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My Kids Are 5 Years Apart and It's Kind of the Worst

The unexpected downsides of having a second kid

Published on: February 20, 2018


There's a five-year age gap between my children. 

It’s not what I wanted, and it’s certainly not what I planned. Sometimes, our bodies don’t work like we want them to. And so this is just how our family ended up. No changing it now, even if I wanted to.

In many ways, the age difference has been a blessing. There’s something to be said for an older sibling who is old enough to understand that babies simply require a large amount of attention from Mommy and Daddy. Old enough not to get jealous. Old enough to fall asleep alone. Old enough to brush his teeth on his own every now and then. Old enough to make himself a PB&J when Mommy is preoccupied with nursing. Or to make a PB&J for Mommy when she forgets to feed herself before sitting down with the baby.

But there are other ways where having such a large age gap is kind of the pits.

It’s great that my older boy had been potty-trained for more than three years before his baby brother came along. Unlike some of my friends with babies spaced much closer together, we’ve had precisely zero issues with regression in that department. No bed-wetting or accidents. Indeed, my son generally no longer even requires reminding to go use the potty; he’s almost entirely self-sufficient in that department.

What’s not great about that? I’ve had three whole years to get used to not having to deal with diapers. Three years of not wiping bottoms that don’t belong to me. Three years of not washing cloth diapers, of not having to rinse poop off in the toilet first. Three years with no diaper rash. And now we’re back at the beginning. I’m washing diapers every three days. Struggling to keep little feet out of the poopy diaper I just removed. Wrestling with baby to keep him on his back so I can get a clean diaper in place and clothing reattached.

My older son started eating “real” food five years before it was new baby’s turn. I had five whole years of not worrying about introducing foods in a certain way, of worrying about allergic reactions. It’s been five years since I’ve had to chop or mash things in a baby-appropriate way. It’s been more than three or four years since I’ve had to seriously worry about my child choking on his food.

And now I’m back in the thick of the journey to solids. Naturally, this baby is completely different, so everything I thought I knew has gone out the window. We did baby-led weaning with my older, partly because it was more intuitive and partly because he wanted nothing to do with purees. This baby, on the other hand, is digging applesauce and mango mush. He likes mashed banana and avocado just fine, but he’s not sitting up yet, so I can’t just pop him into a high chair and give him well-cooked and appropriately-sized finger foods. It’s a whole different world.

Lest I get too caught up in the negatives of having a baby in my home again, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of positives.

It’s been two or so years since I’ve been able to just take a shower whenever I want to, without worrying about what mischief my child would get into while I was out of the room. But now that I’ve got a baby again, I’m back to waiting to take showers until my husband is home, or else risk listening to baby cry inconsolably from his swing while I wash my hair.

It’s been about two years since I was able to start dressing in whatever I wanted to again, with no thoughts for accessibility if my baby got hungry while out and about. But now I’m breastfeeding again, so I can’t do my high-necked sweater dresses this winter, and my primary wardrobe staple is, once again, my collection of nursing camis.

It’s been three years since I was able to start exercising regularly again, even if most of that exercise was in the form of workout DVDs done in my living room. Now I’m lucky to get in 10 minutes of yoga before the baby needs me.

And how about sleep? It’s been three years since I’ve had to wake up every three hours or so to breastfeed my little one. And now we’re back at the beginning again. My new little guy might not be an infant anymore, but he still sleeps like one. I’ve already adjusted — more or less — to frequent night wakings again, but that doesn’t mean I like it. And if my first son was any indication, it’ll be another year or two before I can expect to start sleeping through the night again myself.

But lest I get too caught up in the negatives of having a baby in my home again, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of positives.

While part of me is deeply unhappy about being awake so frequently throughout the night, another part of me lives for that quiet, when baby and I are the only ones awake. I’ve missed being needed in the way only a baby can need you.

I love the gentle noises he makes while nursing, the sounds of surprise and interest when an almost-asleep baby gets a new influx of milk, the sounds that I can’t always hear during the day over the noise of my 5-year-old. I’ve missed the way his little hands seek things to hold onto, whether it’s one of my own hands, my shirt, or my nose. I’ve missed the beautiful knowledge that I can put him back to sleep in minutes with a quick nursing session.

My older son still loves hugs, for another example, but there’s nothing like snuggling an infant. The way my new baby’s arms curl around my neck like I’m his lifeline (because I am). The way he curls into me after a tumble, as if I’m the only thing that could possibly comfort him. The limp weight of him when he falls asleep in my arms.

I’ve missed gummy baby smiles, which I haven’t seen since my older boy was a toothless infant five years ago.

I’ve missed sweet milky breath on my neck.

I’ve missed adorable baby clothes.

I’ve missed seeing that look of delight upon tasting a new food for the first time (hello, sweet potato!), or that look of pride as he crawls determinedly toward me.

A second baby definitely brings a new learning curve — new rules, new ideas. Especially when it’s been awhile since your first baby was that small. Every baby truly is different, and I’m finding that while a lot of baby stuff comes back to you, there are lots of things I’ve forgotten (perhaps intentionally).

I’ll adjust, as we all do, and hopefully I’ll someday get to a point where I stop thinking wistfully of the days when I didn’t have a small baby demanding my constant attention, and instead be able to just appreciate all the baby things that encompass my life right now.

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