Alex Vance and her family in the delivery room

Transitioning From One to Two Kids Was Tougher Than I Anticipated

There she was—seven pounds and eleven ounces of squishy, baby goodness. Our second daughter, Autumn, made her entrance into the world on the day before Halloween after 12 hours of labor. Just like that, we were a family of four. We were elated!

My husband wiped a tear from my cheek as Autumn was prepped for her post-delivery check-up. She was quiet...almost too quiet. My husband and I stared intently at the exam table across the room, where Autumn was hidden behind a team of attentive nurses. Was she okay? Wasn't she supposed to be screaming in true, newborn fashion?

It was then that one of the nurses shouted the most comforting words we could've heard at that moment: "Would you look at those dimples?" 

My husband and I erupted with laughter, relieved to hear our unusually silent baby was okay, just super laid-back. She was born with the exact same dimples as our first daughter, Callen, which they both inherited from my mother. (It is something she loves to brag about to this day, and honestly, who could blame her?) 

Just before Autumn's arrival, my parents and Callen visited us in the hospital room. Once I became fully dilated, they headed to the waiting room—only to wait for about 15 minutes. (Autumn was so ready to be Earth-side!) I was a giant ball of excitement as I thought about them coming back into the room to meet her. Callen was just over 2 years old at the time, and I had no clue what her reaction would be like. She had been practicing taking care of baby dolls and feeling the tiny kicks in mommy’s tummy, but this was the real deal. The moment of truth.

The delivery room door opened, and Callen slowly crept inside, hesitant about what she might see. Since it was the day before Halloween, she was rocking a light-up headband topped with a mini witch hat (courtesy of the hospital gift shop), a pink “I’m the Big Sister” T-shirt, and multi-colored leggings. She clung tightly to a heart-shaped balloon, smiling big enough to expose those hand-me-down dimples. "Hi, Mommy!" she yelled.

She slowly walked up and peered over the hospital bed to get a glimpse of her tiny (and still quiet) baby sister. She gave a shy grin, clearly trying to process what she was looking at. “Hi...baby,” she said. A collective “Awww!” echoed through the hospital room (our nurse included), and boom—the most precious memory in existence was now etched into my brain for eternity.  

When we arrived home as a new family of four, reality quickly set in. I was a mom to two kids now. Two tiny, needy humans and just one me.

When we arrived home as a new family of four, reality quickly set in. I was a mom to two kids now. Two tiny, needy humans and just one me. I had never been so thankful for newborn sleep in my life—except this time around, I didn't nap when she napped.

This time, I used those precious breaks to spend time with my newly jealous toddler. I had expected Callen to struggle with such a disruption of normalcy. I just didn't expect to struggle with it so much myself.

If I had to sum up going from one to two kids, I'd only need three words: Holy tired, Batman. My first daughter took the term "exhausted" to a frightening level, but Autumn was determined to one-up her.

I was in full mommy-brain mode (times two). I rarely knew what day or time it was, I could never remember how many times Autumn nursed at night, and I was constantly trying to put the wrong sized diapers on Callen. I didn't know how to sync up their nap schedules, but by God, I was going to try.

No matter how much coffee I pumped into my system, I was still running on empty. My energy chugged along like "The Little Engine That Could." I thought I could do all the things—I had to! My oldest daughter needed to know that she was still a priority, and my youngest needed to be glued to my chest at all times to stay happy. It was an interesting balancing act to figure out.

Most importantly, I learned to rearrange my priority list and mastered the ability to relish in the tiniest moments.

But at the same time, the experience taught me a new lesson in parenting: embrace survival mode. It was the mantra I needed to power through my anxiety and keep myself focused. When both kids were screaming at the same time, I took a minute to step away and collect my patience. When they both woke up in the middle of the night at the same time, I let them work it out on their own for as long as I could. I learned how to nurse Autumn while getting lunch ready for Callen, which was a feat. (It's all about the one-handed multi-tasking.)

Most importantly, I learned to rearrange my priority list and mastered the ability to relish in the tiniest moments. Finishing a cup of coffee before it got cold was a victory. Being able to sleep an extra half hour in the morning felt like a trip to the spa. Finding a little time at night to get lost in a book or turn on my favorite TV show was the reward my sanity so desperately needed.

The transition from one to two kids was a bit crazier than I anticipated. The house was a mess, my clothes were stained with spit-up and mac and cheese, and there were days I completely avoided looking in a mirror. Still, the experience is one that I wholeheartedly cherish. It gave me two sweet, beautiful faces to stare at every day.

I did have my husband to help, and I know how lucky I was to have that—not all parents do. If you're struggling to adjust to more than one kid, remember that this phase, although difficult, flies by. Take comfort in knowing that all of your tireless effort to do what's best for your children is a sign of incredible strength.

Take comfort in knowing that all of your tireless effort to do what's best for your children is a sign of incredible strength.

Parenting certainly isn't for the faint of heart. If you need a little help, reach out to family, friends, a support group, or your healthcare provider. No matter how much of a parenthood pro you are, every kid is different—and adding a new one to the mix doesn't always go the way you planned.

But here's the thing: Being able to watch my oldest daughter hold her baby sister for the first time reminded me that the long days (and painfully short nights) were worth the struggle. Having one kid is a miracle in itself, and having two is a dream come true.

It's not always easy, that's for sure. But I know that the next time I blink, these days will be a distant memory, so I'm going to enjoy every moment I can—the good, the bad, and the exhausting.

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