Baby Number Two

2267862256_00a70dec3b_oBy Christina Schmidt

When we had our second baby, I secretly feared we’d made a terrible mistake. My older son had just entered the notorious Twos. The new baby demanded constant attention and required maddeningly little sleep. I’d wanted my children close in age so they would be friends, but I often doubted we would survive to see that day.

As the months passed, I anxiously awaited any sign of sibling bonding, but for the most part my older son regarded his baby brother with nothing more than curiosity, boredom, some jealousy, and occasional disdain. I’d envisioned the second baby bringing us into balance as a family, and imagined all the wonderful things my two sons would experience together. What I got was extreme sleep deprivation, resentment, and excessive guilt, as I struggled to meet everyone is needs and to remember why this had once seemed like such a good idea.

Finally one beautiful autumn day, as we were picnicking at the park, I caught a glimpse of our life to come. As I helped my newly-toddling baby go up the steps to a slide, another little boy shoved past him to use it first. Immediately a streak of blonde hair flashed by as my older son came barreling from across the playground to confront his brother’s assailant. “THAT’S MY LITTLE BROTHER!” he bellowed in the boy’s startled face. “SO DON’T YOU PICK ON HIM!”

I was completely taken aback. My older son was quiet and easygoing, generally appearing oblivious to his surroundings and the activities of others. Not to mention that up until this point, there had been no outward sign that this baby was special to him. Yet there he was: blue eyes raging, face contorted with fury, tiny body poised for attack. While I’d like to claim that what made me step back was the profound significance of this protective display, in truth it was simple surprise.

As the conflict continued, however, my decision to withdraw was conscious. I watched in awe as my son stood his ground, and stayed close in case it escalated to blows. The ensuing argument became as heated as one can when the two participants are verbally limited and socially inexperienced. At last I pulled my son away, discreetly praising his actions and bursting with pride at his brotherly instincts.

At ages five and three, my sons are now regular playmates and my role these days involves vastly more refereeing than caregiving. Watching their relationship evolve often makes me ache with joy and frequently sends me running for chocolate. Some days I still yearn for the peaceful afternoons when it was just my first baby and me engaged in an uninterrupted conversation of coos and giggles, followed by a nap together with him curled up on my chest.

But I’ve learned to appreciate life as a mother of two and the chaos that naturally follows. You have to be more observant — the joyful moments are usually brief, unexpected, and tucked obscurely within everyday life, but invariably they are off-the-charts adorable. One minute I’ll be thinking that my children are aliens bent on the destruction of mankind and all I want is to beam them back to their mother ship. Then suddenly they’ll trot down the hall with their arms around each other, singing and laughing together, and I marvel at the magic of their interactions.

It’s these simple moments that give me strength to endure the trying times and bring me the most pleasure as a mother: The baby squirming inside me in response to his brother warbling “Twinkle, Twinkle” into my belly button. My older son replacing his infant brother’s pacifier and consoling him with, “it’s okay, Bubby’s here.” A glimpse in the rearview mirror of my two boys, buckled into their carseats, holding hands. A spontaneous hug between the two of them, even if it does end in a wrestling match. And a few minutes on a playground when I first realized that it was all worthwhile.

Christina Schmidt is a freelance writer in the St. Louis area and a stay-at-home Mom to two boys, ages 5 and 3. Her work has previously appeared in American Baby magazine.

Image Credit: Ernst Moeksis

12 thoughts on “Baby Number Two”

  1. As the mother of one boy contemplating the idea of a number two, I can’t tell you how much I loved this story. Thank you so much for sharing :)

  2. So true. Mine have a similar age gap to yours-so hard in the beginning, but now at 3.5 yrs and 20months they are the best of friends with glimpses of the protective older sister and hero-worshipping younger brother! I too occasionally feel wistful about the baby days with my first, but mostly am excited to see them grow up as it is getting even more fun every day

  3. Our daughter is 16 months and we have been contemplating the pros and cons of if/when it would be a good time to try and have baby number 2. We had recently concluded that it will never be a good time and the decision boils down to whether we want 2 kids or not, and everything that goes with it. I loved this article and look forward to the day that I can experience our 2 little terrors one day playing together. Thanks for the insight.

  4. My boys are 6 years apart. They both love each other and my oldest dows pay quite a bit of atrn to him but with the age difference he does his own thing too.

  5. I love this story. I had a very simalure situation happen at the zoo. Feeling the same way about my older son and the new baby. My older son has sensory processing disorder (SPD) and I truly thought he was incapable of having happy feelings towards his brother. And then to see this fierce protector come out when another boy came to “roawer” at him and then my older son get in his face and scream “that’s my brother you leave him alone” I felt the same way you described. Thank you for sharing so openly. I don’t feel so alone.

  6. My boys are 20 months apart and the first year of my youngest life was a blur. I didn’t see that “brotherly bond” that I was expecting. But now the older one is almost 5 and the younger one just turned 3 and they are best buddies! They both for the first time went to preschool gymnastics camp for a week this summer and my older boy came home telling me he looked after his little brother and all the coaches said they helped each other out all day and we the cutest “best buds”!

  7. This is a great article. As we prepare for our second baby, I’ve realized I’m much more terrified than I was with our first. Our son will be 2.5 when this baby is born and some days are so difficult I wonder how I’ll ever manage two. This article is a good reminder that there will come a point when things get easier.


  8. Motherhood for me started with two at day one. I have twin boys. When people ask me how I did it when they were babies my only answer is “with God’s grace”. But as demanding as the baby years were I enjoyed them. Now at three and a half I too play referee and this stage has it’s own challenges and joys.

  9. Our girls are 4 1/2 years apart and I was worried about the same thing, that they wouldn’t be close because of the age gap, but our older daughter ADORES her baby sister, has never shown signs of jealousy or irritation, and is old enough to understand when she needs to be quiet and loves the opportunities to help. She even got choked up watching “Frozen” because of the big sister/little sister thing. I expected none of this and am amazed! So I guess it goes either way. I hope it lasts :)

  10. I loved the way you said you need to be more observant, to see the magic moments tucked into everyday life. You pinned down what is hard to articulate beautifully there! Last week, recovering in bed, I heard my smallest giggling deep in his tummy with delight over something his sister was doing and felt the beauty that is often invisible, the rightness of the two of them.

    There are pros and cons of every choice spacing children. We lost several babies so we ended up with four years. The most powerful pro of that gap seems to have been, for me, that I was immersed in my first, only, child’s phases between two and four – the stretch with the most testing, meltdowns, defiance, all that. It was the only show in town for my mothering creativity to cope with, so I got to ruminate and read and innovate in immersion mode, coming up with small tricks and overarching strategies that combined to make some real parenting chops. I could see my girlfriends having their firsts turn into two year old handfuls in the same time as their newborn arrived, and knowing what was normal two, what was jealousy, and summoning discipline energy or creativity wasn’t plain feasible for them. It meant there was often more lingering two year old atrocities at age four, when my mamas could finally come up for air. Not everything is possible; energy goes to a newborn or to structuring a two-year-olds days for success…I got to do the latter.

    I was one year from my older and younger brothers, and there was never a distinguishable space between us really. I slept in a heap with them and missed them when school separated us and still miss them to this day, my constant buddies. Ultra close is hard on mama but was total grace for me living it. All paths are valid, all choices have a cost – wishing you all a moment of perfectness in the maelstrom today!

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