Many parents say the transition from none to one was the hardest, but I maintain going from one to two kids is the biggest game changer. Everyone is so excited for that first kid! Grandparents crawl out of the woodwork to hold him, there is no shortage of babysitters; neighbors you barely talk to bring gifts and dress your front door in balloons and streamers. YAY BABIES!!!
Then number two comes along and everyone’s like, “Yeah, we remember this from the last time.” That’s not to say they’re not excited for you, but balloons and streamers excited they are not.
When we brought home baby #2, a mere 22 months after our son’s debut, we had no idea what we were in for. We loved our new addition something fierce, but because the only thing she loved was my left breast, life got kind of difficult for a while. Because our little Miss was born in May, my math teacher husband was out of the picture until school let out in mid-June. I was on my own for the better part of the day, and even when the man did come home, the girl child was like, “Nah, I’d much prefer that sleepy lady over there in the corner, the one talking to herself and rocking in the fetal position.” If nothing else, father and son got a lot of quality bonding time.
Our daughter didn’t just prefer me; she demanded me. And because she refused a bottle (or sleep or to be held by anyone but me), the first six months of her life were heavily on my shoulders. To say I was exhausted is the understatement of the century, and at the time, I felt like I was in a fog. I know my son was around; I have visions of his little blonde head whizzing past me as I sat in a daze on the couch. And I know my husband was there because the distinct memories I have of nagging him about every little thing have stuck with me to this day, four years later.
You see, I don’t do well on limited shut-eye; in fact, I can be downright mean if I don’t get a good snooze, so imagine if you will the hot mess that me and my bloody nipples were after three months of the madness that was two children. I was snippy and lashed out instead of crying and begging for help like I should have done. I was so focused on what I was missing–freedom, alternating the responsibility of one child, sleeping on my stomach–that I couldn’t see the good stuff in front of my face. Hello there, healthy baby girl whose smile was reserved just for me. Oh, hey there big brother who was the best two-year-old on the planet. And what’s shakin’, hands-on-husband who just wants to help? I was too immersed in…what? Postpartum blues? The wrong birth control (double the estrogen in a new Mom and you’re basically inviting a tornado of hormones)? Myself? Whatever it was, it wasn’t pretty. And then one night it came to a head.
I stole away for a few hours to attend my annual Fantasy Football draft with some pals. There was adult conversation, adult beverages, and zero kids. It was like Disney World for parents. When I got home, the baby was fussy. The second I stepped into the house, my husband handed her over and said, “Don’t ever leave me alone with her again.”
Now, a rational woman would have heard a frazzled Father’s frantic rescue plea. A plea that was the culmination of 90 days of stress and frustration so big it was suffocating him. A rational woman would have hugged her loving husband and thanked him profusely for the three hours she just spent sans responsibility. But a rational woman I was not. I barraged him with questions like, “Well, why didn’t you fill-in-the-blank? THAT works for ME!” and empty critiques like, “I wouldn’t have swaddled her that way.” Even as the spoken brutality spewed from my face, I knew it was wrong and hurtful, yet I couldn’t stop. It was a bad case of verbal diarrhea and my husband was the toilet.
Once my I’m a Better Parent Than You diatribe had ended, I took my spot on the couch and began nursing the baby. I looked over at the ruined aftermath that was my husband and he was crying. Crying, you guys.
He is not an outwardly emotional person; in knowing him for almost 15 years, I’ve only seen him visibly choked up twice. He actually does that take a deep breath and count to ten thing–he’s a wizard, that one. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel things; he usually doesn’t share them because, in his sweet words, “Why would I fight with a person I love?” Why fight, indeed, unless I squeeze the life out of him with judgement and condemnation.
I wanted to die. DIE. I have never felt so low or so awful in my life. I had been so wrapped up in the new (not so easy) baby and how she was affecting ME that I never stopped to consider how the transition from one to two kids had taken my husband by storm, too. We were a team, and I wasn’t being a team player.
That was the day I realized if we were going to work as parents or as friends, we had to be a united front. A united front meant so much more than just words we said because they sounded like solid relationship advice. It meant strengthening the other’s weakness; helping each other up when we’re down; never publicly overriding the other’s decisions, even if you don’t agree with them; supporting the hell out of each other, especially in trying times; understanding that neither of us is perfect and we will piss the other off, but even at our worst, we’re still okay. I put my husband first and he puts me first because we saw what happens when we don’t, and no thank you. Sure we still argue, disagree, and get on each other’s nerves. I still get mouthy when I’m tired or frustrated, and he still clams up when emotions he doesn’t like creep in. We’re not perfect, but we’re together and that’s enough for us.
What was the most difficult transition in your marriage? For us, it was going from one to two kids. Fortunately we came out on the other side virtually unscathed, but the memories serve as battle scars to remind us to be kind and patient with one another.
Sit! I'll come to you!