And Then There Were Two

Q. Jordan,

I recently found out I’m expecting our second child. Before I got pregnant, I thought that I wanted a second child, but now that it’s a reality, I’m panicking about how this is going to change our three-year-old son’s life and how it will shake up our own.

I’m scared because life right now is pretty great. I feel like we’ve just started to get out of the weeds of all the baby stuff and are really having more and more fun as a family. We’ve found our perfect balance between time with our son, social time with friends, couple time, and alone time. Our house is clean, calm, and quiet. We travel. We go on adventures. I’m scared that while all that was possible with one, we can forget it with two.

Reading online forums on baby websites has done nothing to calm me down. It seems like every single one I read says two is impossible and you can kiss your own life goodbye. I feel selfish even admitting that I need down time and time to myself and to be able to pursue hobbies, but honestly? I need that time to be able to be a happy, fulfilled person who can be truly present when I’m with my son.

I really related to your post, “So Here’s What I’m Afraid Of,” from April. It’s not so much that I’m afraid I won’t love this second child – I know I will – but I am scared that having this second baby will change the way I love my son. Will I just be so tired and stressed out that I’ll just yell at him and tell him I’m busy? I ache from missing him already. Your more recent post “Still There” after the birth of your daughter made me cry.  Just sob uncontrollably, because the thought of my son thinking I don’t want to play with him anymore? Can’t handle it.

Now that your daughter is here (congrats by the way!), how are you feeling about the fears you mentioned in your post from April? Are you finding a balance? I guess I just needed to try to talk to someone who is in the thick of it right now.

A. I have to tell you: your email sounds like the inside of my head when I was expecting our daughter; it’s such a relief to know that others feel exactly as I did.

Like you, I felt like in the months leading up to our daughter’s birth, daily life kind of smoothed out. Our son grew up, or into himself somehow, and life started feeling not just “manageable,” but really, really fun. Easy in a way it hadn’t been in a long time. Over the summer, we arrived at this wonderful balance where we spent time together as a couple, had relaxed family outings, were romantic and happy and calm and adventurous. I got back into reading every night, and there were peaceful evenings where we all just hung out together in the living room, doing our own things, not just going going going. I loved those moments, and I dreaded giving them up and returning to the madness of the baby stage. More than anything, though, I was scared that the new baby would take away from my relationship with Indy.

I have really good news for you.

The first is about the logistics of welcoming a second baby. I swear, leading up to our daughter’s birth it seemed like everyone was telling me it would be “more than twice as hard as one baby.” And granted, we’re only about two months in…but that hasn’t been my experience at all. Of course taking care of two children is “hard”…but the thing is, your life has already changed. You’re already in the rhythm of taking care of a child, so it’s not the huge mental and physical shift that it was the first time. Chances are the birth will be a million times easier…and it just goes from there. I’m telling you: I have a seven-week-old baby at home and I am sleeping, and eating like a normal person, and doing things I want to do, same as I was before she was here. I’m reading books. I’m blow-drying my hair. I’m relaxing in front of the TV. Sure, I’m busier with two kids to take care of, but that lost-at-sea feeling I had during the months after my son’s birth? Not there.

Second piece of good news: your worries about how your relationship with your son will change make a ton of sense, but I can promise you, as someone who was absolutely consumed by the fear that Baby Number Two would harm my relationship with Baby Number One: you have nothing to worry about.

In the days leading up to our daughter’s birth I found myself obsessed with spending “special time” with Indy – taking him out to just-us-two meals, laying with him as long as he wanted at night, literally breathing him in. And in the days after Goldie’s arrival, when I was recuperating from the birth and had to take it easy, it was really hard. I missed my son so much I ached. But because I knew that the baby would be okay without me for short periods of time – something I didn’t really know the first time I did this – I was able to make a conscious decision to do little things that I felt were important to make myself (and my son) feel more comfortable with the changes going on. I stepped away from my daughter when I needed to, knowing that she would be okay, and found chances to spend alone time with Indy. Even if it was only for fifteen or twenty minutes a day, it helped so much.

And now? My relationship with him is totally back to normal. Richer, even, because watching him be a big brother is remarkable. I don’t ache for special time with him anymore, and don’t panic about breathing him in every chance I get, because it’s a constant. The other day Kendrick had to make some calls and so he sat in the car with Goldie while I ran around a carnival with Indy, and when we got back in the car I realized: I totally just had amazing one-on-one time with my son, but I didn’t freak out about savoring it…because I didn’t feel like one-on-one time with him was something so scarce in my life that I had to hold on to with an iron grip whenever it appeared.

Right now we’re sitting next to each other watching a movie, and my daughter is in a seat next to us, and I don’t feel like my attention is split…I feel like it’s fuller, somehow. They say you don’t just have “space” in your heart for more than one child, but that your heart actually grows with each baby…and it’s true.

Most importantly, remember this: life feels like it’s running more smoothly now because your first child is older, and more mature, sure…but it’s also running more smoothly because of you. Because you have come into who you are as a parent, and because you know how to be a mother and be a part of a family and all those things that you didn’t know the first time around. And just the fact that you are thinking about this now means that you will pay such close attention to your needs and to your child’s needs that you will make whatever adjustments you need to make to ensure that you all feel safe and loved. If you are concerned about such things, you are a wonderful, thoughtful parent, and you have already won half the battle.

Don’t underestimate how much you are capable of, or how extraordinary you will be when asked to rise to the challenge of parenting two people who completely hold your heart. You will be extraordinary, and you won’t regret your choice for one single moment. I promise.



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