Going from 1 to 2: Expanding Your Family is Not for Sissies

Having baby number 2 was a big decision for us, and it wasn’t one we took lightly. If you are thinking about expanding your family, this is for you: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
 
This is our story:
 
I found out I was pregnant when I was 32. Scott and I had been married for 3 years. The decision to get pregnant was a deliberate one; we felt we were ready…or, as ready as we would ever be. 
 
However, it was during my hormone-laden, emotionally-exhausting pregnancy that I decided, “Hey! Law school sounds like a good idea! Think I’ll try to get in.” I took the LSAT while 5 and 7 months pregnant, and the second time I took it, I did 5 points worse. I lay on my couch, bearing much resemblance to a beached whale, and cried my eyeballs out. One week later, I received a letter in the mail offering congratulations on being accepted to the only law school to which I applied.
 
From age 4 months to age 3 years and four months of my son’s life, I was a law student. That wasn’t an easy time, but as my mother put it, “When Marsha went to law school, we all went to law school.” I should have made copies of my law degree and passed them out to my friends and family, as I would have never made it through without tons upon tons of help. And though I was probably not the best mama I could have been during those first years of his life, a slew of people picked up where I left off. Mac was just fine. 
 
As he began to grow and develop and turn into a very typical only child, the lingering question in my head intensified: should we have another baby? I wasn’t sure. 
 
On one hand, I had finished law school and had begun my practice, and I had been elected to the position of Justice Court Judge all about the same time. My career was just beginning. Mac was finally at an age where he was largely self-sufficient. I was still pouring orange juice for him, but not because he wasn’t capable of doing it for himself; rather, he is lazy and I’m a push-over. He could dress himself, shower by himself, brush his own teeth (when he chose to), and clean up his room (again, when he chose to.) Heck, the kid started mowing our grass this year by himself. Self-sufficient indeed! 
 
So as you can imagine, the thought of going back to diapers and bottles wasn’t exactly appealing. Plus, we had our own little three-person family routine. We knew how we did things and why. I wasn’t so certain that I wanted to bring in another little body that may interrupt the flow of things. I know I am selfish, and I really like time to myself. I knew having another baby would greatly cut into that me-time. I worried about it financially. A baby costs a lot, but a toddler costs even more, and a school-aged child even more. Can’t even think about the teenage years and beyond. I wasn’t sure our house was big enough, even though it is a heck of a lot more spacious than the condo that Mac called home until he was 2 ½. 
 
And the number one reason why I was so afraid of having another baby was I flat hated every second of being pregnant. You can read about that here. Intellectually, I got it. I knew it didn’t last forever. But 9 months seems like an eternity when you are in it. And I just wasn’t excited one iota about experiencing that again. 
 
But the flip side: I mentioned above that Mac had only-child syndrome. He was reared among adults. My husband took him everywhere he went…to work, to hunt, to fish, to whatever camp to which he was journeying on the weekends. The kid is seriously a 16-year-old inhabiting a 6-year-old’s body. So it is hard to tell if he was as demanding as he is because he is so used to getting to do things that most 6-year- old kids don’t. But what is more likely is the fact that he was the only grandchild on my side of the family, and we live 5 minutes from my parents. It is an odd day if by 5:07, my daddy’s truck isn’t in our driveway to come look at the “the little boy.” He got every ounce of, not only our attention, but the full attention of my parents, my brother, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. It was evident Mac felt entitled. And why wouldn’t he? He got every single thing he wanted, almost at the moment of asking for it. 
 
In addition, I am one of three and so is my husband. We grew up doing life with siblings. This was something I wanted for Mac. I don’t believe it is mandatory…I know lots of only children who are happy as clams. But because I just couldn’t imagine my life with out my brother and sister, I wanted Mac to have that same sense of camaraderie, that same way of sharing family joys and heartaches, which really, only siblings have. 
 
But honestly, Scott and I were on the fence. We just couldn’t decide if we could seriously bite the bullet and say, “Yes. We most definitely want another child.” So I did what I do in those situations: I prayed a very specific prayer, asking God to make the decision for us. 
 
No more than 10 months later, here came Leelee. Guess we knew what His decision was.
 
 
So now I am the mother of two. Leelee is 9 months old today, and Mac is 6. And here’s what I have learned thus far:
 
Having One Child is Hard, But Having Two is Really Hard:
Now, don’t get me wrong, and I will reiterate again and again: Having two, three, (or Lord help you) ten is WORTH IT. But it is not easy. If you are a person who likes a bit of down time for yourself, you are going to be frustrated because you won’t get it very often. If you like a clean house all the time, you are going to be frustrated because the time you have to clean is limited, and unless you are superwoman, it isn’t going to stay that way for long. If you expect your life to be orderly, you are going to be frustrated because kids bring chaos (but the best kind.) If you are chronically 5 minutes late to everything with one child, you can bet you will feel like you are on time if you are only 5 minutes late with two. I say this, not as a deterrent, but just as awareness. Rearing one is hard; adding another or another or another doesn’t make anything easier.
 
But having kids isn’t about easy. It’s all about the love, and more than one means more to love and more to love you. That is a good thing. 
 
Age Difference Matters:
My children are 5 and ½ years apart. An advantage of having such a gap in age difference is that Mac can help me with Leelee and can do most everything for himself. This works well for the dynamics of our family.  It also kept me from having more than one in diapers and taking bottles at one time. Another plus. There will come a time when my husband and I may actually be able to leave the two of them at home alone without having to hire a babysitter. (Ok, that might be wishful thinking.) They won’t be in college at the same time. My bank account is already smiling. 
 
