Transitioning from 1 to 2 Kiddos: Part One

29 May 2019

I welcomed your questions about our transition from one to two kids on Instagram, and you gals didn’t hold back – in fact, there were so many that I’m going to break them up into several posts! Today, we’re talking all things pre-arrival and the first few days.

As always, remember that this is just one family’s experience, and we certainly don’t have everything figured out. I hope something here might be helpful for you as you navigate growing your own family!

How did you know you were ready for a second kiddo?
Though it took us awhile to decide we were ready for our first, there was no question about jumping back in a second time – it was more a matter of choosing the right timing. When we decided to have one baby, we were basically deciding to have (at least) two.

In terms of timing, I was hoping to be pregnant by June’s second birthday, and I was. I’ve read that 2-3 years is actually the hardest gap for developing sibling relationships (1 year and 4/5 years are statistically better, apparently), but 2-3 felt right for us, and besides, I think there are more salient factors than the number of years in determining the quality of a sibling relationship! I liked that June would be walking and talking by the time a sibling arrived, but not so set in her only child status that a sibling would be an incredibly-jarring adjustment.

I was also keeping in mind the cyclical nature of my work and hoping to time a birth for a lighter time of year. Of course, the content of my work changed radically while all of this was happening, so that didn’t end up being much of a factor in the end.

Finally, John was hoping for a summer baby, and it’s fun how things ended up working out – Shepherd (July 31st) is slotted into a heavy lineup of family summer birthdays, including his uncle (July 1st), his Daddy (July 15th), his cousin (July 30th), and his Pop-Pop (August 7th). I love that we will almost certainly celebrate his birthday on the Island some years, which is a special kind of magic!

How did you help June with the transition to big sister? Any suggested reading?
We started talking about the baby more as my belly began to be more noticeable – just talking about how he was coming and that we were excited and that she was going to be such a great big sister. We talked about how he was going to be a part of our family and would be our baby. We’d also talk a lot about other friends her age who had siblings to help her connect his arrival to something concrete.

People would often ask us whether June knew what was happening, which was hard to answer. She was a young two for most of the lead-up (she was 2.5 when Shep was born), and so many things went over her head. She certainly told people she was going to have a brother, but I don’t think she really knew what that meant.

We read a few books – When You Were a Baby and How To Be a Baby were two favorites – but I’m not sure what effect they had on preparing her for her new role!

This is a kind of indirect answer, but I think the biggest ways we helped June prepare to be a big sister started long before I was pregnant. Helping her to develop patience and the ability to play independently, disavowing her of the idea that the world revolves around her and that she’ll always get her way, and growing in her a desire to be a helper (which I think most toddlers naturally have!) all made WAY more of a difference in the transition than talking about what the baby was going to be like or reading a book.

Overall, June has never been particularly interested in babies (takes after her mama :)), so we kept things low-key. Since his arrival she has always been accepting of him, but typically more interested in her own activities or thoughts – ha! (Shep, however, has been OBSESSED with her from the start, and they love to make each other laugh!)

Did you try to potty train before Shep’s arrival?
We did – kind of? Potty training was an ongoing process for us :) Our pediatrician had recommended 2.5 as a good age to try, which of course was exactly when Shep was scheduled to arrive. After seeing her cousin use the potty on vacation in June, June was motivated, so we rolled with it a little early. I would say we were still very much in the midst of training by the time Shep arrived, but it wasn’t a bad thing – we were mostly hanging around at home, so the bathroom was nearby and accidents weren’t a huge disruption.

How did you transition June to her big girl bed?
June is a GREAT sleeper, and I had NO desire to rock that boat when we were also getting up overnight with a newborn. She didn’t show any signs of climbing out of her crib until the end of September, so that’s when we made the switch. We tested the waters by having her sleep on a toddler inflatable mattress while on vacation, and just told her not to get out of the bed. Aaaaaand… it worked! My biggest concern was that she would immediately start walking around the room, but I had heard from many friends that their kids just didn’t, and June was the same.

When we got back from vacation, we made a big deal about sleeping in her “big girl princess bed” and she was excited to do so. She helped us disassemble the crib and move over her twin bed (it had been in her room since birth, which maybe helped – no jarring new piece of furniture!). Her bed is pretty high (we use this bumper), which I think has helped to dissuade her from getting in and out – she can, but it’s not as easy as just sticking a foot over the edge.

When and how did June first meet Shep?
My Mom arrived the night before my c-section and took care of June while we were in the hospital. June came to visit for the first time the afternoon of our second day in the hospital, a little more than 24 hours after Shep was born. This turned out to be good timing – we had had a change to get to know Shep, but I was still enjoying the effects of the morphine drip from the surgery. That evening, the effects wore off (my hospital gave morphine for 24 hours after surgery), and my transition onto just painkillers was rocky, so hours 30-40ish were the roughest for me, pain-wise.

June brought a little stuffed bear to the hospital as her gift to Shep, and she was delighted that he had a gift for her to unwrap, too – a stuffed Jellycat pig :) Not sure how much of a factor that played in getting their relationship off on the right foot, but it was sweet!

June was able to climb up in the bed with me and snuggle and take a look at Shep. It was a short but sweet visit!

Which was the harder transition – 0 to 1 or 1 to 2?
1 to 2, only because 0 to 1 was hardly a blip on our radar. I am exaggerating, of course – there were many adjustments when June entered our lives! – but in every way she made things easy for us. Shep did and does, too, but in most things he is just a smidge more challenging than she was.

