By Melissa Hincha-Ownby, API Resource Leader of Arizona, API’s Technology Coodinator, and API’s Forum Administrator
**Originally published in the Spring 2008 New Baby issue of The Journal of API
One of the most common questions that parents ask themselves when they are considering expanding their family is, “What is the ideal spacing between children?” There is no right answer to this question, as what is ideal to one family may make no sense to another.
The answer for our family was two years. My sister and I are three and a half years apart, and while we are the best of friends now, the age difference left us both alone in high school. Based on my personal experience with my sister, I knew that I didn’t want my children quite so far apart.
Although two years was on the maximum end of what my husband and I were hoping for, fate stepped in and had other ideas. Ultimately, my daughter was born when my son was two years and three months old. In hindsight, the 27-month difference has turned out to be great. However, in the early years, at times, things were definitely tough.
Reality Sets In
My journey into the mother-of-two realm was rocky; ten weeks on bedrest was the beginning. I used that time to really reconnect with my son. I only had a few days between my bedrest restriction being lifted and the birth of my daughter. It was official: I was now the mom of two children, both of which just happened to be in diapers.
The Hardest Part
I quickly learned that the hardest part during those early days was just adjusting. My son had a nice flow to his day; it was fairly predictable. Infants are anything but predictable. Thankfully, my husband had saved up his vacation and was able to stay home with me for three weeks. This was helpful, as it allowed me to ease into a new routine of caring for two children.
A question I’m often asked by mothers pregnant with their second child is how I handled the sleepless nights, especially in the beginning. I can honestly say that for me, the sleepless nights were easier the second time around. I knew what to expect, so I had no unrealistic ideas about the amount of sleep I’d be getting. I’d be exhausted, but this time, I was prepared to take it easy and get plenty of rest.
AP with a Newborn and a Toddler
The center of operations for our house was based around my bed. As is the case with many families who practice Attachment Parenting, I co-slept with my daughter. My son, by this point, had declared his independence and moved on to his own territory.
In my room, I had a diapering station setup and special toys for my son. The entire family spent those first few weeks getting to know each other. Seeing my son go from being wary of this new squirmy little thing taking up his mom’s time to realizing she was here to stay so he might as well get to know her was quite cute, and will remain a memorable part of those early days. After he accepted her (which took a few days), you could see him absolutely fall in love with her. It was heartwarming to watch this transformation take place.
In the blink of an eye, the three weeks were up, my husband was back to work, and the honeymoon stage was over. Now I was on full-time day duty for two little beings that relied on me for everything. I was nervous but took it a day at a time. Diapering proved to take up a good portion of my day so I set up an efficient system of diapering. It was an assembly line of diapers, wipes, and rash cream.
Once diapering was mastered, it was time to figure out how to multitask. One of the biggest challenges I faced as a mom of two young children was meeting both of their needs—at the same time. My success in overcoming this challenge can be attributed to my vast collection of slings and wraps. My daughter’s needs were met if she was close to Momma and able to nurse when she wanted. The sling accomplished both of these needs while leaving two hands free for my son.
Keeping my son’s day as close to normal was one of my goals. He was (and still is) a creature of routine and doesn’t do well with change. I knew this would be a challenge for both of us. Adaptation was required on both of our parts, but I introduced change gently and slowly for him, keeping his needs in mind. One thing that helped tremendously was having a container of “special toys” that he was able to play with during those times when I needed to take a break or when my daughter wasn’t nursing well in the sling. He was more inclined to relax with us and play with these toys because they were reserved for our “quiet time.”
By the time my daughter was born, my son had completely given up naps. Setting aside a portion of our day for quiet time ensured that I would be rested and that my son and I could spend some cuddle time together. I honestly do not think that those first few months would have gone so smoothly had I not discovered the wonders of quiet time. To this day, our entire family still practices this quiet time tradition.
After the three of us adjusted to this new routine of Daddy gone during the day, my son started the true bonding process with his little sister. He would sit next to her as she lay on the floor figuring out how her little arms and legs moved and cheer her on. I still remember the day she swatted at a toy that was hanging above her: She hit the toy, making it move, and Alexander jumped up, yelled “Yay!” and gave her a rousing round of applause. Little moments like those are what made those early days easier.
Taking Time for Family Fun
When my daughter was five weeks old, I felt that I had everything together and so decided to go on our family’s first vacation to Disneyland. The trip had been planned for months, and I just never thought I’d be able to go. Two days before the rest of my family was to leave, my husband and I decided to go for it. It was an exhausting four days but also four days of fantastic memories.
The Perfect Spacing?
Fast forward several years. My son is now six and my daughter is four. These past four years have had many ups and downs and special challenges. In that time, both of my children have been diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder. Those early days and months were faced with both challenging times, and times that would instantly warm my heart. Seeing the two of them play together, give each other random hugs and kisses, and look out for each other assures me that for us, the age difference is perfect.