I was completely oblivious. It was one of those things I assumed would be challenging but I completely underestimated how much it would shake me. I loved the idea of my kids being close in age, but the hardest moments of mothering 2 under 2 were easily within the first 2 months of Emmaline’s life. There were times where I just felt so disconnected from what was going on, and I knew this was probably the beginning stages of post-partum depression. I was spiraling, and I was spiraling fast. I saw no light a the end of the tunnel. I was just going to have 2 crying, fussing, discontent babies for the rest of my life. It seems so unrealistic now, but when you’re in the thick of it, you really can’t see past that moment. I was literally just trying to survive. Keep the kids alive and keep myself from crying – which seemed impossible. I cried so many times that no one ever saw because I thought I had to be the strong mom who just did it all. A 17 month old, a newborn, finals for school, etc.
I remember the heartbreaking moment when I looked at my happy Rylie and saw a little girl who had this look like I betrayed her. She slipped off the couch while I was nursing Emmaline and even though the falling sensation startled her more than the pain of hitting the carpet, her loud tears and my helplessness to comfort her was like my 1-year-old saying, “I’ve been replaced.” My mom had to comfort her while I turned my head and cried. I didn’t know what to do. I cried the rest of the night. I barely ate my dinner and I was completely clueless about what I could do to help make any of this better. Everything was harder. Emmaline’s personality was harder, nursing was harder, sleeping was harder, taking care of myself was harder, my mental and emotional state was nothing like it was with Rylie and I felt so alone.
Knowing I might be in the beginning stages of post-partum depression, I quickly listened to my friend’s podcast where she and another friend of mine shared their experience with PPD and I was encouraged. I wasn’t crazy. This was a real feeling AND I could get out of it. I told Aaron that night I needed to get out of the house at least once a day hoping that might help me. We went to the park a lot those few weeks and I could feel my spirit lifting.
One Sunday afternoon, I had a breakthrough that lifted my heart so much. I was changing Emmaline’s diaper on the couch and Rylie came over and watched closely. She proceeded to take Emmaline’s pants and laid them on top of Emmaline’s leg. She looked up at me with eyes that said nothing but everything I needed to hear at the same time. “She just wants to help,” was blaring in my mind as if it had never occurred to me before. “Rylie. Would you like to help Mama with baby sister?” I’m sure she didn’t fully understand me, but the combination of her name and baby probably clicked enough for her to smile.
I truly felt like my relationship with Rylie was restored that afternoon. Although it was never truly broken, I needed the comfort that she knew I still loved her so deeply. I let her put Emmaline in her baby doll stroller (I hung on to the handle though) and I tried to be more aware of how I could let Rylie help me.
Since I couldn’t remember the last time I had intentionally let Rylie hold her sister, I let her hold Emmaline. She smiled so big at me and rocked Emmaline back and forth. It was such a sweet moment.
Rylie loved to help me change Emmaline’s diaper, get burp cloths, hold bottles and get her dressed.
Rylie LOVED it (and still does) when they matched in some way too, which has fun to do.
From then on my struggle wasn’t with Rylie, but with Emmaline. She seemed to have a strong distaste for life and I wasn’t sure why. It didn’t help that I kept comparing her to what Rylie was like at that age, which God kindly reminded me was only going to bring me discouragement because He didn’t make another Rylie. He made us a different person and I needed to embrace her differences instead of fighting them. That helped A LOT!
After that one Sunday back when Rylie was still adjusting to another baby, Rylie fell in love with Emmaline and loved to give her kisses and was quick to run to her aid when there were tears. Emmaline, however, was not a fan of Rylie for a while, but as she got older she has grown to adore her big sister and now they are inseparable.
Another big milestone was when Emmaline got into her own crib in her own room.
I don’t know if it was a full nights sleep, having her own sleeping space or what but Emmaline woke up a completely different child. She was happy. She smiled more, laughed more and cried and fussed less. Life wasn’t so bad after all.
This change also made her like her big sister more. Rylie’s love for Sister only increased but Emmaline finally started actually enjoying Rylie’s presence.
I will say that nursing a baby + keeping track of a 1-year-old was hard. I remember one day Rylie had a come-a-part in the kitchen because I wouldn’t give her more juice. While nursing Emmaline, I knelt down to comfort Rylie and was literally laughing out loud at the insanity that I’m sure this moment would have looked like if anyone had seen it.
As time went on, I adjusted much better. Post-partum depression was no longer on my radar and my focus really went to trying to find a new family rhythm.
It took some time, but once we hit 7 / 8 months I really feel like our family started to thrive. Emmaline was happy, Rylie was turning 2 and able to say real words to us and Aaron & I were getting full nights of sleep – hallelujah!
Of course we still have our days, but what family with young kids doesn’t!? The important thing I want to encourage you with – whether you are a mama with 2 under 2 like me or you have a 9-year-old refusing to do their homework – it does get better! If you would have told me when I was struggling with nursing and my 1-year-old was fussing all day every day that just a few months later they would be inseparable, sleep all night and we could actually go a few hours without anyone crying, I probably would have laughed at you with a “uh-huh… yeah . And that’s also the month I’ll get a flying car and get a visit from Scooby-Doo!” hahaha
But it really does get better. Eventually they sleep. Eventually we all figure out how to go out in public. Eventually you find ways to include your oldest child in baby’s feedings. Eventually your family falls into place and you have time to sit back and watch it all.
And one day, you’ll be able to look back and write about it without feeling like you’re going to lose your mind. 😛