First I need to admit that I almost included the word “advice” in the title of this post. WOA. Inappropriate. So here are some thoughts and tid-bits about becoming a second-time mama and what would have been nice to hear as a first-time mama…
I can’t say that I felt any more sure of myself as a mom when we got pregnant with and welcomed home our second sweet little boy. You kind of forget about all of the little baby things that you went through the first time around. How they are SO tiny and fragile, their little snorts and sounds, when they get startled and their hands go up in the air (saying heeeeyooooo..I had to). You find yourself relearning some things, like swaddling and introducing a bottle or pacifiers. It all seems so brand new even though 2 years ago, as a first-time mom, you were a PRO. Or at least you thought you were.
You know those sweet monthly baby updates you get from your mom friends on social media that goes something like: “Billy is 2 months old! He’s smiling, cooing, and sleeping through the night!” I couldn’t wait to post a similar update. Not in a bragging way but just in a “I got this mommin’ thing down” kinda way. Well 2 months came, then 3, 4, 5, 6…you get the picture. My little man just did not like to sleep. He nursed through the night until even after he turned 1 and I had everyone and their brother telling me what I was doing wrong, what I should do, what book I should read, what method I should use. It bothered me to no end. It made me feel like a failure. I had a happy, healthy, little boy in the 90th + percentile in almost every category but from others and from society’s standards I was not succeeding. How sad is it that we, either intentionally or not, put this much pressure on moms? Well at some point, after talking with other moms with little ones that still woke at night, I said screw it. We went on a vacation around the time M was 6 months old and he refused to sleep in his pack n’ play so we did the UNTHINKABLE and co-slept for the first time. Now before M was born I was so strongly against cosleeping but I couldn’t tell you why. Everybody tells you how awful it is for the baby, for you, for the world. Well everybody doesn’t know you or your baby like you do. Period.
After this vacation our lives took a turn for the better. We were SLEEPING. M would wake up maybe once or twice and sleep-nurse so we were all SLEEPING again. And you know what? I loved it. We would initially quietly stutter when others would ask how he was sleeping and we’d shamefully admit that he slept well! As long as he was in our bed…and then let the advice and grimaces and “ooooh wow”‘s begin. I had more than one person tell me what a mistake it was and how he shouldn’t still be nursing at night or he’d never quit! Guess what? He’s not nursing anymore. And more than that, when little bro came home he showed no interest in nursing again other than loving saying the word “boob” so I’m thinking we haven’t scarred him for life? I also don’t think there is anything wrong with nursing your baby as long as you feel it is appropriate. Nor is there anything wrong with co-sleeping or doing anything else you feel is appropriate for your baby. Because he/she is YOUR baby. And you are the expert here.
You know what has made life a little bit more beautiful though? Waking up next to my sweet little boy, who will some day not even let me kiss him on the cheek anymore, and hearing him say “Hi mom! Good morning!” or the other day when he woke up and said, “I missed you mama!”…yes y’all. This little 35 lbs of sweetness told me that he missed me while he was sleeping. COME ON with that sugar. So I proudly co-sleep with my big guy because it is what works for us. So if you are a first time mama and you’re embarrassed or beating yourself up about the choices you’re making as a mama when it comes to sleep…do what feels right. YOU are the mama. YOU make the rules.
All of that said. There are some things that I know my husband and I could have done differently as first-time parents.
The one thing I was terrified about before becoming a mom was losing my sleep. I am a person that needs sleep. Getting 8-9 hours was essential for me. I tried pulling an all-nighter one time in college and thought I was losing my mind and it helped none. I was also the one that always fell asleep first at sleepovers. One time one of my closest girlfriends and I were laying in bed having some pretty deep conversation and she kept having to be like “Alix…?” and I’d wake up and answer her question until finally I very distinctly remember her saying “Okay whatever Alix!” and maybe an expletive or two. And then there was the time in high school where I had all my best friends over. I need to preface this by saying that my guy friends are the best pranksters around. They’ve been chased down my street with industrial sized flashlights by my step-dad who thought they were intruders because they were tapping on the windows in my house. It was actually hilarious and not as creepy as it sounds. ANYWAY…they were all over and mid-conversation (of course) I fell asleep. I woke up maybe an hour later after they had all left and piled EVERY SINGLE pillow, couch cushion, and visible blanket on top of me. So I love my sleep, guys.
But, just to get right down to it, you won’t sleep when you bring your little 8 lb baby human home. At least not those first few nights/weeks. You see, this tiny human makes all sorts of adorable and terrifying noises at 2am and you can’t possibly let your lids close for just one minute because “What was that? Is he choking? Is snorting normal? Is there something in his nose? Or is his mouth making that sound? Oh my gosh can he get out of his rocker? What if the dog knocks the rocker over? I think we need to go back to the hospital. Will they let us just stay a couple more nights?”. Keep in mind your googling all of these questions so it takes much longer then just asking/answering in your own head.
All of those are very real and legitimate questions. Because you have no effing clue what you’re doing. But let me tell you…the sounds are normal and they aren’t strong enough to flip out of their rocker. I promise you that. I learned that the first couple nights at home with our second little man. I was so tired so I just let myself sleep. I guess I subconsciously had more confidence then I realized and even my mom noticed how much more at ease I was this time around. So I nursed, rocked, and put my little man down in his bassinet and I got 2 more hours of sleep. And then he slept for 3 hours, and then 4, and now he’s sleeping for 6-7 hours at a time. Because you see, I wasn’t just watching M when he was making little noises…I would scoop him up and shush him when he didn’t need to be scooped and shushed. But who knows these things? Most mamas don’t and that’s okay. So to wrap up this little tid-but about sleep, as a second-timer I can tell you a few things:
- You will sleep for longer than 2 hours at a time, soon;
- Co-sleeping could be a good solution for you and your family and that’s no ones choice but your own;
- Babies make scary and cute noises and it’s completely normal
Pick ’em up! Put ’em down!
