It happens every so often, and I’ve once again found myself in a not really planned but unavoidable hiatus. Parenting, especially parenting of more than one very young child, is all about shifting and shrinking priorities.
Blogging is a fun outlet for me and a nice way to keep track of what’s going on my life, but when I’m drowning in laundry and trying really hard to figure out how to make my toddler feel secure in his new role as a sibling and keeping up with freelancing work and trying to coordinate a home renovation and looking for the chickens’ latest hidden nest and snatching a few hours of sleep when I can, that fun outlet becomes one burden I can put down.
Hopefully not for long. I just need to catch my breath.
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.
My Instagram feed is choked with ads for seemingly ingenious solutions to the myriad inconveniences and aggravations of parenthood. I am not immune to the siren’s song of an easier life offered by things like a bathtub shrinker or a shirt you can wear your baby in, despite my pursuit of minimalism (and to varying degrees of satisfaction). Sometimes, when you’re really tired and really desperate and really overwhelmed, you throw money at the problem.
Somehow, though, motherhood continues to be difficult even though there are bluetooth white noise machines and refillable baby food pouches and dual-action breast pumps. In fact, I’m not sure parenting is any easier than it was 30 years ago without these space-age gadgets. (And back then you could leave your kids in the car while it was running for 10 minutes to pop into the store without someone calling CPS on you, and there was no such thing as sexting, so in many ways I think parenting back then might have actually been easier.)
I’ve been encountering a number of instances of necessity that are birthing ideas for invention that I simply don’t have the resources to bring to fruition. So, Internet, if you beat me to production on these items, please message me so I can direct you where to send the royalties. Here’s a list of things that, if they existed, would make my life a little easier:
Compostable, one-wear nursing shirts.
I just spent $30 on like 6 clearance-rack Target t-shirts to serve as my postpartum uniform for the next few months. I did this the first time around, too, when I was still figuring out my new (temporary?) body shape and not interested in spending real money on clothes. They’re actually pretty soft and not horrifically unflattering, but after one wear apiece I already can’t wear them out of the house without feeling like a dirtbag because they’re stained front and back with breast milk and spit up. (which, for those of you who have never gotten breast milk stains on anything, is like salad dressing or butter. It’s just grease stains.)
Yeah, yeah, I know I could pretreat. I could also hypothetically dust my fan blades or organize my pantry. The very nature of my life right now is I have to prioritize feeding my baby and keeping my toddler from accidental death at every turn over all other activities, so carefully sorting through my laundry and applying extra soap to every shirt I own is a laughable fantasy.
So, how about somebody invent really cheap, biodegradabe one-wear shirts that I can just toss on my compost pile when Baby 2 upchucks down my back? They could even be somehow made out of recycled cotton shirts from all those 5ks and local political campaigns that get dumped in developing countries when Goodwill rejects them. They don’t have to be particularly durable. They just need to be cheap. (Wait… is this secretly the LulaRoe business model?) And they need to be eco-friendly enough that I don’t mind wearing them once or twice. These would also be great in toddler sizes.
I don’t have any further guidelines on this. But I’m super tired of The Toddler picking up the tank on our humidifier and running wild with it.
Electrical outlets that are 6′ high on the wall
This is not an invention so much as a building specification. We installed those cool slidey outlet covers when we moved into this house, which is all well and good when there’s nothing plugged in, but we either have to shove heavy furniture in front of anything that is plugged in or just accept that we’re in a perpetual state of having half our stuff unplugged at any given time. (Yes I know we could buy these, but I would like it a whole lot more if more of my outlets were just at eye level. I’d hang pictures over them.)
Ceiling-mounted shelving on pulleys
For all those electronics, mugs of coffee, permanent markers and other items your toddler seems better able to reach with each passing second no matter what you do. There isn’t a surface in my house he can’t access, and we just aren’t blessed with enough space to have anywhere truly be off-limits. Again, yes, I could just get more organized! Have a place for everything and everything in its place! But whenever I suggest to my husband that he leave with both kids for at least a week so I can finally clean enough for us to live our best life, he looks at me like I’m crazy. And even when I get part of the way there over an especially fortuitous naptime, it’s undone in a matter of minutes.
It would just be nice to have very high, adjustable ledges and shelves all over the place that I can quickly set down my coffee to chase after The Toddler before he trips with a kazoo in his mouth and knocks out all his teeth.
Cheap, nonceramic lamps
First of all, I’m not talking about night lights, so don’t send me night light ideas. I’m talking about a light by which you can read bedtime stories.
This certainly must exist, but judging by the selection at my local and online go-to retailers, you’d think no one else’s two-year-olds spend their naps knocking lamps off their bookshelves. Why are they all ceramic? Why are any nursery lamps ceramic? You understand that babies become toddlers, right?
