And then there were two: ‘Ryan can’t un­der­stand that mummy has to sit down and feed the baby’

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Parenting Second Baby -

The tran­si­tion from one child to two was much more dif­fi­cult than San­dra and Ross Town­ing had an­tic­i­pated.

They had been lulled into a false sense of se­cu­rity by their first-born Ryan, who has just turned two. He was “that myth­i­cal baby who slept all night”, says San­dra, “and ate what­ever was put in front of him. It was just so sim­ple.”

Then Aaran came along al­most five months ago. “And Aaran hasn’t slept since Aaran was born,” she ex­plains with a laugh.

Of course, she also has “a hy­per­ac­tive tod­dler who wants at­ten­tion all the time and can’t un­der­stand that mummy has to sit down and feed the baby”.

Ross, who she de­scribes as a very “hands-on” fa­ther, had taken no an­nual leave from work af­ter he heard they were ex­pect­ing a sec­ond child, so he was able to take a month off al­to­gether when Aaran was born.

At this stage, he has a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with Ryan than with Aaran, ex­plains San­dra, be­cause for the first two or three months the baby just wanted his mother. This meant the time Ross was off work, he spent mostly with Ryan.

“It was great for Ryan – and be­ing in the mid­dle of the sum­mer and the good weather, they could go off and do things.”

It was a bit daunt­ing for San­dra to be left alone with the two of them when Ross re­turned to work. “When you’re breast­feed­ing, it takes so much time, you are sat un­der your baby.

“And there is an aw­ful lot of ‘Mum guilt’ to­wards the tod­dler. You can’t sit and play with them; he’s there try­ing to jump on you and he doesn’t un­der­stand.”

She wasn’t pre­pared for that guilt but life is get­ting a bit eas­ier and she is able to do more with Ryan now. “But when you are go­ing through it, you feel re­ally, re­ally bad for him.”

How­ever, Ryan loves his baby brother so it seems there are no bad feel­ings on his part. “He is very, very at­tached to him.”

He was only 20 months when Aaran ar­rived and his par­ents didn’t think there was much they could do to pre­pare him, that if they read him books on the sub­ject, he was too young to un­der­stand.

“Ba­si­cally, we just had to in­tro­duce them – and luck­ily they hit it off. We had no jeal­ously or any­thing like that. I think Ryan is just a very placid, happy child – he wasn’t clingy at all, whereas Aaran would be. They are com­plete, po­lar op­po­sites.”

How­ever, San­dra says there are times when Ryan can’t un­der­stand why she can’t get him a cup of juice right this minute – then a tantrum en­sues.

“We’re work­ing on it. He’ll start cry­ing, he’ll set the baby off and then you have two chil­dren cry­ing at the same time as you’re try­ing to rush out the door.”

Liv­ing in north Co Cork, about half­way be­tween Mal­low and Mitchel­stown, they don’t have fam­ily nearby: San­dra’s par­ents are in Tip­per­ary and Ross is from Scot­land.

But she has done ex­actly what par­ent­ing ex­pert Val Mul­lally rec­om­mends: “Es­tab­lish your sup­port base be­cause the task of par­ent­ing is too big to do alone.”

San­dra joined the Cork North branch of the par­ent-sup­port net­work Cuidiú (cuidiu.ie) and it meets ev­ery Thurs­day. She is also a mem­ber of a par­ent-and­tod­dler group in their vil­lage of Shan­bal­ly­more that gets to­gether ev­ery Fri­day.

Both of them “are an ab­so­lute life­saver”, she says, with a lot of the same moth­ers go­ing to the two groups.

“It’s great. You can sit down, feed baby and Ryan can tod­dle around and play with his friends and there are peo­ple there to keep an eye on him. And if you’ve had a bad night, there is some­body there to give you a cup of cof­fee.”

On so­cial me­dia, ev­ery­body has pic­tures of nice, smi­ley, happy fam­i­lies, she points out, but “the re­al­ity is far from that and when you go to these groups you re­alise ev­ery­body is in the same boat as you”.

San­dra tries to be that calm par­ent we all aspire to “but I have my mo­ments”, she ad­mits. “Some­times I just feel I am fly­ing by the seat of my pants.”

Aaran is com­ing out of his shell now, will go to strangers and she is hop­ing he will set­tle into some sort of rou­tine be­fore too long. Ryan got into his own rou­tine early on and has stuck to it since – go­ing to bed at 7pm and wak­ing at 8am.

“He loves his sleep,” San­dra says, adding laugh­ingly that “it’s karma” now they have a to­tally dif­fer­ent baby this time round.

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