A few days ago Luna turned 2 years old and that was also the last time I could say that we had two children under two. I use the word "whirlwind" a lot and I can say that the past three years have been a bit of one, but paradoxically they have also been a time of intense calm for me. Peace even (within, because that word has sadly nothing in common with the world that we live in today).
I used to rush through the days, packing in as much as possible, looking to always experience and learn and taste and feel. There was no time to spend doing "nothing", days spent in bed or on the couch watching TV resulted in a feeling of guilt. Guilt that I was missing out, guilt that being too hungover to move was a terrible way to spend one's short life. There was always something to do, somewhere to go, someone to see. I would rack up the hours at work on purpose, just to make myself feel useful. I would even thrive on the feeling of being overwhelmed. There was something satisfying with getting through an endless list of tasks that needed to be done simultaneously. Every so often I would stop and think about slowing down, but a day or two later I was back at it; "down time" was spent running from bar to bar, or running around trying to accomplish something or other, often left open ended when I lost interest.
These days I sometimes regret that I didn't pursue my writing and photography more during all those nights and days I spent either working or stressing about work or in a bar, or even just watching crap on TV, or even all those moments when I was reading 2 or 3 books at a time. Nowadays I cherish those moments when I have the time, like this, to write a few words down, the beginning of an article, an open ended letter, a stream of consciousness type rambling of words. But while I sometimes wish that I did have a little more time, it's all so worth it. Having kids or being a parent may not be for everyone, but it has been wonderful for me. More than that, it has been extraordinary and life-changing. The moment Luna was placed in my arms I knew that I had to live up to the person she needed me to be. And I've probably already failed a million times, but I will continue to strive to be better and better. Motherhood came completely naturally, so much that I couldn't wait to add another little being to our clan. Aurora just slid naturally into our arms and our lives, taking over our hearts just as much as her sister did. Going from one to two was actually slightly easier than going from none to one. Although each baby is completely different there are less of those new mama fears and worries when it comes to the second. I also had a much easier recovery from Aurora’s birth, so that also has a lot to do with it.
That said, it has in no shape or form been easy. I still think that we were slightly (completely) insane to even consider having children so close together. Luna was only 8 months old when I found out I was pregnant with Aurora, and they are only 16 and a half months apart. This basically means that for 7 months we had two children under two. Luna has never slept through the night and still wakes up multiple times. Aurora slept for 6 hours in a row from about two weeks onwards but around 3.5 months decided that just wasn’t fun and now also wakes up multiple times during the night. Neither have ever slept in the lovely crib that is at the end of the bed, well not really anyway, and I spend a lot of the night turning between the two of them to nurse them back to sleep. But you know what? It’s OK. I’ve found that unless people know my kids they tend to think that I am exaggerating so I don’t bother to say much anymore. We’ve had an extremely tough time with Luna, but at the same time I know that she feels secure and loved. All of the sleepless nights and battles and tantrums are worth it. I mean, how long is it really going to last anyway? How many sleepless nights did I have of my own accord, either by drinking them away in a bar or by stressing out about things that were never really that important in the long run anyway? THIS is important. Our children are important. And maybe I am just a big softie but that’s OK, because now isn’t the time for real tough love.
I’ve read enough articles and internet comments to know that everyone has their own stance on parenting, whether they are based on their own upbringing or their own experience, and most people feel very strongly about their own opinions. I learnt a long time ago to not listen to any of that. As a mother (or father) only you really know the best way to raise your child, what works for all of you and no one should be able to tell you any different. With motherhood comes a lot of insecurities and some people seem to thrive on making new mothers feel like they are doing the wrong thing. That’s why it is so important to find that support group, whether it be your partner, extended family or friends, people who listen, help and only offer advice when asked. I can’t even tell you the amount of times I heard “just leave her to cry for a bit” or “wean her now otherwise she will still be nursing whenever she needs some comfort”. Those phrases tend to make even the strongest of people wonder if they have made a mistake and are raising their children to become “entitled brats”. I don’t know how loving a baby computes into raising an entitled brat, but there is a huge difference in picking a small infant up when they cry and doing an 8 year old’s homework for him or her. Ah I could rant about this forever! All that to say less judgment and more compassion would probably help a lot of new parents feel more confident about their decisions!
Ah, those first weeks were full of changes and restlessness. Luna had a hard time accepting her sibling, which for a 17 month old is pretty normal. If you combine separation anxiety and the inability to communicate your wants and needs effectively the result is often multiple and pretty epic tantrums. I felt a lot of guilt during those weeks, guilt that I was somehow ruining one child’s early years by forcing another child onto her. Even today, nearly 8 months later, there are moments when I feel that I don’t spend enough one on one time with Luna anymore, or quite the opposite, that Aurora is getting the short end of the stick because Luna is just so demanding. And then for 5 perfect minutes in a day they will both “play” together around a pile of Lego, before Luna decides that Aurora cannot touch her toys or Aurora knocks down a tower that Luna has painstakingly built. But during those 5 minutes I know that it is all worth it.
I found it hard to juggle a needy toddler, a newborn and my freelance writing career. I couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than 5 minutes, even during the evening or night hours when the children were finally sleeping. It’s still hard, and most articles that I write have taken one, two or even five days to write and post. Anyone who says that by working at home they are able to be 100% there all the time for their kids is lying. When I am writing, I am concentrating about 50% on my writing and 50% on what my girls are doing. And usually have to drop the former for the latter, because that’s just the way things are for now. It’s hard to find time to actually talk to your partner about anything, and communication is absolute key in a relationship. Sometimes I look at the clock and am so excited about Cesar coming home from work so I can actually spend 5 minutes by myself in the loo, but then I remember that he has been out at work all day, dealing with a busy, often crazy, job and also needs a time out. There isn’t always a balance and some days I feel like I am hanging from a thread… But then there will always be a miraculous moment of joy that brings everything back together again. A kiss, a new word, a milestone, dinner made for me or even just 30 minutes to get my thoughts down on paper. A beautiful flower in the breeze, a quiet walk in the park, an hour to listen to an album on my headphones, one or both of the girls sleeping longer than 2 hours in a row. A shower by myself! Most days I have both in the bathroom with me while I try to look decent – but I am proud of the fact that I have never gone a day without showering (the bathroom is set up with kid seats and toys for this purpose). So I suppose I can complain about not sleeping but never about not being able to shower!
All in all the tough moments are always outweighed by the wonderful ones. Seeing my children interact with each other, all of the moments of affection, the “I love you”s, the times when both children are sleeping peacefully together and Cesar and I can talk and laugh about how beautiful they are and how much we love them, running around the park, seeing them interact with their grandmother and aunties and old friends and new friends… If you asked me if I would do it over again if I had the choice I wouldn’t even hesitate a second to say yes. If you asked me if I would do it again with another child I would probably say no, not so close together. Two this close is doable, three would be tough on us all. There needs to be at least a year or two between Aurora and another one. Tandem nursing is tough enough (mainly because Luna nurses as much as, or even more than Aurora), there is no way on earth that I want to be nursing three children of different ages in the near or far future!
I don’t regret how I lived my life before having kids, but I sure as hell don’t regret living my life as I do now. I’m so in love with my life, and with my little family, and feel like I can finally imagine a future that makes complete sense to me, and to my family. And I hope that one day when the girls are fighting about a pair of jeans or a CD (haha) that they don’t hate us too much for having them so closely together!