Life with a newborn can feel like a never-ending loop of exhaustion, diaper changes, and middle-of-the- night feedings. One of the hardest times of your life is that first year with your first baby-that is, at least until you pop out baby number two and baby number one becomes a toddler. Looking back now, I realize the first year of babyhood was a blissful dream compared to parenting a newborn and a no-nonsense, strong- willed toddler at the same time. Here are a few things that I learned:
1. Newborns are quieter that you realize. Sure, newborns cry... sometimes a lot. And while their cries at the time may grate you to the core of your very sleep-deprived soul, I’m sorry to say it can get even worse. It slowly goes from crying to screaming, to arguing and to whining... whining about everything. From which coloured spoon they want to eat their breakfast with, or only wanting to wear that one dress that is currently in the laundry. You will look back longingly on the days when your baby would cry for a few minutes (unless of course you have a colicky baby, then my heart really goes out to you) and you could quickly stuff a boob in their mouth and they happily drifted right back into a milk induced-coma. Savour those quiet moments of being stuck on the couch for hours because you’re too afraid to wake up your baby by moving them, because your future will be much, much louder.
2. Babies sleep more than you think. Yes, newborn baby sleep is actually the worst. They don’t know night from day, so sometimes they sleep all day while you are trying to accomplish other tasks (like simple body hygiene) and then they decide to pull an all-nighter... 5 weeks in a row. I remember those first few months when people stopped by to visit and the first words out of their mouths were “Wow... you look tired.” (Thanks, Sherlock!) The bags under my eyes were a shade I didn’t even know could exist naturally on my own face. But then came toddler sleep, and also newborn sleep, at the same time. By the time I got my newborn to sleep, my toddler would be up, yelling “MOM! I need to go to the potty again,” causing my newborn to wake up and vice versa. Babies may not sleep through the night in the first few weeks, but they still sleep a lot. Fast forward a few years and that toddler may decide that napping is a thing of the past. So while newborn sleep isn’t exactly the best, sleep training a toddler and a newborn at the same time will literally drive you crazy!
3. You can leave the house pretty easily. When I use to try to leave the house back in the newborn days, I would pack the diaper bag with anything and everything I thought we needed (seriously we could have survived a natural disaster for weeks with how much I used to bring,). There were times I almost turned back, because I thought the act of just leaving the house was going to be impossible. But now that I think about it, my daughter usually just fell asleep in the stroller as long as she had her soother and maybe needed to be fed only once. Now, even though I pack a lot less for them, the actual task of getting them both dressed, fed and then chasing and barking at them to get their shoes on is a lot more stressful. I usually start about 2 hours before I have to actually leave the house. When I finally find myself out in public, one of my kids is usually kicking the other in the stroller; one is screaming bloody murder, and I’m heading for the door before I’ve even finished running one errand.
4. Newborns needs are pretty basic. Sure, at the beginning you’re doing a lot of guessing. Are they gassy? Tired? Hungry? Do they need a cuddle? But in the end, you can usually run through the checklist of things and find out what they need fairly quickly. Pretty much your entire job is to just keep that baby alive! Then comes toddlerhood. Now not only do you have to cover all of their basic needs, but it will usually be met with a tantrum or, on the other side of the spectrum, you’ll just be ignored.
5. Clean house days are done. In the early days you’ll end up doing a lot of laundry because of the constant spit ups and blowouts. But other than that, babies can’t really make messes. Insert a toddler. Toddlers will take out every single one of their toys looking for a certain one, only to then forget that toy so that they can steal the toy their sibling is playing with. You’ll constantly find areas in your house that are sticky, and you won’t want to know why or what that stickiness is. They’ll throw their food around just because they think it’s funny. No matter how hard you try to keep your floors clean there will always be a light sprinkling of crumbs in odd places. This is why wine exists.
6. Newborns stay in one spot. First-time parents are always trying to get their child to hit all the milestones as quickly as possible, from rolling over, to crawling, to walking. Just leave them be. Be careful what you wish for, because once they start doing these things, that’s when they decide to start getting themselves into trouble. I remember sitting my daughter on the floor with a few toys and being able to cook an entire meal uninterrupted. Once she began moving, a meal that would normally only take me 20 minutes to make turned into an hour-long adventure. Now with a toddler and a baby, I literally need eyes in the back of my head to make sure that she isn’t teaching the youngest how to head dive off the couch. Savour those immobile babies, because it won’t last long.
7. You don’t have to worry about all of the fighting.
When I had one child, I used to worry about her getting bored, and was constantly trying to think of sensory games she could be doing all the time. She was 3 months old... she couldn’t do anything. So all I could think about was “I can’t wait until she has a sibling that she can play with and keep her entertained. They’re going to be best friends.” Fast-forward 3.5 years, and my day is spent trying to physically remove my children from each other because their favourite ‘game’ is to squish each other the hardest, which quickly turns into tears. At least with two, the onus isn’t on you solely to entertain them.
8. That newborn smell. Seriously, if they could bottle that smell up and sell it, I would buy it. That new baby smell on the top of their heads is intoxicating and sadly not very long-lasting. Once your baby turns into a toddler, you will be greeted by the stale aroma of farts, burps and stinky feet.
Good luck, 2nd time mamas. Don’t worry- the good by far outweighs the bad! Sandwiched between each of those crazy days of parenting a baby and a toddler at the same time were some of the best days of my life. As a parent, the good and bad days will come in waves. As much as my toddler can be a little jerk sometimes, when she crawls into my lap and holds my face with both chubby little hands and whispers “Mama I love you so much”, I’m reminded to as to why it’s all worth it.