The Ups and Downs of Becoming a Parent for the 2nd Time

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Adjusting to Life with Two Kids: The Ups and the Downs

We are now almost two weeks into this whole parents-of-two business, and one thing is for sure (at least in our experience):

The transition from one to two has NOT been quite the smooth sailing experience that everyone seemed to tell me it would be.

Ever since I started paying attention, it seems that the majority of parents tell me that going from zero to one is super hard, just because you’re a brand new parent and have a steep learning curve ahead of you since you have basically no experience. I’ve also heard that going from two to three is particularly hard, because you now have more children than arms, and more children than parents. (I’ve also heard that once you have three, it’s no big deal to add in more because by then you’ve just embraced the chaos.)

But one other thing everyone seemed to tell me?

That the transition from one to two was by far the easiest.

Well, if that’s the case, I’m sure trembling in my boots for when we decide to try for Baby #3!

Now, that’s not to say that this transition from one to two has been The Hardest Thing Ever–in fact, by many counts, we’re actually doing pretty well, especially because Mathias is a dream baby and sleeps 80% of the time. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s been harder than I’d anticipated, and I wonder if I’d gone into it with less rosy expectations if I would have handled it all better.

Here’s what’s been our experience so far (and I’ll start with the downs so that we make sure and end on a positive note!):

Some of the downs:

  • The exhaustion feels worse this time around because I still have a toddler I need to keep up energy levels for

    • I have memories of the bleary-eyed nights when we were up for hours at a time with my oldest, but because I was on maternity leave and had no other children to care for, I felt like I was able to handle it a bit better simply because I had more opportunities to take it easy and sleep during the day. This time, though I have a newborn that sleeps basically all the time, I can’t really take advantage of it since I’m still required to parent my other child during those times.
  • Helping my toddler through the transition is TOUGH

    • Even though I knew mentally this would be something I’d have to deal with, I had grossly underestimated how hard it would really be (and–honestly–this is BY FAR the hardest part of the transition from one to two so far). Normally, my oldest is quite obedient, sweet-tempered, and quick to want to help out and do what she’s asked. Since we brought the baby home, she’s been talking back, refusing to do things, having frequent meltdowns, and being flat-out naughty at times. Of course, when I step back and look at things from her point of view, it makes sense–this is a HUGE change she’s dealing with, and she probably feels a great sense of loss. However, it doesn’t mean it’s easy for me to keep my temper when she’s refusing to listen to me yet again or throwing a tantrum for seemingly no reason.
    • Honestly, I feel like I’ve been the worst version of my parenting self a lot of times when it’s come to working our way through this. I am consciously trying to make an effort to be extra patient with her, to help her label her feelings, to praise anything I can, and to spend some one-on-one time with her as often as possible throughout the day, but with how exhausted I am, it’s hard to maintain a pleasant demeanor all the time with her with how frequently she’s been acting up. I also feel really bad because for months now, I’ve gotten us into a routine where we’ve left the house nearly every morning to go and do something fun or just something outside of the home, so she’s gotten into the habit of asking me each day what we’re going to do that day. Lately, since we’ve just been staying around here and trying to regroup, I almost never have a “fun” or “good” answer for her, which is frustrating for her.
    • Fortunately, she does want to “help” me with the baby constantly, and because she’s often old enough to legitimately do some helpful things for me, that’s been a good way to deal with the transition. On the downside, she wants to help with EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME, which can be hard when I just want to do something quickly (esp. if the baby is crying), or when it’s something she can’t really help me too much with.

  • Because I have another child I can compare things to, it can be frustrating when this baby doesn’t do things in a similar way

    • Nursing is the one that comes immediately to mind for this–while it took me awhile to help Raven latch on correctly, she was a quick, alert eater who fed easily off of both sides in whatever hold I wanted her to. With Mathias, his latch was awesome from the beginning, but he definitely favors one side over the other (and will only eat off of that other side when he’s in the football hold, which is not my favorite), which can be really frustrating for both of us, especially in the middle of the night when I’m trying to coax him to eat on that side anyway and I’m super tired. He also falls asleep regularly while eating so I’ll think that he’s done, only to find out that he’s hungry again 15 minutes later when he wakes back up. I’ve taken to unwrapping him or even changing his diaper to wake him up before feedings so that he’s more likely to stay awake long enough to be satisfied.
  • My usual motivation to get stuff done hasn’t bounced back yet

    • When I had Raven, I remember that although I was tired, I was still pretty motivated to keep up my usual goals and checklists and such. I actually distinctly remember that I felt bad that people were bringing us meals because I felt like I had plenty of energy and desire to do that myself. This time? Totally different story. I’ve been SO grateful that we’ve been provided with so many meals (both through our church and through our families and friends) just because I’ve had no motivation to do my regular routines whatsoever.

