I want to preface this entire post by saying everyone’s experience is different. Maybe it’s mindset, circumstances, whatever. This is my experience and what the transition from 1 to 2 kids was like for me. It’s a long one so settle in for a post equal parts about mom guilt, sleep deprivation and what I would do differently.
A little background if you’re new around here. Lawson was 8 months old when I found out I was pregnant. I wrote about it here, but I was just finding my groove in motherhood. I was getting out of the house, fitting into my old clothes and working out again. Honestly, I wasn’t mentally ready to be pregnant again. I don’t know for sure if that impacted my experience, but I suspect it did.
In one word, the transition from one to two kids was HARD. Lawson and Sybil are almost exactly 16.5 months apart. It wasn’t until Sybil was 18 months old that I finally felt life was a little easier. That is a long time and felt even longer. It was the hardest period of my life.
When Sybil was born, my baby was still a baby. Lawson was too young to talk. It seemed like he had just started walking! I had a lot of guilt about not being able to give him more attention and affection.
A lot of well meaning family and friends offered to help with Lawson, but what I wanted more than anything was to spend time with him. By nature of having a newborn and breastfeeding, I already spent a ton of time with Sybil. It sounds terrible, but I didn’t want to be stuck with her. I wanted to spend time with my little buddy.
It took a few weeks and a good cry session with Jim before I started asking those friends and family to hold Sybil so I could take a quick walk with Lawson. We enrolled Lawson in a music class and Jim made a point to meet us there to take Sybil home with him. Find a way to spend time with your first baby any way you can.
Lawson’s newborn days weren’t that far behind me, but it’s amazing how quickly you forget the nitty gritty of those early days.
From the beginning, Sybil was a different baby. Of course I knew she wouldn’t be the same as Lawson, but I didn’t know how different two children born to the same parents could be.
The first few weeks were the standard newborn haze. The only difference was I could no longer rest when the baby napped. I am grateful for the help we had during those weeks from our families.
When Sybil was four weeks old, the fun really started. She would scream for hours at night. She didn’t like the rocking chair. She simply wanted to be held, preferably standing up. It’s been almost 3 years, but I can still picture walking around with her for hours. When I couldn’t stand it inside anymore, I went outside. I sent my mom a video of Sybil crying one night. She couldn’t listen to it because it was so heartbreaking.
This began a long period of very shitty sleep for Sybil. We went from reflux to teething to colds. She didn’t sleep through the night until she was over 10 months old. She didn’t consistently sleep through the night until she was 17 months old. Some nights she was up every hour or two.
I have never been so tired in my life. I had no patience. I was short with everyone – my kids, Jim, my family and friends. I was not a fun person to be around. One of my girlfriends very rightly pointed out that sleep deprivation is a form of torture. The very goal of it is to make you go crazy and lose your mind. And I did.
If I was lucky (and there were days I was), their naps overlapped an hour or so. But I started to count on that time. If I couldn’t get them to nap at the same time, it threw off my entire mental state (which was already fragile). What little patience I had was diminished even more.
Limit Other Major Life Changes
There were also a lot of changes during this time period. The company Jim worked for was sold and the office he worked in was closing. Jim was studying for the GMAT and visiting MBA programs. We went on a 4-week road trip. Jim was offered and accepted a spot at the University of Southern California’s MBA program. We moved out of the house we brought both of our babies home to in Arizona. Lawson, Sybil and I spent a month with my parents in Minnesota. We moved into a two bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. Yeah, just a few changes going on.
Obviously you can’t always control life. But if you’re able to, I would minimize other changes the first year with a newborn. I think it would have helped me.
Maintain Your Routine
Going from one to two kids isn’t just hard on you, it’s also hard on your OG baby. Their life as they’ve known it has changed overnight.
Many kids thrive on routine. Whatever you can do to keep their routine unchanged is helpful. From any classes they attend to their bedtime routine, even the books you read, try to maintain consistency for them.
Ask for Help
Are there things I wish I had done differently? Yes, definitely. If you have a baby that doesn’t sleep, hire a night nurse if at all possible. Get a babysitter so you can have a break for a couple of hours and the occasional date night.
Ask for help (gosh, I was so terrible at this one). Give that baby to a trusted family member or friend for a night. It won’t make up for the months of sleep deprivation, but it will help and keep you going for another day. Have a realistic conversation with your partner. Tell them you need help and agree what you can both do together and any outside assistance needed.
During this period, one of my friends told me to throw money at it. Whatever it cost to ease the transition, do it. With two sets of twins, he kind of knew what he was talking about. Now you may think I like to spend money, and I do, but I’m also really frugal. I wish we had done more of these things.
And Remember…This Too Shall Pass
If you’re reading this and thinking it was all doom and gloom, there were good times. Fun trips, girlfriends that came to my rescue exactly when I needed it most, a night out with Jim to see Adele. Those moments let me escape the day to day.
If you’re in the thick of a similar transition, I promise it will get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel. During the worst of it, my mom would tell me to take it one day at a time. One hour at a time. Sometimes minutes at a time. You will make it through. If I did it, you can too.
Soon enough they will be playing together, you’ll get parts of your life back you haven’t seen in awhile and life will be fun again. Hang in there mamas.
photo by nicki sebastian photography