While I draw ever closer to having three kids under three (is this real life?!) I decided that a post on my first big challenge of motherhood was necessary. I also know of several people who are going to be experiencing all the glory that comes with having two kids under two. While I am not an expert by any means, I wanted to offer the advice from things I've learned over the past year and a half. Honestly, I think a lot of this applies even when you have your first baby or maybe even your seventh!
For me, when I was staring down the unknown of two babies under two, I really just wanted some practical advice. All the lovely comments like "Oh they'll be great friends." or "It will be hard at first but you can do it!" were really nice but they were so "abstract". Like a cloud floating away when I really needed something tangible to hold onto. I needed stuff for my LIST! What did I need on my to-do list?! I'm sure the advice I was looking for was out there but I honestly couldn't find it. So I created my own map. Coming from a big family has helped my parenting so much. Very often I will find myself unsure of what to do and I just ask myself "WWMD?" (what would mom do?). My mom never had babies this close but I imagined what she would do if she had....And BOOM. Game plan.
During the last couple months of my pregnancy with James, I put the game plan into motion. However, it was impossible for me to think of absolutely every scenario and every little detail (even though I tried) but thankfully I have some amazing family and friends that really stepped up to fill in the gaps.
~ Coffee: I know that not everyone is a coffee drinker but for those of you that are... Stock up. There is something amazing about waking up after a long night with a new baby and taking that first sip of hot coffee. It might be the only hot sip you get because your toddler decides to throw their entire breakfast on the floor, but still, you get that first sip. Then I would also enjoy a cup in the afternoon while the babies slept or while one slept and the other played quietly. It's just nice to have a little something to look forward to when you wake up or after you make it past the afternoon tantrum. So whatever it it, tea, diet coke, or coffee, have some extra tucked away to help you ease into the transition of having two little people. (You can find this thermos here!)
~Child-locks: One of my biggest fears was having to chase Peter around the house while nursing James. Or just not being able to just sit and feed James without worrying what Peter was getting into to. So basically we just baby proofed the entire house. Cabinet locks were a must. We attached them to the cabinets that had chemicals and the ones with just simply pots and pans. Peter was already good at making messes and I don't need to give him more ammunition. We left the cabinets with the containers open because he really liked to play in those but if you follow my Instagram you will know that it is one of my biggest regrets (locking them up TONIGHT).
~Baby Wearing: Without getting too extensive on the topic, I just want to say that baby wearing was HUGE with two under two. There were times when either boy just wanted to be held and nothing else. So I'd wrap them up (sometimes both which is called tandem baby wearing) and keep them close until the fussing stopped or they fell asleep. Baby wearing is how any housework was accomplished and the only reason I wasn't afraid to leave the house. I would just put Peter in the shopping cart and James would get wrapped up close. Then as James got older he was strong enough for me to put him on back. THAT was a game changer. Free. Hands. A concept I took for granted before becoming a mother. There are so many types of wraps and carriers out there and I, myself, have only scratched the surface. I have a Pinterest board for baby wearing (make sure you check out how to baby wear safely!) and if you're interested in finding a baby wearing group in your city just visit http://www.babywearinginternational.org. or by simply searching for one on Facebook. An Ergo and/or Moby can be a good place to start. Even Etsy has wraps! The wrap pictured above is a Sakura Bloom Sling.
~Baby Gates: This basically goes along with the child-locks. In order for met o relax and have some piece of mind while Peter played around the house, was to block off the places he shouldn't be. Obviously we put gates up so that he couldn't get into the bathrooms or to the front room which was NOT baby proof. It was so nice being able to relax with James while Peter toddled around. Relaxing is so huge after having a baby and I owe a lot of it to these baby gates (which are still up btw).