But now, for some of the ups:

  • Even though nursing hasn’t been all smooth sailing the second time around, I’m much better equipped mentally and emotionally to handle setbacks and frustrations

    • If this same nursing problem had happened my first time, it would have caused daily (and nightly) meltdowns and made me feel like a failure for not being able to “fix” it effectively. This time when he started to refuse to eat on my right side (basically as soon as my milk came in), I didn’t freak out—I just kept trying different things until something finally worked. (Granted, I did have one or two crying episodes about it, but they were so minor I probably wouldn’t even label them ‘meltdowns.’)
  • My postpartum shape doesn’t bother me this time around

    • Even though I KNEW that I was going to look six months pregnant after I had a baby the first time, it still didn’t prepare me for my new shape, and when it took me much longer to lose the baby weight than I’d planned, I was even more frustrated with my appearance. This time around, I am totally unconcerned with it all. A LOT of this is due to the fact that I gained way less weight this time around (just over 30 pounds, instead of the 50 I’d gained the first time) and kept on exercising until the end (which helped me to maintain some tone and muscle), but even with the postpartum pooch that I can’t do anything about until my uterus has shrunk, I just haven’t cared. In fact, I’ve even found the whole thing kind of fascinating to watch this time. I guess it’s because I know that I’ll lose the weight eventually (and that it probably won’t be as hard this time) that I’ve been able to just roll with this one like I never could before.
  • This baby actually sleeps like a newborn “should”!

    • Sometimes, your babies and kids being different from each other is a very, very good thing. Raven, though she slept at night like a champ almost from the get-go, was a pretty terrible napper for the first several months, which got frustrating. This baby, though? Sleeping is his JAM, and he basically only wakes up to eat, smile, look around for about 45 minutes (during the day), then goes back to sleep.

  • I have a much better sense of how fleeting this stage is, which makes it easier to appreciate the good (newborn snuggles!) and deal with the not-so-good (exhaustion, nipple soreness, sibling tantrums, etc.)

    • When you’re dealing with everything the first time, you worry that it will last forever (if it’s bad), and you don’t fully appreciate how true the adage is that “they grow up too fast.” This time, I’ve been keeping my zen (ish) by reminding myself constantly that Raven won’t act out like this forever (right?!) and that I just need to enjoy this time with both my babies at home with me as much as I can, especially as Raven starts preschool in August and life will just keep moving faster and faster. True, some days lately have seemed ETERNAL (and not in a good way), but I do know that this newborn stage is over in the blink of an eye, and there really are things to miss about it.
  • Watching a sibling bond form is completely endearing (even if it requires constant supervision!)

    • Luckily, even with my oldest having her fair share of tantrums and meltdowns the past two weeks, she’s fortunately never wanted to take it out on the baby. Instead, she has found her own little maternal instincts and just loves to hold him and help with diaper changes and give him his pacifier and give him kisses and talk about all the things they’re going to do when he’s “big, big, big!”. She’s super gentle with him (which makes it nice so that I’m not in constant anxiety whenever she’s near him), but I do have to still supervise constantly as her helpfulness can sometimes (unintentionally) threaten his safety and/or comfort.
  • Although the shorter labor was WAY more intense, it was still shorter!

    • One of the things I looked forward to most about having subsequent children was the likelihood of my labors being much shorter, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed on that front!
    • Additionally, I was much less nervous overall about knowing whether what I was feeling was actual labor or not, and I also felt much better equipped mentally about the whole experience, just because I’d done it before and seen others go through it, too. True, I had some anxieties that had carried over from the first experience because of the complications I’d had, but at least I went into my second with a lot more knowledge and awareness of what might happen.
  • I already knew from experience that although parenthood is the hardest thing life will probably require of me, it is also by far one of the most rewarding!

    • When I’ve had particularly rough days now with two (and have honestly thought–multiple times–“That’s it! We’re done having kids!”), there is a power that comes from having done this gig for over 3 years already. Experience has taught me that motherhood will ALWAYS have ups and downs, but that the rewards and fruits of it far outweigh the sacrifice and hardships. All in all, there have been many transcendent moments over the past while where I have felt awash in gratitude for the opportunity to grow in this way, to parent THESE children, to be alive and well in THIS period of the world. My Heavenly Father has been very, very good to us.

Parents of multiple kids, what were some of the things that surprised you about the transition from one to two? And what strategies did you use to help older siblings deal with the change?