The big buck here at the end. I asked each woman to give me two final thoughts: what makes this doubling up on kids so joyful, and what would be ... your famous last words on the topic?
I confess, I was most interested in that last part. When I hear that question I pause, take a breath, and give them great weight. I expect that whatever I'm going to hear or say is really the heart of the matter. You find out a lot about a person in answer to this question. I've heard people feeling down-and-out break out with great optimism in answer to those few words!
Also, I'm sure y'all know this isn't a religious blog, but religion is big in my life. Where the women discuss it, I've kept it for print. Honestly, okay, I'm being really honest here... I thought about deleting them. What would you think of this little blog if I included them? Sure, they were important for me, but would you roll your eyes and think, Great, another one of those... After a lot of finger-sliding over the keyboard, squinting eyes--a symptom of deep thought--I've chosen to go for it. At the very least it will give you insight into their perspectives.
So enjoy this Friday installment of Doubling Up. Famous Last Words...
What were some of the greatest joyful surprises with the addition of a second child?
The best thing in the world is seeing the two children develop a relationship which I do think happens right from the beginning. And it gets better as they get older. We still love to listen to the conversations the brothers have. Some of the funniest moments in my life have been watching the boys play together (especially in the tub - you will see...).
Greatest joyful surprises...so many actually, but a few are seeing how Abigail took to Amelia and now, their budding friendship. Also, for me that feeling of your heart just bursting with just as much love for another child, an even deeper love for Ryan as he was even more helpful, patient and wonderful because he would witness on nights/weekends when he was home that it was alot to handle at times.
Children are amazing! How can two children with the same parents be so different? And how remarkable that they love each other so much! I am repeatedly astonished at how much love we are capable of: my heart was full on my wedding day; my heart spilled over on the day my first baby was born; and it exploded when I met baby number two. This imagery implies that I should have no more pieces of my heart left, but, somehow, my heart continues to burst as I immerse myself in family life.
The way the girls play and laugh. Our home is filled with joyful laughter and happy screaming about 90% of the time, and it makes me smile. Now that they are 5 and 3, they play together so well and are each other's best friends (and at times worst enemies). Even when Clare was born, Hannah was always so helpful, interested and motherly. Clare was the same with Emily (though a little more aggressive) They also understand that they are not #1, and I find don't demand as much--they are learing patience. They also teach each other--help each other read and zipper coats. They give hugs and get in trouble together. I really love our girls.
How quickly the labor/delivery went! Enjoying the baby things all over again and knowing how quickly they pass by. Seeing Tom say "Hi Baby David" every morning and enjoying making his brother smile. Seeing how MUCH they look alike and how much the little noises and laughs David makes are similar to Tom's, and yet how much he is his own person. Seeing Arch be Daddy to two little guys and enjoying/remembering the baby phases.
What would be your "last words of advice" to moms preparing for their second child?
Remember that you made it through the rough times with the first child and you will do it again with the second. Hopefully, it will be easier this time to keep things in perspective and remember only to stress over the important stuff (safety is worth a little stress. skipping a bath one day is not). And stay close to friends and family who remind you that you are not only a mom - you are still YOU, just now motherhood is a wonderful part of your life. And for you, Jen, you have the amazing advantage of living on a block with people who want to help you - and will be there for you any hour of the day or night. Don't be afraid to ask for that help. (Just like our 3rd asked Hawk to make mac and cheese for lunch today - which was delicious, by the way.) Thanks, Kerry! We love that stuff. You're sort of our super-neighbors.
