Shortly after Little Z was born, I read an article by a mother saying the 1st birthday of her second child was a huge milestone because, as parents, she and her husband had survived. They knew they could do it. Now I’m not sure as we hit that same 12-month marker that I’ll be letting my guard down and assuming we’ve ‘got it’. After all, complacency is the downfall of a parent in my view. But… I do agree with her sentiment. The first 12 months are by far the biggest shock and biggest change. As we move into year 2, a new and ‘longer term’ normal takes over with nursery and work returning to form part of the picture.
As with any milestone though, I can’t help but reflect back on what has passed. This last year has felt like both a whirlwind and a lifetime in equal measure. Becoming a mother to two has changed me far more than I expected. In practical terms it was nowhere near the shock of first-time parenthood; I doubt anything I experience in my normal existence will beat that. Rather, though, this second experience of raising a baby has allowed me to truly ‘find myself’ as a mother. Any anxiety of getting it wrong or fear of friends and colleagues thinking I’ve become ‘baby obsessed’ was gone and I wholeheartedly embraced the experience – relishing the role as mother to my two wonderful girls. Because in all honesty I am obsessed with them both.
I was prepared for mothering two to be incredibly hard. Whilst it’s no walk in the park, it proved a lot simpler than I anticipated. The routine was already there in our lives and Little Z just slotted into it. Rather than ‘expect’ anything from her as I perhaps did with Little H, I just went with the flow and saved myself months of stress. She did things when she was ready and, even when sleep deprived, the knowledge that all things eventually change was enough to keep me going.
As the year has passed, I struggle to remember what it was like to only be the mother to one child. There are of course days when I am only actively caring for one child but my mind is always thinking of them both. My brain has to maintain an extra list of tasks and considerations for Little Z. But to more than compensate, I get to see the bond and relationship between my daughters grow and develop every single day. Seeing their affection for each other is beautiful – Little H cuddling and soothing her sister when she’s sad; Little Z’s eyes searching out her sister when she’s hears her voice. And when one of them is having a challenging day, the other is usually (but not always!) my breath of fresh air, stopping me from going down the angry, shouty mum path!
Looking at pictures of Little H when she was about to turn two years old, it reminds me how much Little Z is going to change still over the coming 12 months. It’s easy to think that the first year is the biggest year developmentally and, yes, on paper I suppose it is. But from this point onwards, more and more of the changes are so visible to us: walking, running, talking, self-feeding. The sort of changes which turn a baby into a little person. The sort of changes which make the mechanics of day-to-day life easier even if, at times, we’ll have to deal with more tantrums and a stronger set of demands and opinions. Despite all of this, reflecting on those photos stopped me from feeling a longing for the months passed and excited about the months ahead.
More than anything, I know with complete confidence that the fears I had 12 months ago – about not being enough for two children – were completely unfounded. As I snuggle Little H on the sofa watching a nap-time film, or stroke Little Z’s back as she lays a weary head on my shoulder before bedtime, I know that I am enough. That whilst on occasion they may have to wait for a snack or a toy, they always get the care and affection they need, when they need it. And for those few occasions where they have to wait a minute for mummy to come, they now have each other!