From One to Two
When I was pregnant with Emery, I had nothing but all the excited feelings. We wanted him so desperately and had prayed for him for so long. It didn't hit me until the last few weeks of my pregnancy that things were about to seriously change. I didn't think it would be that big of a deal, and honestly, I rolled my eyes when people would make comments about how tough it is to go from one to two. I knew we'd be different. My babies would transition seamlessly.
When I went into labor the first time, which ended up being stupid labor that lasted two days and then stopped completely, my little brother came over to take Jonah out so I could labor at home in peace. When he walked out of our apartment door, carrying my little boy, I ran to the bathroom and started sobbing. Uncontrollable, hysterical crying. It was intense. I was so, so, sad. All of a sudden I realized it wasn't going to just be the three of us anymore. I missed it, and it wasn't even gone yet. I changed my mind on that bathroom floor. I didn't want to have any more kids. I wanted to take it all back. To go back to the way things were. I was afraid. So, so afraid. I wrapped my arms around my legs and I mourned. It all sounds very dramatic, and ok, it was, but it was a necessary moment for me. I don't know how long I was in there crying before Zach came and joined my sob party, but I'll never forget the look on his face. I don't think I've ever seen an expression full of such confusion and fear. He must have thought I was losing my mind. I kept saying things like, "But it's never going to be just the three of us again! HE didn't ask for this! We didn't ask him if he wanted another kid in our family. This is his family too!' And Zach was just like, "I know. I know." But inside, I know he was screaming, WTH?!? Cause crazy town, ticket for one, please.
When Emery was finally in my arms, (you can read his almost parking lot birth story here) I had this overwhelming sense of "duh." Of course he needed to be in our family. All of a sudden, I knew that he was always missing from our lives, we just didn't know it yet. Everything made sense when he was born. Truly. Perfect sense. When Jonah walked in and saw his brother for the first time, and started giggling and laughing and saying, "No he's no Em-a-wee, he's Ju-wee-an.", I knew that everything was exactly the way it should be. This was our family. This is how our family was always supposed to be.
And that's when things got cray.
I really have no idea how we survived the first 9 months of Emery's life. Jonah stopped sleeping through the night a few months before Emery was born, and continued that trend until recently. He wouldn't go to sleep on his own and wouldn't take a nap on his own. One of us would have to lay with him until he fell asleep and then he'd still end up in our bed a few hours later. We fought the bed time battle for a long, long, time. We don't fight that battle anymore. It's not worth it. But at the time, we valued our sleep more than our sanity and somehow convinced ourselves if we just came down hard and forced the rules, he'd come around and we'd go back to having our nights to ourselves again. LOL. Funny, guys.
Jonah wasn't sleeping, Emery wasn't sleeping, I wasn't sleeping, and Zach wasn't sleeping. And I don't mean like, "Oh we're not sleeping ever!" but really we got 3 hours of sleep a night. There were days when we literally did not sleep. It was awful. Then Jonah started going through typical two year old bad behavior phases, Emery had dangerously low iron and was slightly jaundiced, Zach lost one of his jobs and was trying feverishly to make up for that lost income in other ways, and I was having to do almost all of the housework, cooking, doctor's office visits, and parenting on my own. Our relationship got rocked. Hard core. We fought more during that season of life than we ever have and hopefully will ever. When it was bad, it was really bad.
I've been asked over and over and over and over again to write a post about making the transition from one to two easier and I'm sorry friends, but I just can't. I don't have the answers. I don't think there's an easy way to do it. It's just one of those seasons you're going to have to get through. It's not going to break you, but it will test you in ways you never thought possible. But you can get through it and you will. Here are a few things we did to ease the growing pains, but this is definitely not a one-size-fixes all list.
When it comes to the tension in your marriage, call it what it is. You're not really that angry that your husband just ate the last bit of pie. You're tired. You're stressed. You feel awful and unappreciated and ugly. It's easy to take out your frustrations and exhaustion on the person you know is going to love you know matter what, but call it what it is. Take a deep breath and try to step outside of the situation for a second before you lash out again. If you can both recognize and acknowledge that your frustrations with each other stem from a mutual exhaustion, you'll find yourself taking one step closer to to each other, rather than away. Lean on each other as much as you can and fight the urge to push him away.
Stop trying to do so much. No one's giving out trophies for clean houses and healthy meals. Especially right after you've brought a new human into your home. Let the dishes stay dirty or use paper plates. Order take out, buy a freezer full of pizzas and hot pockets. If a friend calls and says, "Is there anything I can do to help you out?", give her a job! Get over the awkwardness, let down your pride, and let someone help you. This is not the time to put pressure on yourself to be supermom. Seriously. Stop.
Give your firstborn tons of grace. This is a tough transition for everyone, especially a little kid who doesn't fully understand what's going on. They're used to having mommy and daddy's attention and total devotion 24/7. I can't imagine how confusing that must be for a child. Don't be surprised if your fiercely independent child all of a sudden needs to be in the same room with you at all times, or won't sleep, or eat things that you know they like, or whatever weird things kids do when they can't communicate what's really going on. Don't be surprised if all of your previous parenting has been completely forgotten and you have to start over from scratch. Give those big siblings grace upon grace upon grace. The more you push back, the harder it will be, and the longer it will last. Trust me on that one.
Get off your phone. Facebook and instagram and blogs and the internet in general will tend to make a girl feel worthless. You'll see photos of other mamas rocking the toddler and new baby thing and you'll compare yourself to them, feel inadequate, unsatisfied, and nothing good will ever come from it. Fight the temptation to browse your feeds when you're nursing. Watch a show with your older child, read a book, or take a little catnap. The post having a baby season is (at least for me) the most vulnerable season emotionally and mentally and physically, and the internet just likes to show you the pretty things that will make you feel worthless. Spare yourself. Get off your phone.
Don't try to potty train with a new baby in the house. Just don't.
Don't rush it. As I say with every season of life, just embrace it. Own it. You're not going to get ahead of it, I can assure you that. Just accept that this is going to be tough, but it doesn't have to be a make it or break it type of season. You'll make it. Eventually. We made it out alive, so I'm certain you will too.
Have I absolutely terrified you? GOOD. Because I had no idea what I was getting myself into!! Maybe it won't be so bad for you. I sincerely hope not. I hope you read this post and think about it later and laugh at me for being so dramatic because your kids are amazing and you were always able to make healthy meals and shower and have clean underwear for everyone and your kids slept through the night always and forever. I hope that is your story.
(But it probably won't be.)
I hope I haven't scared you into a hysterectomy. I promise it gets better and seeing your first born become a big brother or big sister is truly an amazing experience. I love watching these two grow and bond and become brothers. It's the best thing ever.
Now leave some advice in the comments! What words of wisdom would you pass on to the mama who's about to have her second baby?