Leveling Up: My first week solo with two kids

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.

relax your jaw

  • Each surge brings the baby closer.
  • You are a badass.
  • Surrender.
  • 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.

Leveling Up: My first week solo with two kids

If You Give a Toddler a Fake Hotdog

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.

Nevertheless.

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.

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Fake library food is the fastest way to get a toddler sick. (Image via Amazon.)

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.

If You Give a Toddler a Fake Hotdog

Pregnancy Week 33: Preparing and procrastinating for baby’s arrival

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.

Pregnancy Week 33: Preparing and procrastinating for baby’s arrival

Pregnancy Week 32: Preparing a toddler for big-siblinghood

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.

Pregnancy week 32

Preparing Toddler for the New Baby

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
Pregnancy Week 32: Preparing a toddler for big-siblinghood

Pregnancy Week 21: Losing my cool (in more ways than one)

Week 21, everybody!

Baby is the size of: A baby bok choi, a carrot, a head of endive, a baseball hat, or a “least weasel,” depending on who you ask. Or about 10 1/2 inches long and 12 ounces.

I’ve been feeling plenty of kicks this week. They’re mostly way down in my pelvis because I no longer have any abs to speak of to hold my uterus aloft, so I haven’t been able to offer The Husband quite as many opportunities to feel the kicks as I did the first time around. These low kicks have also been making bathroom trips pretty suspenseful if I ever drink more than a teaspoonful of liquid.

Other symptoms: Heartburn, heartburn, heartburn. You know that feeling when you get water up your nose at the pool? I feel that low-key almost all the time. You’d think it would stop me from eating so much, but nope. I apparently favor being full all the time over sleeping more than six hours a night. My current lazy pregnancy craving that I try to justify as healthy is plain yogurt with mini chocolate chips and whole almonds.

I had an appointment with my midwife this week and forgot all but one question I had. I also went grocery shopping and bought almost nothing we needed, and cannot remember the rest of the things I’ve forgotten this week and hoped to list to illustrate how bad my memory is. Suffice it to say I have a serious case of mom brain.

Quite a bit of this can be attributed, however, not to my fetus but to my 20-month old, who is hellbent on giving up naps and went four days in a row without one.

Four days. In a row.

I came as close as I ever have to a nervous breakdown on Tuesday, and found myself stomping my feet and yelling in the dark of the pantry, having a full-blown tantrum because The Toddler wouldn’t sleep, and I was so, so tired. And of course, there’s nothing more guilt-inducing than completely losing your cool at an angel-faced baby who just wants to “pway!!!” in his words. So I spent a good chunk of Tuesday afternoon wallowing in terrible feelings.

Finally, on Wednesday, I figured out that I could get him calmed down if I put him in the Boba carrier and rocked him to music. He’s just so amped up on playing and reading and talking and exploring that slowing down for a nap feels like torture to him. I get it–I can’t go to sleep just because someone tells me to, but holy shit, I need a break during the day.

Anyway, so for now at least, naps are fixed, and I am working really hard on being patient with my increasingly opinionated toddler.

Tomorrow, The Husband and I are heading out to test drive a minivan and probably buy it. I am not at all pumped about this dorky progression in our lives, but my little Subaru hatchback can barely accommodate one rear-facing carseat and a stroller.

Unfortunately, living on a farm means we can’t walk to anything, so if I ever want to leave the house with both my children, we’re going to need a bigger ride. I know I conceded 99% of any coolness I ever possessed long ago, but this really feels like the end of days for my non-mom identity. Somebody please tell me it will be okay.

I am consoled by the fact that buying a minivan is at least one thing we can check off the seemingly endless list of Things That Must Be Done Before Baby 2 Arrives.

Pregnancy Week 21-

Pregnancy Week 21: Losing my cool (in more ways than one)

Pregnancy Week 20: Ultrasound Wishes and Childbirth Dreams

Pregnancy Week 20 recap! I’m a day late, as today technically marks the beginning of Week 21, but it’s been a busy weekend. I hope no one was holding their breath.

The Internet says my baby at 20 weeks is about the size of a banana, a stapler, an endive, or 6.5 inches head to butt and about 10 and a half ounces. I say it’s big enough to kick me pretty good. We had our anatomy scan ultrasound on Thursday, and got to see fingers and toes and profile and fluttering heart chambers, but no genitalia — like last time, we’re keeping the baby’s sex a surprise.

Pregnancy-Week-20

While I was very comfortable with this choice the first time around, I had really mixed feelings–it seemed silly and artificial to shut our eyes for that part when we were literally seeing everything else, including parts of Baby 2 we’ll likely never see again. But The Husband was certain he didn’t want to know, and I waffled, and in the end didn’t request a sealed envelope with the news.

Symptoms-wise, the broken record of tolerable heartburn remains. Additionally, my chin has blossomed with pregnancy acne and the on-again, off-again relationship I’ve endured with eczema throughout my adult life is decidedly on again, in the form of a persistently itchy, red, peely, burning right pinky and ring fingers, which makes the 175 daily hand-washings all the more fun.

My bump is getting bigger, and my twice-weekly 3-mile stroller walks seem to be wearing me down more than they have been in the previous month or so.

Some people (those who encounter me on a regular basis) might also tell you I’ve been especially irritable lately.

Those people can go to hell. (Kidding! Sorry!)

This week also marks the beginning of, what I recall from my pregnancy with The Toddler, a long running theme of childbirth-related dreams. The weirdly comforting part of this is that I at least have an idea of what to expect, and so even though they’re still stressful, there isn’t quite the daunting element of mystery I remember the first time around.

I had two pregnancy dreams this past week, and the theme of both centered around not having enough time: In one, I was afraid we wouldn’t make it to the birthing center on time, and the other, I was afraid my husband wouldn’t make it home from work in time. In the second one, though, I also had what felt like a rapidly progressing, intense labor, but when I got to the hospital I was dilated zero centimeters. Either way, I have at least another 18 weeks to subconsciously build the dread and anticipation of the big day, and I suspect my dreams will be rife with more of these scenarios as time goes on.

In terms of my day-to-day toddler mom life, pregnancy Week 20 went a little better than Week 19, in that none of my pets died. It still wasn’t great, as The Toddler is fighting naps like his very life depends on it, and nothing breaks me like a missed nap.

It’s been seven days, so I think I can say officially that he is weaned. (Hallelujah/*sob*) On Monday, when he fidgeted through his usual pre-nap nursing session and then very much did not go to sleep, I decided I was done.

I had been reluctantly hanging on to that last nursing session, as it had been a nearly surefire guarantee that he would nap (and, conversely, a withheld nursing session promised a wide awake, cranky and endless afternoon).

Now that this doesn’t hold true, we’re stumbling our way toward a new nap routine, with varying success. He did nap each week day after a protracted rocking-to-sleep-while-begging-to-nurse routine that I hope to fade out, but he staunchly refused to nap all weekend. I’m hoping that as long as we don’t compensate by letting him go to bed early, he’ll eventually rack up enough of a deficit to surrender to a recovery nap the next day.

Just in case he doesn’t, though, I have finally (and, very possibly, temporarily, as my most notable personal attribute is inconsistency) found some routine to inject into our afternoons through my local library’s T.O.T. boxes: They’re file boxes filled with specially themed books, games and activities. I have reserved a different theme for the next five weeks and plan to spend a chunk of time each day reading stories, having messy play, doing a craft project, or taking a field trip related to the theme. Tomorrow kicks off Gardening Week at TLMB house. I’m looking forward to it! (But looking forward to a nap even more!)

Pregnancy Week 20: Ultrasound Wishes and Childbirth Dreams