Why having two children really did feel like 20.
You’re 34 weeks pregnant… your feet are sore, hips are aching, and you can’t wait for this baby to make its arrival. Yet, every other person you meet, feels the need to tell you, “two is like 20!” You roll your eyes.
Why do people say this? Like thanks, I mean… there is no turning back now, so thanks for stressing me out! And, uhhh, yea, I’m sure two isn’t like 20, so thanks for nothing. Well, in my case, two really did feel like 20. I’m sure I was as crazy as I would have been with 20 children running around… surely. Here is my story on adjusting to a family of 4.
To say it simply, our first born was easy. We knew she was an easy baby. We made jokes about how she was the “trick baby” and we would be pregnant again before she was a year old. Fast forward to June of 2016… Vi is eight months old, and yep… I’m pregnant again!
We were elated. We decided to stop preventing, and got pregnant right away. I have heard stories of this. Theories that your body knows exactly what to do since it literally just did it, and bam, baby number two is cooking away. Bingo!
Around six weeks pregnant, the nausea hit. ALL DAY, ALL NIGHT, for seven weeks. I felt like a useless parent that had to constantly take breaks and ask someone to take over. Luckily for me, my in laws were in town often at this stage and were able to entertain Vi, while I thought about crawling into bed and not emerging until the second trimester.
Around 13 weeks, I woke up, and the nausea was gone… never to return. It was a miracle! I sailed through my pregnancy… too busy with my one year old to count the weeks. At 40 weeks + 3 days, my water broke. First it was slow, while lying in bed, and then at around 7am, I stood up in the bathroom, and the floodgates opened — just like in the movies. It was awesome! Ivan was shouting at me to get into the shower, but I was too busy trying to get it captured on video. If you know me, then that does not shock you. Ha! Stay tuned for a separate post on Weston’s birth story, because for now, I am going to jump forward to after his arrival.
It was 2:00am, and I was holding my new, precious little boy in my arms. He was merely a few hours old. He was gazing into my eyes… it was a beautiful moment in time that I’ll never forget. He began to get sleepy… and I felt my own eyes getting heavy. Just as I thought we were both about to drift off into a peaceful sleep, Weston started to fuss… and then cry… and then flail his entire body. It was in that moment, that I knew. I had this inert feeling that this little boy was going to be trouble. What six hour old baby has fomo? I looked over at Ivan, the fear of our sleepless days weighing heavy on me. We were so screwed.
The next couple of days at the hospital was a series of cry, nurse, cry, flail, scream, nurse, FINALLY sleep, wake after 20min, repeat. And this carried on for well… a mere, TEN MONTHS.
I had heard stories of babies like this. Babies that fought sleep until they physically couldn’t any longer. Well, yep… it’s a thing, and I now had one of these babies.
The lack of sleep led to him being over tired, which led to even worse sleep, and even more crying, and basically a fussy baby 24/7. In addition, he didn’t want to be anywhere except for in my arms. And, had he had the luxury of being the first born, this would be more manageable. We could snuggle and watch Ellen all day. I could doze off with him in my arms, or latched onto my breast. But, when you have an 18 month old and a husband that works 12+ hrs a day in film, this is a difficult thing to manage. I tried to babywear him in wraps and ergos, but he didn’t like when I moved around, which was well, impossible while caring for a toddler.
There was no time for me to nap, unless of course he slept while Vi did during the day. But usually, he was wide awake (and fussy) during Viola’s nap time, and by the time I heard Viola waking up, I thought I may just breakdown and cry from exhaustion.
The nights were much of the same… scream, cry, flail, sleep… except he gave us 1-2 hour stretches at a time. In the first couple weeks home, he did give us some glorious five hour stretches, and I sang his praise to all those that would listen while at the playground. But, at around two weeks old, he “woke up” as they say, and decided the longest he would sleep would be two hours at a time. Okay… cool Weston, real cool.