~Essential Oils: Ok so honestly we just started using EOs as a family but I'm pretty much obsessed. I wish I would have had some when we brought James home! Certain oils have a very calming affect, especially when diffused in a room. Lately after the boys have had a bath I've been using some calming EOs to signal that it's bedtime. I also use one that is supposed to help boost the immune system. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for modern medicine! However, it is really nice as a mother to feel like you are contributing to the wellness of your child. It "feels" like I'm actively trying to protect them from the flu season. Will they still get the flu? Probably. But at least I feel like I'm doing something to protect them! Especially since we will be bring a newborn home at the height of cold and flu season. The night time EOs are nice because sleep is hard to come by with two under two. So having a scent that signals bedtime is most beneficial. It doesn't have to be an EO either, you can just use the sleepy time lotion from Johnson and Johnson! If you have any questions about EOs (or are interested in busying some) let me know! Because I most likely won't have an answer for you but I can put you in touch with someone who does!
~Happy Hour: After having James it was so nice to just be able to pour myself a glass of wine to enjoy while cooking dinner or to drink with me meal. After 9 months of sobriety it felt like such a reward! Congrats on pushing a baby out! "Here is your glass of wine!". You may not be a wine drinker and that's fine! Maybe you prefer a beer or mixed drink. Whatever it is, it's ok to have one occasionally to help you unwind from craziness that is now your life. It also does not have to be something alcoholic! It's just something that you enjoy having at the end of a long day. Maybe a little ice cream or baked good. Whatever it is... don't feel bad about having a little "treat yo' self " moment at the end of the day.
~Crock Pot: I was going to assume that most people have one of these but them I realized that's probably not the case. So if you don't have one? Get one! My wonderful friend Kate set up meal-trains after both Peter and James (and has set one up post Aria too!). It was so great not having to worry about dinner for a few weeks as generous friends and family helped out with meals. However, the meal train eventually stops. That's where my crockpot would save the day. Having my hands very full with two under two, it was good to just throw something in the crackpot in the morning and then 6-8 hours later dinner was pretty much done. You can also find a lot of "Frozen Crockpot Meals" on Pinterest. You simply assemble all the ingredients you need for the meal, stick it in a Ziplock bag, place in freezer, and then dump contents into the crockpot on the day you want that meal. I'm going to attempt to do some before baby Aria gets here!
~The Double Stroller: While baby wearing is great, sometimes you just need other options. Like there was no way I was going to be able to get my run in with James wrapped around my chest and Peter in the umbrella stroller. So my Grandma very generously bought us a double jogging stroller. It has been such a lifesaver even when I didn't need it for running. It basically stays in the trunk of the car along with the umbrella stroller and at least two different types of baby carriers. My car was like a golf bag. Taking Peter and James out of the car was always different. It depended on where we were going, how long would we be there, are the aisles big enough, who is asleep, and who is awake? Sometimes it was wear one and push the other, sometimes it was push both or even wear both! Either way having the double stroller as an option was/is key to how the Starbuck family maneuvers in public.
A few other things not pictured...
~When you bring baby home, have some small little presents for the older sibling to open and tell him or her that they are from the new baby. Seriously nothing expensive. It can be things from the dollar section at Target. Just a few little things to make the new older brother or sister feel special too! I actually didn't think of this but my friend Kate did. When she came to visit the baby she brought over 3 or 4 little wrapped presents for Peter to open over the next few days.
~Don't be afraid to ask for help as well as accepting it. I'm a super independent person and I just hate asking for help. I like to do things myself and do them my way. However, my husband would gently remind me that I needed to let those who wanted to help do so. he would also remind me that I am not super woman and accepting help is just fine. If someone offers to come watch the baby while you shower or clean your kitchen, say YES. Accept the generosity and say YES! A shower and a clean kitchen can make all the difference in your attitude.
And that's most of what I got! The important thing is to just take a deep breath when you feel overwhelmed or anxious. I had some pretty bad anxiety that first week home with Peter and James but I told someone and I got help. Don't keep the feelings in! It will be hard at first. In fact, it's still hard but that's ok. It's supposed to be! Parenting at any stage of the game is difficult and you have to remember to do what works best for your family. This survival guide might not work for you and that's ok! Find what does and stick with it. Best of luck to all the mommies who have, or are soon to have two under two.
And to the mommies of three under three? Any advice is welcome!!