Dear Priscilla and Mark,
This morning, I found out via Facebook (of course!) that you are expecting your second child. Congratulations!
I expect you both are over the moon with happiness, and so it should be. If there’s anything more wondrous than finding out you are pregnant for the first time, it is seeing those two little lines again.
I know exactly how you feel in fact, because like you, I struggled to conceive my first child (who is now a merry little seven year old). And like you, I wasn’t sure if trying for our second baby would be as tough or fraught with emotions as the time around.
Turned out it wasn’t tough, but the feelings that swept over me when I found out I was pregnant again were as intense. Now, my littlest guy is on the cusp of turning five and both he and his older brother have taught me and my husband many lessons along the way in our life journey together so far.
I’d like to share some of these lessons with you, parent to parent, mum to mum.
Is it possible to love another human being as much as you love your first child? It sure is, if this person is your second child.
1. You’ll relearn love
If you thought your heart could take in no more love when you saw Max for the first time, think again.
There’s nothing like seeing your own eyes gazing at you yet again, taking in that whiff of sweet newborn baby scent again, or seeing those tiny oval fingernails tipping exquisite little digits once more, that expands the walls of your heart and soul.
There’s also nothing comparable to seeing the love between your two little girls grow and blossom. And as you see Max’s face light up when she sees her little sister for the first time, or you notice that unique unspoken language of love that siblings share, you will feel a love that burns with an unimaginable fierceness and you’ll know this love can never be extinguished.
That’s just the start of relearning love.
2. You’ll also relearn tiredness
When your littlest one is born, Max will still be a toddler. It was the same with us – my little boys were born within 2.3 years of each other, with my older boy still lisping his love to me in baby talk when his little brother joined us.
Caring for two babies at the same time is hard (but not impossible, as you’ll find out in the next point).
You’ve got this sweet little newborn nuzzling at your breast and at the same time, you’ve got an active little toddler pulling at your legs, asking for a snack. You’ve got to get your tiniest girl to sleep, but at the same time, you’ve got your older girl warbling her favourite song like she’s auditioning for a talent show and demanding that you watch her now.
And so you breastfeed your littlest one on the go and get your toddler her snack. You wear your newborn while watching your toddler perform, even though all you want to do is sleep.
You’re up all night with your newborn, and you’re up all day, running after your toddler while being with your newborn.
But you do it, day after day, even though your body is crying out with exhaustion.
Between your children’s demands, there is you, totally in love with your two girls, but dreaming of a time when you can get some rest too. Sleep has never felt more desirable, yet seemingly unreachable. But there is a way you can tackle this…
3. Share parenting
It takes a village to raise a child, they say. But if you don’t want that village crowding around you right now, especially in those early newborn days, then it’s so important you work as a team to support each other and your little girls.
Shift work will be essential more than ever, to make sure both of you get adequate rest. Remember that dad can do everything mum can do (except for breastfeeding!). Caring for two can be physically and emotionally exhausting, but by having each other’s backs at all times, you can make things much easier.
Priscilla, we wish that your two little girls grow up with the special kind of love you share with your sister too. (Image: Mark Zuckerberg Facebook page).
4. Dealing with sibling jealousy
When we had our second little boy, I was so worried about how his older brother would handle the sudden split of attention, despite us preparing him as best as we could throughout the pregnancy. He was not even two and a half, after all.
But as he toddled in to the hospital room, holding a big bunch of balloons and with the cutest grin plastered on his sweet face, I knew things would be okay. I was reassured even more when my usually rambunctious toddler gently cradled his newborn brother like he was the most delicate thing on earth.
Having said that, we’ve had our fair share of sibling-related jealousy and fights (still do).
Once, when I was handling a tantrum by my youngest boy and he calmed down in response to what I was saying to him, I lavished praise on him. With a sinking heart, I noticed my older boys’s face fall and my usually sweet-natured son stomped away, with a ‘you don’t love me’ thrown my way. I realised that while I was trying to calm my younger son, his big brother had been patiently waiting to show me a picture he had drawn. Which I did not ‘see’ in my efforts to thwart the tantrum.
My older boy (still a chubby toddler) and his little, newborn brother.
The lesson from this? Avoid jealousy-inducing situations as much as possible (even though you can’t possible have them growing up squabble-free). You want your girls to grow up as best friends, not rivals.
Be generous and fair with your love, hugs, kisses to both. If one has done something to please you exceptionally, by all means praise her but don’t forget to point out something nice that the other one did as well, and thank her for it.
Encourage Max to assist with your newborn in appropriate ways. She could fetch things for you, help organise her sister’s things before bath-time, sing to your youngest and so on. All this will make her feel important and involved, minimising chances of jealousy and nurturing her independence at the same time.
When they are old enough, talk to your girls about loving and caring for each as they grow into adulthood. Reinforce the importance of sisterhood, of sibling love, by recounting stories of your own days growing up with sisters, with siblings.
This way, you’ll help dispel rivalry and grow love between them instead.
4. Dealing with double demands
When you give birth to your new little girl, you’ll have not one, but two demanding little ones. How is it possible to be in two places at the same time, when your newborn is wailing because her diaper is full and your toddler is howling because she wants a snack?
The trick is to keep reminding yourself that you are human and can handle only so much at a time, and then, to attend to whichever child has the greatest need first.
Unless of course both have diaper blowouts simultaneously (the probability of which is highly likely quite often). Then, you’ll need to divide and conquer (see point 3).
Some tips: Set out a snack corner for your toddler so you don’t have to run to grab her a snack the moment your newborn latches on. Likewise, have a basket filled and ready with ‘special’ toys and books that you bring out during time when one-on-one time with your newborn is absolutely essential, such as feeding time.
You’re soon to be new parents all over again, even though you are old hands at parenting in many ways. And as far as parenting two little ones goes, I’ve only just scratched the tip of the iceberg in this letter to you about what to expect.
There’s so much more, such as how their little noses are the same but their personalities are so different, or how one likes broccoli and the other hates it with a vengeance.
This is the most exciting and magical part of parenting two little ones that no other parent can tell you about: to discover these unique and subtle similarities and differences in your two girls, cherishing each one and adding them to your book of memories as you watch your girls blossom into the strong, independent and caring women that you want them to be.
A mum of two.