Baby Number 2 Bluesby Michael Johnson-Ellis
I understand that my family was created a little differently than most, firstly we’re two men so the obviously vital piece of equipment is missing. So, with the help of science, a Surrogate and an Egg Donor we were able to build our family, the non-traditional way. If you follow our blog or our social media channels, you’ll know by know myself and Wes (my husband of seven years) now have two children together. Our Daughter Talulah was born in 2016, my first taste of parenthood. Wes, on the other hand, was already on a path to worry, guilt, baldness and stress as he has a 15-year-old from a previous marriage. So, I know only all too well how tough it’s going to get when Talulah turns 13. But for now, I wanted to talk about how I found the change, going from one baby to two.
[Read more: Here Comes The Son]
Duke arrived in August 2019, after a failed IVF cycle in the Summer of 2018 we had a short break and got back ‘on it’ and transferred a new embryo in December 2019. What I’m going to talk about next in this blog hasn’t been publicly discussed on our channels, I don’t know why – I think I shut down, I was worried what people may think, or what people may say. I stopped writing blogs, in fact since the last one I wrote for Your Baby Club was in August – almost 6 months. The amazing team at YBC were checking in on me as I’d been quiet, I wasn’t replying to emails – but I could hide behind the fact we had a new baby and I was ‘busy’. In actual fact, I was struggling, and I wasn’t OK – but I had to be, I was the primary carer for our newborn as Wes was working full time and managing one of our family businesses. I also had the added internal stress that this time, I wasn’t Duke’s biological father – and I didn’t want those demons of doubt to come creeping in, but on the odd occasion, I’m ashamed to say they did.
I was once told by someone with four kids, that having one baby is a breeze, (which I disagree somewhat), the toughness comes going from one to two children, not two to three, or three to four. They weren’t wrong with the one to two pieces of advice. Talulah is and was a good baby, she fed and slept like a dream – Duke didn’t and still doesn’t, and this was the beginning of the challenge and the pressure that came with it. It was alien to us, he didn’t nap longer than 30 mins, even throughout the night, he had milk allergies but still wanted to feed every 2 hours and then he developed eczema. Red, itchy, raw weeping eczema – we even had a trip to A&E one night due to an allergic reaction to a particular wheat-based cream. Joys.
[Read more: Trying For Baby Number 2]
What I personally struggled with wasn’t sharing my love between our children, as I believe your heart forever expands as a parent. The love for Duke was never in question – my struggle was more around me failing myself and letting others down by not having control of my family, or his routine, or helping manage our home. I was sleep-deprived, I had brain fog, I was that parent who put the car keys in the fridge and milk in the oven. I wanted to cry, all the time in fact and woe betide anyone who questioned my parenting skills, or thought they were funny by saying ‘well you did have it easy with Talulah!’ My patience was dwindling as were my batteries. I couldn’t sleep when the baby slept (I hate that ridiculous advice anyway) as he didn’t bloody sleep! I snapped at Wes, moaned at Talulah, argued with my parents, shut out my brother and hid away from my friends – I cancelled plans (more than I usually do) and I just wanted to be alone. This was harder than I remember and I didn’t know why. Was it my age? I’m 40 now, I was 37 when Talulah was born. Was it the fact I just needed sleep? Was it the fact Duke wasn’t my biological child? Did I hold a different love for him?
As the fog faded it was clear it was actually none of those. Putting it simply, Duke was just a differently behaved baby to Talulah and I needed to adapt my parenting. There was no new manual to follow, no updates to install - it was just a little more challenging. I just wished I’d spoken about it sooner, so I could hear ‘it will clear or it will be just fine, or even – this is normal’. I probably should have spoken to my GP. In fairness to the Health Visitor, she asked us both every time she came to the house ‘…and how are you, Dads?’ she’d say. ‘Fine thanks!’ I lied. As new parents, or parents to new babies, we’re forever comparing ourselves, whether it’s to our friends parenting styles, or comparing behaviours in our previous babies – or like me even comparing my parenting techniques to my husband, left feeling shitty as I felt inadequate at times. But I never let anyone know – the fakeness sometimes of insta vs. reality was exactly how my life was being played and I despised myself for it.
Duke is now almost 6 months old, his sleep is still mixed, he’s never slept through yet, I’m hoping weaning will make him sleep better. *tightly crosses fingers. However, what has changed is the way we manage his routine. We also communicate better too, if we’re struggling one night, (as we still do the night feeds in shifts, one of us on, the other off (in the spare bed) we’ll make sure we ask for support if it's particularly challenging. Duke has a structure with his nap times much better than previously and he tends to sleep for 60-90 mins now, which has improved massively since changing his milk, this gives us time to get our shit together as currently, we’ve both now working from home.
Don’t get me wrong it’s a challenge still, but we’re managing ‘it’, not ‘it’ managing us, and by ‘it’ I refer to the sleep issues. Ensuring both our children get our time hasn’t been as challenging as I thought it might be, we take it in turns being in charge of bath, bed and Storytime – ensuring Talulah isn’t left out, which hasn’t been the case.
[Read more: What It's Really Like Raising 3 Kids]
What’s most important to us since we grew our family is me and Wes look out for each other more because we have to make sure our marriage is solid, we believe that’s what makes a happier family, happier children. At first, it felt selfish to put ‘us’ before the kids, but now I totally understand why. Make time for one and other where you can, cook for them, or try and secure a date night every couple of weeks if it’s possible. Catch them off guard with a beautiful or cheeky compliment, they’ll appreciate you for it. The hugs, those lovely ones from behind when you’re cooking dinner, we all need those. Capture the moment – take lots of photographs when they’re not looking and get them made into a lovely card, showing them the appreciation you have. Those passionate embraces just when you need it, and whilst two kids can be a bedroom killer – grab every opportunity you can! But the most important bit – tell them they’re an amazing parent to your kids. Don’t neglect each other.
That’s all we need to hear. We’ve got this. 😉