For us, one child (especially the child we got) was easily absorbed into the life we already had. She was easy to take anywhere, would snooze in her car seat under the table at a restaurant until six months or so, and didn’t really change much about how we spent our days and nights and weekends.

The verbal vault from talking about “June” to talking about “the kids” is representative of the leap forward in our life as parents. Outings require just a bit more forethought, scheduling has become just a bit more difficult with two routines to take into account, and going about our daily lives has become just a bit more complicated. More about all that in part two :)

How did you function with a toddler while running on no sleep?
Don’t hate me, but I never felt like I was functioning on no sleep. Yes, most nights I was getting up two or three times, but Shep (like June) was good about nursing and then falling back to sleep pretty easily for his first few months of life. John and I were also able to fall back asleep when he did, so sitting up in bed for two or three half-hour stints overnight didn’t phase me too much.

June also doesn’t wake up super-early – usually between 7:30 and 8 if left to her own devices – and John would usually graciously get out of bed when she woke up and get her started on breakfast so I could sleep in a little bit longer.

Also helpful: from the beginning, we would always try to put Shep down for a nap during June’s afternoon nap. It didn’t always work, but if both kiddos were asleep, you can bet both parents were asleep, too :)

Okay – I think we’ll leave it there for part one! If you have a question I haven’t answered yet, feel free to drop it in the comments! I hope this has been helpful!!

More in this series:
Part Two (gear)
Part Three (finances, blessings, challenges, bedtime, what’s most different, and more!)

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May 29, 2019 7:53 am

Thank you so much – this is incredibly helpful! I’m about a month away from welcoming #2! It’s reassuring to know you didn’t have potty training completely sorted before Shep arrived and everything was okay. This deadline has been hanging over us and we’ve had fits and starts to the training. And resistance!
Did you deal with jealousy from June right away? Again, thank you!

May 29, 2019 9:23 am
Reply to  Emily

My son was 3 (and the baby almost 1) when we finally potty trained! He just wasn’t interested earlier and we didn’t want to push it. Each kid is different and this was definitely something not to worry about. I had to do the math to even figure out when all this happened. He’s a perfectly happy 5 year old now :)

May 29, 2019 8:45 am

Thanks for this helpful post!! What items did you actually need for baby #2? We like to keep it simple but know we will need to buy a few things in advance (carseat etc).

How do you respond when random people ask if you are having more kids (or are done)?

May 29, 2019 9:35 am

That’s so interesting that you thought 1 to 2 was harder than 0 to 1! My first was pretty fussy and I struggled to pump enough and we felt that entire first year revolved around the ticking nursing clock and figuring out what we could and couldn’t do in public with a crying baby and childcare (we had a nanny quit and family were reluctant to watch him). By the time #2 rolled around, we knew better what to expect and when things went a little better, it seemed easy, ha! Thank you for sharing your experience!

Kelly Strawberry
May 29, 2019 10:04 am

Love reading your experience! Interesting about the age gap studies – makes me feel better that there will be a 5 year age gap between mine when I finally decide to try for #2. I’m 2.5 years younger than my sister and that’s a great age gap!

Going from 0 to 1 kid was the hardest thing we have ever done and we had to adjust our lifestyle in so many ways (our first was unplanned so I don’t think we were mentally prepared). Our marriage basically imploded, but I’m thankful we’ve re-built it stronger now. Hoping baby #2 will be easier if and when that time ever comes…the bar is basically so low that there is no way it could be worse LOL :)

May 29, 2019 3:33 pm

This gives me a little hope that 1 to 2 might not be so bad. We know we don’t want just one child; however, I feel like 0 to 1 didn’t affect as much as we thought it would. We love life with Rory, and I am very fearful of having more.

Zoe Tombs
May 31, 2019 8:23 am

It’s so interesting that having two or more kids was just your default assumption, as a couple from large families.

Both my husband and I are only children and our son is now 2.5. I think we have now got to a place where we are sure we do want to try for #2, with a slightly larger age gap than you guys have gone for, but it was by no means the default assumption and very much feels like a decision where we are would be jumping in at the deep end and picking the ‘bigger life’

June 4, 2019 10:35 am
Reply to  Em

Yes I did. Do you listen to the Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin. I am OBSESSED and I think you would love it. So many smart insights like this.

On things you would love, there is a new book out in the UK called ‘The book you wish your parents had read, and your children will be glad you did’ by Philippa Perry which I have just finished. It is fantastic, and really up your alley. I don’t know if it is available in the US, but if not very happy to do an international book swap if the reviews appeal to you.

May 31, 2019 10:14 am

Emily, thanks so much for sharing, and for also continuing to remind us that each family/child is different. We’re a few months away from #2 and recognizing much of our life is (mostly!) in a groove now and we’ll soon be welcoming more chaos and unpredictability. And yet expanding our hearts in so many ways. Our daughter has looooooved babies from a very young age (she’s 2 now), she takes after me :) It will be so wonderful to see her take care of her sibling.

We’re also interested to see how they may be similar or different. We practice a lot of the same parenting principles you mention, which I think has given her a great foundation for life. However she’s INCREDIBLY active!! She likes to get out, needs lots of activities to stay busy, etc. so we’re a bit nervous how that will go, especially in winter since we’re in Upstate NY and spend a lot of time inside in the winter (reluctantly!).

I’m looking forward to feeling more confident as a Mama second time around (less late night online research to get baby back to sleep!). Would also second the what did you buy this time?

June 3, 2019 1:59 am

Such great comments, Em. I couldn’t agree more x