My days were foggy after each night that passed like this. My toddler didn’t get the best of me, and my patience wore thin. But I reminded myself that we were doing the best we could, and that it would not last forever. I mean… he had to learn to sleep eventually… RIGHT? I filled the days by going to drop ins and play groups. Constantly trying to find things to do that would keep Vi busy, but be manageable for Weston to tag along to. Nothing was manageable. Weston wailed, and thrashed his body around. He didn’t like the car seat, the stroller, or the ergo, and wanted nothing else but to be carried around while having his bum pat. Have you tried to do this while chasing your toddler around a jungle gym, or getting her a snack? NOT IDEAL. Every outing was exhausting, and filled with deep breaths, and copious amounts of coffee (which probably didn’t help the poor sleep situation, because doesn’t caffeine get into your breast milk? Thats what they say right?)
And so, things carried on this way, until he was around ten months old. At this time, he started to surprise us with some three to four hour stretches at night. But, at 11 months old, we decided that this still wasn’t good enough — that it was time for some serious change, and we hired an amazing sleep coach who quite literally changed our life. You think I’m kidding. I am not. It is that dramatic. Sleep. Changes. Lives.
Finally, he reached the age where I felt we could start to communicate with each other, and it was time to tell, ok teach, him how to sleep better. I could tell him things and I knew he understood. He knew key phrases like “night night time” and “cuddle your lovey”, so I felt more content telling him that “mama loves you, and I’ll be back soon” was something he could understand.
Many people told me to let him cry, that he had to learn to sleep. My sleep coach did not tell me this. She understood the feeling in me, telling me that this baby needed us. I don’t know why I felt this way… maybe I will never know, but his cry rang out, like a thousand knives in my heart, and I always went to him. We would nurse, and snuggle, and rock, and sing, until he was ready to drift off again.
A sleep place was laid out for us, based on who Weston was, and what we were comfortable with. When I read it, I thought there was NO WAY this was going to work. Weston was going to wail and scream, and this was going to be awful. How can we ask him to be capable of these things? But… it did work. He didn’t cry for longer than a few minutes at a time, while I was there with him, offering him support and love. It was gentle, and slow, and after about three weeks, I was able to put him down in his bed, wide awake, walk away, leave the room, and close the door, and… HE DIDN’T CRY. He would roll around a bit, and then peacefully drift off to sleep. I sat with my husband and I cried. I cried for many reasons.
I cried, well, because… he didn’t cry. Him not crying, told me that we had taught him that his room is safe, his bed is safe… that sleeping is safe.
I cried because we made it through nearly a year of not sleeping. Of being tired every day, and agitated with each other. But, now, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. A light I reminded myself I would see every day over the last year, but some days it was barely a flicker.
I cried because, something in my heart told me that this baby needed us to be there for him. And even though it wasn’t easy, we were there.
I cry now writing this, because he is now 17 months old, and we are in a place that I thought maybe, we would never be.
Sure, we still have night waking’s here or there, but they are manageable. Today, he continues to go down wide awake, putting himself to sleep independently. He naps for a couple hours in the afternoon, at the same predictable time — and sleeps at night from 7:30pm until around 7:00am. A mere six months ago, he would wake 5-8 times a night and be up for the day any time between 4:30-5:30am. So, to say we have made progress would be the understatement of the century.
Some families may reach this milestone of sleeping through the night earlier, and for some, it may take longer. For us, it took just over a year. It is happening at the same time as him becoming a toddler, another huge milestone.
If you are a Mother, you know this stage, this accomplishment. When you realize that you made it through that first newborn year, and you’re still standing. That you can do this. Sure, every age has its struggles, and hey, I’m sure you will hear about mine on here. But, your baby learning to sleep, being happier because he’s more rested — learning to crawl, or walk, no longer nursing/feeding around the clock, having a more predictable schedule… is everything. That first year my friends, is no joke.
Amongst all of the struggles — if you can sit down at the end of a long, busy day with the kids, take a deep breath, and feel like you followed your heart — that you were able to put everyone’s opinions aside, and listen to your instincts. That, mama, is what it’s all about.
I look at my happy, thriving children. Full of spirit, kindness, and love. And I can only assume that we are doing something right. For every difficult day, there is an amazing day, and even in those difficult days, there are so many amazing moments. Moments when I laugh out loud, or pull them in close because I just need to.
So, sure, two may feel like 20. But having two children, has also made me the strongest woman I have ever been. It has taught me the purpose of my life.
Now, people also say that going from two to three is easier. But, I am going to go ahead and call bullsh*t on that right now. I guess they were right about the whole two is 20 thing though…
*frantically shakes head and rocks back and forth*