when two is better than one By Louise Jowett
In the lead up to my daughter's first birthday I have found myself in a wondrous web of memories recalling themselves in my mind as I watch a person I did not know on this day a year ago. It's astounding to stop and think how, as humans, we adapt and allow our hearts to love so freely without great effort or question. As she lays asleep I wonder over the first time I saw her face, how I'd spent days, or weeks visualising. I had no idea.
I had no idea how it would be to love another. I had no idea how it would be to parent another. I had no idea how it would be to envelop a new being into our family of three. But I do, and I have. I'm not saying it's easy, it never has been since the first day. That doesn't make it any less special, nor confounding.
Since finding out I was expecting Heidi, I only ever recall one person truthfully telling me that being responsible for two little people is more of a transformation (think turning upside down and shaking until your bones re-order themselves into the shape of an elephant) than that where you go from happy-go-lucky young and in love to one new baby. So I'll tell you now: having one single dependant offspring cannot be compared in any way to multitasking in no way you have ever known possible to having two. I say "having", call it what you will - looking after, parenting, winging, guessing.
When I considered how to love another, I'm not sure I could have truly considered how my son would love another as an older brother. After all, he was still my baby. At only three years old would his heart and mind be capable of endlessly loving another? I know that for our first few years our world is based around ourselves. Why else would the colour of our cup or the shape of our apple slices be so emotive? So in a world where my son is unknowingly self-centred and has not yet grown to be capable of understanding complex feelings and emotions he has adapted to care for, protect and love another without thought. And this is why, for all the hardship in parenting more than one, I wouldn't change it for the world.
It seems all the advice I was given (particularly in my heavily pregnant cry-at-the-sight-of-chocolate stage) has come to fruition. It really is true what they say; there is no better gift to offer than a sibling. In the same way you cannot imagine how you will leave the house before 2pm (before having kids), you just, kind of, do (mostly, definitely not always). And guess what? It's all okay. Despite my concern for how my newborn would be abandoned in the corner of the room whilst I entertain her older brother, or how her older brother wouldn't get a look in for bottles, nappies, nor wipes, or how I could possibly cope with a preschooler on close to zero sleep. It all comes together and we march on as we always have. Because life is fast, and time is short and so rather than spending time worrying or wondering how I'm trying to spend more time focusing on right now.
Here are some of my favourite parts so far:
The first introduction
Spending a summer of maternity taking trips to the park
Preschooler-free days of maternity bonding with a new baby and recovering (something I'd recommend, though it comes with a serving of guilt as expected)
Watching in wonder as older brother appears to "teach" a young baby parts of his world
And the outtakes:
The first poo in the bath evacuation
The headlock hugs
The sneaky occasional reminder of pecking order for baby sister (and those are the ones I'm lucky to catch)
Tag team emotional meltdowns (kids mostly, adults occasionally)