However, I can see the benefits of having them closer together, but I don’t know that they show themselves until later in life. Once siblings who are close in age get older, they are each other’s playmates. I literally beg my best friend to drop her son, Andrew, off at my house—I swear, I would let him move in—because it is so nice to have someone to entertain Mac. (I don’t particularly enjoy digging for worms, but Andrew does! Yippee!) So, I often think about how much I would love for Mac and Leelee to be able to play together, but that doesn’t even have the potential of happening for a number of years, if ever. But, when they are close in age, you could be doing those bottles and diapers at the same time, and sleep is a sacred commodity. However, those years pass quickly…too quickly, you realize, once they are behind you…and the number of years your kids will have to be one another’s best friend are far, far greater.
 
But, sometimes you don’t choose the number of years between your kids, so you have to go with the flow. I see advantages to each scenario, and I am of the opinion that you take the advantages and run with them.
 
Once You’ve Done the Baby Thing, You Never Forget How:
I was honestly a little scared that, since it had been 5+ years since having Mac, that I would have to re-learn how to be the mama of an infant. I didn’t. Everything about having a tiny baby, now almost a toddler, has come back, just when I needed it. When Mac was little, I kept What To Expect In the First Year on top of my Bible by my bed. Now, I have to dust it off to read it. It’s not that you become an expert when you have your first baby, but experience is the best teacher, and the lessons you learn in parenting your first-born don’t just vanish as they get older. I found that I am much less nervous with Leelee. I am more confident in the way I parent her. I don’t freak out every time I see her chewing on an inedible object. Quite simply, I am a calmer parent with number 2. I’ve done this before. I recognize milestones and sicknesses and sleepiness and discomfort much easier the second time around, because I have a baseline. I have Mac. 
 
Your Children Will Be Different:
I wish I could beat this into every parent’s head, no matter how old their children are. Your. Kids. Are. Not. The. Same. Person. My kids are not the same person. Sometimes, that seems like a good thing; sometimes, not so much. 
 
Today, Leelee and Mac’s milestones from infant to toddler are almost identical. Mac started walking at 9 months old, and Leelee will most definitely be walking before she sees her 10 month birthday. They sat up around the same time, and they crawled around the same time. However, my mother noted the other day that Leelee doesn’t seem to babble quite as much as Mac did when he was her age. But after a moment of contemplation, she followed that observation up with, “That may be a good thing, though, because once he started, he never shut up.” He is his mama’s child. 
 
It would be impossible not to compare, but it is my hope that we all will do so in order to make sure our children are healthy and progressing like they should, and that the thought never enters our heads that one may be “better” than the other. From the goofy things that one child finds funny to the types of food at which the other turns up his nose, each of our children were born to be different…different than us, different than their siblings, different than our friends’ children. There is nothing wrong with your second child if she walks 5 months later than your first; she is probably being carried everywhere by child number one. Or, she is simply going to take her time about wandering into the world of two-legged people. Your first child may have eaten his veggies like a champ, while your second spits them at you. Get over it, and start warming up the frozen chicken nuggets. Your second, like my Leelee, may not babble as much as your first. Other parts of her personality point to the fact that she may be a bit of an observer, taking things in and paying attention to tiny details. I have no doubt that she will come into her own and talk our heads off when she is good and ready.
 
I will admit this: From the time I got pregnant with Leelee, the thought crossed my mind that it would be very easy to compare her to Mac, and that Leelee could easily live in his shadow. Mac is just one of those kids who has a strong personality, gets a lot of attention, and most everything he tries comes easily for him. What if it hurts Leelee to see Mac do things that she can’t do? How will I handle it? 
 
I’ll tell you, I don’t know yet, because she is only 9 months old and we aren’t anywhere near that phase of life. But I do know this: that day is coming. It may be different in ways because of their gender, but there is no doubt that my children are already totally different personalities. I just have no idea how that is going to manifest as they grow older. But just as my brother, sister, and I are, quite possibly, the three most different siblings ever born to one set of parents, I plan to take a page out of my Mama’s book of parenting and foster the things they love and are good at, love them in all the ways they will let me, and never miss an opportunity to tell them just how very special they are. 
 
(Note: There are signs that your child may not be developing properly which could indicate a health problem. Please don’t take this article…or any other article…as a reason to ignore important signals that should be discussed with your pediatrician.)
 
Two Kids are Expensive:
I remember when I was first married and Mama and I were discussing having children. I was convinced that I would never have kids, that I would be a terrible mother, and that we would never, ever be able to afford them. She made it quite clear: if you wait until you think you can afford children, you will never have them. She was right (of course, dang it.) I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to afford having Mac, and I was equally afraid when I got pregnant with Leelee. But you find a way. You figure it out. I’m not an advocate of having a tribe of kids on purpose when you can’t put food on your table, but don’t let money stop you from having number 2. Most of the happiest, closest families I know don’t have huge bank accounts with endless resources, but they sure are rich when it comes to things that mean the most.
 
Growing a family of 3 to a family of 4 is full of transitions. Some are not easy, and I’m not going to sugarcoat it and tell you that they are. But even on the days when I want to pull my hair out, when I find myself researching cruises to the Caribbean that I mean to take all by myself…I look into the faces of my babies and I thank God in Heaven for letting me be their Mama. 
 
And in those moments, nothing could ever make me wish He hadn’t decided to give us number 2. 
 
Did you have a tough transition going from 1 child to 2? Share your thoughts with us by following us on Twitter and tweeting us @CampMakery!