This is my standard response to inquiries about, among other things, my sanity now that we have two kids instead of one. Mostly, this assertion is correct.
By the time baby number two comes around, you’ve already surrendered any lingering hope that you might sleep when you want to, or talk to your husband over dinner, or walk across the living room without stepping on a Duplo building block. So the ways in which your life changes, going from one kid to two, doesn’t feel quite as far-reaching as it did after that first kid landed in your lap, awe-inspiring and vulnerable, heralding the biggest life transition you’ve ever encountered.
So, seeing as you’ve gone through all of that normalcy twisting, having-a-new-baby business before, it seems you’d be less inclined to feel bowled over by the ways in which your life changes after having a second. This, as I said, is mostly correct.
But then again, having a second kid isn’t like having your first kid all over again.
When Elle wouldn’t sleep as a baby, I would do what most other mothers would do in a similar, sleep-deprived state: Complain to whoever would listen (mostly, my husband), and then sleep in those chunks of time when the howling eased up.
But the second time around presents a new set of challenges, since there are fewer and fewer howl-free chunks of time.
Just because you’ve been through six months of sleep deprivation before doesn’t, as it turns out, prepare you for another six months of sleep deprivation. When it seems the string of nights in which I don’t sleep through stretches out behind and before me like a dreary Nevada highway – when I emerge, groggy-eyed and self-pitying, from the depths of those too-short spells of deep slumber to attend to the needs of a growing infant or sleep-hating toddler – I fully, albeit fuzzily, comprehend the difference between having one child and having two.
Because this is how it seems to go: Emme falls asleep. Elle tramples down the stairs hollering something about reindeer and wakes Emme up. Elle gets ready for bed as Emme is appeased back into slumber. Following an epic succession of pre-sleep appeals, including twice to the potty, multiple requests for a suitable blanket arrangement and entreaties for a few more minutes with her “reading” light on, Elle falls asleep. I, ecstatically, slump into bed and fall asleep.
Then… I wake up to Elle crying. I stumble out of bed, certain it’s 7 a.m. I squint to see the bedside clock, which says 1:18. Shuffle down the stairs, assuring my eldest daughter I’m coming to the rescue.
“Mommy, I have poop on my jammies,” Elle sobs when I enter her bedroom.
I have not the slightest idea how poop could have gotten on Elle’s jammies. This makes little sense. But I have just been stunned out of sleep, and I’m not thinking straight, so I take her word for it and we trample into the bathroom, turning on lights, preparing for the worst.
“Oh, look, mommy. There isn’t poop on my jammies!”
Indeed, there is no poop on Elle’s pajamas. There is no poop anywhere, in fact. Go figure.
Once Elle has been adequately soothed – with acceptable blanket arrangement, new stuffed animal, and reading light turned on – I return to bed.
This thought follows me back to sleep: Thank God Emme didn’t wake up.
I have just drifted off when Elle’s cries return me to consciousness. Stumble out, bumble down, shuffle in. “What is it Elle?”
“There’s poop on my blanket!” she sobs.
Poop on her blanket makes less sense than anything else at this point. But things don’t tend to make sense in the middle of the night, so I double check.
“No poop on your blanket, Elle,” I assure her, wearily.
Sleep routine is resumed. I return to bed, and as my head hits the pillow I wonder if all of it had been a dream. I am not quite asleep when I hear a familiar burble.
I hear Emme’s legs hit the mattress. Again and again.
You’re kidding me.
“AHHHH!” she shrieks. Happily. It’s a happy shriek, at least. But a middle-of-the-night, fully-awake shriek.
Maybe she will fall back asleep. Maybe Craig will get up with her. Maybe I will get some sleep. Sometime this year.
Emme shrieks again. Craig is snoring. I hear Elle rustling in her bedroom. I resign myself to my sleepless fate.
If I were truthful, when good-meaning friends and neighbors ask about my mental state now that we’ve added yet another sleep-sucking creature to the family, I would tell them: My sanity is as best as can be expected, under these heavy-lidded circumstances.