A) You are driving in the rain at night.
A) You are driving in the rain at night.
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 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.
It feels absolutely crazy, but not in a bad way.
And with that, it’s bedtime.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No more whining about about still being pregnant, Internet–Baby 2 has arrived!
I’m going to dive right into the birth story. Here goes:
We spent Tuesday trying to keep busy (and warm), knowing The Husband would have to return to work the next day if baby still hadn’t come.
The Toddler had been understandably descending into cabin fever (it’s been sooooo cold here in Northeast Ohio), so we decided to take him to a nearby indoor playground to burn off some energy. The Husband and I took turns crawling through tubes and chasing behind him as he did his best to outrun us among the approximately 3,000 other manic children whose parents sought refuge with us. (Yes, I hoped that my bumbling around on playground equipment might help move things along.) I also scheduled a last-minute haircut during The Toddler’s nap.
The Husband handled bedtime, and since he had been so diligently handling the care and feeding of our goats and chickens every morning and night through the past several increasingly frigid weeks, I decided to suit up and do the night chores. I hauled warm water out to the barn, refilled the hay feeder, gave each goat a good back scratch and locked up for the night. Then took out our kitchen trash and dragged the cans out to the street for garbage day.
The full moon shone across our snowy yard during all of this, and reminded me that Baby 1 had been born during a full moon.
We went to bed a little after 9:00. I was just drifting off to the sound of The Husband’s light snores a half hour later when I felt a gush of fluid.
No way, I thought to myself as I rushed to the bathroom. My water hadn’t broken until just before I pushed with Baby 1, and I hadn’t felt so much as a tickle of a contraction tonight. But the clear puddle collecting on the bathroom floor confirmed it: It was go time.
The first thing I did as I waited for contractions to begin was rush to the basement and move a load of wet clothes to the dryer so they wouldn’t stew while we were in the hospital. About 15 minutes later, after maybe one light contraction, I stirred The Husband from sleep and let him know I was calling the midwife, but to try to go back to sleep until I was further along.
As I expected, she told me to call back when my contractions were five minutes apart, or in 12 hours, whichever came first.
I called my mom to give her a heads-up that she should be ready to come over the next time I called, then hopped in the shower. By the time I was dressed again (and again… I soaked through a pair of Depends and my sweatpants), contractions were three minutes apart and picking up in intensity. So I roused The Husband and told him to get ready, called my mom back and got back on the phone with the midwife to tell her we were on our way.
We roused The Toddler for one last potty break and gave him a hug in his sleep, and then we were off. It was 11:10 p.m., 0 degrees outside, and I was sitting on an old towel as The Husband drove us to the hospital.
We checked in at the ER and stood waiting in the lobby (with a towel wadded between my legs) for a nurse to retrieve us. I had a few contractions on the walk to the maternity ward, and the nurse said she’d skip over triage and take us right to the Holistic Birthing Center. (Incidentally, we lucked out getting there when we did, as three other laboring moms arrived right around the same time.) Before I was allowed in the labor tub, I had to be monitored on the bed for 20 minutes. Which was rough.
As soon as I was allowed, I stripped down to a nursing bra and hopped in the labor tub, which was about two feet deep and big enough to stretch my legs out. It was just as nice as I’d hoped. Contractions were still painful, but the water made me buoyant and made shifting positions far easier. I ended up mostly kneeling with my head resting on my arms on the side of the tub while The Husband leaned in and talked me through some of the affirmations I printed out for him.
Things picked up really quickly from there. I got in the tub probably around 12:25 and was told I should take breaks every hour so I didn’t get overheated.
Because there were so many women simultaneously giving birth, the nurse and midwife weren’t around much during this time. The nurse came in periodically to monitor the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler, but aside from that, The Husband and I were alone.
I got out after about 40 minutes to pee, then got back in, but felt like I had to go again soon after and was having a hard time catching enough of a break to maneuver out of the tub and get to the bathroom before another contraction hit. There were two spans of contractions after my first bathroom break that peaked four times each without a break. I was well into primal mode, moaning loud and low through each contraction. When I finally managed to get back out of the tub to pee again, I knew I wasn’t getting back in (the birthing center doesn’t allow pushing/delivery in the tub.)
The Husband paged the nurse and let her know he thought I was getting close to pushing (based on what he remembered from the first time around.) I tried to get in the shower for a minute, but knew I needed to hunker down in a stable position and felt panicky and out of control standing up any longer. I hung my arms around The Husband’s neck and endured a few upright contractions before hustling over to the bed.
I kneeled on the bed with my head and arms draped over the raised top. Looking back, this was definitely transition. I had been doing a pretty good job of relaxing all my muscles through each contraction up until this point, but no amount of moaning or “melting around the pain” was doing it for me anymore. All my concentration was going into not panicking.
This was also the point The Husband endured a little abuse from me. He kept repeating, “stay low” (one of my mantras to help me remember to not scream). I first mumbled “Don’t tell me what to do” into his shoulder. When he repeated it again, I said, “Shut up shut up shut up!!!”
The midwife came in to check me. She first thought I was at a 9 with a lip and offered to stretch it out over the baby’s head. I flatly refused this and told her I’d wait. Things were happening quick enough and I didn’t see a need to speed it up. She checked a second time, but then on further review decided I was actually closer to a 7 and rushed back out to deliver another baby. The nurse stayed with me and hooked me back up to the fetal monitor. They were a little concerned about the baby’s heart rate (it was pushing into the 170s, apparently a bit high.)
Very soon after, I started to feel an involuntary urge to push. I grunted, “Pushing!” into the husband’s shoulder and the nurse paged the midwife back. I was still on all fours on the bed. I could feel my uterus involuntarily convulsing. I don’t remember this feeling from the first time around, but it was just as I’ve heard other people describe, like “throwing up, but down.” The midwife asked me if I could move to my side for pushing and I whimpered, “I can’t, I can’t move.” She told me the baby’s head was going to tear me if I didn’t shift. With great difficulty, I leaned over to kneel on my right side. I clamped onto The Husband’s shoulders and the nurse held my left leg. I remember seeing my belly writhing and contorting into the strangest shapes as the baby made its way out.
I pushed through maybe four contractions – about 10 minutes. The baby was out quick, and screaming on the first breath. The midwife told us to look down and see for ourselves what we had. I was too contorted to sneak a peek, but The Husband announced it was another boy. As quickly as I could, I maneuvered to my back and pulled him up onto my chest.
Because he’d had such a quick passage through the birth canal, Baby 2 had a lot of mucus stuck in his lungs and was working to cry it out. The pediatric nurse ended up having to take him to the warming table to suction him out. I felt one last urge to push and the placenta came out. The midwife showed it to me (I hadn’t gotten to see it last time and was curious.) I started to shiver involuntarily. The Husband helped me out of my wet nursing bra and into a dry hospital gown while the nurse cleaned me up.
Finally, after some suctioning, Baby 2 calmed down enough to nurse. We spent about an hour at that before he fell asleep. We wrapped him up and put him in the bassinet, and not long after, The Husband and I fell asleep, too.
So that’s the quick and barely edited version of my birth story. Baby 2 was born after five hours of intense labor at 40 weeks, 3 days. He was 8 lbs, 3 oz and 20 inches long. As expected, he had a full head of hair. Right now he’s snoozing next to me while The Toddler continues to descend into Winter Madness. We’re all exhausted, and we’re all happy.