Plum turns one on this week. She is my dear little one, and is so much her own little person. And now that those ears have gotten better (mostly) she really is a delight – silly, weird and smart.
I must admit, that it took me the better part of the year to figure out life with two. It was a hard year. Just when I was getting used to this whole kid business, Plum came along and upset my confidence and equilibrium. She was not a particularly difficult baby (except we still haven’t gotten that sleeping thing down). It was just that sometimes I felt like life had become one of those fast-forward film reels. Completely normal, I know, but still tough.
We welcomed a new nephew on Saturday. He is a gorgeous little boy, and we are so excited he is here. He is a second child. His birth, and Plum’s birthday have meant some mama-reflection on what life is like with two.
Second Baby Surprises
I so enjoyed my maternity leave the second time.
First, Plum’s birth was SO much easier on me physically. I felt surprisingly good after delivery, which made those first few weeks so much better. The pinched nerve in my back, and time of year made it tough, but I was armed with better knowledge of my rhythms and the rhythms of a newborn. I loved cuddling and nesting. We kept Pickle in his regular routine of daycare/school 3 days a week. So for those days it was just me and Plum, cuddling and napping and getting to know one another. It was awesome. Oh, and I watched seasons one and two of Downton Abbey – added bonus!
It is a different kind of hard.
I had been warned that a second child didn’t make things two times as hard, a second child made things 100 times as hard. Thankfully, I found this was not quite true. With one, you’re already giving it your all, with two, you’re still giving it your all, just differently. Two IS hard, so hard. But it is a different kind of madness. It means you spend your day managing the needs of the littles. It means you have to get good at needy child triage. Whose needs trump right now? Some days, everyone is in the groove, and you can jump from task to need to play to nap to meal to task smoothly. Most days it doesn’t feel like that. Most days I feel like I’m scrambling behind the runaway train, hoping things don’t go too far off the rails. Plum needs to be soothed and rocked and fed and Pickle is bellowing from downstairs that he NEEDS ME NOW because he needs his bum wiped. And in order for me to respond that “I’LL BE RIGHT THERE!” I have to yell, which wakes up Plum. And then no one naps. And then people start throwing things and then there are tears, from everyone. Including me.
I came to trust Pickle more.
I had to. When Plum needed changing, feeding or rocking it was often impossible to convince a stubborn 2-year-old to come along (and sit quietly). So instead of dealing with two crying children, I had to trust him enough to leave him alone downstairs, playing, by himself. I had to trust that he wouldn’t break things, hurt himself, leave, make incredible messes, etc. There were some minor mishaps, but for the most part, he was a champ. And he rose to the challenge, feeling accomplished and proud that he could be in charge of himself for a bit.
Baby two helped me to better understand the relationship I have with my younger sister.
It is so interesting to watch a sibling relationship develop as a parent. Pickle is annoyed by his younger sister, of course, but he is also fiercely protective, loving and sweet. Plum gets frustrated with her older brother – who tries to boss her around and is constantly taking things away from her – but adores him all the same. She grins like a Jack-o-lantern when he goes to visit her in her crib in the morning. He is the best at making her laugh. Their relationship has helped me understand some of the dynamic between my sister and I growing up.
The quiet moments are sweeter.
Mostly because they are fewer. (HA!) I would have preferred a stellar sleeper, but Plum isn’t wired that way. And while it sometimes makes for exhausting days, the middle of the night feedings and cuddles have been more magical than maddening. The moments when it is just the two of us, in the glow of the nightlight, cozy in our pajamas, is the best. And the time cuddled with Pickle, reading a book, and stealing moments together while Plum naps, is lovely. Thankfully, these sweet quiet moments continue, and now sometimes include all three or us, or all four of us even. Last night Pickle perched quietly on the edge of the glider, snuggled into my left shoulder, while Plum had her pre-bed bottle, cradled in my right arm. As I sang silly, made-up songs (requested by Pickle, of course) I realized that it just doesn’t get much sweeter.