Last words of advice.....There really is no way to totally prepare, I honestly don't think...it's like riding a bike, you can explain it, yes, but it's a feeling. You just have to get in your groove and once you get it down and get a routine it's much easier. It is very difficult and there are days when you just want to cry and do, but it is also the greatest gift ever, to be blessed with another child. Do make a point to get out with your husband, as it is so easy to get caught up in the "rat race". We would put the girls down and then go out like 7:30 or so we knew they were safe in their beds sleeping, we could relax more. I feel this is so important because I know I can be snippy and crabby when I'm tired and never want Ryan to feel not appreciated or as important and I know its the same for him. Also, I have heard that some worry "will I love the second like I do the first?" and YES! you cannot believe how your heart bursts with love and you love each one so much. It really is amazing how fast the time goes. Last but not least, I will say what my mom always says, and what her mom told her and that is......."this too shall pass" :)
Don't talk about whether the older child will accept the new baby or feel jealous. Your married life should model openness and hospitality. From the moment you tell your family there is a new baby growing inside, rejoice! Make sure your older children know each life is a constant celebration. We found the image of a candle is helpful: at the Easter Vigil, the Easter candle is the only light in the church at first. As hundreds of people light their candles from it, that Easter candle's flame never diminishes--it seems to want to provide as much light as possible! In the same way, your family can grow and grow (as God provides), wanting to share as much love as possible, and the love never diminishes for any member of the family.
Here's a tip I personally needed so I could become less selfish as more and more people began to depend on me: start your day with a morning offering. The Apostleship of Prayer is an organization dedicated to helping people pray. On their website you will find various prayers you can consider using to dedicate your day to the heart of Christ--every action, every word, every poopy diaper, every dish, every round of Candy Land (it's even OK to pray through a game of Candy Land which you have rigged! I am so good at surreptitiously stacking the deck with Queen Frostine, I should tackle Vegas. Would someone please just WIN this inane game, already!)
Finally, stay close to God and the church. If you are Catholic, receive the Sacraments often:
• Your husband is your best friend and helpmate, and you need the grace of your marriage vows to keep working together as a pair.
• Something real happens at Reconciliation--the weaknesses that brought you to confession can diminish as Jesus heals and strengthens you.
• The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian lives. Making it through Mass with squirmy little children can be absolute drudgery, but the rhythm of churchgoing forms a family. The Eucharist is not a hoax; it is real food you can depend on.
Relax, you've done it before. We also have more anxiety and worry than our kids do, they will be fine and adapt, we just need to love them to our best ability and strive to be better. Always make time for your spouse and make sure to give them the attention they need!
Pray. Pray for you, your husband, your older child(ren) and the baby. If you need to make a major change for your firstborn, think about it months in advance. If you need to use the crib for the baby, transition your toddler before the birth or wait until long after. Think about how much time your older child needs for his/her bedtime routine and figure out whether you can do it with a newborn, because a newborn's schedule is not predictable at first. Make sure you have a safe baby proofed place to put your toddler while you're putting the newborn down for a nap and you need it quiet. Conversely, have a safe place to put your newborn while you're putting the toddler down for a nap. Have a special bag of toys and books that are new and exciting (or just ones he hasn't seen for awhile) to help occupy your toddler while the baby is nursing or needing to go down for a nap and you can't play. Know that it's easier than your first because you will actually know what you are doing this time :) And know that God has planned your child's siblings and chosen you as their mommy!
I truly hope you've enjoyed this little venture of ours. Please do let us know what you think. Is everyone out there nuts to go for two? If you have, how has it changed you? Should we do another round of Doubling Up sometime, and if so, what are some questions we should hit?
On a personal note, I'm in agreement with much of what has been said about how the family grows and joy grows and love grows, but I've also been amazed at how much having our daughter, our second, has quieted me. Made me pause. Made me more gracious, more interested in improving myself for the sake of another. There's something, dare I say something so cliche, magical that happens with #2. With our first, our attention really centered on him. It was focused at the same point. But with two, the "division" of attention has slowed our pace, and it seems that all four of us now are simply more aware of and attentive to each individual and the whole. Does that make sense? Like some veil was lifted and things have become more clear. And interesting. And present. So very much this day, this hour.
Okay, maybe I need to hit publish and shush.
with love and affection for you, readers,