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What No One Told Me Before Baby #2

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There's a lot.

“Your heart will never know love like this!” “they have a friend for life!”, “You’ll be busy!” “Don’t have two”

Yeah. That was all cute and stuff, but these words, which were passed onto me from every parent-of-two I knew (and one, grumpy overtired dad) were not at all helpful when it came to my second born.

As much as I’d love to be all go-with-the-flow Mum, by nature I’m quite practical, and none of this helped me prepare me for what was to come. That was probably partly my fault; I distinctly remember being in the oxytocin-fuelled days following the birth of my first son and saying to my partner, “let’s make another”. I couldn’t wait to have a second, but sleep deprivation makes for excellent contraception it was two years before we did. I was READY. Except – I wasn’t at all. Here’s what I wish someone had’ve told me before number two.

The hardest part about #2 is dealing with #1.

We were in lockdown for pretty much all of my second pregnancy which means I had nothing but time to get myself and Yuki (my first) ready. We’d done all the things– read the books, included him in the pregnancy, we talked about it being our baby… I was really giving parent-of-the-year vibes.

Except then Miko was born, and fiction became reality, and Yuki’s world was shattered. He would literally hand off my neck when I changed Miko, he’d crawl on my lap when I fed, and then the throwing and hitting (me) started. I could see him struggling and it broke my heart. I was so unprepared for how deeply his emotions would be affected and I felt guilty, constantly – for disrupting his world so much, for being to tired to be a good parent, for not being enough. Rationally, I knew these feelings were normal, and that it would pass, but there’s nothing rational about a mum in the first heady weeks of postpartum. Every day was a struggle.

Eventually, in a moment of caffeine-fuelled clarity I decided to instigate one “Mama and Yuki day” per week. In reality it was only a couple of hours, but it was our time, just the two of us to connect and be alone. It was exactly what he needed, probably what we both needed if I’m honest. And then came my proudest parenting moment to date: at week eight, I asked Yuki what he wanted to do for mama and Yuki day and he requested that Miko come, and I don’t know but I think I’m finished parenting now.

Babies, they’re different.

Once you’ve had a baby, you know what you’re doing right? Hahahahha LOL, help me. I, of course, arrogantly thought I “had this” but Miko showed me I definitely did not. Because, get this for groundbreaking: every baby is different! You are different! You have biases’ and things that you swore worked before but these little mini humans have their own set of rules that they’re making up as they go.

I was extremely privileged with Yuki and never had an issue breastfeeding, so I thought it was like riding a bike. Nope. On day four he ripped my nipples to shreds and I couldn’t actually feed because they were raw. In the first two weeks I saw a baby chiro, two lactation consultants, got mastitis, and also did maybe six Edinburugh scale tests because every time someone asked how I was I burst into tears.

Finally, after yet another midwife session where I was spiraling about all the things “wrong” with him, the head midwife (a 70-year-old archetypal grandma) put her hand on my knee and said “there’s nothing wrong with him. You’re just overwhelmed. Come here, you need a hug.” And so I hugged her and released all the shit and stopped trying to hold it all together for the sake of being the person that “always had this”. There is no greater expectation than the ones you place on yourself, and honestly I’d never let a friend beat up on herself the way I was. It was a nice and needed reality check. Things weren’t smooth sailing after that, but it was much easier, because I stopped trying to compare the experience to Yuki. Miko was (and continues to be) his very own person. It was never going to be the same (duh, I know, but it took a meltdown to really know this).

Thou shalt never have free time.

When you have a baby, you often think back to your childless life and wonder what the hell you did with all your time.

But when there are two, this gets kicked up a notch – and it starts in pregnancy. Oh my god, did I want to reach back into the past and tell first-time-pregnant Sarah to take all the naps. Because being pregnant with a toddler, is next level thanks to the tiny dictator demanding snacks and toys and horse rides and wanting “fun mum” when she has well and truly left the building.

Most days I’m lucky to go to the toilet without an audience. Even with a very hands-on partner, alone time really doesn’t exist in the same way as before. Because in the great paradox of motherhood, when I actually do get alone time I’m completely paralyzed by all the things I could do (write a book! Read a book! Do some yoga! Listen to a podcast!) that I end up mindlessly wasting time until I’m not alone anymore. Maybe that’s a kind of therapy too?

One thing I will say is this: be selfish with your alone time. Don’t do anything in that time that you could do with kids around. Use it just for you and screw the to-do list. Take the time, because the most important thing is your wellbeing.


No, it’s not double the work.

Babies are tiny – so are toddlers. So the “space” they take up is negligible, right? Well no. I know it doesn’t make mathematical sense, but somehow it’s not just double the work having two, it’s like thirty times more. I think it comes down to the demise of free time, but there’s always a rumble to break up, a snack to be fed, a meltdown that needs to happen milliseconds before you get out the door. I often think about the mama’s who have more than two (my own Mum had five) and wonder how the hell you do it, when you literally have no hands. RESPECT to those mums, and also can you please call me and tell me how?

You will always be late. Always.

RIP my punctuality. Miko is almost two so you’d think I’d have sorted this out by now, but you’d be wrong. Trying to organise two small, wriggly, energetic boys and wrangle them out the door is like a casual triathlon every day. I’ve tried to game the system by starting the process an hour earlier but inevitably when all the snacks are packed, teeth and brushed and I’m just doing something wild like brushing my hair, I’ll come back into the room and someone would’ve taken his clothes off, or another will decide that he really wants to play with all the lego he never uses, or it’s melt-down o’clock. There is always something.

The Sarah of past would be appalled. The Sarah with one child would smugly think that would NEVER be her, because we’re always the best parents when it hasn’t happened to us yet. It used to cause me so much anxiety but now I’ve let it go. Most of my friends expect me at least 45 minutes late and to arrive in a signature hot mess with pasta sauce on my sleeve and peanut butter in my hair, and to have forgotten at least one essential item. Some even account for my lateness and tell me a time to meet an hour before they actually want to meet because they know it’ll take me that long, and have wine/sugar/ coffee waiting when I do. They’re the keepers.

You’ll mourn the relationship you had with one.

I love being a mum and I love my boys – neither of those things is in question. But you can also love something and mourn the loss of the things you once had. For me, I sometimes mourn the life of just having one babe to look after. Of being able to channel all my time and energy and learning into one, and not being constantly divided in half, with the constant feeling that I’m only giving scraps to each (let alone, myself).

Again, this is mostly my own expectations, but it doesn’t make the feelings less valid. I feel guilty a lot, and I’m forever tired but I feel like that just that’s just my new benchmark now. I miss quiet time, and being able to really explain things, and being truly, utterly wowed when they do something for the first time because it’s new. There is of course still some of that, but it hits different because that road has already been walked down. I too am a second-born and because of that I have a compulsive need to make things equal between the boys, but I won’t lie and say I don’t cherish the times where I am alone with just one of them, undivided, so that I can exhale just a little before the chaos begins again.

But ironically, it’s in those moments that I mourn something else: those moments of chaos which I know will dissipate into silence in a blink, when they go to school and they no longer want to lie on my chest when I sleep, or just don’t even want to know who I am because it’s not cool to like your mum. And so that’s where I end the day when I fall into bed, exhausted to the bone, craving alone time, but also grateful that I’m lucky enough to be here complaining about it.

Sarah Tarca is a journalist, co-founder of the weekly beauty newsletter gloss etc, and co-creator of two boys, Yuki and Miko. Coffee and cheese are her two favourite food groups, and she still doesn’t understand why concealer didn’t win the last election. You can follow her here, and gloss etc here.

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