Baby Number 2.
Having children is a wonderful gift. A gift that changes everything and I mean EVERYTHING. Joy, laughter, love. But, then there are the sleepless nights, the loss of the ‘you’ you used to be, the plethora of toys (so many toys). So, when you are bringing another beautiful human being into the world, you can kind of expect double the joy, double the laughter and double the love. But, now you can definitely say ‘bye-bye’ to sleep, you will probably have double the amount of toys (even though you said you wouldn’t buy toys this time around) and your old self is a distant memory. Add to that the guilt. Mum guilt. What will happen to your first? How will they cope? How will you have enough love for another tiny human? Will they bond? How will you adapt to this new, tiny, defenseless baby? So many questions fill your head as you approach your due date. My worry was, how will I give all of myself to my new baby (who will need me 24/7) whilst maintaining the attention and time I give to my 2 year old? I’m writing this article, not because I feel I know all about welcoming a 2nd baby, but because I feel it would have been helpful for me to have read something like this, from someone who I know, that had experienced it recently.
The mum guilt starts BEFORE baby comes, it’s antenatal mum guilt! As I was approaching my due date, my son needed to understand that certain things had to change. I couldn’t sit on the floor and play, we couldn’t roll and tumble about on the floor and play like we used to. “Mummy can’t sit on the floor and play with me anymore”, is what I heard Chester saying to my husband and it hurt so much! When Sophie finally came, my ‘baby’ boy suddenly seemed so grown up. Welcoming a new born into our family was amazing. The love between them was so natural, innocent and pure, just amazing. Although, it certainly had an effect on little Chester. He developed a bit of a twitch (lots of hard blinking and lots of mouth stretching) and his sleep definitely took a hit. I don’t think it helped that we moved house when Sophie was a month old. His whole world changed. I felt so, so guilty that I couldn’t be there for him like I wanted to, having had Sophie and been unwell for a few weeks postnatally. But having family to help and a husband to remind me to stop being so hard on myself, I guess made things easier. Then there’s the guilt you feel for your new bundle. The one you long to be able to spend all day just holding, gazing at, napping with. But you can’t, things are different this time. You may feel like your baby has developed a close bond to the moses basket or baby rocker, as they spend a lot of time in there whilst you play with your first, trying really hard to make sure that they don’t feel pushed out. Guilt comes from every direction, it seems.
I had been doing this for years in my professional life- teaching and managing classes of up to 30 young children. But, now having to simultaneously meet the emotional and physical needs of two small humans turned out to be really, REALLY hard! And we’re not just talking about when number two is shiny and new. Difficulties may come later, as baby begins to sleep less and they can’t cope with the separation. You can feel really stretched and it can be really tricky to go for a wee in peace.
It’s up to us as parents and carers to attempt to understand the behaviours shown by our little ones. Challenging behaviours are displayed when children are unsettled, unsure, when they feel anxious. Those three emotions you’ve just read- unsettled, unsure, feeling anxious…we’ve all felt those. ESPECIALLY when pregnant and expecting a baby. As grown ups, we can understand these feelings and where they stem from. We know that most of the time these feelings will pass, so to some extent, we can keep control. Young children do not have the same emotional maturity and cognitive ability as us and to expect them to be able to control those feelings and anxieties is completely unreasonable. They need to be able to express these, they will express these and children do this in all different ways. You are their ‘safety’, so you will feel the brunt of it, unfortunately. Remember that you know your child better than anyone, if it looks like they’re finding things difficult, think about what you can do to make things easier for them and to bring back a bit of ‘normal’. Maybe try to do something without the new baby (whilst someone else watches baby- obviously). It may be taking just 10 minutes for a walk with just you and your first born, playing a game, baking, crafting- something that the 2 of you can share. For us it was outdoor play. When Sophie was down for what I knew would be a ‘good nap’, we would layer up, chuck on our wellies and waterproofs and just play outside. The housework can wait. Those moments are so important.
So, what can you (and those around you) do to ensure that this transition is as smooth as possible? 1) ask for help. Actually, I shall rephrase that- ACCEPT the help. From your friends, your neighbours, your family. They won’t mind you asking for help and the worst they can say is no. Some people won’t offer because they don’t want to offend you, so don’t be afraid to ask. 2) Sling. Sling, sling, sling….baby wear, sling. Go to your local sling library- you will not regret it. They can help you to find one that is comfortable for you and that you can feed in too. I love babywearing. It helped so much, still does actually. 3) prioritise. You will have to let some stuff go. The washing, dirty plates, hoovering, making the beds. Think about what you can ‘let go’ and don’t feel bad for it. But, if you’re like me, you may actually enjoy doing those things and may want to prioritise some of those things. This is fine too. 4) Be well. Your well-being is so important. Do yoga, watch Netflix, smash some plates (not in front of the kids though, preferably), dance to music videos on Youtube, shave your legs, don’t shave your legs. Whatever it is… look after yourself. 5) routines. “ Try to keep up your toddler’s routines and activities. Going to playgroup, visiting friends and telling a bedtime story might be difficult to organise in the first few weeks. But sticking to established routines will help reassure your toddler.” (NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/children-and-new siblings/ ) We struggled with this as we were moving house shortly after Sophie was born. But we did our best to maintain bedtime routines, if nothing else. 6) Take a moment, look at what you have, look at your beautiful children. Sometimes that’s all you need to do- just take a moment.
Pretty soon they will be playing together, Your ‘big’ will melt your heart with how they respond to your ‘little’ in such nurturing ways. Ways that they have observed and seen from you and those close to them. When you catch your older one reading a story to your baby, it will fill you with indescribable joy, pride and probably tears too. Seeing both of them smile at you simultaneously, knowing that you made these little miracles. It’s such a wonderful feeling.
Baby Number 2.