A couple weeks ago, an author’s assistant contacted me to see if I wanted to check out Jane Isay‘s new book, Unconditional Love. I love reading and have been on a big parenting-book binge lately (you know, three pages at a time, over the course of eons because it’s so hard to find time to read these days), so I said yes!
So I got a free book. And I’m writing about it in exchange. But that’s it–my opinions are my own.
And the short version of that opinion is, I wish I’d had this book to give my parents when we first told them we were expecting, three years ago now. I’d have told you to read this book even if I’d just chanced across it at the library.
There are thousands of books on becoming parents, yet despite the huge role grandparents often play in a growing family, I haven’t come across (or honestly thought to seek out) any books about grandparenthood.
Isay’s book fills this gap by helping elucidate some of the friction points in the evolving parent-grandparent relationship (“Enough with the ice cream!” “Why do you have to bring a pile of presents every time we see you?!” “What’s the big deal if he stays up a little late tonight?” etc.) in a way that, I think, honors and respects parents’ prerogative without discounting the vital and unique role grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives.
While Isay’s book speaks to grandparents directly, I got a lot out of reading it as a parent. I also handed it off to my parents–who live across the street from me, and who have flourished as grandparents even while we’ve butted heads on some things–for their take, and they both really enjoyed the book, too. My mom even commented that it would make a great gift for announcing to one’s parents that you’re pregnant.
Both new parents and new grandparents can feel incredibly vulnerable and defensive (new parents, because they’re trying to find their footing and find so many “hills to die on” as they make decisions for their children, and grandparents, because they’ve been there, done that and want to help–and feel that rabid affection for their grandchildren that can hardly be contained), and Unconditional Love sets a neutral ground for some really tough conversations.
Isay employs storytelling to get her points across, so while it feels a little like therapy to read, it’s not your run-of-the-mill, dry and unrealistic self-help book. Her stories (both from her own life and from other grandparents’) conjured a lot of memories for me, both in my own childhood and now, with my kids.
If you’re a parent, or approaching parenthood, I’d highly recommend gifting this book to your parents and/or in-laws. And if you’re a grandparent-to-be, I can’t think of a much better way to show your child that you’re committed to rising to the occasion by picking up this book and taking notes.
One more thing–Isay opens the book with this beautiful, heartrending poem. So I didn’t get past the first page without crying. I miss my grandparents so much, and am so grateful that I had their time and love and stories, that it reminded me just how important it is to do the work to give my children that same gift.
The past few weeks have been tough, so sorry for the lack of updates. (Also, not being pregnant anymore has removed the system I had in place of updating you weekly on my growing belly and list of aches and pains.)
I’m really tired. The Toddler and I have been at odds a lot this week — he’s definitely struggling with sharing his mom, and I’m struggling to figure out how to split my time and attention between a needy two-year-old and a needy nearly-three-month-old. It’s leaving me feeling epically guilty and negligent of both of them.
Sleep has been hard, naps have been sporadic and interrupted and snatched with whatever terrible crutch I have leaned on. The TV has been on more than I’d like to admit, and we’ve had more grazing all-day junk snacks than lunches lately.
(Serious question: How does one establish anything of a nap routine with an infant when there are big siblings in the house?)
Compounding this unsurprising challenge, I have stretched myself as thin as possible in every other area of my life in the immediate aftermath of having a new baby.
I committed myself to quite a bit of freelance work (which sends The Toddler to daycare twice a week, but guess what: An infant still requires quite a bit of care! Oops.)
I launched the Ladies Craft Beer Society website and have been trying to find the time to develop a plan for both maintaining the website and formalizing some of the aspects of the club that have been pretty relaxed since it was created.
I’m also coordinating the earliest steps of a very exciting project–we’re going to be finishing our basement to essentially double our living space–which has meant a lot of phone calls (with either a rooster crowing or a screaming toddler or both in the background) and people coming by the house and me having to try to clean.
We’ve been busy with social commitments — fun ones, like getting to go to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium for a birthday party — but those still take energy!
Oh, and we also have goats and chickens (and, Oh God, two hives of bees reserved for the near future) that The (very busy with work) Husband are trying to keep healthy and happy.
It’s no one’s fault but my own, but I’m feeling in pretty over my head right now.
Being present has never been a strength of mine, but I was reminded this week that this is a fleeting time, and although it is exhausting, it’s also beautiful. Baby 2 was having a fussy night on Thursday, and the only thing that calmed him down from a screaming fit was being carried around outside so he could watch the sunset. I had no phone, no lists, no free hands–just the weight of a baby in my arms, the sound of my own voice, and the cold March air on my cheeks.
While my biceps ached by the time the sun finally dipped over the horizon, I figured out that my wise little baby was trying to teach me an important lesson: I just need to put one foot in front of the other and try to look at the bright side when I’m having a tough time. (And also put my effing phone away more often.)
Fortunately, The Husband has some time off this week, and we’re going to try to strike a balance between tackling our to-do list, finding time to relax/recharge, and figuring out how to make life slightly less chaotic when he goes back to work. Wish us luck.
