Okay, so you know I was terrified of having two children. You know I have a super intense first-born, and that I feared for my sanity and his safety if having another baby was as hard as I thought it’d be.
I heard two schools of thought from other parents: “one plus one is twenty”; or “the second is much easier.”
We’ve only been doing this two months, and it will change, but here’s what I’ve found so far: the second has made life in our family much easier.
The obvious part is that I know more this time around, and my bag of tricks is not only full but indexed, cross-referenced, and dog-eared. I know what and why and how…and his particular pat of Butter is delightfully easy to read. He has his own sign language already, and it makes life much easier than my first, squalling, hard to read Peanut did.
But the bigger stuff is easier, too. The shock of having a child is enormous, and I was not prepared for P. I had clothes and car seat and slings, I was not really ready because I had no idea that not one second of my day would be my own for years after having a baby. My mom always said that parenthood means never reading the newspaper all the way through; in our house it meant never getting past the headlines on the front page. I had no idea that having a child meant never thinking a thought all the way to completion, rarely showering, never peeing in peace, and crying of some sort every single day. I didn’t know that having a child led to loss of self and to both love and hate. I didn’t know my day would never again follow my rhythm, but rather someone else’s, which made me feel like I was living on another planet, upside down, with three heartbeats guiding me through the fog.
Well, a second child doesn’t change any of that. Those huge changes don’t get bigger. They’re done. I’m not myself and my day’s not mine; that was already true. I can’t grab my keys and wallet and just GO; that was already true. I don’t have time to read or write; it’s been four years, so what’s another four? I’m up at night; already true. Not much has changed except the number of beautiful, perfect, wonderful, needy, crying creatures in my house.
And I’ll tell ya, since my first is so freaking much, so much more, it seems, than most children, the second is an emotional break. He’s a reason to detach during the big one’s tornadoes, the ones that made me feel like a hostage negotiator. Butter is a sweet little lump of need who gives me the distance to see what Peanut needs versus what he wants. Butter bean creates a triad in which I don’t perpetually put myself second because that’s not possible any more. Instead of being last all the time, now sometimes I’m second, sometimes third, sometimes fourth. But here’s what’s new: sometimes I now come first. Because the new balance allows me to see when that’s possible. Little windows in which I am human again.
I don’t know what I’ll feel next month or next year. And I’m done trying to figure it out. Because having children teaches you there’s almost no point in planning, yet I still tried for four years. Having a second baby is teaching me what I’d miss if I spent all that energy again.
Big thumbs up to having two. I laughed as our friend j from 20 Fingers 20 Toes foretold months ago**, but having this wee lad has made me more mellow and life quite enjoyable—the whole “life not being my own” and whatnot notwithstanding.
** “perhaps the new human is a harbinger of calmness entering your life…” 1/10/2010, j