Before I had children, I always believed that a two-year age gap was the best. Perfect. The kids would be close enough in age to get along, they would both be in the same session in school, and the older one would probably not remember a time when he was the only child receiving his parents’ exclusive`love and attention.
So once the candles were blown from Aidan’s first birthday cake(s) and the presents had all been unwrapped, I started planning. We went straight to my gynaecologist to run the necessary tests (because, INFERTILITY) and I was afraid that it would take us another two years and many procedures before we conceived.
Who knew that, oddly enough, pregnancy is the cure to infertility (in our case). Bloody Murphy. 27 months after Aidan’s birth, Zac was born.
It’s been almost 20 months since my little bubba was born and wow, has it been tough. Not horrible, soul-massacre tough but mentally and physically exhausting. Bringing up two bebe is tough.
It was really tough in the beginning because when Zac was a newborn, Aidan was in the throes of being two and shifting into disequilibrium. There were heaps of meltdowns and teary tantrums and wails of “mama!”. It certainly did not help that we also enrolled him in the childcare centre at the same time and he was having a tough time with the transition.
There were so many moments when I felt torn. Tired. Frustrated. Spent. I wanted to spend my days cooing and marvelling at my darling little newborn. I could spend hours just looking at the baby. And yet I felt guilty for not reading with the toddler or playing with him or bringing him out.
With a two-year age gap, it was not easy because while the newborn demanded a lot of my time and attention, so did the toddler. When they cried, they cried at the same time. When they pooped, they pooped together. It was like a conspiracy between the two, even if they didn’t like or care for each other very much.
I still remember this period of time when I was going batshit crazy. I had gone back to work and the routine was simply a madcap rush. Once I reached home after work, I had to nurse Zac while feeding Aidan his dinner (little bugger refused to eat on his own for a while!). And then I would put Zac in his bouncer as I ate dinner. And then I would bathe them – Aidan went into the tub while Zac was in the Puj tub in the sink. After I had towelled Zac dry, off he went into the bouncer again while I soaped, rinsed and dried Aidan off.
By then, Zac would have been overtired and shrieking in the bouncer. IGNORE MODE ON. Poor second child.
Once the boys were massaged like little Kobe cows and dressed in their jammies, I would nurse Zac to sleep while Aidan watched videos on my phone. Not the best setup, I grant you, but one which worked and kept me sane.
Then Zac learnt to crawl and he would crawl into the bathroom because he would not go into the bouncer anymore and I had to put him on the floor. Which freaked me out. So I had to get my helper to carry him for a bit. Which made him cry. Which then stressed me out. Which made me extremely short with Aidan. Which made him cry. Which then made me angry with myself. And then I would wonder out loud why oh why I decided to have them two years apart.
Thankfully, those days are over. Long gone. Now that Zac is a full-fledged toddler himself, the two do get along most of the time. They would eat their after-dinner fruits sitting on the floor of our balcony, watching vehicles go by. And then I would plonk them both in the tub where they play with cups and watering cans and plastic fish. BY THEMSELVES.
They can entertain themselves WITHOUT ME.
It’s easy enough that momnesia has set in and I can now smile to myself, two years is really not a bad gap between siblings after all.
I don’t know how it happened but in the blink of an eye, my little squishy newborn became a toddler. Elliott is now 14 months old. His personality is coming through and he now takes up twice the amount of space on the bed. This also means that I have been getting this question ALL. THE. TIME. From the random stranger at the playground to the colleague that I speak to once every few months. This question comes up every single time, even when we are chatting about completely unrelated topics. They take on a couple of permutations:
- “So when is Number 2?”
- “Planning for Number 2?”
- “Time for Number 2!”
- “So are you going to have Number 2?”
You get the idea. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is concerned about Number 2. I have started to dread the question as much as the other question we had to put up with pre-Elliott. For the record, that other question was “Planning for baby?”
Number 2. That elusive Number 2.
