“I stared blankly at the pregnancy test in my hand. Positive? How was that possible? I mean, of course, I knew how this whole thing works… but I still was in shock.
Our youngest was only 10 months old. That meant they were going to be 18 months apart. My last two babies were 28 months apart and THAT felt impossible.
Oh, God. This meant I was also going to have three kids three years and under.
How was I possibly going to handle four kids total? Two toddlers AND an infant? While our eldest also needed me to coach her through virtual learning?
I had a near-death experience with my last birth, and the trauma still felt so near and so vivid. I had been taken to the hospital three times in the week after my home birth from hemorrhaging and the bleeding wasn’t effectively stopped. I felt myself leaving my body multiple times, saw a bright golden light, and had to fight to come back. It affected my physical and mental health for more than six months after birth. How was I possibly going to do this AGAIN? What if it happened again?
I called my friend of twenty years while shaking and sick to my stomach with the test in my hand. It was 10 p.m. but she still answered. I told her I didn’t think I could do it. She said simply, ‘You can. And you will.’
She was a birth worker, and she knew my story. But she was also the one that encouraged me to keep my firstborn baby when I got pregnant at 17 years old. She even offered to adopt my baby for me. She was then in the room with me when my second born came into the world. She promised me she would help coach me through this pregnancy, and that this time things could be beautifully different.
I hung up the phone feeling at peace, and beginning to visualize what the new future was going to look like. But the panic attacks started shortly after. The flashbacks, the fear, and the trauma were so overwhelming. I tried to stay present in my body. I leaned into the feelings. I journaled a lot. I let my body rise and crash down with adrenaline, fear, and internal chaos. I meditated a lot. I asked for divine guidance. I asked for visions. I asked for messages in dreams. I asked for confirmation that this is was my path, and I asked for strength.
It took a few weeks of fully immersing myself into this divine search, but I felt deeply like I got the confirmation I needed that this was what was meant to happen. And so I dove right into researching what this new reality might look like. I can’t count the number of times I Googled ‘having babies 18 months apart,’ or the number of hours I spent combing through blog posts, chat sites, and statistics. I searched through Facebook groups looking for Moms that had similar age gaps. I even took a poll on my own social media casually asking about age gaps and how Mamas felt about it.
Do you know what I didn’t get from all that research, though? A good idea of what a realistic transition would look like with an infant and, well, another infant. My son would be 18 months when the baby was born, but that’s still really young. It definitely teeters on toddlerhood, but they’re still so dependent in so many ways. I knew he probably wouldn’t be talking well, and he was still sleeping with me every night at that point. I spent my entire pregnancy unsure of what this might look like. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I want to create a bit of a roadmap for those Mamas that haven’t experienced the crossover themselves yet and give some encouragement.
Let’s start with how I prepped. I knew I wanted to co-sleep with the new baby, and I knew I couldn’t have both of them in my bed at the same time every night for my own sleep and sanity. So I enjoyed the snuggles from my son for a few more months until he turned 12 months old, and then began to transition him into a crib in his sisters’ room. We started with nap time, and then slowly at bedtime. I would have to sit with him outside his crib and sing to him or stroke his hair or rub his back while he fell asleep, but after a few weeks of being consistent, he began to love his crib and find safety and familiarity in it.
Then we had to start preparing him as much as possible to be a big brother. I didn’t know how much he would really understand. There were many times that he would try to hit me or kick me in my stomach in the beginning; because he was so young, it was difficult to determine if his intention was to hurt the baby out of jealousy, or if he genuinely didn’t know to be gentle because of the non-visual of the baby’s presence. I would take his hands in mine and gently put them on my belly and say, ‘Baby!’
To my surprise, he started showing interest! Around the second trimester, and in our last nursing days together as my milk dried up, he would stroke my belly gently while he was nursing (something he had never done before). Around the third trimester, he started kissing my belly all on his own! He would often say ‘brother’ talking about himself, and ‘baby’ a lot.
Towards the end of the third trimester, he got more clingy and started asking to cuddle more often. I had witnessed this shift with my second-born when our son was about to arrive, so I knew this meant he could sense that the baby would be here soon. The tantrums did get worse as he started to move through some big emotions, and that was difficult to navigate with the exhaustion of late pregnancy, but I reminded myself this was temporary and totally fair for him to have such big feelings.
And then she was here! A beautiful, healthy baby girl. She was born a bit early a few days before 39 weeks, but she was so perfect and had zero complications. And I had zero complications! No heavy bleeding or hemorrhaging, no tearing, no extreme health issues. I was so grateful that postpartum was going to look different this time.
The first day we brought her home, he was really quiet. He looked at her a lot and kissed her head a lot. He wanted to be close to us, but he didn’t seem jealous at all. There was no aggression from him towards her, just awe. He did have a few big tantrums around nap time those first few days. I remember sitting on the floor with him holding him as he thrashed around, and crying with him because I could sense that he was having big emotions that he didn’t know how to move through. Change is hard, even for adults.
