Math isn’t my bag; science is. However, in the last two weeks, I have received a crash course from the school of hard-knocks in math – multiplying and dividing to navigate the transition from one child to two. In the end, the transition is survivable, formulaic almost.
Divide your expectations. I had dreamy visions of what the first meeting between my son, 18 months, and daughter would look like. He would come to the hospital and be so smitten with his new sister, saying “bay-bay” and showering her with kisses, like he did my belly prior to delivering. We would catch the whole thing on video in a heartwarming memento to cherish. It would be so sweet, tender, and pure of heart. It would be the kind of raw love only the innocence of a child could express.
In actuality, our son was getting over his umpteenth viral illness of the cold & flu season and was C.R.A.N.K.Y. It was past his afternoon nap. He missed his mom and dad (we had never been away from him overnight prior) and he was really upset that mom couldn’t hold him (due to a repeat c-section). Instead of this heartwarming moment I had been fantasizing about, I got a heartbreaking one. My son, my sweet little boy, my only child for the last 18 months, looked at me with hurt & tears in his eyes, repeating the word “up” in the most desperate tone. I, unable to comply with his request, could do nothing but watch my heart shatter into pieces. Give yourself grace and divide those expectations, mama.
Divide the amount of time you have with your significant other.
I feel like ships passing in the night some days, barely crossing paths long enough for an embrace or a quick kiss. We used to be passionate, go out to dinner, and travel the world. Now, most of the time we divide & conquer. My husband tackles the toddler’s bath and bedtime while I nurse and bathe the newborn. Then he peels off to load the dishwasher before heading to the home office to work late into the night to provide for our family. I zig when he zags to catch up on my own work or do laundry before turning in for the first small stretch of sleep the baby will allow.
We move in complementary circles, a carefully choreographed routine of caring for our children and doing the never-ending house chores, while also being full-time working adults. The key to being divided all day is to reconnect whenever possible. Sending a quick text with the kissy face emoji, writing a love note to pack in each other’s lunchbox, snuggling a little closer before bed, all add up to more than the sum of their parts. It is important to remember our love amidst the hustle and bustle. I choose my partner first, each and every day; to build a solid foundation for my family.
Multiply the amount of chaos in your life. Then multiply it again. Maybe multiply once more, for good measure. Both the toddler and the baby will burst into tears at the same time; they both want mama right then. Somewhere in all the chaos is the dog who is your first child, sunken from her second demotion in two years and is also demanding attention. I will deal with the cacophony of crying in suit, and learn to live and even thrive in between the tears and tantrums. Someday, I will miss the craziness of these early days and weeks, though it is hard to see the forest from the trees just yet. Embrace the chaos, mama – it is your fuel right now.
Multiply the amount of stuff in your house. (You forgot about the stuff.) Swings, bouncers, Boppy pillows, pack n plays, oh my! Baby blankets (so many baby blankets). The stuffed animals, the toys – the ones that make the sounds, the ones with the lights, the classic wooden ones that you love, but the problem is, the dog also loves…to chew into pieces. Multiply the diapers and wipes – hundreds of them, for each kid, flying off the shelves faster than your Amazon Prime Subscribe & Save can keep up with. Multiply the swaddles, sleep sacks, pacis, bottles, stroller seats, the car seats, and the clothes. I feel like I am drowning in a sea of kid-stuff, but then I think about the generosity of those that gave us those gifts and of the bounty we have to provide for our children. Of the memories, they are making in the mess of the stuff.
Most importantly, multiply the love in your heart.
It is impossible to imagine loving another child as much as you love your firstborn…until you lay eyes on the new baby. Much like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes the day our new bundle arrived, and then the next day, it grew three sizes more. It will keep multiplying until it feels like it is going to explode. Never has doing math all day felt so good. Enjoy the crash course, mama.