Truth be told, I would love for Elliott to have a sibling. I grew up with a sister and it is wonderful having someone to share (and fight over) toys with, chat to and hang out.
The thing is, it took us a long time before Elliott came into our lives. I remember my BFF saying that people jump through hoops. We had to jump through fire hoops and hungry lions waiting below. It was a good and apt metaphor.
In simple words, the fact that we are parents today is nothing short of a miracle.
Which is why my heart breaks just that little bit whenever someone asks me about Number 2. Because it was such a difficult journey getting our Number 1. We are thankful every single day for him and I do not actually dare dream of a Number 2.
As the husband wisely said: Elliott is a blessing. Anything else is a bonus.
Yes, yes and YES. He is a our miracle baby. We have a healthy and happy baby today and we feel immensely blessed. It would be lovely to have Number 2 but if it doesn’t happen, we will be ok.
I just wish people would stop asking me about Number 2 because I have run out of polite things to say.
“Yes yes, soon.” I’d usually mutter with a smile. “Not now la. Must wait until Elliott is older”, but this doesn’t quite work because I then get chided for waiting because I am “no longer young”. Thanks. That was nice.
So the next time you meet someone and feel inclined to ask them about their personal life (why they are single, why not have a kid, why not have a second kid, blah blah blah), do stop and think. And think again.
Then shut up. And compliment them on the nice dress that they are wearing, or complain about the terrible weather.
Many a times, that happy smile belies a long and heartbreaking journey. And it is not nice to dredge it up repeatedly.
Two months after Zac’s arrival, we finally feel as if we are back on track.
The first month, as expected, was just crazy and hectic. On top of handling a newborn and his needs, there was also the toddler and his needs to juggle. And because Zac had jaundice, there was the additional stress of lowering his bilirubin levels to think about.
It was probably a tough month for Aidan too, given that he had lost the undivided attention of his parents all of a sudden. As much as he loved (or tolerated, really) his baby brother, it was too much for his little mind to process. While we were expecting some upheavals, I was not prepared for the magnitude of it. There were epic tantrums, replete with loud sobs and vigorous floor-rolling. Boundaries were severely tested in so many ways. Instructions were deliberately ignored.
But the worst bit of it were his tears: big, heartbreaking wails of “mama” over and over again. Day and night (in the middle of his sleep). There was nothing I could do but to hold him tight, stroke his hair and tell him that I love him, it’s alright, we will be fine.
It was a tough month.
Thankfully, we are out of the woods now and while there are still moments of jealousy, he is back to his happy self again. One weekend when Aidan was laughing over something silly, the husband smiled and said with great relief, “We haven’t heard that laugh for a month now.”
Some of this adaptation to the change is due to Aidan’s own personality – he’s generally a happy kid – but we also took careful steps to ensure that any jealousy or rivalry is minimised. Of course, it doesn’t always work and Aidan still demands to be carried by whichever parent is holding on to the baby. But by and large, he is both loving and nonchalant towards Zac and I think things should improve as time goes by.
Here are some of the things that we did to ease the transition from a family of three to a family of four.
If I had thought that handling a newborn alone is tough, boy was I wrong. Because having to deal with a newborn AND a toddler is way harder than that.
Four weeks in, life is easier and harder at the same time. Easier in that I can more or less discern Zac’s needs when he cries, he’s a lot more interactive now and super duper cute, and Aidan is getting used to his little brother’s presence. Harder because Zac doesn’t sleep as much (if he even sleeps at all!), Aidan can get rather needy, and they tend to go off at the same time in the evenings.
That’s right, the dreaded witching hour.
In one of the Facebook parenting communities that I belong to, one of the questions that popped up recently was about knowing when you want to have a second child. The original poster had arrived at the “deadline” for planning for a second baby but found herself utterly unprepared for another child.
That post resonated strongly with me. Because, as I was telling husband recently, if I weren’t already pregnant, I may not feel the inclination to procreate at all.