Inevitably, having a new baby comes with answering the same questions over and over again.
After Tommy was born, I put together a new baby FAQ answering some of these questions. I’m revisiting these questions with Olivia and covering a few other aspects of having a second child.
How has the transition been for Tommy?
Overall, Tommy has done a great job adjusting to being a big brother. Obviously, it’s a process and some days are better than others. There are a few factors that have contributed to the smooth adjustment.
The first factor is the age difference. At three and a half, Tommy loves his role as the big brother. It’s so different when kids are 18 months old and feel like the baby position in the family got stolen from them. Tommy still needs a lot of reassurance that we love him as much as the baby and will spend as much time with him as we do with her. But there isn’t this constant jealousy over losing the baby role.
The second factor is being able to prepare ahead of time. The preparation time was huge for all of us. We brought Tommy home from the hospital exactly two weeks after we first read his birth parents’ profile. In comparison, we matched with Olivia’s birth mom when she was about 12 weeks pregnant. This meant that we had a lot of time to talk with him about what would happen, including that we’d be traveling out of state for the birth. By the time we left, he had seen Olivia’s birth mom a couple of times via video chat and fully understood where we were going and who was giving birth.
Having the long lead time also gave us the chance to have Tommy involved in making some preparations for the baby’s arrival. We transitioned him from the crib to a toddler bed, moved the changing table out of his room into the new nursery, and moved his car seat, so the infant seat could be right behind mine. Tommy also helped me sort and organize his old clothes, so the 0-6 month items were all ready for her.
Finally, the third factor is that Tommy is crazy about babies. He loves the fact that so many kids in his classes have little siblings. He always wants to hang out with the babies. When there are toddlers at the playground, he is the sweetest with them. While it’s different having a little baby around all the time, he is thrilled to have a baby of our own. I know that it will just get better as she gets older.
How are the cats doing with having a new baby?
The cats have been completely unfazed by the addition of a new baby, to a degree that is somewhat shocking. After we were gone for her adoption for the better part of a month, mostly they were just so glad to have us back. Now they’ve settled into a new normal routine pretty seamlessly. They don’t mind being around Olivia at all and are even willing to hang out pretty close to Tommy to get time with me and Jake.
For years now, it’s been pretty common that at least one or two cats sleep on our bed for part of the night. Since we got back in January, two or all three of them stay on the bed. All night. Trying to arrange them so Jake and I have enough room is a constant struggle and doesn’t help with the lack of sleep issue that comes with this stage of life.
What have been the biggest surprises this time around?
I’m sure that this is going to sound crazy given everything that we went through for our second adoption (you can read a little more about that here). But the biggest surprise for me this time around is that we have a girl. I was 100% not surprised that our first child was a boy. Once we had a boy, I was pretty sure I was going to be a boy mom. I love being a boy mom and feel a lot better suited to it than being a girl mom. The whole thing still leaves me in a bit of shock.
On that note, I’m stunned at the creepy nature in which people approach you when you have a boy and a girl. It’s not really a surprise that if all of your kids are the same gender, people will constantly ask you questions about whether or not you want a child of the opposite gender. But I wasn’t prepared for the way people would be like, oh my gosh, that’s sooooooo perfect that now you have a boy AND a girl. As though families with kids of a single gender are somehow inferior.
The other biggest surprise for me is that it wasn’t a bigger adjustment going from one to two than it was from zero to one. The factors I talked about with Tommy’s adjustment have all played a significant role. Additionally, given the current circumstances, I’ve had a nice long adjustment period to life with two kids without a ton of other commitments outside our house. I’m not running errands with both of them, waking up Olivia to pick up Tommy from school or elsewhere, or driving anywhere further than Milwaukee, which is only for fun activities, like the zoo.
I do have people ask me what it’s like having two kids now. They want a cute answer about how it’s fun watching Tommy be a big brother or something along those lines. Of course, that’s not a lie. But the biggest thing is that I’m no longer all-consumed with the process of adopting a second child and the speculation of what life will be like if that never happens. While we are certainly open to having more kids (more on that below), the weight of trying so hard to keep growing our family has been lifted. Believe me, no one ever wants that answer.
Are you getting any sleep?
I’m ready to punch the next person who wants to make a joke out of the fact that parents with new babies don’t get a lot of sleep. First, asking them about sleep is a ridiculous question. Of course, new parents aren’t getting much sleep. You should worry if they are because newborn babies shouldn’t be sleeping through the night. Second, there is nothing funny about a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation compromises virtually every aspect of your life. Personally, it’s one of the single hardest things for me about the newborn months.
Even though it’s been much tougher to establish a solid sleep routine with Olivia than it was with Tommy, I’m not more tired. First, I’m not feeling crushed under the rollercoaster of emotions that came with becoming an adoptive mom basically overnight. Second, I’m more seasoned this time around. I’m just better prepared for less sleep at this point in parenthood. I also have a much better routine for nighttime formula feeding. Third, we are doing so much less right now than we did with newborn Tommy. I’m not going out to eat, going to shows, or driving to Chicago on very little sleep. Beyond the basics at home, there’s very little I have to do right now. So I can take it easier on days that I’m really crashing (as much as that’s possible with two kids under four years old anyway).
How is feeding going with Olivia?
Let me be clear that I still hate formula feeding. It’s been one of my biggest struggles as an adoptive parent. I never imagined that I’d be exclusively formula feeding all of my kids. As it’s so time consuming during the newborn months, sometimes I feel like it’s a chore and not a bonding experience, which I really hate.
But formula feeding is easier the second time around, which is helping. I went in really unprepared with Tommy. It made the whole process tougher, especially the first few months. With Olivia, I had a lot of supplies ready ahead of time, including the PopYum bottles, which have been a total game changer at night. I’ve gotten better at washing bottles, so they aren’t smelly and dirty and often require rewashing. Having already formula fed one child, I can refer back to my numbers in Tommy’s monthly update posts, so I’m not constantly second guessing how much formula to make.
Do you want more kids?
The honest answer to whether or not we want more kids is yes. The process of adopting a second child took a toll on us and really left us wondering if we’d be feeling completely done with adoption by the time she arrived. It is the biggest relief to have two kids after 10 years of trying to grow our family. We certainly don’t feel the gaping hole that we did with one child. I haven’t talked much here yet about the route we ended up going to adopt Olivia. For a lot of reasons, most likely we aren’t interested in going that same route again. But we aren’t ready to let our home study expire yet either.
Our home study isn’t due for renewal until right around Olivia’s first birthday. We can’t go back in the waiting pool until she turns one anyway. So we don’t have to make any decisions immediately.