs, and to realize that I didn't have to feel guilty for dividing my attention between them.

brand new baby sister
But now...I love it! It's still tiring and chaotic, as I think any life with little ones tends to be, but I love that my days are a little more full. There are more tasks that need immediate attention. This may not sound like a perk, but one of the difficulties that I found with just one child is that you have time, but it's difficult to use that time productively. It's hard to start any task that you can't wrap up quickly or leave for a few minutes if some meltdown or other "emergency" calls you. It's also difficult to do anything unless your toddler can somehow "help", unless you enjoy working with a crying child attached to your leg. So what do you do in those unusable moments? Instead of doing something that you actually want to do, you settle for taking a "scroll" on facebook or looking up symptoms online because those minuscule red dots on baby's cheeks could be something serious. Anyway, I find that in this case having less time is actually better.

Isaac makes sure she has lots of toys to play with.
I also find that when Kateri is fussy, it's not as frustrating to deal with (note: I'm not talking about a screaming baby, which is difficult to deal with in any circumstances). When Isaac was a baby and he needed to be held and bounced or walked around it was frustrating because there was nothing else I could do. I just had to stare at my messy house, shift that heavy child from one arm to another and wait for Sean to get home. Now, when Kateri is fussy I can at least keep Isaac out of trouble. I can talk to him and take part in his pretending. I've even stood beside him and read to him while comforting Kateri.

One of my favourite things about having two has to be watching the sibling love grow. When I get Kateri up from a nap Isaac will greet her: "It's Teri! She's 'wake!" and come over to give her a hug and otherwise maul her. He loves to put his finger in her little fist for her to hold, and now that she's actually starting to grab at him, he thinks it's pretty funny. Kateri smiles when Isaac approaches her (not sure why; there's risk of injury every time) and she gets all excited watching him jumping or running around. They are entertainment for each other. When you only have one, you, the parent, are their only source of amusement. When Kateri gets older, I know that I'm going to have to do a lot of refereeing between them, but at least they won't be hanging off my ankles all day.

We recently put away the bassinet and got out the crib. Isaac thinks it's a great place to play.
I know also that this time around I'm more confident as a mother. I'm enjoying the experience more now that I'm used to the sacrifices involved and less worried over every little thing. Becoming a parent is an overwhelming experience. Suddenly there is a little person in your life who needs you every minute of every day. There is no time off and no vacations (yes, you can take a vacation from your kids, but you're still their parent the whole time). Before Isaac was born I didn't have much experience with kids and I spent a lot of time when he was a baby researching everything from milestones to proper diet. While the information I found was useful it was also often confusing and stressful.

This time I've hardly done any research. We are gradually figuring out what kind of parenting works for us and how we want to raise our family, and I'm finding that no amount of research can substitute for the real life experience. I've learned that:

Every baby is different. some sleep better than others, some are naturally more content. They are all beautiful and lovable, but some are easier than other. Kateri sleeps better than Isaac did and I haven't done anything differently. Having an unhappy baby does not make you a bad parent and having an angel baby (like Kateri) does not make you a particularly good parent.

I've learned that even the most content baby will have his fussy hours, days, weeks. It does not necessarily mean that something's wrong or that there's something you should be doing differently. With Isaac I felt like I had to have the answer to every little cry (because a mother is supposed to know exactly what her baby's crying for every time...ya right!). This time I'm trying to be a little more relaxed about it.

I've learned that trying to put a baby on a schedule stresses me out. I'm not saying that schedules are bad for babies, I'm just saying that they don't work for me. Babies are constantly changing, going through growth spurts, teething, etc. so trying to factor all that into a schedule is not worth it for me. Also, most babies fall into, if not a schedule, at least a pattern when they're a few months old. I prefer watching for this pattern than trying to create one of my own.

I've learned that I'd rather endure quite a bit of sleep deprivation than do "cry it out" sleep training. Again, I'm not trying to judge. I know we're all just doing the best we can for our families, and I don't believe that that has to be the same for every family. But for me, the guilt of listening to those cries is not worth the few extra hours of sleep.

I've learned that in a family love doesn't just go from parent to child it goes in all directions. Now that Kateri is here I do have less time for Isaac. But he has a whole new person in his life to love and be loved by. I think it's well worth it.

The point is that now I know. Before Isaac was born these were things that I had read about, now they're things that I've experienced, and I'm finding that that is making my Baby #2  experience much less anxiety-filled. It also helps that Kateri is such an easy-going baby. Sometimes when she's fussy it's because I'm holding her when she'd rather be stretching out on the floor. How's that for low-maintenance? I'm not trying to brag because I take no credit for her sweetness. If I'd had her first and then Isaac, it might have been a bit of a shock. I probably would have wondered about him "What's wrong with this baby who won't sleep and needs so much attention?" I say this because I know that having two kids is not going to be more enjoyable than having one for everyone. These are definitely the types of things that can vary greatly from situation to situation and that is perfectly okay. I'm just sharing my experience and saying how wonderful it can be to have two.

The fact that every child is different is part of what makes having kids so exciting. Who knows who that little person will be? When I get frustrated with my kids I try to remind myself that these particular souls were entrusted to me at this particular time by God for a reason. Whatever the reason may be, it was God's decision and I guess He knows what He's doing.


  1. What a great post, Steph! We seem to share so much in common, from anxiety to parenting preferences. I can relate so much with my almost three weeks experience of two kids. And although so far John Paul is just as fussy and colicky as Joseph, at least I have experience to go on this time around to know it does get easier.

    Your kids are adorable!

  2. p.s. Joseph saw these pictures and wanted to know who Isaac was. "Let's go play with him, Mom!" Oh, I wish it were that easy!