When you’re pregnant with your first baby, everyone tells you how much your relationship will change when you become a parent. “No more impromptu trips to the pub for you!” they joke. “Gone are the days when you can waltz out for dinner at a moments’ notice” they say with a certain amount of glee. Everywhere you turn it seems there’s someone ready and waiting to tell you to “make the most of your freedom” before your baby comes along, because life will never be the same again.
And they’re all right, of course. But what they all fail to mention (or, in my case at least) is that a second baby puts just as much – if not more – pressure on a relationship. And it’s not just your relationship with your partner that’s squeezed, it’s your relationship with your older child too.
I first realised how much our family dynamic had shifted a couple of weeks ago when, at midnight, my four year old got sick. In times of old, before I was a mum to a new baby again, I’d have put my daughter in bed with me while her dad would have been turfed out. Sick days were definitely “Mummy Days”, and Frog wanted me and me alone to look after her.
This night, however, I couldn’t do any of that. I had a baby to feed so I couldn’t stay in Frog’s bedroom with her. And she couldn’t come into our room, in case she made her baby sister sick too. So it was up to the (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine to take on sick duty, while I looked after the baby.
The following morning I woke up to find Frog and her dad fast asleep on a makeshift bed on the floor, with a sick covered duvet by the washing machine and her stripped mattress drying out on her bed. When they both woke up the NLM told me how he’d stayed up with Frog through the night while she vomited every half an hour. He told me how he’d held her hair back and brought her fresh water to drink between each sicky episode. He told me how she cried because it hurt, but she was brave and didn’t ask for me once.
And that’s when I saw my husband in a whole new light (again). I appreciated (again) what a good dad he is. And I realised (again) how close he is to our eldest daughter. In fact, since baby girl arrived 15 weeks ago, he’s closer to Frog than ever before. They have more “in” jokes together, regularly do things just the two of them – even if it’s just a trip to the supermarket – and are a proper little team in a way that they weren’t before we were a family of four.
That’s not the only relationship that’s changed since baby number 2 arrived though. My own relationship with Frog has shifted too. She’s no longer my “baby”, but is now my big girl. Without even realising it I speak to her in a more grown up way – it’s like she’s become a little friend and helper. And when we do get time alone, just the two of us, she laps it up in a way that she didn’t before, when it was taken for granted. We have our own “in” jokes and she thrives on being the “big girl” now she’s got a little sister.
And then there’s my relationship with the NLM. There have been days when the baby is screaming, Frog is throwing a tantrum, the house is a tip and the weekend chores list is as long as my arm. Add to that the fact we’re both existing on minimal sleep at the moment due to a nocturnal baby and it’s a recipe for a row.
But although there have been snappy occasions, there have been far more funny ones. Like when I tried to communicate with the NLM via the baby monitor and he thought we had a ghost. Or when the baby did a wee all down his newly washed jeans. Or when Frog pronounced me “a stress head” and reminded me to chill the hell out about the mess, sounding more and more like her dad every day.
Our family dynamic has completely shifted. Sometimes it feels like we’re all getting to know each other all over again, as we see each other in a new light. But, far from that being a bad thing, it’s actually pretty exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing how things alter even more once baby girl is a walking talking little person, ready to join in and add her own unique slant to things.