My sons are close to 18 months apart. Actually, if we want to get technical and I use my tired mom brain to do the math…..they are 16 months apart.
My head hurts just thinking about it. What was I thinking?
In hindsight, I can tell you that I am grateful that my children were born so close together. My sons do fight all the time, but there are moments when they are the best of friends. They are only one year apart in school, and they are able to share clothes, equipment, even friends. They are both learning to read, to do math, to learn about science and art. It is easy to teach them things, because they are pretty much at the same level.
But looking back, there were a lot of things that I didn’t even THINK about before deciding to try for another baby.
First, you have a baby while you are pregnant.
Every pregnancy is unique. I honestly didn’t really think what it would be like to be pregnant while caring for another child. I made the assumption of course that I would be healthy and available to my baby the entire pregnancy. Lucky for me, I was. But I know of many other mothers who suffered from complications which really made caring for the baby they already had very difficult. (Think bedrest, not being able to pick up the child, having to take medication that makes it impossible to breastfeed, not being able to breastfeed because of the risk of causing contractions/miscarriage).
Being pregnant so soon probably hastened the weaning process with my older son. Pregnancy changed the taste of the milk, and also the size and shape of my breasts. My skin was very sensitive and my breasts ached because of the hormones, and it was no longer enjoyable to sit and quietly nurse for hours. I’ve also heard other women say this…but I started to get this weirded out antsy feeling while breastfeeding….like I needed to move away from my child. It is strange, and I can’t explain it very well, but I’m not the only one who has had that happen.
As your babies grow, their needs change. When I was heavily pregnant, near birth of child number 2, child number 1 was walking and running around, and also doing a lot of limit pushing. There were a lot of tantrums and times when I had to physically hold him, restrain him, or pick him up. It was really hard on my body, especially my unsupported and unprotected back.
Next, you have a baby at home while you are away at the hospital giving birth.
When I went to the hospital for baby #2, I have never actually been away at night time from baby #1. I was super anxious about leaving him with my mother and sister-in-law, and it made it hard to enjoy all of the birth experience. I was in a rush to get back home, and may have left the hospital sooner than I otherwise would have, just to get back home to him.
You have two babies while you are recovering from childbirth.
It is fairly easy to restrict how much activity you do after baby #1. But when Baby #2 arrives (and Baby #1 is active, demanding, and little), you don’t get all the time you need to recover. I was definitely up and at it well before my doctor wanted me to. As a result, I probably bled more than I should have, and it probably took longer for all the inside stuff to heal.
You have two babies.
When your children at 18 months apart, there is a time when you have two babies, almost like twins. Both of them wear diapers. They both need help eating. They can’t go to bed on their own. They both want to be held. They both scream, cry, pee, poop, vomit. Everywhere. They both need you in the middle of the night. And in many cases, dad is not enough to cut it.
When my second child was born, there was a definite period where I barely showered, cleaned, cooked, or ate. The needs of the two children were very constant, and I found it very hard to focus on one or the other of them very well 100%.
The hardest part of all of this was that child #1 didn’t really understand why mom was suddenly unavailable, and why dad was substituted in. He pulled away from me, as I was absorbed into the needs of baby #2. In hindsight, I wish that I had done more to focus on him, to help preserve that special close relationship that we had before #2 arrived.
How did I cope?
Like the title to this post suggests, I survived. How? Mostly by sheer will and determination. But here’s a few things that I did to help us get through it:
Anything that was unnecessary, don’t do it
I quit doing a lot of things that I had previously done, to avoid the inevitable overwhelm. I stopped cooking elaborate meals. I let the laundry pile up and the spiderwebs accumulate. I relied upon frozen food from the freezer, vacuumed only the places where Baby #1 liked to play.
This also meant that we didn’t attend as many events, play dates, or go out to eat.
Sleep at every opportunity
If both boys were ever asleep at the same time, I also slept. I was TIRED. So very tired. So rather than trying to cram in chores or Netflix while they rested, I also rested. Maybe my house was dirtier than it needed to be, but I felt better.
Make your partner help
In this day and age, your spouse understands that it is his job to help out. But he might not realize exactly how much you are doing, and how much more he ought to be pitching in. Don’t be afraid to let him know that you need help with something. And when he does handle the task, don’t micromanage it. Just let him do it, even if it isn’t the way you usually do it.