Lamps intended for children’s rooms anywhere in a house that has children should exclusively be made from wood, or… a metal rod shoved through a very plush stuffed animal, I don’t know. Yes, I know those both sound like fire hazards now that I say them, but they’re fire hazards no matter what when they’re switched on and lying sideways atop a rug.
Ok, so a cheap, nonceramic lamp that easily bolts to the surface upon which it sits.
With fully shatterproof, heatproof LED bulbs.
And a lampshade that doesn’t crinkle and break if you throw the whole thing across the room.
Is that so much to ask?
Like I said, I don’t have time to bring any of these ideas to fruition, but I look forward with great hope and anticipation that these products will start showing up on my Instagram feed in the extremely immediate future.
My two-year-old has been bouncing off the walls lately. At the rate he dismantles any attempts at cleaning, I feel like I’m living in a perpetual minor earthquake. And he is very demanding and impatient and exuberant, and when he’s yelling and the baby is crying and the cat is meowing and the rooster is crowing, I feel like I’m in way over my head.
It’s been stressing me out more than I should let it. But in addition to being rambunctious and headstrong, he’s been hilarious lately. Here are two examples from today, before I forget them.
Scene: Prepping for lunch, with The Baby in the wrap on my chest. The Toddler is wearing just a shirt and underpants because we went out to stomp in puddles and he couldn’t sit still long enough to put dry pants on.
Me: [Toddler], do you want edamame or peas with your macaroni and cheese?
Toddler [clearly distracted and not fully listening]: Penis.
Me [thinking I must have heard him wrong]: [Toddler]? Do you want edamame or peas with lunch?
Toddler [doubling down]: Penis.
Soon after, I was lying on the floor next to The Baby, shaking a lion rattle at him while The Toddler played nearby. I started singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight in my best attempt at falsetto. The Toddler quit playing, and I looked up at my tenderhearted little guy, and his lip was trembling and his eyes were welling up.
“What’s wrong?!” I exclaimed.
“Sing song, Mommy,” he wept. (Or maybe he said “Don’t sing song” I thought?)
“Is it making you sad? I will stop!”
“No, sing song!” he cried.
And then he kept making me sing it, so he could cry along to it. It was like looking at a two-year-old version of my melodromatic 10th grade self listening to Nothing Compares 2 U after I got dumped at prom. He couldn’t get enough of that feeling, and it was being elicited by his mom singing “a-wimoweh, a wimoweh.”
This carried on for a half hour. He gathered up a few of his trucks and tucked them into his shirt, explaining they were scared of “The Lion Sleeps Song,” and then squatting and shushing them like I do with The Baby.
“I can stop singing if they’re scared,” I pleaded, because he was still crying on and off and I felt really bad (even worse because I kept having to turn away from him so I could laugh.)
“SING THE SONG!” he insisted.
I mentioned that I sometimes like to listen to music that makes me sad. He asked me to find a sad song, so I pulled up this one (that I hormonally sobbed to the week after his brother was born in the wee hours of the night).
It made me cry right there, a little bit, and I could see the concern growing on The Toddler’s face. “It reminds me that I love you very much, and I’m so glad you’re here,” I explained. “It makes me feel happy and sad.”
He wrapped his arms around me and said, “I love you very much.”
I hugged him back deeply, and when he pulled away, he looked me in the eye and said very seriously, “Sing the lion song.”
And I did. And he cried a little more.
Finally, a bonus, because that got a little weird:
He found the bag full of plastic bags The Husband left in the pantry to take to recycle somewhere and pulled them all apart, piled them in front of our back door, and jumped around in them like they were a pile of dry leaves.
He’s making me absolutely crazy, but I freaking love that kid.
This is going to be a barely-coherent stream of thought because for the first time in a week both my kids are asleep and I am awake! It’s my first full week as a stay-at-home mom of two (hallelujah for 3 weeks of paternity leave!) and I feel like I just leveled up at a video game I had only begun to master.
The difficulty has increased, I’m constantly juggling, and I can feel the background music speeding up to match the frenetic pace of this new arrangement. (The background music is Laurie Berkner’s “We Are the Dinosaurs,” FYI.) To make sense of my days, I have found myself mapping out on a post-it note approximately how I’m going to spend each hour (mostly so I don’t surrender to my anxiety at 8 a.m. and let The Toddler watch 8 straight hours of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie).
Many of those hours are spent building “flatbed trucks” out of Mega Blocks with one hand while I nurse The Baby. Because he requires holding so much, I actually am finding myself more attentive to The Toddler during these times because it’s not like I can do the dishes or fold laundry while I nurse. I can build a carwash and collaborate on an elaborate plot involving two flatbed trucks driving through over and over again, though.