Those first few weeks looked a lot like letting him snuggle with us while I was nursing her, asking him to throw away dirty diapers for me, and him leaning more heavily on Daddy for comfort. He would bring her some of his toys to share with her and would ask to hold her a lot. He LOVED holding her pacifier for her and would run to get it from her bassinet any time she cried. He also loved to stand over her in her bouncer or her swing and ‘talk’ to her. He would move his voice up and down with sweet intonation to indicate that he loved her. And he thought she was SO CUTE. It was the first time I ever saw him get overwhelmed with happiness and joy; he would just grab his face and beam at her because he loved her so much.
We did also have to focus with him on being quiet around the baby, not jumping around her while she was on the bed, not laying on top of her, not climbing in the bouncer or the swing with her, not shoving the pacifier in her mouth if she didn’t take it immediately, not putting the blanket over her head, and not to poke her eyes or put his fingers in her mouth.
As the fourth trimester came to a close and my body was healed a bit more, we began to move around more. The baby carrier was my LIFE saver. As a word of advice…while the ring slings and soft cloth baby carriers are so cute, you’ll most likely need a baby carrier with some back support in those early days. I love my Tula Baby, and even the 25 dollar Infantino one off Amazon works well!
We began to adventure to the park during the afternoons. The baby would be on my chest in the carrier as I walked around with him, helping him into the baby swing or watching him on the slides. It was easiest to go to the park before nap time to help him get his last bits of energy out before settling down, but sometimes that wasn’t an option. So we got a mini trampoline for the days we couldn’t take him out. That became his designated spot for getting his energy out. (He’s jumping on it right now as I write this, and the baby swings in the swing next to me.)
Nap times work most smoothly when I can lay with him to help him calm down, so I try to put the baby to sleep first and let her swing in her swing while I help him. It’s very rare that they’re both sleeping at the same time, so I spend a lot of my time switching back and forth between them. If I can get them to rest at the same time, I try not to spend that time cleaning or being productive, if I can. It’s way more important for me to get in little bits of extra rest and recharge so I don’t feel overstimulated and touched out.
The hardest part is nighttime. Those are the moments I have to mentally prepare myself for the most. The baby gets overtired and refuses to settle until usually 11 p.m. but sometimes up until 1 a.m. Gas and tummy problems are usually the worst for her at night. He also doesn’t want to settle for the night, and either wants to walk around the house or still play. There are more times than I’d like to admit that they’re both crying at the same time. Those are the times I have to really center myself, and remind myself that they won’t always need me to rock them to sleep at night or be their comfort to help them regulate themselves. Time is so fleeting, and I’ve seen how quickly toddlers want to become independent. So in this season of life, I do my best to give them both the love and attention they’re asking me for.
I think mothers rise to the challenge really well. While ‘I don’t think I can handle it,’ was the surface fear that came to mind, that wasn’t the root of it. I know myself, and I know that like many mothers that have bought into completely self-sacrificial motherhood, the root fear was that I would not only rise to the challenges that came with this new season of life but that I might almost lose myself in it. So what I really want to encourage to do if you find yourself in this similar phase of life is to find ways to balance yourself through it all. As a life coach, I created a self-study course for Mamas around exactly how to do this, but I’ll share a few ways below too!
This can look like rearranging your schedule in the mornings on a semi-permanent basis to give yourself and your babies permission to sleep in after the long nights.
It can look like scheduling in nap time for yourself or being intentional with giving yourself a nap whenever they’re both down.
It can look like spending a little extra on super easy meals not only for them but something easy and good and nutritious and healthy for you too. Nourishment is really important for healing, energy, especially if you decide to nurse.
It can look like giving yourself a break around dishes or laundry by running the dishwasher twice instead of scrubbing them first or having a designated ‘clean laundry’ pile.
It can look like using essential oils, meditation in the shower, journaling or typing your feelings out in the notes section on your phone, sitting alone in the car in the silence for a few minutes, stepping out on the front porch for some fresh air when you get too overwhelmed, or giving yourself permission to cry it out.
It can look like asking your partner for help with specific things that make you feel a bit overwhelmed. I know there’s a stigma around how our partners should ‘just know’ what we need, and how much they suck if they don’t just do it, but sometimes they don’t know how to help you or in what ways you’re looking for support until you voice that.
If your partner is unwilling, hiring help would be great, but I understand that’s a privilege a lot of mothers don’t have access to. So if that’s not an option, try your best to find a mama tribe that you can share the burden with. I know that’s become more difficult with the current world’s status, so if that also ends up not being an option, lean into your family if you can.
If all of these are bringing up feelings of sadness because none of these are options for you and you don’t have a community, don’t feel guilty about using screen time as help.
Motherhood wasn’t supposed to be so incredibly lonely or unsupported, so there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making your life easier. Especially in those early days when your energy is non-existent and you need rest.
Finally, I’ll end with the same words my friend offered me in such a loving, firm, confident way when I myself didn’t feel strong at all: You can do this, and you will. There is so much love, closeness, happiness, and fullness on the other side. It’s tiring. It’s exhausting at times. It can be overstimulating. But it is so worth it. Good luck, Mama!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Micki Morris from Seattle, WA. You can follow her journey on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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