This will genuinely be a short post because I’m exhausted, the baby is asleep (in his bassinet!!!) and I have to get up in 3 hours to put a goddamned chicken in the refrigerator because I can’t time a slow cooker meal to save my soul. (All that prep work and we ate frozen chicken nuggets for dinner.)
We’re surviving, and that’s about it. This is that deep, foggy newborn period that will be a blessed distant memory someday. Which already breaks my heart whenever that thought occurs to me while staring deeply into Baby 2’s eyes and watching his little nose wrinkle and his fingers grasp my hand. Even though I’m bone-deep tired, it feels easier this time because I know how short it lasts.
The Toddler is amazing me with his sweetness and brilliance even as he tests every last boundary. He is careening through toddlerhood, and we are slogging through this snowy week. Always busy, he’ll pause from coloring on his own face with markers for a brief moment to snuggle next to me and rest his head on my shoulder while I nurse the baby, and tell me he loves me, before dunking his whole hand into my water glass and getting up to see if he can open the freezer by himself.
My house looks like a tornado hit it. I haven’t looked in a mirror for more than 20 seconds this week, and I usually have to brush my teeth while peeing.
Today marks two weeks since Baby 2 arrived. It also marks Day Four of The Worst Cold in the history of The Toddler’s Life, unfortunately.
We pulled The Toddler out of daycare the week before Christmas to avoid any terrible bugs during newborn-hood, and have been fretting over when/whether to send him back, because while being alone with a two-year-old and a newborn scares the crap out of me, it’s still less scary than an ER visit and a spinal tap for the newborn.
We made the mistake of taking The Toddler to the library on Thursday, the little library near our house that has an adorable little hotdog/ice cream stand that he loves to play with.
By play with, of course, I mean, put in his mouth. I have to think this is where he caught this hellacious cold, as we haven’t been out and about much, otherwise.
Thank God The Husband is still on paternity leave, because The Toddler has required almost constant holding and snuggling, and when he does sleep (fitfully), one or the other of us is scrambling around throwing contaminated laundry in the wash and spraying Lysol all over the house while the other cowers in our bedroom with the baby, hoping and praying we’re keeping the two adequately separate to avoid spreading the cold.
The Toddler is up many, many times throughout the night, and I think The Husband is actually sleeping less than I am right now. I never thought it would be my pitying him for his exhaustion while we have a newborn.
And, of course, because each time we hold The Toddler, he is coughing basically directly into our mouths, The Husband and I both woke up with scratchy throats this morning. The inevitable is upon us. I’m just hoping my body is working overtime to load my milk with antibodies to keep Baby 2 healthy.
The only, very small, upside to all this is that The Toddler is on hiatus from running in circles all day long in our kitchen because he’s going crazy from cabin fever. Any screen time rules have been suspended for the duration of this cold, and all he wants to do is watch (overandoverandoverandoverandover) If You Give A Mouse A Cookie on Amazon Prime. Nothing else will do, and there’s only one season. So even this cold doesn’t hit me full force, the madness is settling in.
Baby 2 is 9 days old and we’re deep in newborn territory. During my entire pregnancy, I found myself comparing Baby 1 and Baby 2, and of course, I continue to do so. I prowled pregnancy forums after Googling things like, “Gestation duration first baby vs. second,” “Linea nigra first pregnancy but not second,” etc.
I also hounded every mom of more than one kid I know to get her take on whether the second time around the block was easier than the first. (I got mixed messages, but usually “harder.”) So far I’ve found that it’s both easier and harder.
So in a quick recap of the last nine months, and the last five days, I thought I’d run down what has been harder, easier, or just wildly different about my first and second children, just in case it’s interesting fodder for another second time mom-to-be someday. (Of course, making no promises that your pregnancies or babies will be even remotely like mine.)
My first trimester this time around was definitely harder. I had more in the way of morning sickness (still no vomiting, fortunately, but loads more nausea) and didn’t have the luxury of as much free time, as I was chasing around a 15-month old at the time.
On the bright(?) side, I didn’t have food aversions like I did the first time around, so I had no problem eating… or packing on some early pounds.
I felt pretty good during the second trimester, but having a toddler is still way more physically taxing on a pregnant body, even when you feel good. I know I spent a lot more time getting down and up from the floor with my second pregnancy than my first. And was far more worn out because of it.
(Way, way harder.)
Same issues with toddler chasing and just not having as much free time to relax as I did when I was pregnant with the first baby. Because I wasn’t getting as much exercise, I avoided the hip bursitis I developed the first time around, but I also gained a little more weight, am two years older, and just generally more prone to joint pain. So by about 36 weeks with Baby 2, I felt immensely more pregnant than I did at the end of first baby’s pregnancy.
One night, after my least favorite midwife told me I had better “try spinning babies” because my baby *might* be sunny side up, I got fully stuck lying flat on my back with my feet propped up on the couch, both crying from the pain and laughing at how ridiculous I felt (and probably looked) as the husband gingerly tried to reposition me so I could get up. When my toddler threw stuff on the ground, it felt like a personal attack. Getting him down for a nap was torture.
Shorter, maybe a little easier? (Not less painful, to be clear.)