This assuages my guilt very slightly when I’ve spent 20 minutes trying to get The Baby to nap in his bassinet in my bedroom only to notice it’s very quiet, and when I go out to the kitchen find The Toddler buckled into his chair at the kitchen table in front of a mountain of raisins, which he has managed to procure from the pantry and serve himself like a two-year-old Kevin McAllister who is just trying to make the best of his abandonment. (<—longest run-on-sentence in the history of the world, but there’s no turning back! There’s just no time for editing!!!)
I’ve been really lucky this past couple of weeks to have the support of my local MOMS club–these women have taken turns bringing hot meals every other day for the past week and a half! Many of these meals contain desserts! And they’ve been my sole source of vegetables!
I’m blown away by their generosity and consideration, especially because they all have their own wild broods to deal with. I can’t wait to pay it forward, because it’s been so very helpful (and because I am so very uncomfortable asking for or accepting help, and I’ll feel less like a freeloader if I can feed some future new moms.)
Let’s see… what else can I say about this first week and change? I can’t tell if this baby is more laid back than his older brother was, or if I’m just less prone to anxiety and more accustomed to what I can expect from a baby this time around, but this time definitely feels easier. It’s way harder to handle a two-year-old than a newborn, in my experience so far.
I can’t think of anything else to say by way of updates (other than The Baby is four weeks old today and holy shit that went fast.) Instead, here’s a list of the “birth affirmations” I made up for The Husband to repeat back to me that really helped me get through the hard parts. I knew I wasn’t going to have the time or inclination to decorate my labor space or keep my eyes open to read any pretty decorated signs, so instead I wrote them out on index cards and had him yell them to me over my loud moaning. (I even put helpful tips for what situations/stages of labor they’d work best for on the back.)
Pinterest and the Internet at large are rife with birth affirmations (and I think Hynpobirthing is a big source of these?) But for my particular makeup, some of these were eye-roll inducingly hokey, or put thoughts in my head I didn’t really want to invite.
(You know that thing where if you say, “Don’t think about a polar bear,” all you can imagine is a polar bear? I submit that if you repeat back to yourself, “I am not afraid,” or “My baby will fit,” you might just trigger thoughts like, “Yes I fucking am afraid,” or “Holy shit maybe my baby won’t fit?”)
Anyway, here’s a list of birth affirmations designed for your birth partner/doula/etc. to read back to you. Some are taken straight from Pinterest, some are helpful reminders from books I read, and a couple, honestly, are cheesy mantras from high school cross country. (See if you can guess). My labor was so fast he didn’t get through the whole pile, but I starred the ones I did hear that I found particularly comforting/motivating.
Maybe in 25 years when I have time to myself again I’ll make them into lovely printables free for download.
Each surge brings the baby closer.
You are a badass.
This is a wave. You can ride it out.
The pride lasts longer than the pain.
You’ve got this.
You are prepared. You are strong. You are capable.
Women all over the world are birthing with you right now.
*You have done this before. You can do this again. I believe in you.
Your body knows what it’s doing.
Why don’t we wait through this contraction and see how you feel? (Repeat as necessary – in case I start talking epidural).
*Melt around the pain.
Our baby is doing this work with you. Work together.
I’m here. You’re not alone.
*Relax your jaw. (This should just be my general life mantra. I may get this tattooed on my wrist.)
When you feel like you can’t do it, it means you’re close. You can do it.
Don’t rush pushing. Let your body stretch.
*You’re not hitting the wall. You’re crashing through it, and our baby is on the other side.
Don’t forget: There’s a baby at the end of all this.
*Your contractions are strong because you are strong.
*Stay low. (If I’m screaming/starting to lose control – remind me to put that energy into laboring and stick to deep/low noises if I need to make noise.)
Your contractions can’t be stronger than you because they are you.
Don’t fight against this. Let your body open.
Breathe in for strength. Breathe out and let go.
You can do anything for a minute.
All right, I’m going to take the remaining moments I have of this rare double-naptime (which, might I add, I got only because I took the boys on a meandering hourlong drive that coincidentally took us past our nearest prison) and maybe go brush my teeth for the first time today.
The latent sense of not feeling prepared for the baby at the end of this pregnancy is becoming more of a constant buzz in my consciousness as I find myself at the end of my 33rd week of pregnancy. Assuming I go into labor around the same time I did with my first, I have just five more weeks to get my shit together, and my to-do list looms long and neglected while life keeps getting in the way.
At 33 weeks, the baby is somewhere in the 17-19 inch range and anywhere between 4 and 6 pounds, and the estimations from here on out look to be pretty sketchy at best, as babies start to really diverge as they approach their final birth weight/length. Judging by the movements I’ve been feeling lately, the baby is mostly feet. One weird progression I read in my weekly updates is that, while awake, baby is keeping his or her eyes open in utero. I wonder what it looks like in there.
As for me, well…
I think this about sums it up.
