Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What I Wish I'd Known Before Baby #2

Hello blogging world! My name is Stephanie—I’m excited to be a part of this fabulous group of ladies and share some of my mama-stories and experiences with you. My awesome husband and I live just outside Atlanta with two kids: one three year old little super-girl who won’t stop talking and a little eight-month-old boy who won’t stop climbing. They are the reason life is so fun. (And so challenging!)

Sometimes I wish I could go have a chat with myself around a year ago, when being a mommy-of-two was just some impending doom I tried not to stress about. Being a mother for the first time has its own set of (very drastic) adjustments. But now, for the moms who know the basics and have been through it once, here’s what I wish I’d known right before Baby #2 came into our home.

Some Happy News
First, here’s some welcome news: all those awful aches and pains? Hips that kill? Horribly unattractive grunting sounds every time you turn over in bed? Sore swollen feet and no comfortable position to sleep in? Well, just like before, they will disappear right after birth. I wasn’t so sure my hip pain would ever go away, since it was so much worse the second time around. But it did! And it was wonderful.

Nursing Woes 
I know that everyone has a different experience if they decide to nurse, and some moms don’t want to go that route at all (which is totally fine). BUT, if you do decide to breastfeed and, like me, it’s not so fun at the beginning, here’s something to consider. For me, it hurt just as bad when we first started, but it got better quicker. So it's not great news, but still a little encouraging.

With Big Brother or Sister
There are a lot of factors that go into how a child will react to a new baby, including their age, personality, and the boy/girl factor. I was lucky that Little Girl showed hardly any jealousy toward her new, needy, LOUD sibling, but that didn't mean that learning to share Mommy's time wasn't a difficult transition.

I learned that, even when I was exhausted and wanted nothing more to sleep, it made a big difference when I spent some Mother-Daughter time with her while the baby slept. We read books, made cookies, played with blocks, and told stories. It took a lot of effort not to just stick her in front of the tv (at least not every time :-) ) so I could rest, but I think it was worth it.

The Balancing Game
Unless you're one of the lucky ones, balancing the needs of two kids is HARD. Some people get the hang of it quicker than others; for me, it was a real and serious challenge. It's hard to feel like a competent mother on three hours of sleep with a baby still trying to nurse (and screaming in between attempts) and a toddler that you've barely had a chance to smile at that morning crying that she has to go potty or that she's hungry. This is not even to mention that you haven't had time for cleaning the house, a real meal, or personal hygiene in what feels like ages. 

The hardest part was feeling like taking care of one child meant neglecting the other. But here's the good news: you will become a master balance-er. I learned multi-tasking quickly, and though it still wasn't easy, sooner than I thought I was successfully taking care of my kids and myself. That's a great feeling.

Baby Blues, Round Two
I'll say it again: having two kids is HARD at the beginning. And that's okay. It was never supposed to be easy. Give it time: the magic number that helped me was three months. I thought, there's no way I can do this forever, but I can make it to three months. At each month milestone, I'd look back and realize that things were getting easier. By the time three months rolled around, life may not have been 100% perfect, but it felt doable, and I could feel positive on a regular basis.

Here are a few things that made a real difference for me:
  • Celebrate the small achievements, like successfully grocery shopping with two kids, or making it to noon with everyone fed, clean, and calm (even if the peace only lasts ten minutes).
  • Here's a biggie: don’t compare your worst days to smiling pictures and chipper facebook status updates from your friends. Everyone has up days and down days, and if you sometimes feel like you're the only one who can't handle this motherhood thing, get off facebook and call a good friend to commiserate. I promise, you're not alone.
  • Write down the happy moments, like the way you felt last night at 3 am when that sleepy baby smiled at you, or how proud you were when big brother or sister gave the wee one an impromptu kiss. That way, when things are rough, you have concrete memories to buoy you up.
When you're learning to take care of two kids instead of one, you need to be okay with letting some things go. What you make time for and what you don't will depend on what is important to you, but, for example, I didn't care if I only put on jeans to leave the house. Being in comfy yoga pants made me feel better, so that's what I did. The Little Girl's third birthday was only a month and a half after the boy was born, but I decided to do a very small family party rather than a themed event. Going all fancy could have been fun, but it would have been stressful. She didn't know the difference.

If an activity doesn't contribute to one of your highest priorities, then don't consider it necessary. You have this awesome opportunity to be the mother to two fantastic kids. They don't need a lot; they just need you. Here are the priorities I tried to focus on: having a healthy, centered self; being a loving wife; and being an awesome mommy. You don't have time for everything, so make sure you have time for the important things--all the other extras will become easier with time.

Before too long you'll be throwing kids in and out of car seats at the drop of a hat, nursing anywhere your baby is hungry, diffusing the worst toddler tantrums, and balancing naps like a pro. And it will seem easy, and it will feel rewarding. Congratulations, mama. You are a full-fledged mother of two.

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