In some ways the answer is a definite yes and in another sense its a no. Maybe i’ll know the answer by the time I get to the end of this and see all my thoughts lined up…
When you’re expecting number 1 your head is in a spin, everything is new and everything is Unknown (with a capital U). I remember going into a baby store to get dummies (pacifiers / soothers) and was shocked – in front of me was a wall of choice! I thought I would just go out during my lunch break and pick up a dummy, I did not realise there would be more than 2 brands and within those brands hundreds to choose from. I was so stunned by this experience I promptly walked out the shop and phoned my husband in a panic. Needless to say, this didn’t happen the second time around. This time I thought I knew what to expect – I would go to the hospital one day, heavily pregnant and the next day I would have a tiny human. I knew what the deal was.
However, I did have nightmares, I was seriously worried about how to take two children to the shops – how the hell do you put two children in the car and then how do you get them both out, which do you take out first? The tiny infant and leave her in the pram in parking or the two year old who would run for the hills in any given situation. This plagued me, my husband was no help at all. (I am now an expert and removing children from the car, thank you very much) (I always take the lesser of the escape artists out first).
So, yes, the second time around you know what to expect just a little more which means that the actual process of having the baby is much easier, so is the preparation and your mindset. What else is much easier is that you know that the little mistakes which racked you with guilt the first time around are actually not that serious in the long run (think missing bedtime or feeding time by 10 minutes). Mentally, you are generally in a better place with the second one.
The arrival of a second child is also not such a shock to the system – you know sleep deprivation already, you know what its like to not understand your baby’s cries and you know that you can’t go out at the drop of a hat anymore (some families manage this but I have no clue how to leave the house in less than 30 minutes).
However two children means double the admin, double the baths, double the dinners, double the activities. This lasts until your second is about a year and then things begin to settle. I’ve found that after the first year of exhaustion and the double-trouble the schedules and activities begin to align – the two begin to eat the same things at the same times and play with one another.
The difficulty with having two children is mainly a management issue – the management of your older child. It starts with the pregnancy and preparing them for the arrival of the second, helping them understand that they are no longer the only focus of your world and making sure that when number two arrives, the two children’s worlds don’t collide. Let’s explore this concept of ‘collision’.
The way I see it, it is easier enough to have two children (and only have two hands) if you can manage them in their own little worlds without those worlds colliding. The two worlds meeting is a good thing, think of ‘meeting’ as playing together, bathing in the same bath, eating dinner together and think of world’s colliding as fighting, jealousy and keeping each other awake. All is well in my world when the children’s worlds co-exist or if the worlds meet but when they collide, I have some serious problems. Our collisions happen when one of our kids is paid more attention than the other, one child is hungry or thirsty, too hot or too cold or tired. So all I have to do is make sure that they’re paid equal attention (or understand that we have to share things), carry lots of food and water and forty changes of clothing.
At the end of the day, I think having 2 children isn’t harder it just requires more planning and more bags. And let me tell you – the moments when you catch them sharing toys or laughing together the whole world stops and is perfect.
[QUICK SIDEBAR: If you’re pregnant and reading this – when you are in hospital for the birth of the second, stay there as long as you can, its like a hotel, linen changed daily, help with the baby and a good night’s sleep … HOTEL!!]