I’m humongous. I can’t stop eating, but also, heartburn. I can’t breathe. It takes me 30 seconds to roll over in bed and a full minute to get up off the floor. My back hurts if I’m on my feet too long (oh, and also if I’m sitting too long). I’ve been super emotional–crying over very silly things, or for no reason at all. My abdominal muscles hurt from being stretched. I’ve had a few dizzy spells. I’m getting to the stage where only really long maternity shirts cover my huge, huge belly. My huge, huge belly that my toddler thinks is a trampoline.
And while I’m starting to look forward to not being pregnant anymore, this past week with The Toddler has also reminded me that I’ll be trading in immobility and indigestion for mind-numbing sleep deprivation.
While I’ve been using it as a blanket excuse for every behavioral hiccup for the past five months or so, The Toddler is finally, truly sprouting two-year molars, and that has manifested in really rotten sleep. He’s pretty miserable, and his parents are pooped. I think it’s affecting his dad more than me, because in the middle of the night, I am the last person The Toddler wants to see. So I get to go back to bed while The Dad tries to soothe him. It’s a good thing we put a twin bed in his room.
Though the teething hasn’t been particularly fun this week, we have pressed on in one important way toward preparing our household for the baby: The Toddler has started going to daycare (though we’re calling it “school”) a few mornings a week. I’ve been both meaning to do this forever and putting it off, first because my freelance work has been so feast-or-famine, and then because I wanted to feel he was fully through potty training before I threw off his routine.
So when my freelance work picked up this week, it ended up being the perfect catalyst for getting him out of the house a few mornings a week. (And, conveniently, the perfect excuse for further baby-prep procrastination.)
The Toddler has been struggling with drop-offs a little, but otherwise has a great time. And so has his mom! I’ve gotten a bunch of work done–mostly the paid version, but this morning I spent most of daycare time blowing leaves that have piled up on our front sidewalk and then did some shopping.
I picked up some stuff for my hospital bag (future post to come–after my next midwife appointment this week I plan to finalize my checklist to share with you) and for those special breastfeeding-time play kits to keep The Toddler occupied. That, too, will be a future post.
In the meantime, here’s hoping those teeth pop so The Husband and I can catch up on some sleep and tackle more of our to-do list.
Late again with my weekly update. I’ll happily blame a toddler cold and some well-earned social time this weekend. I seriously don’t understand how other moms carve out time to blog several times a week, or daily. Don’t you like sleeping? Doesn’t your kid assume an open laptop means an episode of Daniel Tiger paired with a barrage of snacks? Don’t you have goats to feed?
Anyway, last week was Pregnancy Week 27, the last week of the second trimester. I’m officially rounding the bend toward the finish line (and, you know, the starting line to a much harder and longer journey that is parenting another child. Holy crap, we’re going to have two kids soon.)
Baby: Is about 2-ish pounds and 14.5 inches, head to toe, or about the size of a head of cauliflower or a bunch of bananas. Is opening and closing his or her eyes, packing on fat, and undergoing some serious brain development.
Mom: I am feeling “bigger, bigger, bigger!” as The Toddler likes to say (not just about me, in general. At least that’s what I tell myself.) I’ve succumbed to the daily Prilosec, as heartburn has gotten the best of me, and I need to sleep. And also eat.
Speaking of The Toddler, this is also the point at which his bladder control is better than mine. Aside from one unfortunate nap-related accident (someone was too tired and belligerent to sit on the potty, or perhaps it was engulfed in flames I couldn’t see, judging by his reaction to my trying to get him to go), he’s been using the potty like a champ, and as soon as the next load of laundry makes it through, he’s got a new set of 2T-sized boxer briefs with trucks on them to officially move him into underpants territory permanently. We also are giving up diapers for nights and naps, because we’ve found a night pee buys us a much later wake-up call in the morning, and he never wets his diapers anymore, anyway.
Also this week marks the official beginning of my heavy-handed hint-dropping at The Husband in the form of strategically placed literature on his nightstand. I went to an honest-to-goodness bookstore this week (instead of Amazon, although it was still a Barnes & Noble) to pick up the latest edition of The Birth Partner, and I am confident (very hopeful?) he’ll get through all 400 pages before I go into labor. (Honey, I know you read this. You have the rest of your life to read about Ulysses S. Grant before bed. <3)
As I’ve mentioned before, we’re not hiring a doula this time around, even though having her was very helpful with our first baby. The combination of added expense of delivering at a birth center and the assumption (and sincere hope) we’ll have an even quicker labor than the last time just suggested it made more sense to equip The Husband with the tools to act as my sole labor coach this time around.
Though, honestly, it’s hard to imagine carving out any sort of time before Baby 2’s arrival to really focus on childbirth. I know I’ll feel differently when I’m as big as a house and truly can’t reach my feet anymore, but I don’t feel at all ready for this pregnancy to be over. There’s just so much to do.