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 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.
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.
It’s another eeeeeaaaarly morning in the TLMB household, and a “late again” post from yours truly. Let’s skip the excuses and move along to the good stuff.
Week 32 pregnancy stats
Baby is… FOUR POUNDS (or just under) and again, around 17 inches. The size of a half-gallon of milk, a large jicama, or a napa cabbage. I like the half-gallon of milk reference because it sounds the heaviest, and this baby feels like a half-ton of sentient bricks rolling around in my uterus.
Aside from enormous, I’m feeling about as good as can be expected this far along. I had a weird dizzy spell the other evening that seems to be pretty common (and was not accompanied by any worrisome headache or swelling, before anyone asks.) Squatting, reaching, rolling over and shoe-tying require a lot more grunting than usual, I still have a perpetually stuffy nose, and apparently I snore now. The nesting instinct is still both fierce and usually abandoned to more pressing priorities, such as laundering The Toddler’s clothes so he has underwear to wear, or swapping out the frozen water for the goats and chickens (Oh, hey winter! Forgot you were a thing.)
Anyway, since I haven’t been able to keep up with my schedule of posting more than once a week, I thought I’d give you a twofer and share a short list of ways we’ve been preparing The Toddler (who will turn two a week before our due date) for the arrival of his little brother or sister.
Preparing Toddler for the New Baby
Including the baby in conversations. The Toddler is talking up a storm these days. Sometimes I will ask him to tell the baby what we did that day, or show the baby a picture he drew, etc. Basically trying to regularly remind him there’s a person in there in a low-key way on a regular basis, and not just, “Please don’t step on my belly, you’re going to squish the baby.” I think this casual, inclusive approach has served me well so far, as The Toddler will often pull up my shirt to “see baby” and will hold up his toys to my belly, press his face against it, or just chat for a minute. It’s very heart-melty.
Lots of books. We’re library rats, and every time I see a book with a sibling relationship in it, I try to grab it (all library browsing is done at top speed while The Toddler ransacks the children’s room). They aren’t all about new babies, and while I haven’t shied away from books about the mechanics of it all, he’s not really interested. The one we’re currently reading over and over again is Gemma and Gus, one of the “Gossie & Friends” series by Olivier Dunrea. We also read The Baby is Here! (Daniel Tiger) two million times.
Exposure therapy. Probably a mislabel since he absolutely does not have a baby phobia, but I have lucked out in having several friends with new babies and have also recently joined the local chapter of a MOMS club. So every chance I get, I introduce The Toddler to a new baby. During these greetings, with the baby’s mom’s permission, I try to let The Toddler gently touch a foot or hand while describing how the baby interacts with the world–lots of sleeping, not a lot of moving around, no playing yet, and only eating milk. I know the reality of sharing his parents is not going to sink in full force until he’s doing it, but I’m hoping these repeated introductions to babies will give him a little perspective on how his little sibling will need a lot of help at first and instill whatever degree of empathy he’s capable of at this stage.
Baby dolls. Baby dolls are for all kids, not just girls, of course. The Toddler has three (I recently bought him a very small, soft-bodied baby to go along with the bigger, hard-plastic ones he got from his grandmas). He likes to push them around in a stroller, or wear the smallest baby in a toy backpack on his back (like I carry him in his carrier sometimes still), pretend to feed them, etc. He even has started demanding that I change their diapers, and he steps up on a little stool at the changing table to pick out a diaper to put on them.
Encouraging a spirit of helpfulness. The Toddler is becoming more independent as he approaches two, and wanting to do lots of things himself. Of course, this leads to a lot of power struggles, but whenever possible I try to harness this independence for good, and ask him to help me with easy chores (stacking up toilet paper rolls in the bathroom closet, handing me clean spoons out of the dishwasher, feeding the pets.) I always say, “Thanks, helper!” and can see he takes a lot of pride in these little chores, so hopefully this will carry through when I’m trapped under a nursing baby and really need him to bring me something.
Introducing a part-time daycare routine. My freelancing work has picked up lately, and will stay busy through my due date, which has pushed me to do something I’ve been intending but putting off: enrolling The Toddler in a part-time daycare a couple days a week. We had a visit on Thursday last week, and his first morning will be tomorrow. While I’m not super thrilled at the inevitable myriad of colds he’ll bring home with him, I am thrilled he’ll be getting more running-around time, developmental enrichment and exposure to children his age. I’ve been really trying the past few months to provide this for him, but my energy is low, and I know it will only be harder to do in the first few months after baby arrives. So as long as we can afford it, we’ll keep up this routine.
We got a TV. I’m not as proud of this item on my list as the others, but I’ve conceded it’s a necessity. Up until now, we haven’t had a TV in our living room. When pregnancy fatigue steamrolled me a few months ago, I caved and started letting The Toddler watch Daniel Tiger on my laptop. As is customary, I feel immense guilt about this. However, while an episode or two of age-appropriate TV isn’t going to kill him, climbing onto our trash can (something he did earlier this week) while I’m nursing a baby might. And a laptop isn’t exactly toddler-proof, so we bought a TV this week. I will use it judiciously keep him entertained and safe when I’m occupied with the baby (or, in the meantime, while I’m dizzily chugging water or clambering to make dinner.)
Still to come:
Preparing for first introduction. When The Toddler comes to visit us after the baby is born, our plan is to have the baby in a bassinet and first shower The Toddler in affection and attention before we introduce the baby to him. We’re also planning on picking out a small present “from the baby” to give him. These are pretty standard recommendations for helping The Toddler not to feel too displaced.
Busy bags for breastfeeding time. I’m planning on breastfeeding again, and can’t really wrap my head around how I’m going to keep The Toddler busy during marathon nursing sessions (and don’t want the aforementioned TV to be the only tool in my toolbox). I got a great recommendation from a MOMS club friend who has four kids, including a new baby: Make up a few boxes/bags of special toys that only come out during nursing time, and must be put away when it’s over. This keeps them exciting and novel and helps keep the big sibling happily occupied, at least in theory. I’m not sure yet what will go in these bags–The Toddler still always wants help/my active participation when he’s coloring or playing with Playdough, etc.–so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know!