Having 2 under 1 (or "Irish twins")
Finding out you are pregnant with your second child within the first year of having your first can certainly feel daunting. Planned or not, it's only natural for concerns and fears to crop up.
How will my first child react to the newborn baby? How will I manage with two under one? Am I being a bad parent having another so quickly when my first is still so small? What practicalities do I have to think of? How will I cope financially? How will I cope mentally?!
These are all questions that will no doubt spring to mind. There is a wealth of information online about managing with 2 under 2, but hardly anything about 2 under 1.
It’s not really surprising that there isn’t much first hand information - because what parent of 2 under 1 has time to write a blog!?
Here are some things that you will almost definitely experience during your first magical year as a parent who has had two babies within a year of each other.
Warning: there is no sugar coating.
THE SECOND PREGNANCY WILL NOT BE AS MAGICAL AS THE FIRST
Being 8 months pregnant and having a 1 year old (especially one who isn't walking) can be tough. The sheer physicality of it is challenging more than anything else.
Remember being around 8.5 months pregnant finding it hard to get up off the sofa?
Now imagine being that same amount of pregnant trying to fold up a buggy and carry a one year old up some steps.
You may also find you get a lot less support, sympathy and wonder than you are accustomed to.
Was your spouse / partner previously waiting on you hand and foot, feeling out for every little kick and hiccup?
Not any more! They will now have their hands full raising a baby. Far too busy to attend to your every whim.
First time around, you were walking around the supermarket stroking your bump imagining everyone was looking at you admiringly. They may have moved aside and offered to help you with your bags.
Yeah, that won’t happen anymore.
You will be waddling through Sainsbury’s pushing a pram with a young baby in it, heavily pregnant, trying to bend over to pick up an Ella’s pouch whilst simultaneously balancing a shopping basket on the pram hood without crushing your first born.
The admiring glances have been exchanged for sympathetic ones, as the occasional Mum in the know says “you’re going to have your hands full” as she strolls on past.
Oh really? I hadn’t realised...
Let me tell you now; you will not bother to check what kind of fruit your foetus is the second time around.
You will have your hands full with a weaning 6 month old you are trying to get into a nap schedule.
Sadly your baby is too young to understand that they have a little brother or sister cooking, this can feel like a wonder you have missed out on. The only thing they know is that their mum is very large and round.
You are so used to being pregnant by now, feeling a baby moving inside you has become a usual experience of everyday life.
You will no doubt feel guilty, and worry about how the baby coming will affect your first child. This is normal. Parents who have babies ten years apart also feel this same guilt, so don’t beat yourself up, you are embarking on an adventure, and every age gap has its own pros and cons.
You may also worry how things will change between you and your first child, and this will probably be the source of a few tears and emotional turmoil.
You know your first is still just a baby themselves, and you worry that you are depriving them of some quality time with you by having another so soon.
But don’t worry, you will soon learn the meaning of the phrase the heart has no bounds.
Going to your pre-natal appointments will be interesting. People will be forever trying to send you down the hall to the “post-natal” department because you rock up holding a tiny baby, and when you state “no, no, I’m looking for PRE- Natal” you will illicit some surprised expressions as people glance from your bump to your baby.
Getting up for night feeds when you have a huge bump is not the most fun. Remember when you thought it was hard being heavily pregnant and had trouble sleeping because of indigestion, the bump in the way and and the difficulty rolling over? Try throwing sleep regressions from your first baby into that mix and having to get up and down all night.
Stay strong, this too will pass, and one day you will sleep through the night again.
Making plans to actually go to the hospital to have the baby will seem overwhelming.
You may not have left your first baby alone with anyone else ever, let alone overnight.
Even though you are excited and desperate to meet the new addition to the family, the thought of going into labour and having to leave your current baby for an absolute minimum of 12 hours brings about mixed emotions.
If you do not have a support network nearby, for example a parent/grandparent who can be ready to babysit at a moments notice, worrying about what to do with your baby will occupy your thoughts until you have found a solution.
The actual labour: you’ve been here before, only a few months earlier and you think you know what to expect.
You think you are an old hand, but remember, you don’t and you aren’t.
No birth follows a pattern, and no two births are ever the same, almost every birth plan will eventually go out of the window.
When your contractions start you will think; "I remember this, it isn’t so bad"
When they get stronger you will think; "I remember this, why the hell have I put myself here again!?"
But when you hold your new baby in your arms, you will feel a rush of love so strong and the feeling will be so familiar.
You didn’t know you had space in your heart to love another child as much as the first one. But you did.
You will feel that unconditional, umbilical bond that a mother feels towards her baby, and you will know that no matter how hard the pregnancy and birth were, it was worth it.
Warning: Introducing your almost one year old to your newborn may not be as magical and wondrous as anticipated!
Your baby may be miffed that you have abandoned them for a day or so. They may pick up on some unspoken vibes that they are not the only apple of your eye anymore and they may scream upon being introduced.
This will be hard, and bring about some fraught emotions, however this won’t last forever. Soon your baby won’t even remember life before your newest addition.
THE FIRST FEW WEEKS WILL BE THE HARDEST WEEKS OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE
That is not an over-exaggeration. Let’s not beat around the bush here.
No matter how much advice people give you about how to brace your one-year child for the arrival of your second, nothing will prepare them. They will be jealous and the mum-guilt and emotional pull between the babies will be really difficult.
You may have been advised to try giving your first child a baby-doll to have as a pretend baby, so they can “parent” along with you. Fine idea for a 2 or 3 year old! But a 1 year old baby can’t grasp the concept of having a baby to look after as they are really just a baby themselves.
