I’ve been a mom of two for 12 weeks now. This officially qualifies me to impart knowledge about life as a family of 4 to others who are currently trawling the internet looking for some sort of parenting tidbits. For the most part the last 12 weeks have been a bit of a blur but what stands out are a series of questions that seem to keep popping into my head. In a hazy three a.m. feeding session I thought, ya, write those down, you’ll wanna remember those, maybe you’ll find those funny some day! So here goes, the W5H (perhaps a few more W’s than 5 but who’s counting) of being a parent for the second time.
1. Why is there always something spilling?
No joke, there is quite literally always something spilling in our house. The other day I was walking through the dining room and kicked a water bottle, which was in the middle of the floor (why do toddlers put things in such random places?), whose lid was on but not tightened, and water went everywhere. I spent the only 10 hands free minutes I’d had that day wiping up water. I don’t think we’ve made it through a meal without a tsunami of miscellaneous liquids cascading across the table. The plus side is that we still manage to eat at the table! With the birth of our first child, meal times fell by the wayside and the household routine spiraled into a chaotic mess of three hour intervals.This time around the toddler forces us to maintain a modicum of routine, so we eat at the table and will continue to do so even if we to need to start buying stocks in tea towels!
2. How come I hate my toddler?
Bear with me to the end of this one. Trying to breastfeed a 2 day old baby with a toddler climbing over my legs did something to my brain. You know that precious gift from God that had a halo around her head and made you smile every time she did anything and would run lovingly into your arms when you picked her up from daycare and brought endless joy your life and would cause you and your husband to look at each other and smile because of the sheer amazement that you created her? Well, you will hate her. I know, it sounds harsh but I’ve asked around and many other moms have said the same thing. By weeks 3 or 4 the love flooded back alongside a whole realm of other emotions attached to turning her into a sibling. Just be prepared for the possibility of postpartum “hate”. I wasn’t and it made me feel like the world’s worst mom. I hated myself for feeling like I hated her. I didn’t dare say it out loud because what kind of mom feels like that toward her own child. Looking back I should have said something to my husband and he could have provided a little buffer in particularly stressful moments (breastfeeding, mostly). Luckily, being the second time around the track I was able to quickly decipher that I didn’t actually hate my toddler I was just very strongly feeling like I needed to protect the newbie. (And with good reason, toddlers can pack a wallop).
3. Why has my house turned into a den of bribery and treats?
The other day I gave our 3 year old marshmallows to get in the car. I know. It was a new parenting low and, you know what? I don’t give a rat’s ass. In that moment that’s what we needed to do and we did it. We didn’t have time to talk about options or discuss feelings. We needed to get in the car. And I have to say it was a little bit liberating. I didn’t need to google my favourite mommy blogger for a similar situation or search Pinterest for a creative, non-food, wholesome enticements or rush to the bookstore for a copy of 1-2-3 Magic. I just did it. Was it the best choice? No. Did it work? Yes. Will I do it again? Probably not but in that moment I felt like a mom. I didn’t second guess myself. I didn’t feel guilty. Everyone got where they needed to go and no one was permanently damaged. Win.
4. Why did the fat end up there?
I haven’t had much time to look I the mirror and, truthfully, I’ve never been one to spend too much time gazing at myself. I don’t even own a scale. But some things you can just feel. Like all of the fat accumulating on my lower back. I swear I can feel it sliding there on a daily basis. People are kind and know enough to tell the newly unpregnant woman “you look amazing” but really I’ve put on my pre- pregnancy jeans and all I can say is, you are what you eat and apparently I love muffins. I know all that business about being so proud of your body because look what you grew and accomplished but it still isn’t my body. Yet. With time it will change again and settle into itself just like it did last time. It feels different this time around though. It’s made me feel older and more frumpy and like I am somehow closer to understanding the logic behind mom jeans. That being said it’s still great to hear the toddler say, “why your belly so small now momma?!?”
5. When the hell did I think this was a good idea?
It was 11pm and all four of us were in the toddlers room trying to get her to sleep. This was after a failed attempt at something that loosely resembled a “family bed” the night before, which was more like everyone trying to sleep on a different piece of furniture while crying. It was in those moments that the question crept in. Granted this one only lasted a week or two, tops, but it was a pretty big one for the time period. I seriously thought we had ruined our family by having another baby. Twelve long weeks in and I can already see the faulty logic. My older daughter is not resentful of this new addition, she’s adjusting. She does not hate me because I can’t give her my undivided attention, she’s trying to figure out, just as we all are, how all these needs are going to be met with this new person in the mix.
6. Who is this man who calls himself my husband?
It had been a rough night. I came downstairs with the baby, toddler was on the couch watching Frozen for the 27th time (see #3), my husband took the baby and set a plate down in front of me that contained the works; bacon, eggs, toast, fruit, everything. I didn’t even know we had food in the house! He looked at me and said the most beautiful words a new mom could ever want to hear, “That was a rough night, you must be starving” and then he walked back into the kitchen. My mouth hung open, which was convenient because I promptly stuffed it full of food. What I’m going to say next sounds so cheesy. Sometimes I even wince when I think it to myself. So, here goes, when our second child was born I swear to god I could feel a change within my husband. Don’t get me wrong, he has always been a great dad and a loving partner, however, when baby #2 arrived something happened. Maybe it happened to both of us, who knows, but I love my husband now in ways and for reasons I never thought imaginable. With the arrival of #2 we seemed to connect again, our team is stronger, we seem to be on the same page more and more. This has reinforced for me the power of connection with another person. A strong connection with someone can get you through the longest nights, earliest mornings and loudest temper tantrums. And in the last few weeks we’ve had a lot of practice with all three.
7. What will she be like?
This one is by far my favourite. This is the one I go to while breastfeeding, while looking at her while she is in my husband’s arms, while her sister is trying to make her do things that she thinks she should be able to do already (like clap!). The first time around I spent many of these seemingly peaceful moments obsessing about whether or not I was ruining our daughter. I would google everything to the point where I think my husband was ready to get rid of our internet connection. This time around I know I’m not going to wreck her. I have all the proof I need in looking at my eldest. This has freed up a considerable amount of time to let my mind wander and imagine all of the wonderful things that are going to unfold so quickly in the near future.
8. & 9. In my head I pictured this being a list of 10, however, it’s true what they say and your brainpower does diminish with each child.
10. Where do we go from here?
As I talk to many families that have had their second child I seem to hear some common statements (sometimes even before the baby was born), “that’s it, we’re done!”, “hubby has already booked the vasectomy”, “I’ll enjoy it because this will be the last time I have a newborn to hold (or insert any other last- first thing you do with a baby)”. As for us, I don’t know. I still have my maternity clothes, we’re not jumping at the chance to rid our house of newborn stuff that is quickly outgrown. Perhaps we’ll be crazy enough to do it again. As with all things in parenting, only time will tell.