It’s like you’re there, drowning, and then someone hands you a baby.
That was what a friend told me when recounting his experience of becoming a parent of two, rather than one. And as it turns out, he wasn’t far wrong.
Naively, I hadn’t expected having two children to be that much harder than having one. I mean, second time around, you know what you’re doing, right?
You’re already used to sleep deprivation, you already know how to fasten the poppers on a babygrow (which, incidentally, is a totally different garment to a vest), and your social life has already gone utterly to pot.
You already know that breastfeeding really is a full-time job in itself, you can correctly wrap a seatbelt around a car seat, you can change a nappy in the dark and you can even put up and dismantle a pram one-handed. What is there left to learn?
But the truth is, I’m discovering, much like those Choose Your Own Adventure books I used to love so much in the 1980s.
Torn between a newborn and a feisty toddler, every day is a series of choices, most of which are going to have potentially disastrous results.
For example, I was feeding my newborn daughter when the three-year-old – currently in the throes of a nasty bout of chickenpox – tearfully demanded that he sit on my knee too. Suggestions that he wait a minute were met with anguished screams.
So. My options were:
a) Stop feeding the baby and cuddle the toddler
b) Ignore the screaming toddler and continue feeding the baby
c) Take no heed of the doctor’s advice that the chickenpoxy toddler and the baby should be kept apart as much as possible, and comfort both children on my knee at once.
I went for (c), mainly because I couldn’t stand for the screams that either option (a) or (b) would elicit. However, I am sure to regret this when the baby surely comes out in chickenpox in a few days’ time.
Speaking to other parents, I can see I’m not alone in finding two children a challenge. How, we wonder aloud, did we ever find one baby hard? On maternity leave, you see friends with their newborns going to baby groups, meeting for coffee, or pushing prams around Meadowhall, safe in the knowledge that they can try on clothes without having to dash out of the changing rooms, half naked, when their toddler decides they’re running off to the Disney Store.
And naps. Don’t get me started on naps. Newborns sleep during the day. Ok, so nobody ever takes the advice to sleep when their babies sleep, but at least you have time to read a book, stick a wash on, have a shower, get up to date with Making A Murderer and so on. Heck, if the baby sleeps for half an hour you could even have a bubble bath with a cup of tea and a slice of cake
But with two children, there’s none of that (aside from on the blessed days when the toddler is at nursery. Those days are blissful).
Toddlers don’t sleep. They get up at the first hint of sunshine, with no care for the fact that the baby, who has been crying since 2am, has just dropped off. And then they don’t stop until 7pm. At all.
All that said, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love both my children more than I ever thought possible – though that is most definitely it. There isn’t going to be a third. All those who go on to have three, four or more children, I salute you.
You’re braver parents than I.