When we decided to have our children close together it was mostly based on the fact that Hubs and I both have siblings close in age. Although I'm big into doing my research, there wasn't much info on having a second child and how that works out at home. Some people asked me how I would continue working on my PhD and I told them I didn't know. And really, I didn't. (Side note: I still don't have any idea how to get back into it, but that's another post.) I read a few magazine articles here and there on the pros and cons of various sibling age differences, but that was about it.
So, in an attempt to add to the conversation on having Two Kids Under Two, here are some excerpts from our life the last few months.
The first few weeks went dreamily. The grandparents were a constant presence, Hubs took a week off work, and Mogi barely acknowledged his sister. I really think he thought she was a toy or accessory of some type. She clearly didn't "move fast enough" for him and his always on the move kind of ways, so he just ignored her. AJ ate and slept and nothing else. If she was awake she then easily slipped into sleep without a trouble or care. She didn't cry and occasionally made adorable kitten-like sounds.
But, of course, newborns do wake from their foggy state. And grandparents go home. And husbands go to work. And when that happens there is a grand potential for all kinds of things to "break loose" and "hit the fan".
Eventually, Mogi not only realized AJ was staying around, he also began to see her as a competitor for our affection. The little boy who wouldn't stop long enough to sit in your lap was now begging and crying to be picked up and held! And, of course, it would come to a boiling point when I was home alone with the two of them : ) [Hence, Molly's Laws of Motherhood] I was glad to have Mogi showing more affection but it was such a drastic change that I couldn't manage it well.
I was also functioning on sleep deprivation mode. You always hear new moms being told "Sleep when the baby sleeps." But that only work for first time moms because even though AJ might have been sleeping, Mogi was still wide awake and ready to tear the house apart at any moment- did I mention he's a climber and thrower if given the chance? So, my longest stretch of sleep was four hours for five or six weeks after having had horrible sleep through the last trimester of my pregnancy. I could not begin to think straight.
But, the light finally began to appear at the end of the tunnel. AJ's daily routine got more predictable and consistent. She started going down easier for naps and at night. She started sleeping a longer stretch at night, sometimes over 8 hours. And Mogi stopped seeing AJ as competition. He started to laugh and smile at her when she made funny noises or made eye contact with him.
So, what would I tell someone if they asked for some tips? Here's a few things...
1. Even if your life is completely laid back with child #1 and you do nothing predictably, create some routines before #2 arrives. It will help #1 have some things to feel very secure about and it will make life easier on you when you can't think straight.
Mornings and bedtime are written in stone around here. They always happen the exact same way in order to make sure all that needs to get done does get done. A lot of it has to do with my kids personalities and needs but I can have both kids fed, dressed and in the car, ready to go in less than an hour in the morning. And with the evenings being a fussy time for most newborns its great to work out plans for dinner and bath times. I also need this kind of order because there are times I have both kids on my own due to Hubs work rotations.
2. Get a piece of furniture big enough, and small enough, for the three of you. One of the first nights that I had both kids on my own I sat down in the rocking chair to feed AJ and moments later Mogi came up with a book in his hands begging to get into my lap. It was heart breaking. At 30 lbs I couldn't pull Mogi onto my lap one-handed if I needed to, but there wasn't room for him either. The next day I dragged a love seat into the nursery and took the legs off so Mogi can climb up and down without worrying about him falling. It's nothing fancy, just a $20 Cr@igslist find, but so worth it. Now Mogi can climb up next to me and bring the books with him!
3. Consider potty training. I'm not saying you need to potty train #1 before #2 arrives, but if you wait until #2 arrives it may not work. You can hear about toddlerhood and all the emotional changes that take place, but until it really happens, you have no idea. It was if someone flipped a switch one day and I woke up to a boy that no longer was thrilled to have my praise but instead was determined to do things his way. Now he wasn't perfect boy before this switch, but positive attention and praise often swayed his behavior. It doesn't work as well now and "I DO!" is now his favorite phrase. So, if you think you'll start potty training #1 after #2 is born, realize that between toddlerhood and the demands of a newborn it may take a lot more work than you expect.
4. Make good sleep habits a priority. Do you remember the first time your first child slept a rediculously long stretch at night? I do. It was as if life had begun again. I could put him to bed, get a few things done, go to bed and wake up the next day rested! Well, reaching that point is no less spectacular the second time around. I've relied heavily on the "Sleep Training" methods layed out in the Baby Whisperer's books. A swaddle, the "shush-pat", and a good lullaby are priceless!
5. Baby needs her space. I'd planned on AJ sleeping beside me at night in a bassinet and had a crib for her in the "Kid's Room" with Mogi's crib, but I quickly realized that it was unrealistic to think she could nap in the room while he was in there playing. And due to Hub's work rotations, she couldn't sleep in my room every day of the week. She needed her own place. So, I made some space for her in my office. It's not ideal, its a little too close to the commotion of the guest bathroom and I have to work very quietly if she's napping, but its working. So, even though kids can share a room once nap schedules coincide, until then they need a quiet space. But, let me be honest, the thought of sharing my office for the next year or so doesn't sound so appealing : /
Anyway, that's all the "wisdom" I have for now. I'd love to hear any stories from the "trenches" from those who also have two close in age, no matter what age they are now.
And as a reward for reaching the end of this very long post, here's a little happy moment from Potty Training Land : )