While the pain was just as unbelievably intense the second time around as the first, knowing just how hard it was going to get (and that there was an upper threshold, and that I could survive it) made labor and delivery a little easier this time around. Having a big tub of warm water to labor in was really nice, too. While my movement wasn’t restricted too much at the hospital I delivered Baby 1 at, I was grateful to have switched to the birthing center.
Also, I made clear that I didn’t want any sort of directed pushing, and letting my body guide the pace felt a lot more productive. I also avoided the tearing, as well as the burst blood vessels in my eyes and face, further indication that pushing this time around was far gentler on me than the first time.
Postpartum recovery (so far)
Easier and harder
I’m still a little achy, and having to take it easier than I’d like, but I feel pretty good overall. The Husband got me a FitBit for Christmas, and I’ve noticed if I exceed about 5,000 steps a day, I get sore and my bleeding picks back up.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep my feet up and relax with a two-year-old demanding our attention, even though The Husband is picking up all my slack these first few weeks. So while I left the hospital feeling better than I did, and other factors are considerably easier this time around, it’s way harder to rest as much as I should.
So much easier (thank heavens)
I had a really rough time with breastfeeding the first time around. I told the lactation consultant at the hospital this time that my first baby’s latch seemed infinitely stronger and more painful than Baby 2’s. She asked me if anyone had recommended chiropractic care/cranial sacral massage (no), that my first baby could have had a tight jaw from childbirth that made his latch so strong.
It was oddly disappointing to hear a potential solution for an issue that ended up causing me so much angst and pain; I wish I’d had that advice the first time around. But that’s neither here nor there now, as Baby 2 is latching perfectly, I have had no pain to speak of, and am optimistic that I’ll dodge most of the breastfeeding complications I remember from last time.
When Baby 1 wouldn’t sleep without being held, The Husband and I struggled enormously with the decision to co-sleep. It was the only way to secure more than a couple broken hours of rest each night, and when I found myself nearly falling down the stairs carrying the baby one morning because I was so tired, we finally decided to go for it, as safely as we could.
Even so, I felt terribly guilty and ashamed. We were obviously prioritizing our own comfort over the baby’s safety. I wasn’t tough enough to do things the “right” way. We lied to our pediatrician. I endlessly fretted to my mom friends. I imagined our decision had doomed us to a years-long sentence of a kid sleeping in our bed, if he survived.
But you know what? It worked out fine for us. I got rest, we maintained an excellent breastfeeding relationship, and before Baby 1 was a year old, he was sleeping in his own crib, in his own room, just fine.
So this time around, after the first night in the hospital when The Husband and I took two-hour shifts holding Baby 2 while the other slept, because he wouldn’t stay asleep in his bassinet, I unceremoniously brought him to our (again, set up as safely as possible) bed. Every night since, I’ve averaged (again, thanks to FitBit data) at least 6.5 hours of sleep each night. It’s way harder to “sleep when the baby sleeps” with a toddler in the house, so this has been vital for my well-being (and thus my ability to care for both kids).
I’m not saying cosleeping is right for everyone. If your baby sleeps fine alone, and/or you function all right on very little sleep, the bassinet is probably the better choice. But bedsharing is working out for our family, and I’m not remotely ashamed of our decision this time around.
Keeping Up with Milestones and Traditions
Harder, of course
With Baby 1, I diligently took week-by-week photos, had already half filled out his baby book, and was glued to his side watching for every first (first smile! first diaper blowout!) I also had knitted a baby blanket that was finished by the time I hit my third trimester. I had birth announcements pre-designed and plenty of time to set up a photo shoot in the week after we came home.
Of course, this time around, I finished the baby blanket the day I went into labor (and frankly, I cut it off a little early so it’s more of a wide baby scarf), the baby book remains untouched, and my monitoring of firsts is far less precise. My house is too messy to take photos for a birth announcement I have considered only in theory.
That’s just how it goes when there are two kids. And while I’m getting in as much snuggle time as I can with Baby 2, I am often simultaneously building with blocks or reading books to The Toddler. My days are fuller, and while I honestly couldn’t conceive of it before Baby 2 arrived, my heart is fuller, too. Things are harder, but I’m happier.
This blog has been almost completely dedicated to pregnancy updates for the past few months, due mostly to my inability to muster the energy to write more than once a week. Despite this, my days are full to the brim with toddler stuff and farm stuff, and my bump (and even the heartburn) are more of an afterthought. Really, this space is the only place pregnancy has taken a front seat. So it’s well past time I made some room for an update on all the other stuff! Today, I’m focusing on The Toddler, if for no other reason than to remind my future self what 21 months looks like.
But because I’m still pretty tired/lazy, I’m going to let my camera roll do most of the talking…
The Toddler is (Thank God!) back to napping pretty regularly after a very trying couple of weeks where he was flirting with the idea of quitting forever. Unfortunately, the solution to his nap reluctance has been rocking him to sleep in a soft-structured carrier. As my belly gets bigger, this becomes more and more difficult, so I’m going to have to find a new fix any day now. Setting him in his crib to fall asleep on his own, or even trying to get him to sit still while I rock him in a chair, are not feasible, as he just never stops moving.
