Juggling Act

I can say that having a newborn the second time around, for me, has been easier than the first time.  That leap from non-parent to parent was so intense and life-changing, and nothing could have ever prepared me for that experience.

This time, though, I’ve realized that the only thing that can prepare you for baby number two (if anything) is…baby number one.  And it’s not the baby that’s doing the preparing, exactly, but it’s the experience of being a parent, of having to care for a newborn.  This time, I knew to expect the extreme sleep deprivation, and what that felt like.  I knew to expect feeling isolated, feeling trapped inside the house, feeling resentment at my baby, at my husband, at everyone who wasn’t me and didn’t have my issues.  I also knew to expect that this newborn phase would pass (and quickly), that there was definitely light at the end of the tunnel.  I had done this before; I could do it again.

Because of this previous experience, I think I was able to fall in love with my baby a whole lot sooner than with my first.  This time, I had already given up my freedom, my childless status, my sanity, so there was no resentment.  I had little else left to lose!  I’m already crazy, baby, so you can’t even come close to rocking my world (in a negative way) the way my first one did.

And this time, this baby made my family complete.  Because she’s my last kid, I figure I had better enjoy the good parts while I can.  I also did this with my first, to be sure, but it’s different when you know something is the last time going in.

Another point is that we already had all the baby crap.  There wasn’t new stuff to research and buy and worry if you’re getting the right thing, or enough things.  We had all the things!  They just needed to be washed, is all.  Easy-peasy.

This time, it’s been a little easier because we, my husband and I, have more balls to just smile and nod while our baby’s doctors tell us to do impossibly time consuming and unrealistic things, and then go home and do what we know will work for us.  Namely, we’ve been told with both babies to wake them up to eat every 2-3 hours.  We are blessed with babies who love their sleep.  Waking them up made them pissed (like me) and they didn’t want to eat.  It wasn’t working.  We killed ourselves trying to comply with the doctor’s orders for baby number one.  For this one, fuck that.  We’re letting her sleep, and guess what – it’s working.  And that’s only one example, but it’s an important lesson to just follow your gut because it’s made all the difference.

This time around, my physical recovery was easier, which may seem counterintutitive.  I was anemic with my first, so I felt weak, tired, and out of breath.  This time, although my labor and delivery was crazy amounts more intense than the first (that’s another post entirely), I’ve felt more energetic and sooooo happy to have my body back.

One of the biggest reasons why this is more manageable: my husband and I have already hashed out how we deal with all the baby-related chores.  This may not sound like a big deal, but trying to figure out who does what and when and how and what feels fair is the biggest deal of them all.  It’s so easy to feel alone, unsupported, and resentful when you don’t feel like your partner is doing their fair share of the work.  We got through all those sleep deprived, tear stained arguments two years ago, so now we’re good.  Feeling the ease of routine and the support from my husband has been incredible.

So what’s been hard?  The hardest part by far has been trying to meet both my kids’ needs, often simultaneously, not to mention trying to meet my own.  There’s always at least one person waiting for needs to be met, and it kills me.  I feel like I owe both my kids an apology.  I’m sorry to my toddler, who’s been used to having my undivided attention his entire life and suddenly has to share me and wait for things.  I’m sorry to my infant who has never known my attention to be undivided, who sometimes has to wait for things.  I never worried about being able to love both my kids; that part is easy.  But feeding them at the same time?  Goodness help me.  It’s one huge juggling act.

How am I holding up?  Better than with my first baby, that’s for sure.  The first 6 months with him were the hardest, and if this time is anything like the first, then I definitely see a light at the end of the tunnel: come June, I’ll be getting more sleep, we’ll have found our new normal, we’ll have a routine and a schedule, I’ll feel better in my body and I’ll be ready to be more active and my god, the weather will be nicer.  Walks!  Parks!  Bike rides!

Right now, I’m rediscovering a realization I had when my son was tiny: that good days and bad days don’t depend on what happens, but they depend entirely on how I am feeling and my ability to cope with what happens.  If I am well rested and have patience, it’s going to be a good day.  If I can remember to sing and dance and laugh, it’s going to be a good day.  Even if that day includes a tantrum and tears and potty accidents.  That all may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s huge.  It makes all the difference.

Here’s to surviving the newborn phase being a mom of two.  Cheers.

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A Day Not Entirely My Own

Today is my birthday, and this birthday feels different.

I have realized how giving birth has changed my entire perspective on birthdays in general, but especially mine.

Up until now, I’ve always thought of my birthday as belonging to me; it’s my day.  The anniversary of the day I was brought into the world.

But really, the passive voice of that last sentence is misplaced.  In actuality, my birthday is the anniversary of the day my mom brought me into the world.  My mom worried and labored and felt pain and sweated and cried and felt crazy beautiful joy and relief.

I guess I couldn’t really get it until I had done the same thing for someone else.

My mom was in labor with me for 24 hours.  My dad drove her to the hospital, which was about 30 minutes away from home.  My mom remembers being pissed that my dad’s breath smelled like potato chips as he led her in the Lamaze breathing in which they had taken classes.  My parents talked about a very insensitive nurse who couldn’t get some medical reading because my mom was writhing in pain during a contraction.  I would like to be able to track down that nurse and punch her in the ear, exactly 32 years late.

At some point during the labor, my mom announced she wanted an epidural.  Apparently, someone informed my dad that it was too late in the process for an epidural to do any good, and so my dad ended up lovingly lying to my mom, telling her the pain meds would be coming any minute now.  I can only imagine how much of a champ my mom was for getting through the remainder of the laboring process completely unmedicated.

And so I came into the world at about 2:15am on February 10th, a Thursday, head first but facing up.  At that time, few parents knew the sex of their baby before birth, and my parents were no exception.  My mom wrote in my baby book that I was alert and had strawberry blonde hair, which are the exact same phrases I ended up writing in my son’s baby book.

So today, I celebrate my first birthday as a mom even though it’s not entirely my day.  And in six months, my son will get to smash his face into sweet, damp cake for the first time, but it won’t really be his day.  Not all the way, at least.  That will be a day when I’ll be telling anyone who will listen how I brought this perfect creature into the world.

…maybe that will be a day when I should make myself my own smash cake.

And by smash cake I mean celebratory booze.