When I found out last summer that I was pregnant with my fifth baby, my fourth child was about to have a birthday. Her first birthday. I couldn’t believe it, I was finally going to have two close together! I was thrilled. The pregnancy was good until the halfway point at which time there were some complications, but more on that another time.
Today I wanted to talk about the reality of having a one and a half year old (19 months to be exact) and a newborn. It was hard. It was downright hard. And it was ugly at times. We are only just now six months into this, and while I am sure there will be joy down the road because of their age gap, the first five or so months weren’t much fun. Here’s why:
I felt guilty.
It wasn’t fair to the baby or to the toddler. They both had some serious needs and neither understood the concept of waiting. Whether it was time to be fed, to have a diaper changed, to be held, or to get into bed, they couldn’t wait long, nor should they. If I hadn’t had my two teenagers to help, one of my little ones would have been crying a lot of the time because they both have so many needs and often times the needs overlapped. And even with their help, there was still crying because sometimes the need is just that they wanted Mama!
It took away some of the enjoyment for me.
I absolutely love the newborn stage but I spent a good portion of it this time caring for (or feeling guilty about) my toddler. I also missed out on fully enjoying the transition from babyhood to toddlerhood; my pregnancy was difficult enough but then to be recovering from birth and caring for a baby? It was hard to enjoy the precious moments of her transition.
The terrible twos don’t always start at two.
It’s kind of like “morning” sickness, yes some women feel ill only in the morning during that first trimester, but a great many women are sick at all hours of the day and night and for much longer than just the first three months. The period of time known as the “terrible twos” is no different. Yes, some toddlers are angels leading up to their second birthday but a great many of them begin testing boundaries and throwing tantrums well before that point. Elizabeth fell into the second category, enough said.
It made other aspects of my life more difficult.
I homeschool my kids. Ever try lesson planning with a baby and a toddler in the house? What if your personality requires that you plan uninterrupted for at least a few hours? Yeah, that hasn’t happened in a very long time. Instead, I have been winging it and feeling lousy because of it. And I have three older children whom I have still had to parent during this difficult time. They have all been good sports (for the most part) and have been as supportive as their ages have allowed, but you know – they have needs, too. It’s been challenging to give everybody attention.
I am only speaking from my experience here, of course. Maybe others have a completely different situation and it goes well for everyone involved, but I feel like a warning should be issued because I DID NOT KNOW what I was getting into. I had become used to seeing adorable photos of toddler siblings holding their baby brother or sister so I assumed to have that, but that was not my reality. Elizabeth has yet to hold Isabella and has only just started to do (super sweet and loving!) things with her. Remember, Isabella has been here for over six months! But Elizabeth was a baby herself when Izzy arrived. And a feisty, spirited one at that. If I could go back, I would space them at least three years apart.
Looking at my other children’s personalities and temperaments, I think my oldest daughter would have been fine with a 1½ year spacing but who really knows? Her brother didn’t arrive until she was three years and eight months old which was perfect. My second child definitely would NOT have thrived as a toddler with a new sibling; his little brother was born when he was nearly eight so it was nice. My third child would NOT have thrived either, but he was absolutely fantastic as a five year old brother when Elizabeth was born. But here’s the thing, you don’t know how things are going to go with a child at a certain age until you’re there and nine months of pregnancy is a long time.
When Elizabeth was a baby, and even during the early months of my pregnancy with Isabella, she was pretty easy and laid back. I didn’t know she was going to be so spirited as a toddler and in need of so much guidance and structure. I didn’t know her speech was going to be delayed and she was going to scream bloody murder instead of talking. I didn’t know that her behavior would make it impossible for me to take her places with her baby sister. I didn’t know that I would feel like giving up on homeschooling after fourteen years. I just DIDN’T KNOW and I wish I’d had some sort of warning so I could make an educated decision. But of course, I probably wouldn’t have listened.
Stay tuned because in an upcoming post I’m going to be talking about Elizabeth’s new ways of interacting with Isabella now that she’s twenty-five months old. It’s gotten really cute all of a sudden. Also coming up: posts on sign language, time-out in her crib, and other techniques I’ve used to help my spirited girl.