Take advantage of technology
I’m not talking about electronic devices. I am talking about all the fun and useful accessories that are out there for babies and children. A double stroller, for example, is a godsend. A high quality baby carrier, that you can use for infants up through toddlerhood, is so valuable. (I used to put the baby in the front pack to walk with my older son, or to have hands free to help him do projects, and when #2 got older, he rode on back back while I did chores, pulled weeds, mucked out the chicken coup, walked with #1, went to the zoo, parks, and in all activities).
Stock up ahead of time on supplies
Taking one child to the store is doable. But two kids (in and out of the car) can be incredibly difficult. They don’t both fit in the cart, especially if you are using the infant carrier. Instead, I would do massive shopping trips, and get everything I could think of (plus extra) so that I could avoid mid-week trips to the store for stuff like milk, bread, or diapers. I also stocked up the medicine cabinet and the first aide kit, so that there was no rushing to the store for Tylenol, band-aids, Benadryl, etc.
Get help from grandparents or friends
Not so you have to run out of the house to do things or to get away from the kids. Sometimes just having another adult around to hold the baby while you use the bathroom or to stack blocks with your older child while you nurse for a few minutes can make the difference between a good day and losing your mind.
Don’t sweat behavior infractions
With a baby in your arms, it is hard to discipline a toddler. I found myself frequently in the position of being very upset and frustrated because I had one baby in my arms and the other child was doing the exact opposite of what I wanted him to do.
In hindsight, I should have just taken a deep breath, and let it go. But I felt like I HAD to deal with it, that he HAD to do what I wanted. In hindsight, I am sure that my older son would be exactly the same now, even if I had let his rule breaking go without addressing it.
In sum…try avoiding making MORE work for yourself than you have to. After all, the older child is older, yes, but he is still a baby.
Have your feelings but don’t take them out on the kids
You are going to get frustrated. You are going to want to yell. Sometimes you will yell. After all, you are tired, hungry, maybe even unwashed. The kids will push you to your limits.
The last thing you want to do is unload all of your frustration and anger on your children. It is okay to talk to them calmly about having a tough time, but sometimes things just build up and they need to come out.
Sometimes, and it pains me to admit this, but sometimes, I had to just put everyone down, remove myself from the room for a minute, and lock myself in the bathroom to have my feelings. I cried. I put a towel over my mouth and growled or screamed. And when I was done, I was able to go back out to the kids and be there, be present, and be in control.
I can think of at least one instance (I don’t think I’ll ever forget it), when both kids were crying, climbing all over my, painfully pulled at my hair, scratching my face, pinching me. And I reached my limit. I had to calmly put the baby down in a safe place (his crib), and let the older child know I was going to the bathroom by myself, and then went into the bathroom.
I could hear both kids crying…..but I was in no position to do anything to help them at that moment. For a minute, I just took some deep breaths, ignoring the yelling and kicking on the door. And when the moment had passed, I was able to go back out and resume mom duties. I feel guilty to this day for going into the bathroom when both kids were crying for me….but in hindsight I also see how necessary that moment was to my sanity and our global survival as a family.
Save your weight loss goals and dreams
Honey, when you have two babies, the LAST thing you have time for is dieting and beating yourself up about your muffin top and the fact that you are still wearing pregnancy clothing. The fact is…your body can wait a few months for your household to adjust to the new normal.
You are in survival mode. So yes….EAT. Try and eat as healthy as you can, but don’t worry so much about restriction and extensive preparation of foods. The kids won’t be that small for very long, and it will go by in a flash. Wouldn’t you rather spend those hours with them while they are small, and spend the rest of your life worrying about the scale?
Put early potty training on hold
Maybe you had dreams of getting your child diaper free by the time he/she turned two. But with another baby to deal with, you will be hard pressed to remember to get the older child to the potty in time, to remember to pack extra pants, underwear, shoes and socks (after all, when they have an accident at the park, they pee their pants and the pee runs into their shoes). The diapers are working, and unless they handle the potty training themselves, it is just easier to kick this can on down the road for another month or two.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
When you have two babies at home, you can drive yourself crazy. To maintain a healthy mindset, you just need to be okay with letting some things go. Choosing not to be mad or resentful. Ignoring something.
How good of an experience you have with two babies under 18 months is totally in your hands.
If you are reading this and have two under two….you can do this. You’ve got this. You can do it.
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a full-time mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer screen when the kids are occupied or sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.