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.