It could be faulty memory, but I swear there was a period of time in the not too distant past I could keep the house within spitting distance of tidy at least a few days a week. That is absolutely not the case anymore. Whether he’s ransacking our closet to try on his dad’s shirts, dumping snacks everywhere he goes because he’s too busy to sit down and eat a meal, scattering a basket of clean laundry across the living room, or filling his dump truck with dried noodles and dumping them out on my bed, this kid is hell bent on destruction.
While he is sometimes willing to help with the clean-up, I often find it takes less energy for me to just wait until he’s asleep to deal with it myself than to try to battle with him/trick him/reason with him to help me clean up. The only thing that seems to get him excited is the prospect of vacuuming.
“High! High!” he says
Twisty slide expert
The kid has boundless energy these days. We’ve been spending a lot of time on the playground, where he’s either doing full-speed laps up the playground equipment to go down the twisty slide, or yelling, “High! High!” on the swings, tricking people into thinking he’s being friendly when really, he’s just bossing me around.
When we’re outside at home, he’s obsessed with dragging around heavy logs, dragging our garden wagon around, or digging in a dirt pile that happens to also be littered with goat poop. This means he’s been getting an exasperating number of midday showers. I’m hoping my Best Mom award hasn’t gotten lost in the mail, but I have not received it yet.
In other news, it’s been just over two weeks since we embarked on the potty training mission, and while we’re far from perfect at this stage, I thought I’d provide a brief overview of how it’s gone so far. We’re using the book Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki as our guide, which in very brief advises potty training in phases or “blocks”–from naked (and watched like a hawk), to commando (no underwear, but yes pants) at home, to commando out and about in the world, etc.
We’re still in Block 3, and while prompting and built in potty break times (immediately when he wakes up, before and after getting in his carseat–we take the potty chair with us, etc.) are still very necessary to success, we are going most days without accidents and he is even self-initiating a few times a day.
Our biggest hangup right now, which I think is pretty common for the under-2 crowd, is that he isn’t figuring out the mechanics (or the necessity) behind pushing his pants down before he sits on the potty. Sometimes he’ll just walk over and hover over/sit down on the potty, fully clothed, and let loose. So I need to be there to help him with that, but since I need to be around anyway to help with wiping and emptying the potty chair, it’s not a big deal for now. We’ll get there.
He seems to take a lot of pride in being able to use the potty, and I feel fine about the pace of our progress. My main goal is to have him completely out of diapers (he still wears them for naps/night) by the time Baby 2 arrives.
We went to a new pediatrician last month who scoffed at the idea of potty training at 21 months, telling us we needed to wait until he was 2 1/2 to 3, or we’d just be “training ourselves [his parents],” but all this did was make me want to prove her wrong.
Yes, I know there are possibly risks for potty training too early (though some of these claims seem pretty dubious), and yes, I have the luxury of being the primary person to help my son get to the potty when he needs to go and not needing to rely on day care to do so, but he was enthusiastic at the outset and seems to prefer using the potty to diapers (even going so far as to wake me up a few times in the middle of the night to pee on the potty because he’d prefer not to go in his diaper.) So now felt like the right time for us, and I’m glad we went for it.
In particular, here’s what I like about Oh Crap! Potty Training, for anyone who is looking for potty training resources:
The author recommends ages 20-30 months (with some markers–like retreating somewhere to poop, being able to ask for something to drink when they’re thirsty) as the best time to potty train. We were getting some signals that The Toddler was seeming ready, and this book basically says, “Go for it.” There’s no waffling about readiness within that window — you decide to do it (setting a date and getting ready) and go full steam ahead. This is the attitude I find most motivating in the rest of my life decisions (taking a new job, deciding to have kids, moving to the farm), so I knew this was the approach we needed for this particular project.
There’s no incentivizing/rewards system. After having pushed through a brief bribery period with getting The Toddler into his carseat that got out of hand very quickly and made me feel like I was very much losing a power struggle, I can see how treats/stickers/etc. would get with potty training, and am happy to avoid it.
Glowacki is staunchly anti Pull-Ups, which greatly appeals to my sense of righteous indignation at the commercial exploitation of every possible childhood milestone. It seems clear to me that the point of Pull-Ups is not to help get kids potty trained, but to make them reliant on diapers way longer than they need to be, so diaper companies can sell more diapers.
The book is realistic about the variations in timing that each kid will take to fully adapt to using the potty, and doesn’t make you feel like a failure based on a recommended time frame.
Well, there’s a way-too-long post about my SAHM-of-a-toddler life right now! Stay tuned for exciting updates about my ever-expanding belly.
It’s been a heck of a week already (more on that later), so I am *super* glad I reached out to an old friend from high school, who just launchedher own blog to help people coping with eating disorders (and, oh yeah, NBD, had her second baby) to help me out with a guest post, Q&A style. As the reality of being a mom of two sets in, I am grateful to have her share some wisdom on motherhood.
Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce Erin.
My family and I recently moved to St. Louis from Georgia for my husband’s job when I was about halfway through my second pregnancy. The Second Kid, a baby boy, is now 4 months old and The First Kid, a girl, turned 2 years old at the end of May.
