I have been a mother of two children for six months now. It is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I have the most beautiful children and we are truly blessed to have such wonderful, healthy, happy children. But my god, it’s been hard.
I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when Henry was born. I feel like parents with two children are all part of some secret club where they’re not allowed to tell you how hard it is until you you actually have your second child and then they’re just like “yep…sucks to be you!” But I do think it’s one of those things that you can’t describe until you are in that situation. I think I have scared a LOT of my friends by being *too* honest when asked “how is it with two?” My standard answer is “so fucking hard. Wonderful, amazing, wouldn’t change it for the world, but bloody hard work.”
My pregnancy with Henry was a lot harder than I expected it to be. The actual pregnancy was fine, I didn’t have any health problem (apart from contractions starting at 29 weeks…) It was a textbook pregnancy. But I wasn’t mentally prepared for how it would affect me. I am going to write a post about it soon, but those 9 months were not a good time. I suffered a lot with anxiety, mainly about how I was going to give birth, and this anxiety continued in the first few months of having Henry.
I really can’t tell you why I have found it so hard since having Henry. I don’t know if everyone feels like this, but no one talks about it. I don’t know if I just struggled really badly. I don’t know if Alfie was an “easy” baby and therefore I had an easier time with him. I don’t know if Alfie was a “difficult” toddler and that made things harder (I suspect this was the biggest reason why it was so tough).
Our journey as parents of two got off to a shakey start. Having a c-section was bad enough, but then we were readmitted to hospital because Henry had low blood sugar and wasn’t feeding enough. This immediately made me anxious and feel like a failure. I struggled with the nightly wake ups from Henry and the early morning rises from Alfie. I couldn’t drive. It snowed a lot so I couldn’t get out of the house, and even if I could, there was nowhere for us to go since we live in the middle of nowhere! I felt trapped and didn’t deal with it well.
Friends were great and came to visit us a lot, but the times I was on my own were so lonely. You can’t do baby groups with a newborn and a toddler (I tried, it wasn’t fun!). My best friend had her baby a few weeks before me and I was so jealous of all the baby groups she attended and the new friends she made. I know I shouldn’t have been because I had done it all first time round, but I wish I had appreciated it more.
My husband tried to help but I don’t think he fully appreciated how hard I was finding it. It took a bit of meltdown when he was hungover in bed after going out to “wet the baby’s head” for him to realise I needed more help (whilst we’re on the subject – why do the guys get to go out and get pissed to celebrate a baby being born…they don’t bloody DO anything! Where’s my night out!?) I had coped so well after having Alfie, we both definitely expected it to be the same this time round. We were so, so wrong.
There were lots of things that happened after Henry was born that I think really impacted how difficult I found it. Alfie was 2 and half, and just at a difficult age. We went to a wedding when Henry was 10 days old (yes, we are MAD!! No, I wouldn’t do it again). Alfie decided he wanted to stop wearing nappies two weeks after Henry was born. We didn’t want to dampen his enthusiasm so went with it, but yes it was hard (try bending down to mop up toddler wee ten times a day, two weeks after having a C-section!!). I struggled to keep on top of the housework once Craig went back to work, and an untidy house really stresses me out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means house-proud, but if the house is messy, I can’t engage my brain and get motivated to do anything. It’s kind of like, I don’t know where to start, so I don’t start at all! This meant we spent a lot of time in the house because I couldn’t get motivated to get us ready to go out.
Whilst I’m on the subject…have you tried getting two kids and yourself ready to go out? It’s not an easy task! Alfie is a typical toddler who either likes to dress himself with no help, or just wants to be naked. We had lots of Paw Patrol and Blaze on the tv to bribe him to sit still long enough to get dressed. Henry was a typical newborn who just wanted to be held all the time, so actually getting said toddler dressed was difficult whilst holding a baby…thank god for slings, is all I can say!
Breastfeeding second time round was not what I expected…I’ve written about our journey here , but it wasn’t as easy second time round as it was first time round and I was totally unprepared for it! I felt like a failure for a good three months, to the point I didn’t get Henry weighed because I was terrified he wasn’t putting on weight and I’d be forced to stop feeding him. Writing this now, I know that is ridiculous because I should have wanted to make sure he was as healthy as could be. I knew deep down that things were fine, but going from having a huge baby to an average/slightly small baby is actually really hard. We also had some issues early on with incorrect weigh ins which meant I was told he had lost weight and wasn’t putting on weight when this wasn’t true (first his weight was written down incorrectly and then the scales recorded the wrong weight). This massively knocked my confidence for a long time and has severely dented my love for breastfeeding which for me is a huge shame.
The bond with a second child is completely different to the bond with a first child. I didn’t have as much time as I did with Alfie to just sit and appreciate having a newborn baby. Those days when I would sit on the sofa for hours feeding, just drinking in the amazing-ness of having a newborn just don’t exist when you have a second baby. There isn’t the time and often I have a toddler sitting on my head/asking me to play/throwing things at the baby as I’m trying to feed and there is little to no time to just sit and cuddle with the baby. Toddler jealously was a huge factor in our house and I had a horrible internal battle of not wanting Alfie to feel left out and feeling like Henry was taking me away from him, to feeling like Henry wasn’t getting the same one-on-one time with me as Alfie did.
This post has been so hard to write. It’s brought back a lot of raw, emotional memories for me. The first three months of Henry’s life was just a blur, and the next three have gone so quickly I feel like I haven’t had time to appreciate it. I’m already half way through my maternity leave and feel like I’ve wasted it in a way…at least not appreciated it enough.
To make matters worse, I felt like EVERYONE was asking me if we would be having a third. Here I was struggling massively to cope with two kids, and people wanted to chuck another one my way! If you know someone that has just had a baby – be it their first, second or sixth – please don’t ask them when they’re having another one, it isn’t helpful and it could really upset someone who isn’t coping well. I still cannot contemplate having another baby and it genuinely makes me feel sick just thinking about it.
Six months down the line, things are so much better. I feel like I am coping so much better, I’ve got us into a routine now, Alfie’s behaviour has calmed down a bit (although not perfect, and we still have bad days, I’ve just learnt to cope with it a lot better). There are still things that need changing. Henry isn’t a fan of expressed milk, and won’t take a bottle. This means I haven’t had a break from the kids for 6 months and that’s bloody hard! I need some time to recover mentally and even just a couple of hours in a coffee shop, writing on the blog would be heaven for me (hint, hint husband!)
It’s hard to write a post like this and put myself out there, but I feel like it’s important. I don’t want to scare people or put people off from having another baby. This is just my experience, but I think it’s important to share because even if one person reads this and thinks I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like this and it makes them feel better about their situation, then that is a good thing. I’m aware my situation could be much worse – I could have had twins, or a baby with additional needs, or I could be a single mum. There are always things that could have been harder and I’m grateful for two happy and healthy boys. But it’s been hard and it’s ok to admit that.
Now, I am going to concentrate on enjoying the rest of my maternity leave. I’m going to try and have more me time for the sake of my mental health. I’m going to enjoy individual time with my boys as often as I can. I’m going to persuade Henry that expressed milk is as good as boob milk! I’m going to get out of the house more. I’m going to ask for and accept help more.
Ultimately, I’m going to be the best mum I can be to my boys. Being a mum of two is bloody hard, but it does get better. The good times will come and when they do, it really is amazing.