When I was pregnant with my second baby, I was giddy with excitement about holding a newborn again. Overnight it seemed, my firstborn had transformed from being a tiny baby to a busy toddler, so I was more than ready to have some of that sleepy newborn time again.
Not only this, but I felt super confident about having another baby – after all, I was doing great with my firstborn, how much harder could it get?
Lots, it turns out. Here are five surprising challenges I encountered when baby number two came along:
1. Breastfeeding was no longer idyllic
I was lucky enough to have a great breastfeeding experience with my first baby, so I was looking forward to more of the same relaxing feeding sessions where I could sit and stare into my newborn’s eyes … or at the TV if I so desired.
But this is not what happened the second time around. Instead, feeding time with my new baby became a magnet for my curious toddler, who enjoyed poking and prodding what he must have thought was a new toy while she tried to feed. Far from relaxing, breastfeeding sessions became fraught and stressful until I adjusted my outlook and saw these times as opportunities to read my toddler a story or let him watch his favourite TV show.
2. Getting out the door with two kids proved … interesting
I remember a very specific morning when my baby was just a few days old and I made the naive, yet optimistic plan to run an errand with the two of them, before meeting up with friends in the park – all by 10am. Man, that was a bad morning.
If I thought getting one child ready and out the door was a bit of a task, getting two of them ready by a certain time was nearly impossible, and that day left me a hysterical mess.
Fortunately, it only took me the one lesson to learn that when it comes to getting two kids out of the house, expectations need to be REALISTIC. From that day on, I kept plans simple, packed the nappy bag the night before, and always allowed at least three hours for us to get out the door.
3. Toddlers find change hard
We did all the suggested things to prepare my toddler for his new baby sister, but there’s only so much a two-year-old can really understand about the massive change he’s about to experience. And judging from his weird aggressive cuddles with us and the trashing of his bedroom following the arrival of his sister, we figured he was feeling a tad angry about all the upheaval.
Looking back, I totally get what he was going through. Despite reading him all the books about becoming a proud big brother and even having his own baby doll to feed, my son was not prepared to share his mum with another baby. By being super-patient with him and letting him help me with his baby sister, this phase soon passed. Phew.
4. The guilt. I was not prepared for the guilt.
I couldn’t wait to meet my second baby, but holding her in my arms soon after the birth, I cried when I thought about my firstborn meeting his sister. I felt like I had just ended our special, intimate relationship and now had to share my love and attention between two children.
This guilt hung around for weeks when I brought my new baby home and had to let my husband put my son to bed each night while I fed the baby. But I kept reminding myself that I was giving my son a sibling, someone to play make-believe games with and a friend he would have forever. And guess what happened? Yep, the two of them are now the best of friends.
5. Dividing quality time between two kids
I knew how important it was to have bonding time with my newborn, but there was no escaping the fact that my toddler needed me too – more than ever. And yet, there I was, just the one woman with one set of arms and completely unable to divide myself in two.
I hated saying ‘no’ to my firstborn while I tended to his sister, but I soon found new ways to spend quality time with him that kept us both happy. By seizing spontaneous moments with him while the baby slept or was held by someone else, we could still connect and enjoy special time together, even if it was just for a five minute story or some bubble blowing outside.
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