When I had my first baby I read all the books, checked all the websites and signed up for all the monthly ‘Why The Hell Isn’t My Baby Doing This Yet’ newsletters. But most days I still didn’t have a clue. She didn’t sleep, so I didn’t sleep and my nice, organised life was suddenly utter chaos. Then, just when I thought (in a Greg Wallace voice) parenting just doesn’t get tougher than this, baby two arrived… and I realised that actually yes, it really does.
My eldest daughter was only nine months old when I fell pregnant. She was still breastfeeding and keeping us awake most of the night, every night. I was sleep-deprived and motherhood was much harder than I had expected. So I panicked.
How will I manage with two babies waking up at night? I am barely getting any sleep as it is. Will I ever sleep again?
How will I get anything done ever? I have a hard enough time Getting Stuff Done with the one baby? What if they both want a cuddle at the same time? What if the toddler wants me when I am breastfeeding? What if one of them does something dangerous while I am tending to the other?
Don’t get me wrong, we wanted to have another child but this was a little sooner than we had planned. “At least it’ll get it the baby phase out of the way in one go,” people said.
But I didn’t want it out of the way. I had wanted a little rest first. The chance to read an entire novel, go out for drinks, earn more money, read loads of parenting books about having a second child, spend some quality time with my husband and friends and, above all, SLEEP…But it wasn’t meant to be. And I am glad. Mostly.
Having two babies eighteen months apart is a roller-coaster. For every stressful moment there is a special moment and there are times when you want to pull your hair out. But there are also times when your heart melts with love.
From day one the toddler provides a constant source of entertainment for the baby. Toddlers are constantly on the go. Whether they are singing, dancing, jumping or tipping all the toys out of the box. Babies are perfectly happy just to watch them for a while. Plus if you are ever too tired for any more rounds of peekaboo? Let the toddler take over.
From day one the baby is faced with a constant source of danger from its older sibling. Toddlers are big fans of the over-enthusiastic, potentially suffocating cuddle. They also enjoy ‘feeding ‘ the baby (shoving stuff in its mouth) or trying to pick up the baby.
When they start playing together it gets easier. My girls are now one and two years old and have finally started (sort of) playing together. It is mainly chasing each either around the house and getting all the plates out of the kitchen cupboard. But I do occasionally get to finish an entire cup of coffee.
When they start playing together it gets harder. My children’s favourite games include; hitting each other over the head with sippy cups, fighting over a potty full of poo, climbing on each other and trying to pull each other’s hair out. So normally the playing will end in tears.
They are best friends. They cuddle, laugh together and wake up every morning excited to see each other. One of the best things I have experienced as a parent is watching my children’s love for each other grow stronger every day.
They are worst enemies. The baby picks up a toy. The toddler drops whatever she is doing and immediately wants it. The toddler picks up a toy. The baby immediately wants it. The toddler sits on the rocking horse. The baby wants to go on the rocking horse. The baby sits on the rocking horse. The toddler wants to go on the rocking horse. And so on and so on… This results in a lot of screaming. They scream at each other until I take the toy away, then they both scream at me for taking away the toy.
Having two babies so close in age is as rewarding as it is challenging and as entertaining as it is exhausting.
But despite all the screaming and the total lack of getting five minutes to do anything ever, it is the BEST thing I have ever done.