In Georgia, I owned a private practice as a dietitian specializing in eating disorders and related issues. Right now, I’m staying home with the kids until we’re ready for me to go back to work part-time. Until then, I’ve been enjoying writing my blog atRecoveringWithGod.com.
How were your two pregnancies different? In general, do you like being pregnant or is more of a necessary but miserable means to an end?
I thought I liked being pregnant until The Second Kid! I had more nausea, fatigue, and discomfort with the second pregnancy. I think moving out of state and chasing around a toddler made the experience much different.
What were some things you learned in your first pregnancy, childbirth experience or early parenting days that you wanted to be sure you did differently the second time around? What were some important consistencies you wanted to maintain between the two?
This is a BIG question. The short answer is: get less tests and be choosy about health care professionals. The explanation is long and intense, but worth sharing with you and other parents.
We almost lost my first child based on a diagnosis that was made in utero. We were told by a specialist doctor that our baby would likely not survive to term and if she did there was a 0% chance that we’d have a healthy, normal baby. The doctor insinuated that terminating the pregnancy was the way to go based on a growth he spotted on the back of the baby’s head at 11 weeks. He said that it was an encepholocele, a type of neural tube defect in which brain matter protrudes through an opening of the skull. He left us with very little hope, no follow-up appointments, and no recommendations for other consultations or specialists.
It was the absolute worst day of my life. But our friends and family prayed. After I made the initial call to the abortion clinic (please no judgments), I felt God nudging me to get a second opinion. More prayers.
The second-opinion-doctor made us feel like we were in this together and gave us options. We waited. With every visit thereafter, the growth miraculously shrunk or stayed the same size. By the third trimester, the malformation was no longer detectable and the issue was considered resolved.
Against the odds, our baby was born as healthy as can be.
SOOOOO, how did all this change the second pregnancy? Well, the reason we went in for that 11-week ultrasound with The First Kid was because we were going to test for a genetic disorder that runs in my family that has the potential to be fatal. With The Second Kid, we decided NOT to get that test. We learned that (1) test results don’t always predict outcomes, (2) the test results wouldn’t change our actions during pregnancy—we wouldn’t terminate, and (3) God can heal.
I’m not really sure how to segue from that, but there are plenty of other things I did differently as well. I chose a birthing center instead of the typical hospital setting to give birth. Reasons include the following experiences that I had at the hospital with The First Kid: (1) getting my membranes stripped without consent, (2) my birthing plan was not followed or even saved in my chart to refer to, (3) I had to wait for the doctor to arrive before I could push, even though my body was screaming at me to PUSH! (4) Oh yea, I had to go through the transition stage of labor in the crowded waiting room, like WITH THE FAMILIES (who were staring at me because I was apparently making scary noises). In contrast, I loved the birthing center. Their practices were in line with everything I wanted, so I didn’t have to constantly worry or double check what they were doing. They listened. They didn’t rush. Gosh, I loved them so much. If you don’t like your healthcare team, look for someone else. I say that as a healthcare professional and I would say it to my clients too.
How were your two labor experiences?
I was told the second labor is typically half the length of time as the first. This made me quite nervous because I barely made it to the delivery room with The First Kid, but it was true! I was in labor from about 6pm-midnight for The First Kid and 9pm-midnight for The Second Kid. (To the women who have long labors, I am sorry and you are all amazing warriors).
There were no false alarms with The First Kid—once contractions started, they were regular and the real deal. With The Second Kid, I experienced contractions that didn’t turn into labor, which drove my anticipatory anxiety out the roof!
I labored at home longer for The First Kid because I was only 1 cm earlier that afternoon. With my second labor, the midwives never checked dilation at any appointments, but I knew I had to leave ASAP once contractions were at regular intervals.
Both babies arrived the day after their due date.
Both labors were medication-free. I used some Hypnobabies concepts with both labors even though I personally think it’s a bit cheesy. I really enjoyed the practices in Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke and highly recommend that book. It’s more evidence-based, less judgmental, and the skills can be used throughout the parenting experience. I need to go back and reread some sections!
I keep being reminded to expect my two children to be very different from each other, though it’s hard to imagine my second baby beyond what I know from my first. How are your two babies different so far?
The First Kid came out small and dainty and always falling asleep. The Second Kid came out sturdy and big and eager to eat. The First Kid was laid-back and The Second Kid is usually tense, but both happy. The First Kid was very observant and could entertain herself easily, interested in the smallest of details. The Second Kid (at least in this stage) seems to need a lot more stimulation. Thankfully, he loves watching his older sister as she runs around, dances, and gives him toys.
How did you prepare your first child for the arrival of your second? How has she adjusted to being a big sister? Are there any specific books/philosophies/etc. you relied on to help guide you through getting her prepared?
We talked about baby brother while I was pregnant and read the book “I Am a Big Sister” by Caroline Jayne Church, which I highly recommend. I’m not sure how much she understood, but she does mimic the girl in the book by helping. I also instituted “special time” with her while I was pregnant. We sing a song about special time, set a timer, and I spend 10 devoted and undivided minutes with her. Quality (attentive time) is over quantity (distracted time).
