Transitioning From One Child To Two: Hello, Shitshow

by Alessandra Macaluso
Originally Published: 
A little girl sitting on the potty, wearing a bun, glasses and a multi-colored stripe shirt
Bartosz Budrewicz / Shutterstock

There are a wealth of articles on the Internet about the chaos that is going from one child to two. I know this because I have spent many recent, sleepless nights Googling this topic in the company of a nursing newborn and by light of the glow of my smartphone.

The reason for my curiosity can be eloquently explained with the following statement: Holy shit, this two-kid thing is no joke.

Everyone with multiple kids goes through this, I know. I’m told that going from one kid to two is the hardest transition, more so than going from none to one and definitely more than going from two to three. I’m also told that anything after three is pretty much easy peasy and that you can really just keep going at that point and it will all be the same.

I imagine this feels particularly difficult because of our daughter’s current age: She just turned 2 a couple of months ago. Which means that she is smart enough to have opinions and articulate enough to express them, yet still uncoordinated and unpredictable enough to be mistaken for your very drunk friend from college who has lost her shoes, forgotten how to use the toilet, and has wardrobe malfunctions, but still somehow manages to wind up on top of the table.

To add to this is the fact that we’ve been thrown into the world of potty training her. We had not planned on doing this right now, mainly because we value things like sanity and world peace. But then came last week, when she got an angry looking rash on her thigh that requires her to be diaper-less as often as possible so that air can get at the rash to help clear it up. She’s already cool with peeing on her little Elmo potty and has been for a while now, but she’s been very protective of releasing her “poo poo.” What that really means is that she freaks out, squeezes her cheeks, and doesn’t know what to do when she has to go and doesn’t have a diaper on, refuses to go on the potty, but then yells at you for suggesting you put a diaper on her because how dare you.

Toddlers are awesome.

We’re trying to find our footing and get used to the new “normal” around here, which brings me to the literal shitshow that occurred just a few nights ago, as we approached week three with our newborn son. I had yet to be alone with both children until that night, when my husband had to leave for a few hours to attend a work function.

Let me preface this by saying that this was extra scary for me, because I am still recovering from a C-section. I had only started being able to lift our daughter a couple of days prior, and even still, my scar burns every time I do it. You don’t realize how much you use your abdomen until it’s injured and hurts every move you make: lifting her in and out of her crib, in and out of her booster seat, up and down the stairs, even holding her hand and supporting her weight as she climbs the stairs on her own puts a strain on my midsection. (You get the picture, and I will now put away my tiny violin.)

So my husband left, and I thought to myself: I can do this. I can do this! I got our son napping in his swing, and I sat down to play Legos with our toddler. All was calm. She started playing by herself, at which point I became extremely naive and overly ambitious and tiptoed over to the stove. This marks the beginning of mistake No. 1: I decided I’d make dinner.

I know. I know. Rookie move. But he was napping! And she was playing independently so nicely! It’s in these moments we become painfully dumb to how fast shit can hit the fan.

I got halfway through chopping onions when the newborn suddenly woke up on fire. Like an angry little man at the diner who has watched too many other patrons arrive after him and eat before him, he demands his food through desperate wails. And just like a frazzled waitress, I stop what I am doing to prevent the situation from escalating, which means I picked him up, sat on the couch, and started nursing him.

This was mistake No. 2.

About a minute into our feeding session, our toddler stood up with this strange and faraway look in her eyes. I know that look, I thought to myself, but I can’t yet place it. Why do I know that look? And then it hit me: She’s pooping. She’s pooping, and she has no diaper on her. She’s pooping on our rug with nothing to catch said poop.

“Mama, I go poo poo.”

I kept my cool. Besides, I didn’t see anything yet. Maybe she didn’t actually poop, and “the face” was just her sending up a warning signal—a flatulent flare for help being shot up into the sky.

Staying calm, I said: “Oh! You mean you have to go poo poo? Do you want me to take you?”

I then stood up just in time to see a nice little chunk of poop fall from her tooshie. Okay, that’s not so bad, I thought. But then I spotted the other two mountains sitting on top of the rug.

I knew our son would not be happy if I interrupted his feeding session to put him down and take his sister to the bathroom to finish this shit-astrophe, and I had to act fast. But I’m a master at multitasking, right? So I grabbed her hand and calmly started walking with her, cradling our newborn in my other arm while he kept nursing.

We all carefully shuffled past the giant picture windows of our home: a half-naked toddler, dropping poo turds with every step, holding the hand of her mother, who has half of her boob out, and a nursing newborn, drinking from said boob. If this were an audition for a parental version of Cirque du Soleil, this was be my shining moment.

We ascended the stairs (slowly, because how fast can you really walk while balancing all of these things?), all the while hoping with every shred of dignity I had left that the UPS man wasn’t delivering any packages at that moment, because he would have had some story to tell his co-workers before he clocked out that night. (“Hey Bob, remember that nice girl who seemed to have her shit together and wasn’t at all strange? Well, apparently she’s gone bonkers and opened a pretty impressive and new age day care/peep show.”)

We finally got upstairs, managing to dodge the aftershock poo nuggets that fell from my toddler’s tooshie as she climbed each step. I got her to the bathroom—little man still nursing—and sat her on the potty, just in time for a single tiny finale to exit her bum and make it into the potty. (We rejoiced anyway and did a dance in the bathroom together, because it’s all about celebrating small victories and staying positive, right? Right?!)

Finally, the toddler was taken care of, I got us all back downstairs, cleaned and sanitized the poo-tastrophe, and settled back down on the couch to continue nursing my son, which was of course the moment I heard my husband put his key in the door. “Wow, it feels so calm in here! Everything good?”

I could do nothing but offer a blank stare. I wanted to tell him, but I had no more energy to form the words until much later that night. The only thing I could do was cry, and then laugh, and laugh, and laugh, to the point that I think I made him nervous I’d gone mad. And it didn’t matter, because we did it. My number one may have gone number two on the rug, and my number two most definitely just went number one (wait, he also went number two). This, in a nutshell, is my recent life of going from one to two.

I’m preserving my sanity by reminding myself that this is just a phase; it won’t always be this way. It will pass. And we did it. But promise me that if you hear that Cirque du Soleil is holding auditions for a parenting version of their show, you’ll tell them you know someone who’d be a perfect fit. Because there’s got to be a calling for this kind of skill set somewhere. Right?

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