When my husband and I made the formal decision to have children, we went into it with only three points of knowledge to guide us: We knew it would be challenging, there would be a lot we didn’t know, and, if possible, we would like to have at least two kids. And, ideally, our two hypothetical children would be close in age.
My husband and I were grateful to see these plans begin to come together last January. Our oldest had just turned one, and shortly after the holiday season I saw a faint but discernible pink line manifest on a home pregnancy test. We were having another baby!
After allowing myself some time for pure joy, the planner in me took over and I began to visualize what life was actually going to look like in nine months. We were going to have two children under the age of two. I then asked myself what exactly we had gotten ourselves into. While having our children close in age seemed advantageous in some regards, it also seemed terrifying for the immediate future—especially when considering the impending fourth trimester.
How My Second Pregnancy Was Different Than My First
I feel it’s important to back up here. My first go at the fourth trimester experience was traumatizing. My son (my firstborn) was born during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant we had zero physical contact with family members or friends. Unable to ask for help, we were essentially on our own, navigating our transition into parenthood during a once-in-a-century global catastrophe.
Though it was never formally diagnosed (largely due to my being foolishly dishonest with my medical provider), I had postpartum depression. I felt incredibly sad, hopeless, and lonely. While I won’t get too far into the details, suffice it to say that those three months were a struggle. Understandably, this left me nervous to repeat the experience, especially with a busy toddler at home.
I’m currently six weeks postpartum with baby number two (a darling girl), and I find myself practicing gratitude each and every day that this second go-round has been much easier than the first. To this, I credit experience (I knew what to expect and how to prepare), my daughter’s naturally pleasant disposition, and—surprisingly—my toddler son. As it turns out, my anxiety related to having two under two was for naught. My toddler is actually helping me through the experience. Allow me to explain.
He Keeps Us On Our Routine
Anyone who knows my husband and I knows that we enjoy structure. When our son was born and we became parents, we found our routine thrown into chaos. For the first five weeks of his life, there was no routine (I’m sure many fellow parents are nodding their heads in understanding). Day was night and night was day. Most of the time I was so tired I didn’t even know what day of the week it was, as they all sluggishly blended together.
Around six weeks, however, we began to find structure again as my son’s development allowed us to get him on a nap schedule. Suddenly, our days had a routine once more. Though his schedule has evolved over time (toddlers clearly need way less naptime than a newborn), it’s his schedule that’s kept our days ticking away on track this time around. Our house gets up at 7 a.m. My son goes to daycare Monday through Friday. We all eat dinner together between 5:30 and 6 p.m. It’s a small thing, but knowing what to expect each day has lessened my postpartum anxiety immensely.
Having my son’s schedule so well-established has also made figuring out a schedule for my daughter much easier. We didn’t have to start from square one this time around. Instead, her schedule has fallen into the natural rhythm of our day. This has been a huge benefit as, starting at five weeks postpartum, I’ve had pockets of time during the day when I get to be child-free (if you don’t count a baby monitor, of course). She naps at the same time every morning and every afternoon. That means I have time to work out, shower, eat healthy meals, and generally focus on myself and my own health. That’s huge.
He Reminds Us That We Can, in Fact, Do This
Whenever my husband and I have doubts (or just feel particularly exhausted), we remind one another that we have, in fact, done this before. We survived the early days once already—we weaned, sleep trained, navigated developmental leaps, introduced solids—so we know we can do it again. It’s nice having a living, breathing, thriving example right in front of us to demonstrate our capabilities as loving, hard-working parents.
He Encourages Us by Allowing Us to Glimpse the Future
Taking care of a newborn isn’t easy. During the first few weeks you’re feeding them around the clock, attempting the near impossible task of interpreting their cries (that all sound exactly the same at this point), and sacrificing your sleep. Newborns can’t smile. They can’t laugh. They can’t even really see your face. And sometimes, it feels like it’s going to stay that way forever.
For me, it’s been really nice having my toddler around as my husband and I take care of his newborn sister. During these early days he’s a great reminder that newborns do, in fact, grow up. They learn to laugh, walk, talk, and so much more. While I try to enjoy every stage, I generally find the newborn stage stressful (I really prefer when they’re old enough to clearly communicate their needs and stresses). I like watching how far my son has come, all while imagining what his sister will be like when she’s his age.
He Leaves Me With No Option
I’ll admit it: Not every day is joyful. There are days when I feel exhausted, stressed, at my limit—frankly, like I want to quit. But I can’t quit. I have my son to think of. My daughter is an infant—so long as she’s taken care of, she doesn’t necessarily care who’s feeding and changing her. My son, on the other hand, is almost two. And on levels both conscious and subconscious, he knows that he needs his mom. He knows if mom is sad or not there to take care of him or share in his daily toddler joys. On those rare days when I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, I think of him. His need for me snaps me out of my dire mood and keeps me going.
Is having two under two an easy experience? Absolutely not. There are times when I still question what exactly we were thinking. But those times are limited. If I were to do everything over again a second time, I wouldn’t change a thing. Having our children so close in age means my husband and I didn’t have time to “forget” how to navigate the baby phase. It also means our kids will be going through life stages together (from little kids to big kids, tweens, teens, and adulthood).
Despite the challenges that each phase brings, being a parent really is amazing. I feel so lucky to have my son here with me, to remind me of all the good in my life and all the good yet to come as we get to know his little sister.