She’s loved and adored her baby brother since she met him. It was an adjustment (aka Tantrum City), of course, but she took her frustrations out on her dad and me for not giving her enough attention. She never acted resentful toward her baby brother. I’d say it took about 3 months for her to adjust. Now that she’s adjusted, she can truly be a big help to me at times even though she’s only two.
Talk about the first few days/weeks of being a mom of two, in general. What was the hardest part? Was there anything that went easier than expected?
The hardest part was definitely not having the ability to be there for my little girl. There are moments when you have to choose which child to attend to first, and the crying baby usually takes priority. Thankfully, The First Kid encourages me to go help The Second Kid when he cries, but she forgets that means she can’t get what she wants right away!
Taking care of a baby in general has been easier this time because I knew what to expect. I’m no longer trying to follow every rule or sift through all the conflicting baby advice on the internet…there’s no time for that!
I had a really rough time getting started with breastfeeding the first time around. If you nursed both times (and are willing to share), what was it like starting again?
It was a cinch! I had some insecurities the first time around, which I think most women do, and a naturally petite baby, which our first pediatrician freaked me out. However, a year’s worth of practice with the first child makes a huge difference for the second. Now the real challenge is breastfeeding while doing other tasks, such as reading a book with The First Kid in my lap, pouring a glass of milk, or putting on a shoe!
How did you and your husband adjust to having two?
In general, my husband watches the The First Kid and I’m in charge of The Second Kid, especially in the beginning when I was nursing non-stop. We had visitors the first several weeks who we could hand either kid off to, which was loads of help! Then we were forced to figure out how to handle both at the same time when my husband returned to work and I had occasional appointments I needed to attend. We’re still figuring it out!
In general, what advice that I may not have covered that you’d offer to parents expecting their second child?
Go easy on yourself. You won’t be able to do it perfectly, if there is such a thing. It’s okay to plop your toddler down in front of the TV to attend to the baby, or *gasp* get a moment to yourself. (My husband is constantly reminding me of this). Are they smelling a little ripe because you haven’t bathed them in awhile? They won’t remember! Did you just yell at your toddler for a stupid reason? Genuinely tell him you’re sorry and that you feel sad/mad right now, and hey it turns into a teaching moment! Even if you don’t muster up the apology, life goes on and you are a good mom. Some mood swings and bending the rules won’t change that.
Do what’s easiest. Opt for grocery delivery, Amazon Prime, carryout meals, a cleaning service, and any other convenience you can find. If you’re thrifty like me, tell yourself it’s just for this season. You’re in survival mode the first couple months, so only expend energy on the priorities.
And finally, picking your nutritionist/disordered eating expert brain, I wondered if you had any wisdom regarding self acceptance/body positivity for new moms and/or setting a good example of this for your kids.
It’s important for postpartum women to give themselves space to grieve their old bodies. We have constant messages thrown at us to “lose the baby weight fast”, and then we’re also told to “appreciate our stretch marks and mommy tummy” because it’s “so worth it.” We feel guilty if we can’t get back to our pre-baby bodies AND we also feel guilty if we aren’t “positive” about this new body.
It’s okay to feel sad about your body sometimes. It doesn’t mean that you’re vain or shallow. It doesn’t mean that you lack gratitude. Avoiding feelings and pretending you’re fine never ends well. Journal or talk to a trusted fellow mom. Give yourself grace—your body just went through a traumatic experience, you’re healing, your hormones are crazy, you’re tired. Look the way you look and feel the way you feel.
Try to accept both your body and your feelings, and don’t beat yourself up if acceptance is a tough concept right now.
As for setting a good example for your kids, be nice to yourself. Even when we think they may not be looking, kids notice those under-the-breath remarks in the fitting room or self-deprecating comments over second helpings of ice cream. Then they mimic us. Give yourself the love and respect that you give to your kids.
There you have it! Aren’t I lucky to know her? She shared such an incredible story — I’m stunned at her strength through the terrifying diagnosis in her first pregnancy and utterly appalled at her hospital experience with her first childbirth!!! — and so many good ideas — the “Special Time” idea is getting implemented STAT in our house, and I’ve got some new reading to tackle. (As usual, nothing on this site is sponsored, so the Amazon links are just for your convenience.)
I really needed some encouragement today and was so happy to find Erin’s words in my inbox. I hope you enjoyed it, too.
While her blog is a faith-based resource for people struggling with disordered eating, and not a mom blog, I know that there certainly is overlap between those two groups of people. In addition to selfishly picking Erin’s brain to prepare myself for parenting two, I also hoped that connecting with her would help connect any of my readers who might be struggling. If you are (or know someone who is) dealing with an eating disorder, visit RecoveringwithGod.com for words of encouragement. (And, as Erin points out in her bio, you should also seek treatment with a health care professional.) Take care of yourself, Mama.
P.S. I can’t figure out how to get someone a draft for review on WordPress without it going live, so sorry if you got a blank/password protected email post!
This announcement guarantees that last night’s sleep training success will be short-lived, but it feels so monumental that I cannot pretend it didn’t happen, even if it the victory is fleeting.
