Mum of two under two, Jess Ulrichs...
Author and blogger Jessica Urlichs and her husband Drew live together in Christchurch with their three-year-old son Harrison, two-year-old daughter Holly, miniature schnauzer Winston and ragdoll cat, Bentleigh. Jess has gained a loyal following on Instagram (@jessurlichs_writer) thanks to her honest and beautiful take on parenting two under two, and has poured her heart into writing two poetry books, From One Mom to a Mother, and All I See Is You, along with her first children’s book, The Rainbow in my Heart – due for publication in April. Here, Jess looks back on what those first few months were like caring for two children, just 13 months apart.
“We always knew we wanted two and decided pretty soon after Harry was born that we would have them very close together. So, when Harry was four months old, we found out I was pregnant with Holly.
When I had Harry, I was told so often that I was a natural, but to be honest, a lot of it didn’t come very naturally to me. I found breastfeeding extremely difficult. I was in a spiral of guilt and pumped for months because I felt like I had failed him. I must say, the switch to formula (as hard as it was seeing him take his first bottle), was also when things improved for me emotionally. I finally eased into being a mother and began to enjoy motherhood so much more.
My experience with Holly was completely different. While we still had to get the hang of breastfeeding, it worked for us and I exclusively breastfed Holly until she was 14 months old. Having a much more positive birth and breastfeeding experience was a game changer for me mentally, however I told myself going in that if we didn’t make breastfeeding work this time, I wouldn’t be so hard on myself. Harry was thriving and I knew she would too.
Harry was pretty infatuated with Holly but wow did she have the loudest cry. It would absolutely rip through the walls and Harry is highly sensitive, especially to sound, so it took some adjusting. I think the one thing I wasn’t prepared for though was just how much I would miss him. He was still a baby and needed me so much. I remember when I was in hospital, all I wanted was to see him. When he came through the door with Drew, I was just in puddles. Then when I arrived home and saw him outside playing with my mum, I just felt a certain sadness, like the freedom of walking out and joining him was gone now.
Of course that didn’t last long and as they say, your heart does double in size. But I think it’s important that mothers know they may miss their firstborn for the first few days or weeks. If you have support, try to spend some time with your eldest too; that really filled both our cups.
I suffered some postnatal anxiety which I found to be quite debilitating at times when leaving the house (especially with two so young), but having incredible family support really got me through. At 13 months, Harry’s separation anxiety peaked and the juggle was tough. I felt loads of mum guilt. I ended up getting a nanny to come in once a week so that I could spend proper time with the kids while she would help with cleaning or washing, or even just getting them out of the house in those early months.
I know it’s not an option for everyone but if it is, even if it’s once a fortnight, do it. It did wonders for my sanity, because there were absolutely no breaks. None. And no sleep. I know that sounds dramatic but for the first few months, that’s what it felt like. We were so sleep deprived for a while that Drew and I would literally take turns wandering from room to room like ships in the night. We’d be dodging creaky floor boards, cursing each other for knocking a musical toy, and not flushing the toilet (I know, I know).
I can’t pinpoint when, but it got easier. Bit by bit we realised things were changing, we were more relaxed, we were sleeping more, we were in the swing of it all and Drew and I had time for each other again. It was all consuming at the beginning but we’re reaping the rewards now. The other day we were out and Holly took a tumble so Harry kissed her knee better. And she does the same for him. It’s little things like that, that make my heart sing. They have gorgeous little conversations together and personal jokes already. Now that Harry is three and Holly is almost two, it’s so magical.”
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 53 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW