I read all the books. I practiced swaddling on plastic dolls. I learned how to properly burp a newborn and I even watched all the videos on how to get your baby to sleep. I had no idea what I was doing, but despite this, I felt prepared when my first daughter was born.
Call it naiveté, but my wife and I felt like we had it handled, and when situations arose, we dealt with them. With one child we were able to work together as a team and it made the process feel smooth and doable. One person did a task and the other watched the baby. I went back to school and was working part time, while my wife worked during the day, so our schedules fit together perfectly. We felt like we had done it. We had made the transition to parenthood with little to no casualties! (This is when you should start shaking your head and laughing with our optimistic naiveté.)
Two children would be no problem, right?
The answer is, yes and no. It is not necessarily harder or easier, just different. The fact of the matter is that at this point, as a team you have put in a lot of the groundwork. You learned alot from your first child (hopefully), so you are not necessarily facing anything new. Rather you are now adjusting to the same tasks. However, this time with a smart, witty, frustratingly stubborn two-year-old (at least in our case.)
The issues change from “How do you change a diaper?”, to “How do you change a diaper while your toddler is playing in the toilet, and the baby just peed all over you and the bed because you were distracted by the toddler in the toilet, and didn’t put the diaper on fast enough?”
I do not have all the answers.
I am figuring it out as I write this, but I do know that for us, over the last week, patience with each other and unconditional love for our children have been huge keys.
My two-year-old daughter has been an only child and is now dealing with a new family member. My wife and I had a system down and we are now expanding this system to also consider a growing two-year-old. I have found that taking a stance of constantly growing and learning in life will always be more helpful than thinking I have it figured out.
Grace for each other and grace for our oldest daughter has been key as well. A brand-new baby has just entered the world and is helpless. A toddler does not recognize this. How could they? They are going to test you; they are going to be extra cranky. And you know what? You are not sleeping; your wife is especially not sleeping; so you are going to be cranky as well.
Take help when and where you can get it. Sleep whenever you can, and most importantly enjoy every moment of the chaos because we are not promised tomorrow. Every day those children grow bigger and bigger, until they are not our tiny babies anymore.