On 5th July this year we became a family of four. A lot of people had warned me that going from one child to two was far more than twice the work but I didn't believe them. I had failed to consider quite how much a new addition would impact on our toddler Etta's behaviour and emotional stability, and this for me has created the biggest challenge, one that's been very hard to manage.
With your first born you tend to be full of anxiety and paranoia about what you should be doing, whether you're doing it right and whether the baby is ok. It can feel hellish at times but you get through it as you start to trust your instincts and realise that you're doing a good job, and they're more robust than you first thought. You have the option to sleep when they sleep and people flock round in those early weeks with offers of help (if you're lucky) and coo's of love over your little bundle of joy. The bubble is large, full of wonder and love.
Fast forward to number two and wow it's another level of emotional and logistical challenges. Yes you're probably far more relaxed about the new minature human, remembering that everything does tend to be a phase and that you know what you're doing (although it's perhaps a little hazy...) Quite frankly you don't have time to fuss and fret as much as the first time around.
You life becomes the ultimate juggle: Time with the overly emotionally toddler who needs reassurance, stimulation and lots of cuddles, not to mention constant supervision that they're not being TOO loving to their new baby brother or sister, whilst also looking after a tiny human who's completely and utterly reliant on you for survival.
The first born has gone from being the sole focus of your attention, an only child effectively, to having to share you with a more needy, less fun minature human who people tend to coo and fuss over far more than them. The best analogy that I've heard is that it's how you'd feel if your partner brought home a second partner. Your partner could tell you that they still loved you just as much as before but that they're going to have to split their time between you and someone new - and that new person is pretty needy. They're also expecting you to be happy and excited to have someone else in your life, and that they love your equally, but even so my god you'd be mightily pissed off wouldn't you? So I can fully understand what Etta is going through.
The timing of our second meant that it also coincided with a move to a new town - so a new nursery and home - alongside her changing to a toddler bed and some failed attempts at potty training - aka the poo that broke the camels back.
I feel like we're coming through the worst of it, 13 weeks in, but it's not without its epic meltdowns, occasional karate chops and flying kicks to all three of us, and the need for a whole lot of cuddling, chocolate / bribery and wine for me. I now feel virtually zero guilt when i bite into a wedge of brie like an apple because no doubt i bloody well earnt it.
To end on a huge positive, having Uma has brought my husband even closer to Etta as he showers her with love and attention to distract her from my seemingly constant need to feed or shush Uma. I also adore catching those moments when Etta strokes Uma when she's crying and tells her she's ok, or when she kisses her on the head and says "I love you Uma" when she thinks i'm not looking. That is real, not to get chocolate or praise, and it's the start of something really special.