Posted in Authors, Blog, Family life, Featured, Just for you, Life as a mom, Mother, Shawna, Wife

Can you love two kids at once?

When you are pregnant with your second, or contemplating such a thing, you worry that you couldn’t possibly love another baby as much as your first.

Everyone assures you that this won’t be a problem, that love is not finite, that you will immediately have enough love for them both. My grandmother, a mother of seven, was especially reassuring to me in this area.

Just hours before Ruby was born, I rocked my precious 23-month-old baby Quinn to sleep. It was a rough night for her for some reason (ha ha), and despite being nine-months-pregnant and beyond exhausted (and already having contractions, though I didn’t let myself realize it yet), I remember just watching her face, smoothing down her hair, singing to her. Happily. I lllllllooooooooooovvvvveeed her. She was my life.

Then I went to bed with my sweet husband, who I still love quite acutely. But I remember what it used to be like when we spent the whole day together. Absolutely, effortlessly together. When he was my life. Our decade of inseparability is still a powerful thread between us, but these things shift a bit when you rarely get time alone, when you are completely drained by the time you get those moments, when both of your hearts and arms are often otherwise occupied.

We talked for a few hours, cuddled briefly and then I turned to the mountain of pillows that are the constant sleeptime companion of the very pregnant woman, rested my head, and started to drift off to sleep. About 10 minutes later, Ruby slammed down into my pelvis, starting her journey towards us.

Two and a half hours later, Ruby was born. I held her little body to my chest, looked in to her eyes, and studied her sweet little face. “Yes,” I thought. “It’s you.” That same instant recognition, overwhelming delight and effortless love I felt when Quinn was born.

The feeling got a little more complicated a few hours later, when my sister brought Quinn in to meet her new baby sissy. Here was my baby Ruby, who I loved so much, and here was my baby Quinn, who I loved so much, but when did she get so big?? It was honestly a little challenging for my heart to sort itself out. It took at least a few weeks. And it was hard and sad. Sometimes when Quinn was out with my mom at the park or something, I would cry. I missed her so much. Sometimes I missed her when she was right there, because I had to be so focused on Ruby, who I also loved madly and who needed me much, much more. Eventually I learned how to hold them both at once (literally and figuratively!!).

It was sort of like going home for Christmas in those first few years of college. You had this fun college life, your actual life, which you loved. But then you were suddenly back home with all of your family and old friends and suddenly that was your life. I would always cry when I left home, but would feel good again once I got to college. But with two kids it’s like you suddenly have both your old life and your new life and your heart feels torn and twisted and confused. It’s not easy to sort it out, especially with all the added challenges of living with two tiny people who are also trying to sort out their feelings for each other.

Here I am, 14 months later, and I am madly in love with both of my daughters at the same time. I still prefer alone time with each one, but it’s much easier to focus on the two of them together. It’s second nature now and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Their love for each other is also amazing to see, and more than makes up for any limitations I might face.

Having two kids is definitely harder on your marriage, though. I certainly don’t love my husband any less than that first blissful week we spent together giggling, messing around, and wandering the streets of Portland hand in hand. But I don’t have much time to ruminate on my love for him, or to act on it. And we sure don’t get much time to giggle or mess around :), though we do get to hold hands occasionally.

You also never get a break with two, and you can’t really give each other a break, because your spouse can’t handle more than one for a long, long time (not that you could really pass off that precious newborn when you already feel like you hardly get any time alone with her). You find yourselves fighting more just because of the constant chaos, and even more spent at the end of the day. But the other side of that coin is the solid conviction that you are a family, that you are actually building something big here. If you just hold sight of each other, cling to the few date nights you get and throw yourself into all the good moments you all get together, you’ll make it through. I’m pretty sure, anyway ;).

But there is one thing that definitely is finite, and that is patience. No one tells you this before you have two. But believe me, you will be amazed at how quickly your fuse blows. I can honestly say that I never lost my patience with Quinn before Ruby was born. I remember reading parenting books that referenced losing your temper and I thought it was crazy. Not that I was always perfect, but I always had control. I was able to use parenting strategies and stick to my plans on how to deal with certain behaviors.

Now I lose my temper all the time. I usually catch myself within a few seconds and redirect myself, but I get angry at my children in a way I never could have imagined before. At first, you think it’s just because your toddler’s shenanigans are now an actual threat to your precious newborn that your hackles are so raised, like a mama lion protecting her littlest cub. But as time goes by you realize that you just don’t have any more patience than you did before, and that you need a lot more of it when you have two.

These days I tell myself it’s not a bad thing that the kids sometimes see mama angry, as long as they also see mama address her anger and channel it. I also always own up to it. “I’m sorry that mama got so angry, but it is not OK to try to pick your sister up by the head. You could have really hurt her, and I don’t let anyone hurt either of my precious girls.” Or some such. I hear about some mamas who put themselves into time out and I think that’s brilliant, but I can’t ever seem to think of it when I’m seeing red.

You just become so much more reactionary when you have two. All of your plans and goals and priorities can no longer drive your every moment. You are constantly dealing with two very different, very busy and very rule pushing little people. That’s what toddlers need to do and as a mama of two you are sorely outnumbered. But when you look at them both in a good moment, like when Quinn and Ruby put on a show for me yesterday complete with singing and dancing (more like mumbling and shifting for Ruby but it was too darn cute), or when you watch them go lick for lick with a popsicle and you didn’t even have to tell them to share, your heart is fuller than you could have ever dreamed.

 

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  1. Thank you for this. I have a 17 month old boy and three week old girl. You have described the fears and the love exactly like I have experienced them. And he does seem so big now!!
    My patience has worn thin with him by the end of the days and that’s never happened before. He’s always seemed like such an angel, and since she came home, tantrums have increased and I seem I have higher expectations for him than I used to have.

    This helped me realize its me that’s changed, not my little scamp.

  2. Wuanita L Purcell says:

    Wow that gave me a few tips .. hopefully i can grow some patience i have a 3 month old and a 16 month old. ..my fuce is always blown n i don’t hide it. . I stay at home n their dad works i need help with them a break. . N he doesn’t help this experience for me 2 under 2 is definitely challenging when u have no help

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