It is one of those “as if it was yesterday” moments. I remember it so vividly.
I was cleaning our master bathroom, wearing a tank top I finally fit back into after having my daughter. Life was finally starting to settle down after just over a year of momentous life events. My postpartum weight loss had started off well, plateaued, and then (ugh!) started climbing again. Finally, I had gotten back on track. And thankfully, I was now only five pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight.
But when I looked in the mirror, that shirt I’d just gotten back into suddenly, yet again, looked too tight.
Then, it hit me, my period was due.
I always do this. Around that time of the month, I get puffy. Then, I momentarily mistake that for weight gain. I needed to stop being so hard on myself. I did the quick math in my head.
Wait. Something wasn’t adding up.
I grabbed my phone and meticulously did the math. My period wasn’t due. It was late! Ever since about six weeks postpartum (despite exclusively breastfeeding), I had been on a predictable, 28-day cycle. I stopped cleaning, grabbed my wallet and keys and told my husband I had to go to the pharmacy across the street. I couldn’t admit to him what I suspected was up for fear he’d think I was crazy.
We had just had a baby six months prior!
As I took the elevator back up to our apartment, the pregnancy test was clutched tightly in my hand. The reality of all of it started to sink in. The math was not only suggesting I was pregnant, but the baby would likely be due on my sister in-law’s scheduled wedding day. Good God Almighty. In just over a year, we had gotten married, moved twice, lost two family members, traveled twice to visit family, and became first-time parents. So much for cruise control!
Shortly after the double pink lines slowly presented themselves, I started scouring the internet for tips on two under two. I wanted to know how to successfully introduce a baby to a young toddler, how to parent two under two, and any piece of advice to help get me and my family prepared. I don’t know if my keywords weren’t right, but what I found was minimal and largely directed to older first-borns. After having gone through it myself, here are some tips for planning for and parenting two under two.
Getting Ready for Two Under Two: Before/ In the Hospital
- Have a trial night’s stay for your child wherever they will be staying. This way, when you do go into the hospital, your child will have a better sense of what to expect. Admittedly, I found it daunting to send my then 14-month-old baby to my parents’ place. This was important so she could learn that, though Mama and Papa left her, we came back. A trial run may help reveal any potential problems so you can prepare for when it’s the real deal.
- Buy or borrow a book about becoming a sibling for your child. It is hard to know how much they understand when they are particularly young. At the very least, it made me feel as though I was doing something to prep her.
- Consider having a gift for your child when baby arrives to make it special for them too. We bought a couple of gifts for our 15 month-old to receive at the hospital once Baby #2 arrived. I had read that some parents make the gift from the new baby. We just chose items we knew our daughter would enjoy, wrapped them, and gave them to her at the hospital, so she could feel special too.
Parenting Two Under Two: Coming Home
- Have one-handed snacks and easy-to-warm-up meals in stock. It will help you greatly to have foods that can be eaten while nursing (i.e. protein or granola bars, apples, baby carrots). And on days where it feels like you’ve only nursed/ fed baby, having ready made meals (i.e. soup, healthy TV dinners, leftovers) make a huge difference.
- Have loooooow expectations on what you can accomplish in your day. After I had more or less healed from my cesarean, I was left with both kids on my own. My “To-Do” list comprised of nothing more than a few things. For example, 1) tidy kitchen 2) make dinner 3) toys away 4) clean floors. The next day, I would repeat steps 1 – 3 but swap out 4) for something new.
- When someone can help, DELEGATE.
- If the opportunity for “me” presents itself, TAKE IT. It’s sooooo easy to get caught up in being needed and feeling a sense of obligation to get as much done as possible. When you can, have your partner watch the toddler while you and the baby nap. Use grandma’s visit, to go to the grocery store alone (believe me, this will feel like a luxury), or take a long bath.
Important Reminders for Parenting Two Under Two
- You’re a ‘pro’ at having a baby. Yes, each baby’s personality is different. Some like to be held differently, some cry more, some sleep better, some eat more frequently. But you’ve done this before. It’s easy street. It’s the little toddling person who you have to remind countless times to “sit on their bum” that is the hard work.
- You’ve made the hardest transition already. From one to two is much easier than from none to one. You know emptying the dishwasher may take 5 tries before you get it fully done. You know a 20-minute dinner might take an hour to make.
The Best Parts of Two Under Two (Based on my Experience)
- You’re already in the thick of it, changing diapers, finely cutting up dinners, filling sippy cups, pushing a stroller, singing nursery rhymes, buttoning up pjs, and watching PBS. By having two who are roughly at the same stage, you’re parenting more efficiently 🙂
- They have built-in playmates. It is very typical for children under two to engage in parallel play and not play collaboratively. My kids play with each other more often than not. During exciting life events, they always have someone near their developmental stage to participate in it with them. On a recent family vacation, I realized if it weren’t for my son, my daughter would have spent a week playing with adults.
- Everyone who has had little ones close together or has a sibling close in age tells me my kids will have a close relationship their whole life.
- From toddlerhood on, planning activities is so much easier than if the age gap was greater because they are similar in their capacities.
- They scaffold each other’s learning. My daughter is a slightly more advanced peer and therefore pushes my son to operate in his zone of proximal development. Furthermore, when my daughter repeats words of caution to my son, or instructs him as I would her, she is further advancing her self-regulation (read more about speech scaffolding self-regulation here.)
- Having two little ones in the bath, stroller, playing toys, or snuggled up asleep is way cuter than just one.
- Baby #2 was never a question for us, he was completely planned. Because the timing was sooner than what we had planned, we ended up meeting him sooner and, therefore, had richer experiences and memories sooner too.
- Having Baby #2 is better than Baby #1 because you have the joy of your first and your second.