I remember every detail about the day I found out I was pregnant with our second. My son (only 9 months old at the time) was playing in his exersaucer. Our apartment was, for once, sparkling clean. I was about to inhale a perfectly toasted sesame bagel from my favorite deli. I had just enough time to throw on a dress before heading out to a job interview.
And I just knew. I was so newly pregnant that it took that little plus-sign the full two minutes before it showed itself. But there it was: pregnant. (If you can’t tell, this time around was a little – ahem – unplanned.)
I walked to the interview for a job I now couldn’t take (I’m automatically on bedrest when pregnant) and amid the sea of strollers that surrounded my baby bubble of a neighborhood, I saw one undeniable division — the moms with the single strollers and the moms pushing the double-wides.
Let’s focus on the mom with the single stroller. Up until about 20 minutes before, I was that mom. She was in full makeup, hair blown out, sporting skinny jeans with a cinched-waist jacket, fresh, hot latte in hand. This parenting thing wasn’t so bad. I mean, all kids happily nap in strollers, right?
The mom with the double-wide? Not so much. She was pushing two (crying) kids in a stroller littered with Matchbox cars, sippy cups, Goldfish crackers, and fruit pouches. The jeans? Replaced with yoga pants. The hair? Now in a very necessary ponytail. The latte? A watered down iced coffee from hours earlier.
Fast-forward one year, and there I was. Yoga pants? Check. Ponytail? Check. Old coffee? Check. Goldfish crackers? I should own stock in Pepperidge Farm. You get the picture.
Here’s the thing about two-plus kids: Clearly, you’re now outnumbered. At every turn. Someone’s sleeping, someone’s awake. Someone falls, someone’s hungry. Someone’s sick, someone wants to go to the park. And nap time? See, that’s where they really get you. Because now, only one of them naps! Ha! And you thought you’d have time to yourself while the sun was still out. Silly you! Instead, you’re trying to maintain the quietness of a monastery so your baby can sleep while your toddler entertains themselves in a fun game of Let’s Bang on Some Pots and Pans.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it is bliss. Little baby snuggles. Little baby giggles. The first time you witness your kids holding hands. Watching your baby crawl toward her big brother. Priceless.
But sometimes, it is hard. Really hard. Kick you in the stomach after you’ve just run 10 miles hard. Crying in the shower hard.
But after the first year with two kids under 2, I felt a slight shift. Nothing drastic, but a slight change in the winds. I managed to get out the door in 20 minutes instead of 45. I showered at night. I woke up 15 minutes early and savored my first cup of coffee in solitude. My baby slept better. My toddler’s tantrums subsided (a bit). When friends offered help, I gladly accepted. I leaned in. I leaned on. Day by day, month by month, things got a little easier.
Then, one spring day, I had my youngest at the park while her big brother was in preschool. My daughter, then 18 months, was playing next to a little boy who stole her piece of chalk (which, at the park, is free-rein anyway). His mom came rushing over, carrying a newborn. Instantly, I could see it in her eyes. The bone-shattering fatigue, the feeling of being overwhelmed and overrun by very small, very adorable little people.
“I’m so sorry,” she gasped. “He started going through this non-sharing phase, and I’m at my wits’ end.” I asked how far apart they were.
She sighed, “18 months.”