I know, I know. Woman has baby. Woman has another baby. It’s hardly ground-breaking, and yet when you’re in the position it feels like it will be life-altering – one of the biggest changes you’ll ever have to embrace with a smile on your face. It strikes both fear and excitement. And so I thought I’d share my experience of going from one sassy toddler, to one sassy toddler and a baby brother. Here goes…
Before I even started thinking about trying for my first baby, I was sure I wanted three kids. Maybe even four, if things went smoothly. I grew up as one of three (or one of five if you include my older siblings from my dad’s first marriage) and I adored the feeling of always having people around me, of having constant chaos and carnage ringing in my ears. Because although we argued and routinely injured one another (hello multiple trips to A&E for my parents), we also had a lot of fun. We built dens, invented games, created timetables for who would get to play The Sims on our shared computer for every hour of half term, and lost entire weekends to our beloved N64. And so I knew, that if I could, I wanted to replicate that for my own kids. And then, well… I had one.
My son Atti was born at the start of 2018, and honestly? I found the adjustment of going from no kids to one kid, incredibly hard. Having not spent a huge amount of time around small children and babies, I was completely unprepared for the reality of just how much space (I know, I know) they take up in your life. At 27, I was the first of my friendship group to fall pregnant, and once he was here, the sleep deprivation combined with the loss of control (I HAVE ZERO CLUE WHY YOU ARE CRYING AND WHY YOU WON’T SLEEP AND WHETHER YOU EVEN LIKE ME) felt exhaustingly overwhelming. I had only been home from the hospital three days when I made a vow with myself that two kids would be my absolute limit. My parents had been mad.
Fast forward to January 2020 and a faint blue cross on a pregnancy test confirmed that I was expecting again. I was excited – for Atti to have a sibling, to get to know a whole new person and decide who he/she looked most like and to feel those all-too-familiar wriggles and kicks in my growing belly – but I was also hideously terrified. With a toddler at home, some days flew by in a happy blur of playgroup, beach walks and Disney films, but other days felt like they lasted 657 hours, punctuated only by my tears and his tantrums. I had no idea how on those days, I would possibly cope with two.
And then Ziggy was born.
Strong, sweet, darling Ziggy. He had big blue eyes like his brother, weighed nine pounds, and – as everyone told me he would – slotted into our family instantly. (You can read his birth-in-a-pandemic story here).
The first two weeks were easy(ish). I’d had an elective c-section and spent the majority of time in bed feeding Ziggy, napping with him and re-watching the entirety of Grey’s Anatomy on Amazon Prime, whilst my partner took Atti to the park, made him copious slices of Nutella on toast and made him feel incredibly special. It was only after that, once he’d gone back to work following paternity leave that the fun really started.
One of my friends had said to me, whilst I was heaving my nine-month pregnant body around the house weeping fed-up-with-this-shit tears that: ‘Having a newborn and a toddler is much easier than being pregnant whilst looking after a toddler’. And I clung with all the hope my soul could muster to that idea.
The reality is that you don’t ever really get to sit down. Unless you’re driving. And you’re probably driving to get your baby to sleep because they’ve been awake for two hours and are screaming and your frantic Google of ‘how long should my two month be awake for?’ has told you they should only be awake for an hour, but THEY WON’T FUCKING FALL ASLEEP BECAUSE YOUR TODDLER KEEPS SHOUTING BECAUSE HE CAN’T CLICK OFF THE YOUTUBE ADVERTS ON YOUR PHONE. And so you’re driving, mostly to get the baby to sleep but also because you need a Drive-Thru coffee and you want to turn Capital Extra Reloaded up loud enough to cover the muffled whines coming from the back seats, so that your drive basically counts as a form of self-care. In fact, if you just don’t look too closely at the entire situation, you could even be in a spa.
But the other reality is that, whilst it feels like a lot of the time you’re trying to complete a Mensa puzzle with no actual answer (the baby is due a feed in an hour but needs a nap in twenty minutes and the toddler has nursery in half an hour but needs a poo now, when do you have breakfast?), it’s also a lot of fun. It’s bonkers, chaotic, mad fun, but somehow it just works.
For every moment it feels like you might snap in half from being pulled in every direction, there’s a moment like noticing your 12-week-old smiling at his brother doing a silly dance. And then your heart just melts and your eyes well up and you think fuck it, shall I have a third?
(Spoiler: the answer is no, always no).
The sleep deprivation has surprisingly not been even a patch on the pregnancy fatigue, and I’ve managed to not leave the baby at home or even be late for any of my very glamorous one-on-one pandemic walks along the beach. You just somehow cope, you fall into your own groove and you make it slot-together, and you wonder what the heck you did with all your unnoticed spare time before.
But for me the easiest part has been the knowledge this time around that everything is just a phase. Sleepless nights don’t last forever, bedtime screaming doesn’t last forever and constant sick on your shoulder doesn’t last forever. So when it feels hard, it doesn’t feel as all-consuming as it did the first time. I know that life can look vaguely normal again – that there will be time for work and dates with my mates and yoga classes once more. I just need to push through the hard days (and nights) with as many little pockets of joy as I can find. Looking at you, Diet Coke, bubble baths and relatable memes in mum Whatsapp groups.
I would urge anyone expecting their second and starting to panic about how it’ll all slot together to invest in a sling (plenty of second-hand options on both FB Marketplace and in sling libraries), to say a big fat yes to all help offered (and then feel zero guilt about asking for more) and to ensure you always bulk buy the essentials: snacks for you, snacks for your toddler, freezer dinners, and milk (both for the baby if formula-fed, and for you because hot – or lukewarm – drinks are everything in those early days). You have this so much more than you think you do.
So right now I’m soaking in the sheer carnage of it all, because somehow, somehow, even though it makes zero sense, it’s more fun (and exhilarating?) than it’s ever been before. And I know that a week will pass and suddenly it’s 2025 and they’ll both be at school and wow, wasn’t that the fastest, wildest rollercoaster ride I’ve ever been on?