There will be moments when the newborn is wailing and your 1 year old is screaming and you wonder just how you got there, and how you can cope. You will be exhausted from birth, sleep deprived and emotionally fragile.
What is important to remember is that this time lasts for a period of a few weeks and you WILL get through it. You got this!
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, it just may feel for a short period of time that you are drowning in babies. But the best thing to do avoid drowning is to tread water and just keep swimming.
Feeding your newborn will be really difficult at first, your first baby may cry every time you feed them, whether that be breastfeeding or with a bottle. Your first baby will still be having bottles or being breastfed themselves. It is only natural that they feel jealous. The good news is you can still spend some 1-1 time with your one year old each day while the newborn is sleeping.
The nights will be long but the days are longer.
When you have your first baby, you understand there will be night feeds and not much sleep, and it is still hard.
When you have 2 babies under 1, and they are both not sleeping through the night, sleep deprivation takes on a whole new meaning.
Living life in a zombie-like state becomes the norm.
Say goodbye to showers and washing your hair for a little while. Just getting through each day is a huge achievement.
Everything your partner does annoys you.
You will have a love-hate relationship with them. This is completely normal!
Nobody who is surviving on 2-3 hours sleep can be rational. There are hormones flying all over the place. Guilt and emotions and tiredness all thrown together make for a tumultuous time.
There will be moments when you look at your partner holding your baby and you will think I love them so much, they are exactly the parent I hoped they would be, and there will be other times when you look at them and think I hate you, I never liked you, how did we even get here!
These thoughts are irrational and perfectly normal. You don’t hate them, you have always liked them, it is the tiredness and the hormones talking, have faith and believe that you will come out of this patch even stronger than you were before, because you have a new-found respect for each other.
Only a year ago, it was just the two of you, and now you are a family of four.
One of the hardest emotions you may feel, is jealousy towards your partner because they are having to become the main carer of your first born.
This is gut-wrenchingly hard. You are strapped to a tiny little newborn, who is lovely, but no offence, not too much fun.
You see your partner taking your one-year old out to the park to give you a break or making dinner for them, and although you are glad your 1 year old is safe and happy, you can’t help but feel bereft because you wish it was you.
If you had a C-Section with your second baby, this feeling becomes even more intense because you can’t pick up your one year old baby for 6 weeks.
There may be a time you are standing in front of their cot with them holding their arms outstretched for you to hold them but you can’t. It is emotionally hard, but as you get better so does the peace in the house.
Cry it out doesn't work anymore.
Unless you have a large house and can put the babies at either end of it.
If you leave one baby to cry, they will no doubt wake the other, so you have to jump up and attend to them at the first sign of trouble. This can be difficult if you have chosen this method or found that it worked well for you the first time round.
It is possible you become more baby-led rather than parent-led out of necessity, but remember that there is no wrong or right way.
Use your intuition, let it guide you through every situation and you will find that eventually, whether it is at 10 weeks old or 6 months old, both babies will sleep through the night.
You will have the chance to live and operate as a fully functioning human again.
Leaving the house becomes an epic task. It is difficult to leave the house with one baby.
Remembering all the things to take; sterilised bottles, nappies, wipes, formula, change of clothes, correct baby-seat for the car, correct buggy, dressing them in seasonally appropriate clothes, adequate snacks, adequate footwear, something for them to sit on or lie in when you get there, a blanket, muslins, dummies, the list goes on and on.
Try needing to get all these things together twice, for 2 babies of slightly different ages and needs. Imagine trying to do this whilst also looking after the 2 babies at the same time.
Tip: Be sure to add 45 minutes on to the amount of time you thought it would take you to get anywhere, as this is honestly how long it takes to get out of the house.
On the plus side - you already have everything you need in the practical sense.
Your first baby will have grown out of all the things you found useful and familiar, the bouncer, the baby-gym, the bottles, the toys, the books.
Even if they are different genders, you can separate all the gender neutral clothes out and keep them for your new baby.
You will find that you have to buy very very little. Things you will need are a new cot, make sure you get a cot-bed for your one year old as they maybe only be in an actual cot for another year or so.
You will also need to invest in a double buggy, be sure to get one slim enough to fit through a single door otherwise you are opening yourself up to a whole world of difficulty getting out and about.
You will need another high chair as your one year old won’t be sitting at the table yet and you will need another car seat. You will find you are much more willing to accept second hand gifts and much less germaphobic then you previously were. You have managed to keep one baby alive so you are a lot less stressed about this with the next one.
Another positive is that you are so used to having a baby that the first year of your second baby's life won’t phase you.
You have become an expert at raising a 0 - 1 year old. You can walk through the newborn phase, trouble-shooting exactly what is wrong like a pro.
You recognise the subtle difference between when your newborn baby needs winding, or is hungry or needs to go to bed.
You know when they need feeding. You know what to expect during the night-shifts so you mentally strap yourself in. You know how to play with them and what toys they will enjoy. You are a much more relaxed mother because you have had practice.
Weaning is a dream because you have learned what your first baby enjoyed and you may find that you have a much more relaxed approach, choosing to let them be baby led because you don’t have the time to spoon-feed two!
You may not be so focused on milestones and you will let your intuition guide you through parenting.
If you are reading this article it may be that you are pregnant with your second and you are worried, however you will learn that you have enough love to give.
You know how to do this. One baby is inside your belly and one is on the outside, you are already a mum of two.
You are doing an amazing job.
By Elizabeth Jones
Elizabeth writes from first hand experience of being a mother to 2 under 1; Evie & Jesse (pictured).