Motherhood

What I Would Tell My Pre-Second-Child Self

Maybe it’s that my daughter was a more difficult baby, maybe boys really are easier (it’s crazy how many people have told me that), or maybe it’s that I sort of know what I’m doing and what to expect this time around, but I am truly enjoying motherhood right now.

I mean, this sweet face sure doesn’t hurt!

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Having my first child was a major reshaping of our world. Everything was suddenly different. I stopped getting decent sleep, for a long time. I dealt with all the hormones and ups and downs. Probably some level of undiagnosed postpartum depression. I remember dreading bedtime because I knew I’d be up all night anyway and it felt like it would never end. As happy as I was to have our sweet girl — and she was adorable and delightful in many ways — life was surprisingly difficult, and it took me a long time to adapt.

So many things were a surprise. I talk about sleep all the time because it really was a shock to the system, but there also other things, like breastfeeding for example. It went quite well for us in terms of technicalities, but what surprised me were the feelings of being trapped in a routine, trapped by nap time, trapped by this tiny human whose side I couldn’t leave for more than about two hours at a time. I had a certain acceptable radius that was inescapable, and sometimes it felt suffocating.

And there were joys, so many of them. But some of it was lost in the fog of postpartum adaptation and first-time motherhood. And so much stress. Learning the ropes is hard. I expected so much of myself — spending quality time with her, holding her or wearing her constantly (to be fair, she wasn’t exactly very tolerant of being left to her own devices, but I often wonder how much of it was of my own doing)…

Now? I do think my second child is easier — which is ironic because he was born with a congenital birth defect that required so much traveling and so much stress early on. And yet here we are, just enjoying life. He is delightful, and patient. He is happy to hang out on his play mat while my daughter and I buzz about with our activities, and he takes all the cuddles and love we’ll give him gladly.

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I remember being excited to expand our family, but also very nervous. I worried I could never handle it all, and do the whole newborn sleeplessness phase all over again. I worried I’d never leave the house again with TWO children to wrangle.

I can’t say it’s all roses and butterflies — turns out the second pregnancy was much more taxing for me, for example — but having that sweet boy in our family? It’s been amazing. There were certainly some rough nights early on, but nearly four months later, life feels like a breeze. If I could go back and talk to my pre-second-child self, this is what I’d tell her:

You’ll be fine. You are used to not getting enough sleep now, and somehow those sleepless nights will be more bearable. They’ll also go by and get easier a whole lot faster. And yes, there will be rough nights. But you won’t have time to dwell on them anyway when you’re running after a toddler!

You might even get lucky and have an easier baby! Let’s be real, that’s probably the biggest thing we have going for us right now, ha! Jonas is nowhere near sleeping through the night, but he is a better napper, consistently so. That’s a game-changer right there.

 Your whole life won’t be completely upended like it was the last time. You have routines and a certain pace that’s already in place, you’re already a master of efficiency by necessity (getting showered and ready for the day in 15 minutes!), and that second child somehow perfectly fits into it all. Aligning that middle-of-the-day nap is pretty blissful too!

There will be a whole lot less stress and pressure, mainly because you won’t be the one putting it on yourself anymore.

The days won’t stretch on as endlessly as they did at first. The rote moments are still there, but they’re interspersed with all the toddler fun (and meltdowns too, let’s be real!) and the rest of life that still goes on. Yes you’ve doubled the amount of diapers and children, and it’s much busier, but amazingly you’ve gotten much more efficient at whipping out diaper changes and soothing upset children. There will still be long days, but more and more they tend to just zoom past you. (and this might be a harder thing to accept, by the way)

You might lower your standards a little bit. And that’s totally OK. Poor Jonas doesn’t get nearly as many baths as Adelina did when she was his age. But you know what? Babies don’t care.

Learn to take time for the things that make you, you. Join a book club. Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about. Make dates with your husband a priority. Wear lipstick even when you’re staying home all day long. Start a Power of Moms Learning Circle. Just make sure you take a few minutes to come up for air every once in a while.

You will be amazed at how much better life actually gets. Somehow, adding to your load also added much more joy: seeing that adorable sibling relationship develop, enjoying the delightful little babyhood moments you were too stressed out of your mind to enjoy the first time… and there’s also a little more of the bittersweet realization that this baby is growing, FAST.

The first time around felt like I was mostly focused on surviving, and grabbing moments when I could in between. Now, I’m finding it so much easier to just soak up both of these amazing little people, and to make the moments count.

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And I still have plenty to learn, and there’s a lot more ahead that is new and foreign, and I’m sure there will be a lot more that’s hard. But I can honestly say I feel happier, surprisingly, now that there is more of the work — and more of the love — to go around. As if, slowly but surely, I’m starting to find the sweet spot of motherhood.

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