The Toddler slept from 7:45 p.m. to 5:55 a.m. With no wakings, no nursing, no tears.
This is huge.
Sleep has been our family’s battleground for the past 15 months. Yes, breastfeeding was rough at first, but since we figured that out, sleep has been my white whale, my Sisyphean boulder, my biggest source of frustration and guilt and (of course) exhaustion as a parent. Ever since that little balogna loaf decided he wouldn’t sleep unless we were armpit to shoulder and boob to face at a week old, I’ve been daydreaming about the day I could put him in his crib with a, “See you in the morning!” and have it come true.
First it was months and months of first terrifying (thanks, unhelpful public health campaigns!) then resigned, then generally tolerable but still quite limiting and often uncomfortable bedsharing, then a month or two of his crib “side-carred” to our bed, then that fourth wall up and the crib in our room, then the big jump of the crib back to his room, and there we stalled for about the past five months.
We hit wave after wave of colds or teething in between brief but delicious spells where he’d drift off to sleep peacefully, waking once at about 3 a.m. for a quick nursing session before easily going back to bed. The fact he could do that made me start believing I might be able to convince him he could make it a few more hours.
Well, I couldn’t… not by myself. It’s just been too easy to nurse him back to sleep when I’m still 60% asleep during his night wakings.
So we waited until The Husband was on spring break from work and didn’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. and enlisted him to be the night time hammer for the week. Usually, The Toddler screams in frustration if The Dad shows up during a night waking and points at the door until I relent, relieving The Dad of his duty, administering the night nursing. Not this week.
It was rough. The first four nights were hard going for The Dad and The Toddler. Lying in bed across the hall, I didn’t get much sleep, either, between the loud crying and the guilt. But we stuck it out. Even on the fourth night, when at 3 a.m. I decided to give The Husband a break and went in, I managed to refuse to nurse. The Toddler was enraged, but he eventually fell asleep. The Husband slept in a little in the mornings, and The Toddler took 3.5 hour naps every day this week (admittedly a bit of a silver lining through all this.)
Then last night, because I suspected he wasn’t really getting that much milk at his pre-bedtime nursing session, leading to that 3 a.m. wake up, and because I was hopeful for some success, I gave The Toddler a bottle of cow’s milk with his bedtime stories. He finished that off, then nursed, then gave me a hug and kiss good night (Oh my God, the best feeling ever, this new habit), and I left the room saying, “See you in the morning.”
And it worked! At least this once!
(I still slept fitfully, dreaming for the second night in a row about forgetting to take care of The Toddler the next day, and getting repeatedly awoken by our jerk cat who wants me to walk him to his full food bowl a few times a night because he likes the company?! But still, the potential for a full night’s sleep is closer than it has been since my second trimester.)
So. Here’s hoping this isn’t a fleeting taste of the rested life. The Toddler is just about done cutting his last canine, and we’re almost through cold season (though I know that’s a bit of a misnomer/pipe dream for someone who still licks food off the floor), so maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally start getting some sleep.
On Saturday, The Husband and I left The Toddler with Grandma and drove an hour and a half into the heart of Amish country to pick up three young Nigerian Dwarf goats we found online. Their owner was selling them as almost year-old wethers (the name for neutered male goats), as she has milk goats and her herd was getting too big.
We ended up cramming the poor guys into a dog crate in the back of my Subaru hatchback because we need to do some repair work to the cool but temperamental old yellow 1972 Ford F250 we co-own with our friends. The ride home was a quiet but tense one, The Husband gripping the steering wheel and doing his best to keep the turns smooth and slow on the winding back roads, carefully passing Amish families in buggies while the goats stumbled around in an increasing puddle of urine in their crate. Not an ideal way to start the relationship, I’m sure, but they were exceedingly patient with us.
They arrived at our house and we corralled them into an area we have cordoned off with portable electric fencing very near our house. This is one of the big garden beds my grandparents used to manage, but which has over the past decade or two become utterly overrun with poison ivy, wild roses, blackberry bushes and feral garlic (from the time my grandmother threw some old, sprouting garlic cloves out her window. Advice: Do not do this. All last spring and summer the overwhelming scent of garlic wafted through our windows.)
Anyway, to answer a few questions we’ve been getting:
The goats’ main purpose is to help us manage this overgrowth (they prefer “browse” or “forage” to pasture–they like reaching above their heads to eat, more like deer than cattle. So the brambles and vines and saplings are prime eating for them.) They will also serve as pets. Also, their poop makes great fertilizer. Also, they’re pretty cute.
We have no interest at present in running a dairy. Nigerian Dwarf goats are bred for milk, but you have to breed goats about annually to keep the milk flowing, and breeding goats brings an overwhelming element to the adventure that we’re not willing to entertain right now: stinky, aggressive bucks (non-neutered males), helping with deliveries and keeping kids alive in the dead of winter, when they’re usually born, twice-daily milking and figuring out what to do with all those extra goats.
We haven’t picked new names for them. They’re still pretty leery of us (they were quite friendly toward their former owner, but being a year old and only with us for a few days so far, they’re taking their time warming up to us). So we’re keeping their old names for now in hopes that a little consistency in that regard helps open the lines of communication. I’m not going to get into what the currently are, because it’s kind of a longer story than you’d think, but we’ll let you know when we settle on new ones.
