The first clue that I might be pregnant again began with the delivery of the wrong sleep sack. I had ordered one for my seven-month-old. Bouncing my son on my knee, I stared at the opened package. Instead of blue race cars, pink flowers decorated the sack.
I heard what sounded like a ping, and the ping planted the seed.
Could I be pregnant? I thought. No. No, I can’t.
I shook off the crazy feeling. There was no way I was pregnant. My son was a miracle IVF baby. The doctor told me that the chances of conceiving naturally at the age of 40 were slim to none.
I silenced the ping.
A few days later, I returned to work after seven months of maternity leave. When I dropped my son off at daycare, I cried. Naturally I was emotional; my tears couldn’t possibly be prompted by hormones.
In the past four months, I had lost 30 pounds. There was no way that I was pregnant my first week back at work after losing all the baby weight and more, especially after being told becoming pregnant would be close to a miracle. Miracles like this didn’t happen to someone like me.
The second clue came when I threw up at lunch. I chalked it up to first-day-back nerves. I had returned to a promotion, and my new role was unclear.
Still, the ping persisted.
I picked my son up from daycare, his round face all aglow when he spotted me.
I’ll just take a quick pregnancy test, I thought. Then I can put it out of my mind.
I strapped my son in the Ergo and walked a mile to CVS.
Back home, I peed on the stick. I glanced away. I looked back. Already two little lines had appeared. I threw the stick under the sink and slammed the cupboard door.
I was in shock. It was impossible. I couldn’t be pregnant. I wasn’t ready for another child. I could barely handle one. I was 40 after all. Two under two would be the death of me. I didn’t have enough love in my heart for two. How would my body handle it? My husband would leave me. What would my boss think?
I strapped my son back in the Ergo and walked back to CVS. I would splurge on the digital tests that were more accurate. I’ll get a bunch, so I can test again and again to make sure. I won’t cry. Everything will be okay.
I continued like this for the next eight weeks. I told no-one except a close friend who’s like a mother to me. When I told her, she said, “I’m so sorry.” She knew what I must be feeling. Hearing her mirror my own thoughts gave me some strength. Perhaps I could handle having another baby so soon.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want another child. I did. I wanted my son to have a sibling. I’d always imagined two, but now after becoming a mother, I understood that motherhood is as hard as it’s beautiful. I understood that having children is an all-consuming lifestyle change. I knew that raising kids really did take a village.
Perhaps the feeling of doom had to do with how tired I felt. Or that I wasn’t ready for the labor, the breastfeeding, or the late night awakenings. The memory of all these realities were still fresh in my mind. After all, the time between pregnancies had only been a few months.
After eight weeks of hiding my nausea, I began to slowly accept that I would be a mother of two under two. I felt guilty every time someone complimented my weight loss. I knew I needed to tell my husband. The weight of becoming parents had put stress on our marriage, but in the past few weeks, we’d settled into a routine. We’d found happiness again. I didn’t want to jeopardize this new-found place of peace.
I wanted to enjoy my growing son. I wanted to enjoy my new job. I wanted to wear a bikini again. I certainly didn’t want to worry about swollen ankles and stretch marks, or where we’d put the baby in our tiny apartment. I didn’t want to worry about divorce.
Around 18 weeks I started to tell people outside of my family. I began to show quicker this time, and my weight loss only further emphasized my swollen belly. I found out the baby was a girl. I cried then. At least it would be a girl, I thought.
I wasn’t alone in this pregnancy. Two other women at work were pregnant and due around the same time. My boss was surprisingly supportive. Acceptance settled in. My daughter was coming, regardless of how much I wanted to put her off for at least one more year.
People asked, “Aren’t you excited?”
I responded, “Of course!”
Inside though, I wasn’t so sure. I was frightened. I had no family close. I was over 40. The list went on. My friends at work seemed to be less worried and more excited. I was the one who wondered if I was up to the changes that were approaching so quickly.
Then my daughter arrived. The doctor gently placed her on my chest. I stroked her cheek with my finger. She was mine. My husband remarked on how calm she seemed. Being in her presence was a tonic, her eyes already seemed wiser than mine.
My son’s birth was traumatic and long. Hers was normal and short. We still struggled to breastfeed, but this time I had the knowledge and tools to overcome our difficulties. With your first, you have the lifestyle change. With your second you have this sensation of same, same but different. At first, I found diaper changes hard to manage. I went from two different size diapers to two different body parts. I couldn’t put the newborn down for the fear that the rhino-toddler would sit on her. When would they nap at the same time?
However, it really wasn’t the diaper changes or synchronized naps that worried me. Not really. I was really afraid that I wouldn’t be able to love both of them enough.
Then, three months into two under two, I heard what sounded like another ping.
The sound vibrated as I played and sang “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” with my children. It was one of those moments when motherhood seems like you imagined it before you had children. In that moment, I accepted I was raising two children. Not perfectly or not 1950s-well, but we were surviving. I would be able to get them both to bed by seven. I would be able to find ten minutes to myself. I would be able to love them equally but differently.
My life changed in other ways as well. In fact, having a second child opened up new possibilities. I viewed my time differently. With two children, every second counts. Accomplishing your dreams requires even more determination and resilience.
Everyone says nap when the baby naps, but what happens if you have two? Instead, you wake up early or go to bed late. You prioritize what’s important in your day. I was writing again. I started to become published. I lost 30 pounds. My husband decided to specialize in a new area of his field. He woke up at 3:30 every morning to study. One day he exclaimed, “I’m learning a lot.” He picked up our daughter. Love encircled them. I wasn’t the only one our daughter had transformed. We wouldn’t have made these changes without her. Her presence in our life had pushed us to make better decisions, to be resilient.
My son loved her too. There were moments of jealousy, but he was constantly hugging and kissing her. The first thing he did when he woke up was to ask for her. When I was pregnant, people used to tell me how close they would be, close as Irish cousins. I can see this now. He can make her laugh more easily than anybody. When he hugs her, he doesn’t want to let go.
Before you have children, the phrase, “They grow up so fast” sounds cliché. When you have children, you realize how true it is. I’m now continually reminded of the podcast “The Longest Shortest Time.” The title reflects my life beautifully. Time does stretch out and snap back.
One day, I heard another ping. The sound vibrated as I dropped them both off at daycare. I had arranged with their daycare provider to not linger. It was better to leave before one of them cried. I snuck away. But I wasn’t ready to let go, so I watched them through the window. My son stood guard by her carrier. The ping hummed. Only a short amount of time had passed raising two under two, yet so many things had changed. Somehow we survived. We’d thrived. As I turned and walked away, I was already missing what had already passed.