Over the summer, we welcomed our daughter to our family after much debate over whether not to have a third child and then a relatively tough pregnancy compared to my first two.
Y’all. It was totally worth it. I keep marveling about how easy it is this time around.
OK, that was a grossly misleading statement. Babies aren’t easy. Getting up three or more times a night for five months straight is certainly taking its toll. I feel a little better after seeing this post about how newborns affect sleep. Looking at the data and graphs brings home to me just how exhausting it is to get rest in two-hour-or-less increments. Moreover, breast feeding isn’t easy. For me, my nipples hurt baaaadly for the first few weeks, and then being responsible for feeding every two to four hours is physically demanding (not to mention a lot of pressure). Regardless, I breastfeed for as long as I can (mostly because I’m cheap and it’s super-convenient to just bring my breasts along with me when we leave the house—kinda necessary, actually…). With both boys, I made it to about seven months before it became very clear that they were still hungry after feeding and my supply wasn’t keeping up with their needs. I’m trying to be more flexible this time around and taking inspiration from articles like this (though it’s still a challenge, and I don’t fully agree with all of her words of wisdom).
Besides the physical challenges of exhaustion and nursing though? This baby is easy.
Ive been trying to figure out exactly why, and this is conclusion to which I’ve come: when my first child was a newborn, I was freaking out. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I spent most of his first months slogging through baby books, trying to distinguish between his cries, honoring the holy nap. If he was asleep and I was supposed to meet friends for lunch, I would cancel and stay home. I kept reading ahead in the books to the next stage so I would know what to expect. I was lonely. I was exhausted. I was having a hard time adjusting to being ‘on-call’ 24/7 and never making a decision that didn’t consider the baby. If my husband called to say he was meeting a friend for drinks after work, I would have a meltdown.
When my second son was a newborn, his older brother was 20 months old, potty training, and into everything. I would actually forget that I had a newborn because—at that point—the baby was the easy one. The baby stayed still. He mostly slept for the first few weeks. His pee and poop stayed in one place, and I didn’t have to be vigilant about looking for his “I gotta go” cues. When my husband would text that he was getting a drink with a friend after work, I wouldn’t go into melt-down mode, but I would definitely simmer with anger and jealousy over his freedom and ability to embrace spontaneity.
With this new baby, I have a much clearer idea of what to expect. I knew she would poop all over me and the bed at some point during a diaper change. I don’t worry about bathing her unless she needs it (I think she got five baths during her first three months). I try to let her nap at home whenever we can, but I don’t stress about waking her up. Even when she started waking up every hour on the hour starting at 2am, I knew it was a phase that would pass. Two days later, I re-learned how to super swaddle, and she went back to sleeping for 3-4 hours at night.
Moreover, my two boys are 5 and 3 1/2. They entertain each other and—to be honest—don’t need a lot of attention from me. I’m still modeling what to do when you’re frustrated, mediating some arguments, prepping meals, and all that, but I’m used to my role as a mom, and I’m comfortable in it. Instead of having to focus on them and their needs, I kind of get to enjoy having a baby with big beautiful eyes and the most delicious grin.
Also, over the past five years (and because of my two boys), I’ve made friends with a wonderful group of fellow moms who get where I am and have offered more help than I could have imagined. When my first child was born, my friends were great, but most of them hadn’t had children yet. I knew almost all of my friends through a young professional organization, so-even if they had kids—all of them were back to work while I was working from home part-time and dealing with the isolation inherent to my new role as a stay at home mom.
This time around, my support circle is in tune with what I need even before I know I need it. My friends have brought meals and clothes, they’ve offered to pick up and take my middle son to school in the morning, and they’ve offered to pick up my eldest from Kindergarten and bring him home. I swap childcare with several friends throughout the week on a standing basis so the baby and I can rest (ha! I still haven’t mastered the ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ mantra, but at least I can work in quiet!), and my 3 1/2 year old still gets the play and adventure he needs. One of my closest friends just had a third baby as well, so having her camaraderie as we plunge through this new terrain has been essential to my mental health.
And as for those times when my husband goes out for a drink after work? Well…they generally don’t happen any more. Don’t get me wrong—he still goes out occasionally, but we’ve learned together since becoming parents that spontaneity is not the name of the game right now. I need to see it on a calendar ahead of time (or at least have a few hours to process and plan my night) if he’s not going to be there. We’ve had a few episodes of miscommunication, and I definitely still harbor a little frustration when it happens. Maybe that part never gets easier. However, at least I know that if I overreact it’s probably just the exhaustion talking and things will get back to normal in a few short months.