The Toddler adores them. He can see them out his bedroom window, and they have been added to the good night tour each night along with the chicks.
The Dog, poor Louise, got a nose full of the (honestly potentially not strong enough, it feels only slightly worse than getting a static shock from socks on a rug) electric fence when she first encountered the goats, and holds me personally responsible. She’s avoided eye contact with me since Saturday.
Here are some photos for your enjoyment… I hope as the goats get more used to us, there will be better shots, but I can’t get very close right now (and if I am, I have a spoonful of molasses in one hand and a lead in the other, which doesn’t make for easy photography.)
In chick news, the girls are getting bigger and bolder and feathering out nicely. I bring them a treat each day (either hard boiled eggs… yep, the original chick feed, as weird as it sounds, or smashed chick peas, or raisins or freeze dried meal worms, but eggs are their No. 1 jam) and they hop into my hand and go nuts. A couple of them have even been testing out the mini perches we put in their brood box. So cute!
They also survived an attempted massacre by my cat while we were out picking up the goats. Fortunately, everyone was accounted for soon after we got home. We have reinforced the boxes to keep that from happening again (I hope.)
Matilda the Silver-laced Wyandotte testing out the perch. She fell asleep like this. 🙂
The mess of pine shavings on my basement floor after my cat decided to push the brood box off the table. Everyone survived.
In parenting news, The Toddler is 15 months old now. He’s absolutely a toddler, exploring everything, throwing tantrums, picking up more and more words (his current favorite word is “gouda.” Ha!) and being equal parts heart-explodingly sweet and unbelievably challenging. I am addicted to his hugs.
This week, The Husband is on spring break from school so we’re finally working on a gentle approach to night weaning. (Yeah, I know a lot of moms figure this one out 6 or 10 months in or whatever, but we’ve been lazy and he’s been down to one quick nurse a night unless he’s sick or teething.) Anyway, every night the husband is “on duty” no matter what for an increasingly longer amount of time. Usually if I send him in, The Toddler screams and points at the door for me until we cave, but he’s going to have to take comfort with his dad for longer and longer period of time until he figures out we can’t all get 3 a.m. milkshakes every night.
Speaking of 3 a.m. milkshakes, The Toddler’s dwindling need to nurse, coupled with my persistent attachment to frozen yogurt and string cheese and buttery toast, means I’m starting to gain back a little of the baby weight that fell off so easily from breastfeeding. So today starts a conscious effort to pay attention to my appetite and get some exercise. I went running outside for the first time in eons. It felt like I was running with a backpack full of bowling balls, but I got through it and it felt good to break a sweat. Here’s hoping my saying it on the Internet will help me stick to it.
Time for a very desperately needed shower! Until next time.
If you’ve been following along, you know that the election sent me into a deep, persisting feeling of hopelessness, and that after an initial burst of inspiration to become an activist, I settled in to wallow for the long haul, because what difference can I make?
That remains to be seen, but I decided to march in Cleveland’s sister march to the Women’s March on Washington this Saturday. I also decided to bring The Baby.
A photo posted by Reanna (@arkayokay) on Jan 21, 2017 at 8:16am PST
I’m so glad I decided to go. I walked with a few friends (one of whom was also wearing her baby), and was surrounded by thousands upon thousands of peaceful but defiant women (and plenty of men!) There were amazing signs and an amazing vibe. Cleveland Police confirmed that about 15,000 people marched.
A photo posted by Reanna (@arkayokay) on Jan 21, 2017 at 8:27am PST
I remember reading somewhere on Instagram as I perused the #womensmarchcleveland someone talking about how the election had made them feel lonely, and that the march was an antidote. I related very much to this sentiment. My values may not be represented in the White House right now but they’re sure as hell represented by the millions of people who are angry, sad and worried enough to protest around the country and around the world. I need to keep this in mind in the coming days, months and years as I do my best to fight for these values.
Okay, enough politics. That was the exhilarating part of my weekend. Now onto the traumatic.
We cut The Baby’s hair today. (And by “we,” yes, I mean his father and I actually did the cutting after watching a few Youtube tutorials. The results are not terrible considering how much a 13-month-old moves.)
The Husband has been pushing for this trim for awhile now, and I pushed back. The Baby’s bangs were starting to get in his eyes, and he had what appeared to be wings sprouting from the sides of his head. And also some sweet curls in the back that I liked to cradle in my palm like the feathers on a baby bird or twirl in my fingers while he nursed. I’ve heard moms get sentimental about baby hair before, and I GET IT NOW.
The resistance to cutting his hair felt almost visceral to me. Once it was over, my fears were confirmed: He’s really, really, really not a baby any more. I know hair grows back–maybe the curls will return–but time only marches forward, and babies don’t keep.
At the start of the haircut, we dropped one wispy curl into a little silver keepsake box someone gave us at our baby shower. It’s a lovely little box, and a beautiful little curl, but altogether it’s just a time capsule, an inadequate memento from a time I wish I could freeze forever and step into whenever I want.