I don’t have advice, only memories.
My most intense memories of that first year weren’t the times we we all four of us together, but rather the times I was mother alone with my kids, pushing two in a buggy, carrying in a sling and holding a hand. Running after a toddler in the park. Both of you with my full attention.
Both of you on the train when we moved house. It was a 3 hour journey but I have no memory at all of it. I suppose that means it was uneventful.
I could tell you that after a while, two feels like the norm and you can’t remember life before. This is true, but not likely to help you with a crying newborn in arms and a toddler clawing at your leg.
Here are a few things I remembered.
Your toddler will grow overnight. Beside the baby they will seem giant-like. All clumsy long limbs and you’ll wonder how it was possible that they were so grown before without you realising. (Later when you have one on one time with them, you'll wonder how you didn't notice they were so little).
There will come a day you have to manage bedtimes alone for both of them and it will be mayhem. You'll read bedtime stories with babe in arms, feeding, with babe asleep, then mooching, then writhing with wind. Or you'll read bedtime stories while pacing the room with baby and it will be an hour after bedtime and nobody will be asleep and it will be okay. It will be ok. It will be ok.
You will deploy liberal doses of cartoons.
You heart will melt when you see the toddler cuddle/kiss/hold the baby.
You will feel a flash of rage the first time the toddler fires a missile at the baby.
Your toddler may turn away from you. They’re protecting themselves as the attention that was theirs only is now shared between two.
You may turn away from your toddler. You’re nurturing a tiny baby and it can be all consuming.
You’ll both come back to each other. At baby nap times, walks and activities with baby in the sling. We did a lot of colouring, and A LOT of walks. There will (and this may feel like an impossibility at this stage, but it will happen again) be a day when you and the toddler get to do an activity alone.
You and your partner will have less time for yourselves and for each other (at least for a while).
You will have more love and noise and mess in your home.
Leaving the house with both baby and toddler will seem epic. You'll plan outings with precision. Places the toddler enjoys, not so far that baby will need a feed before you can sit down.
You'll forget something. You'll wonder how other mothers make it look effortless. You won’t appreciate that someone else saw you moments ago and thought the same.
You'll try never ever to do grocery shopping with both of them. One day you decide you’ll risk it. The baby will cry before you’ve reached the end of the vegetable aisle. You’ll abandon the trolley. You’ll abandon the idea of shopping as you sit in the car park feeding baby (again) and the toddler complains about not having any blueberries.
The baby will crack up with laughter when the toddler tries to make them smile.
There were evenings where the older one slept and the moments where the baby slept soundly in his moses basket and these felt like bliss.
Naptimes when they both slept at the same time, and you could drink a cup of tea alone.
But your toddler is still a baby really. They may be able to hand you nappies and other helping out, but they are still a baby. Spend time with them alone and remember this. And when you can’t spend time, remember that you will, 5 minutes here and there at the start, then later, longer.
And one day you’ll sit in a room and hear them playing together, a game they’ve just made up and are equally engrosses in, and soon you’ll be called up to sort out disagreements over ownership of stuffed toys, but for now you enjoy being past the baby/toddler phase and into some new adventure, new learning.
You’re still making it up as you go along. We all are.
Photo by Sinéad Feeney photography