Last year, I was scared out of my mind.
I was pregnant with baby number two, and, while we were so excited to have a second child, we also had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We worried about how our older daughter would adjust to not being the center of our lives. Yes, we had many “big sister books,” she kissed my belly all the time, and we spoke about all the ways in which she would help.
But when push came to shove, how would she really feel about having this other creature in her life? How would she feel about having to share Mommy, Daddy, and pretty much everything else around her?
We worried about ourselves, too. How would we care for two when we’d be completely sleep deprived? Where would we find time to cook, clean, and do laundry? How would we find time to be with each child AND have time with each other AND have time by ourselves?
We were essentially taking what had become a fairly manageable existence after three-and-a-half years and completely destroying it. I was terrified about the transition and remember crying to my husband at 36 weeks pregnant, asking him if we were doing the right thing.
Recently, on a Facebook group for local moms, someone asked for advice about this very same thing — tips for transitioning from one to two. The advice came pouring in from moms who had been there. It made me reflect on what we did that worked well — and on things I wish others had told me.
1. Get the older sibling involved the day he or she meets the baby.
We explained to our daughter that the day her sister would be born would be her birthday — and she decided we needed to buy birthday cupcakes. So, when my husband told her it was time to go to the hospital, she told him they had to go to Stop & Shop first. We still tear up watching the video of the three of us singing “Happy Birthday” to the baby. Already, big sister got an ego boost and a sense of pride through duty (and she got cupcakes).
2. Help big sister or brother feel special and important
We had gifts “from the baby” ready for her. When people came by and doted on the baby, we made sure to talk about how amazing and grown up big sister was. We were also lucky that our friends and family not only brought gifts for the baby but for our older daughter, too. We also made sure big sister got time separate from the baby, where she got full attention either from a grandparent or parent. We gave her special jobs to do for her sister — this was as simple as counting out diapers or choosing between two onesies for her to wear.
3. Accept help!
Especially at the beginning. If someone offers to cook you a meal, let them. If someone will fold your clothes, let them! We were lucky that we had family help in the beginning. Against my nature, I let them help. Please, accept help AND don’t feel guilty about it. You’re suddenly raising not just one human, but two. If you get to have an extra hour of sleep or a half-hour walk, take it. If people are offering to help, they really do want to! And you’re still an awesome mom if you let them. In fact, you’ll probably be more awesome for it.
4. Lower your standards, and give yourself a break.
Right now, you’re focused on survival. If everyone is fed and clean-ish, you’ve done a good job. No one cares what the house looks like. No one cares that you are wearing the shirt with the three-day-old milk stain. No one cares that you have cried five times today — ’cause hormones.
Spend time with your kids and don’t worry about how chaotic everything seems right now. Enjoy them together. Enjoy them separately. Be OK with not feeling like you’re enjoying them. Enjoy your time with no kids.
This is hard. This is work. But, remember, you can do this. And remember the beauty of the newborn period — it ends! It will get better. You and your family will find your new normal. You will develop new rituals and new routines. Your heart will melt as your two little ones start developing their own special smiles and laughter just for each other. And you will think back and wish you had told your 36-week-pregnant self that it will all be worth it.