I knew I wanted a CHILD and a BABY - not two babies. That meant only one in diapers at a time (though Rebecca did her damnedest to make that almost not the case), an older child who could somewhat entertain herself and help me with the baby, and NO DOUBLE STROLLER. These were not negotiable stipulations.
Just after Rebecca's third birthday we found out we were expecting. It wasn't unexpected at all, but judging from the silence as both of us stared wide-eyed at each other over the positive pregnancy test, we were... terrified. We had a rough road the first time, and had watched friends and family with two do this unending juggle and knew what was ahead.
"It's twice the work!" people told us... (Uh... great?) "You'll realize how easy having one was!" they said... (EASY?!) "Oh, having an older girl is so great - they are so helpful, just like little Mommies..." (Have you MET my stubborn, steadfast, INSANE daughter since turning 3?!?!)
Here's what I've realized in the eight months (today! Happy eight months Lila!) since Lila was born...
- Having one WAS easy! OK, maybe easy isn't the best word, but it was super manageable. I could hand her to my husband and go on my way and vice versa. One of us could sleep in or zone out and BOTH of us could snag a nap on weekends when she decided to take one. Tag teaming was our way of life, and we embraced and were good at it.
- The older one is smarter than you ever knew. They know how to manipulate and work the system to get what they want - ATTENTION. They had it all before, and will do their best to get it all now, as your home fills with people coming to meet the baby and tossing them an "Are you a good big sister?" comment as they walk by. And what people say is right - they don't care if it's good or bad attention - you focusing on them and yelling, "hurry up!" while they stall at getting dressed / going to the potty / eating / picking out a stuffed animal to bring to school / getting in the bath / walking / scooting / ARGHHHHH will do just fine for them. (And two seconds later they'll do something adorable and the frustration that you felt towards them a minute earlier will disappear.)
- The older one feels more than they even know. In case you hadn't picked up on my subtle hints, Rebecca acted out a bit when Lila was born. Not at the baby ever - she LOVES her with all of her heart, it is so sweet - but at my husband and me. She invented an angry voice, angry face, angry grunt - it was, and still is, intense. After searching online for some help, I came across someone that suggested asking her if it was HARD to be a big sister. All people ask is, "are you a GOOD big sister," but no one really asks them how it is. And I realized - when Lila is fussing or crying, I could look at my husband and say, "Ugh, this sucks! Make her stoooop!" and instantly feel a bit better knowing we were in it together. But Rebecca didn't have that person while likely feeling the same way. I went into her room one night to put her to bed and asked the question - is it hard being a big sister? She immediately burst into tears, nodded and told me she didn't want a baby, it's so hard, and bawled good and hard for a minute or two. I told her that it was okay, and I didn't like when Lila cried and fussed either! And I just wished she would stop! And that made Rebecca smile. Suddenly we too were in it together, and she instantly felt - and acted - better.
- The older one can be super helpful, if you make it fun. I've turned just about everything into a game, and let Rebecca call the shots whenever possible. She gets to pick out Lila's clothes, help give her a bath and fetch me things while I time her. We have races to see who gets into the PJs first, who can get from one task or room to another quicker and who can get dressed faster in the morning. I also often don't ask her to do things, just say that I need them done - and (usually) she is all too happy to jump in knowing that she'll get praise for doing so. Lila spit up? "Oh, where are those burp cloths again? I really need one!" Rebecca is up in a flash bringing one to me. I thank her and call her "helper buddy," and it works - most of the time ;)
- Good babies are wasted on first time moms. Someone told me this recently, and it is SO TRUE - I had my tough one first, and appreciated the goodness and sweetness and happiness and non-colickness that is Lila SO much more because of it. I can handle whatever curveballs this one throws at me because her sister hurtled 18 of them at once right at my head. With my girls, my sugar came after my spice - and I wouldn't want it any other way. (Of course, I'd probably say the opposite if Lila was the difficult one, because it wouldn't seem as hard having been through motherhood once before!)
Having two is not just twice the work - it's twice the EVERYTHING!!! Twice the sleeplessness - and twice the sick - and twice the crying - and twice the clothes - and twice the noise - and twice the toys - and twice the injuries - it is simply non-stop where before there were breaks, though you didn't realize it at the time. Now our life is a constant dance of "you're on this one, I'm on that one..."
But it's also twice the laughter - and twice the love - and twice the staring at the (ahhhhh) closed eyelids of your sleeping children - and twice the adorable antics - and twice the causes for my husband and I to stare wide-eyed at each other above the heads of our growing kiddos, in wonder and amazement at the little PEOPLE we've made, and smile.