When I was pregnant with Daisy, I lost count of the amount of things people said to me that filled me with hope about how simple and joyous life with two children would be. She was due at the end of March, so of course my head was full of lovely spring adventures; visions of trips to the park, Ben racing ahead with Daisy snuggled to my chest in her sling; the three of us lying on a blanket, bathed in dappled sunlight glinting through the trees; glorious afternoons spent baking cakes with Ben while Daisy slept peacefully in her basket in the lounge. What actually happened was that I had a post-partum hemorrhage that left me weak and anaemic, Daisy had tongue-tie and couldn’t breastfeed and it rained almost constantly for the entire month of April. I can’t remember ever going to the park, and the only cakes we ate were the ones soaked in my tears of disappointment; ‘this,’ I thought, ‘was not how it was supposed to be.’
I felt cheated, more than anything. People had told me that there was very little difference between having one and two children, and this was the biggest porky I heard; there is a world of difference, notably because you’re suddenly outnumbered if you’re on your own. To this day, they’re like miniature tag-team wrestlers; working together, they’ll take it in turns to cry, whine, complain, demand, shout and finally do something heart-stoppingly dangerous. My nerves are frazzled, I spend so much time counting to three that our neighbours must think I can’t go any higher (“I’m going to count to three, and if you don’t stop poking your bottom / picking your nose and wiping it on the sofa / burping in your sisters face there will be NO PUDDING. One. Two. Three…..”) and I can’t remember the last time we had a whole night’s uninterrupted sleep, but I still wouldn’t change it for the world.
What I would change, however, is the fact that I was duped by people and their dirty fibs about how life would be. So for a laugh, I decided to list the top five myths associated with having a second child and then bust the shit out of them with the hard truth.
1. Your second labour will definitely be easier, and the recovery will be much quicker.
I thought I’d break you in gently with something that actually turned out to be half true; my labour with Daisy was easier, and way quicker – it was a few hours as opposed to three days, and I actually don’t remember ever feeling like I couldn’t cope with the pain. As I delivered her, I remember thinking, ‘cor! I’ve had worse poops than that!’…. and then came the rather bloody aftermath. A post-partum hemmorhage and a placenta that refused to shift resulted in me looking like an extra in a slasher film, and the bathroom looking like a kill-room in a Hollywood blockbuster. The thing is though, this was all down to bad luck and could have happened with the first baby, the second baby the fifth baby or the tenth baby. There’s no set rules to labour, regardless of which baby you’re having – likewise, if you had a terrible labour the first time around, there’s absolutely nothing to say you won’t sneeze the second one out. Adopt ‘different baby, different labour’ as your mantra, and you’ll be grand.
2. The baby just ‘slots in’ to the routine you already have.
Err, no. Quite the opposite actually, sorry. The only way your new baby will slot into your own routine is if your day currently consists of never leaving the house, shitting yourself regularly and eating every two hours – expecting a newborn to just fit around you is like expecting Santa to pop along on a unicorn and deliver you a lottery win; it’s simply not going to happen. Stock up on tinned goods and biscuits, sign up to Netflix and make no plans to leave the house until your new baby is at least school age, and you’ll be fine.
3. Your older child will adore the new baby, and you’ll all bond together during feeds.
Another half truth here; Ben (and quite a lot) of children adore their younger siblings, and thankfully we had no incidents of attempted smotherings, but bonding together during feeds was way out of the question. Mostly because of the truth behind lie number four…..
4. Breastfeeding a second child is ALWAYS easier.
Ha! Ha ha! Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! No. I posted elsewhere about my breastfeeding woes, but the sad truth is that no, breastfeeding is not necessarily easier the second time around. Granted, if you successfully managed it the first time, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect and how to deal with any problems, but if you didn’t get to grips with it then you might find it just as tough the second time around. I thought everything would magically just work out, and at first it was fine – but then all the old problems started to surface again; the agonising latch, the cracked and bleeding nipples, the constant hunger (her), the desperate sobbing (me). It turned out that she had tongue tie, and nobody had thought to mention it to us or offer the corrective surgery – so at six weeks I popped a bottle in her mouth and we never looked back. I guess my point is that breastfeeding is almost never easy, regardless of whether you’re expecting your first or fifth child – you can do everything they tell you and sometimes it’s just not meant to be. And that, my friends, is that.
5. They just entertain each other – if anything, life with two is easier than with one!
Hilarious! Oh, how you joke. First off, a newborn can’t even work out that it has hands, let alone how to play with anything successfully. Once they’re a few months old, they’ll be crawling, dribbling monsters, interested only in offensively loud, garish plastic toys and bumping into things, and after that, they turn into toddlers that want to have everything their older sibling has RIGHT NOW IF NOT SOONER. I can count on one hand the amount of times my two have played the same game together nicely, with no shouting / screaming / clobbering each other with wooden saucepans, but the fact of the matter is that those few times make my insides turn to mush. I’m a sucker for cute, what can I say?
I realise that I might have made having two (or more) children sound pretty stressful and tiring, and I suppose it is – but isn’t parenting always a bit like that, no matter how many children you have? There will always be good and bad days, but when I see their two blonde heads nestled together, sharing a book or giggling at something, it makes the failed breastfeeding attempts, the nightmare mornings and the tantrum Olympics more than worth it. Now, pass the wine…