Having two under two isn’t always pretty but Amanda Cassidy says she would do it all over again...(ish)
Did you do it on purpose? That's the most common question I got when we announced our second pregnancy just six months after we welcomed our first-born baby daughter. Looking back, we were high on the joys that come with a placid baby who is old enough to smile and sleep through the night, yet not mobile enough to cause the chaos that comes (and boy does it come).
We’ll have another, we decided happily- our theory being that we were already submerged in the ‘baby years’ so we might as well go all duck or no dinner. And we weren’t wrong. Just 15 months after we became parents for the first time, we found ourselves cradling our baby son and introducing him to his fulltime co-conspirator.
A steep learning curve
It is fair to say that the following year is a bit of a blur. I learnt that potty-training at 18-month-old while breastfeeding is possible.
I wore out my hips carrying two babies up and down the stairs and I learnt that it is easy to get overwhelmed so you have to either sink or swim. Of course, the chaos was pierced with flashes of extreme joy but the exhaustion of combining sleep training for one and night feeds for the other is etched in my memory. I’d hurl myself quietly from one room to the other willing them not to wake the other like a crazy ninja. I did everything with one hand including eating Nutella straight from the jar. It was survival mode for that first year. It certainly doubles the work, but that’s what happens when you condense the baby years. It ends up being as intense as you might imagine.
But the feeling of achievement and pride are also unforgettable. I watched my baby daughter fall in love with her baby brother – her ever-present companion, playmate and occasional scrapper.
Soon, I started to see the bigger picture. They were inseparable, they wanted to watch the same TV shows (In The Night Garden theme song haunts my dreams).
They ate the same consistency of food and enjoyed all the same activities. They went to play-school together and had the same friends. Having two children at the same stages is, in fact, easier in many respects. You are not flip-flopping from baby needs to child needs, back and forth which can be just as tiring.
A new perspective
Of course, not everyone has that same ability to embrace short-term chaos nor can we dare to imagine that mother nature’s timings can adhere to our carefully made plans. Medically speaking, it is also recommended to wait at least 18 months to allow our bodies to recover from childbirth but emotionally, I loved having my babies at the same time.
It is a deep dive into parenthood. We learnt on the fly. We were lucky to have great family support and my husband's job was flexible enough that he was usually available, arms outstretched to take one of the babies off their wild, permanently bath-robed mother.
We sleepily swapped shifts in the night. I’d cook, he’d clean. I’d feed and he’d burp. I’d cry and he’d hug.
We obviously killed each other along the way – usually when both children were competing for the accolade of screamer of the year and he’d hide in the bathroom. But when you become parents together for the first time, you discover dimensions to your partner that you never knew they had.
This, of course, isn't unique to those with small age gaps. If you are lucky, the good will usually outweigh the bad but it is certainly magnified when you have two under two. While you are minding at this level, you do also need minding yourself. Luckily, you end up being too busy to even question your parenting practices. You keep them alive, clean and if the majority of the family are not crying by the end of the day then it's a good day.
A brutal but beautiful reality
Naturally, being heavily pregnant and looking after a 10-month-old isn’t high on my list of things I’d recommend you do in your life (although two-hour naps every day, if you are at home, are a perk). But slowly, everything began to make sense. My 7 and 8-year-old are now inseparable – they are learning at a similar rate – discovering the world at the same pace and enjoy all the same movies, games and music.
Now things are much easier. I see them taking turns to push themselves on the swings and melt when I see their heads bent close together discussing Pokemon swaps. I imagine they will continue to have the same things in common as they reach adulthood, be able to relate to each other in real time as they glide from secondary school to long-term relationships, their own children and beyond.
If you find yourself in this situation know this; It is a brutal but beautiful reality. It is only this mental for a very short time. Soon you will emerge from this stage, delirious but delighted. Life has a funny way of helping you forget even the toughest times.
In fact, I forgot so much that I went and had another baby…three years later.