As Lin Manuel Miranda once said, “the world turned upside down.”
My wife and I were always aligned on wanting to have multiple kids, and while I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, I remember thinking, “there’s no way this is possible so quickly.”
I was wrong.
As it turns out, it is very possible, so quickly.
Shortly after we found out, I was in our nursery with our 3-month-old baby, building a website or something, when my wife came in a bit upset. She was fearful that we were robbing our baby of quality time with her parents. She was fearful that we were robbing ourselves of quality time with our baby.
I had already gone back to work and established my new routine and my wife was also just back to work from maternity leave. We were starting to really “get” how to take care of a baby and our daughter was finally starting to show that she was a fun human being that needed me for more than just food, diaper changes, and fashion advice. We were just getting into the groove and starting to feel relatively comfortable. Time to reset.
Now hear me out for a second: I’m not suggesting that my role was more difficult than my wife’s role in her pregnancies. It isn’t close. I’m fairly certain that even if I had the physical capability to carry and grow a child inside of my body, and then birth said child, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have the mental capability to get through it. I get it. That being said, I do think it is fair to claim that while stressful and difficult for my wife, one can potentially allow for the possibility that being a 1st-time parent with a 3-month-old baby and a pregnant wife who was just starting to really recover from the previous pregnancy could also be difficult and stressful for me.
Our first daughter was born in March of 2008. It was June of that year when we found out my wife was pregnant with #2. In September, in an attempt to make things even more complicated, I changed jobs. Now, to be fair, this job change had been in the works prior to us knowing about the second baby but that was only so helpful when it came to the growing anxiety of how to deal with two babies who aren’t actually twins.
My wife was fortunate to have a relatively smooth pregnancy again. She suffered from pretty bad heartburn, but didn’t get hit with morning sickness (in either pregnancy). This time around, we were not really able to partake in that great act of “getting all the sleep you can now,” given the current infant inhabitant in the house.
We tried to fall into as much of a routine as possible, which was not only good for the baby but also for us. We were lucky to have a baby who liked and was good at sleeping. We alternated feeding times at night in a pattern like this:
I would do a 7 p.m. feeding and put the baby down for the night. If necessary, she would do a 10 p.m. feeding. After that, she could go to sleep for the night. If there was an overnight feeding, I would handle that one. The next feeding wouldn’t be until 6-7 in the morning. She could get a relatively good night of sleep and I was (am) able to function on minimal sleep. It worked out for everyone.
All of my fears that I held prior to our first child being born, particularly those related to work, were back. They changed a bit.
Prior to having kids, I could say, but only theoretically and without experience to back it up, that I wanted to be a parent that was home in time for dinner. It was all just a logistical problem right? I’ll just go in early, leave early, and do work in the negative space. Everyone will understand. It will all work fine.
Then your baby is born, you have your time off, and then back to work. I was pretty lucky in terms of people I worked with not only understanding but also being very supportive. What I didn’t account for was my own professional drive and guilt. If I left “early” I felt guilty: was I letting the company down? Was I doing a good enough job, in both roles?
So my fears evolved. They were now based on actual evidence of being a parent. These fears were also balanced a bit more by the same actual evidence of being a parent. This time around I didn’t need to learn how to change diapers. I knew what that cry meant and I knew how to hold a baby.
I would be fine. We would be fine. We weren’t robbing our first daughter of any alone time; we were giving her a sibling and a best friend.
Work would be fine because I would just figure out the routine. At the highest level of optimism—which is where I like to live—I told myself that any company that didn’t support my desire and need to prioritize my job as a dad over my job at the company was probably not a company I wanted to work at anyway. I’m glad to have worked at companies where my optimism has been validated.
On April 13, 2009, just under three weeks after our first daughter’s 1st birthday, we went to the hospital. It was go time. We sat in the triage room, in our blocked-off curtain area, listening to an obnoxious about-to-be-dad in some distant curtain area tell his partner after the nurse told them it wasn’t time yet, that “it was okay because who wanted to have a baby born on the 13th anyway?”
Three hours later our second child was born. This time, given my vast experience watching when my first daughter was born a year earlier, I almost immediately recognized this new baby’s anatomy.
We had another daughter.
Time to get to work.