Yet I have been a parent of two for almost three years. From the moment we transferred that second embryo into my artificially-enhanced womb, I become a mother of two, constantly concerned with the health and safety of both of my daughters. My experience of parenting went from the relatively simple (but rarely easy) focus on one tiny little being to an unpredictable reality of constantly shifting attention, competing demands, difficult choices, and unmet needs (often my own). It went from mostly manageable to complete mayhem.
The first time I truly lived this chaos was the week before my daughter’s birth. My “big” girl (a mere 20 months old at the time) fractured her leg the day before my due date. On the day her sister was to arrive into this world, I waddled into the doctor’s office, and watched her eyes grow wide as I explained that I was, in fact, due that day. I sobbed in the hallway outside the x-ray room as my daughter cried in fear while strangers held her down. As much as I was desperately tired of being pregnant, I went to sleep each night that week praying that I wouldn’t go into labor. I needed just one more night, one more day, to figure out how to take care of a toddler in a cast that covered her tiny leg from her hip to her toes.
My baby complied; she was born five days late. Unlike the birth of our first daughter, for which we were well-prepared and quite rested, Josh and I arrived at the hospital with raging sinus infections and a fatigue that was so debilitating I was begging for an epidural before I even showed them my insurance card.
The next days, weeks, and even months were a haze. The baby was born, the cast came off, and Josh and I eventually slept, but each day of parenting two was truly astounding; I was simultaneously overjoyed and overwhelmed, and more often the latter. Many of my rules and routines, culled from carefully-studied parenting books, went out the window. They were no longer relevant or effective. I remember my first attempt to put both girls to sleep on my own. After nearly an hour of running back and forth between their rooms, trying to soothe each girl for minutes at a time as her sister cried, I finally collapsed into tears myself. I sat on the couch sobbing as I emailed all of my friends with two kids, begging for ideas as to how the hell I was supposed to do this. Bedtime. Any of it. All of it. (The answer? TV. Which, of course, my 20-month-old refused to watch.)
We muddled through, and even as each day felt catastrophic, each one felt… amazing, if only for minutes at a time. Josh was helpful whenever he was home, which was often, but there were hours and even days at a time when I was on my own. Slowly, slowly, I began to think that maybe I could do this. Maybe I actually could raise two children, daughters, sisters. We established new routines, and we began to help each other, even in small ways. We all became more flexible, and more forgiving. I learned to embrace the chaos, and when I couldn’t do that, I cried, reminding myself that this, too, shall pass.
And now my baby is 2. She’s sweet and sassy and funny and doesn’t put up with shit from any of us. She’s got her father’s blue eyes, and thick, straight hair that falls halfway down her back. This past weekend she was kissing mannequin crotches and stealing cake off of other people’s plates. Her sister is her idol and her best friend, and when I see them playing happily with baby dolls and blankets, I don’t regret having my daughters so close together. Even when I hear them bickering over toys or who gets to brush her teeth first, I don’t regret it. This (barely) controlled chaos is the family life I remember from my childhood, the family life I want for my children.
My first baby made me a mother. My second baby made me a mother of two. The difference, for me, has been immeasurable, and incredible. So, to my baby, thank you. For more than you know.