IT’S OKAY TO PUT YOUR BABIES DOWN. They don’t need your undivided attention all day, every day. When we brought M home, almost 2 1/2 years ago, I had so much guilt when I was getting work done or cooking or showering or doing anything that required me to not be holding a baby. Or even doing anything I wanted to for myself like watching a tv show while he napped in his swing. I felt so guilty that he was just plopped in his rocker/swing and I wasn’t cooing and cuddling with him, instead. It’s okay. It’s okay for you to eat or to shower while your sweet baby looks on from his rocker, or pack n’ play, or exersaucer, or whatever contraption is making him happy at the moment. IT’S OKAY. Give yourself permission. Let go of that guilt.
IT’S OKAY TO PICK YOUR BABIES UP. Some people like to think you can pick your baby up too much. That you are spoiling your baby. Well listen up, you can’t spoil a baby. You can spoil a toddler so that’s a whole different post. But your babies need to be held and cuddled and loved so pick them up! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. M was very shy for the first 18 months of his life. He really was only comforted by me, my husband and my mother-in-law. He would cry hysterically if anyone else tried to hold him or sometimes even talk to him. This is not my fault. It’s not my husband’s fault. It’s nobodies fault. One thing I think my husband and I did right was that we tried to keep our normal when we welcomed our first baby. We still went out to eat, we went to friends houses and had play dates and surrounded ourselves with “our people”. We did not just stay home and create a little recluse of a baby. But for whatever reason, my little guy was very shy. It wasn’t my fault. He came out of his shell in his time and is now a little social butterfly and we love him just the same. More than that…moments of holding your sweeties are fleeting. Holding a newborn is different then holding a 3 month old. Holding a 3 month old is different then holding a 6 month old. And let me tell you, your first little bundle of love will be so much bigger the day you bring home your second little bundle of joy and it will break your damn heart. So enjoy their little squishy baby rolls, enjoy their uncontrollable flailing arms and their smiles, giggles and coos. Be patient with your little loves and pick them up as much as your big mama heart desires!
“Oh that’s interesting” is a great response to unsolicited advice. Everyone is going to think that you need guidance and advice about something (read: everything) with regard to YOUR baby. Isn’t that funny? Like why do people think they can tell you what to do with your baby? I have always had a hard time understanding this and I take offense to it pretty easily. Maybe I shouldn’t but it just irritates me. If I need to know something or just want your opinion I’ll ask for it! In fact I do that quite often with friends and family. Or, even crazier, I’ll call our pediatrician! Take whatever advice you’d like but don’t be afraid NOT to take advice. You’re doing just fine without it, mama.
Friends with kids
Having friends with little ones the same age as your own is SUCH A BLESSING. I have survived these first few seasons of motherhood, largely due to my fellow mama friends. They are more like sisters in this parenting game. From breastfeeding, to sleeping, to introducing solids, to milestones…it is so nice to hear from other mamas who are going through exactly what you are. Sometimes they comfort, sometimes they offer advice, sometimes they commiserate with you, sometimes they cry with you, a lot of times they laugh with you. They are survival. They are necessary. Grab on to your fellow mama friends and don’t let go.
The one thing I will say about having friends with babies the same age as yours is you WILL compare your babies. You just will. You will talk to your partners and say things like “So did you know that so and so’s daughter is already saying ‘mama’ and ‘dada’?” Or “Little Johnny is pulling up on the couch already, do think our little man is delayed?”. It’s ridiculous and unnecessary and I’ve driven my own self crazy with thoughts and comparisons like this. Listen-If you’re genuinely worried that you little one is behind on anything then chat with your pediatrician. Our big guy didn’t really start talking until he was about 18 months old and all his little girlfriends have been chatting away for much longer. It terrified me for lots of reasons. But I was patient, talked with my pediatrician, and did all I could to support and encourage his vocabulary. But comparing will do us no good, mamas. We all do it, unfortunately but we just don’t need to. The kids are alright.
Listen, I know I’ve talked a little bit about this before but let me just reiterate…Your child will drive you INSANE at mealtimes. He or she will LOVE blackberries and it will be the only thing he or she will eat. So you go to the store and get 14 pints of blackberries to last the week (or a couple of days) and then the very next day they will look at you as if you are trying to poison them for putting blackberries on their friggin’ plate. This, along with everything else, will make you feel like a failure. Like how the hell did you not anticipate them only loving blackberries for 32 hours?? Give yourself a break. They will eat when they’re hungry and some nights you’ll throw away entire plates of food…other nights they will eat every last bite plus half of your plate. It’ll regulate at some point…I hope?
Let me just say this: Let them be little. It can relate to so many things in motherhood but for me, right now, it’s all about letting them be babies. M started crawling at 6 months and walking a little after he turned 10 months old. We were SO thrilled about these milestones and loved all of the comments, “Wow that’s so early!” or implications that he was ahead in this developmental milestone. We encouraged every little movement. His grandma and grandpa bought him a little elephant walker and we loved seeing him hang on to it while he started taking those first few assisted steps. One thing I couldn’t wait for before I had kids was to have my child run and jump into my arms and give me a great big hug. I get this daily now and it fills my heart a little more each time it happens. But remember to enjoy them now too when they still need you to pick them up when they tumble over or redirect their little army crawls. Also because you can still leave the room and know that they will be in the same spot when you come back from your 10 second pee break. When they’re mobile you really never know where they’ll end up. M liked to crawl over to the dog bowls when I was out of sight and have himself a little snack. I may or may not have googled “What should I do if my 10 month old ate dog food…asking for a friend?”
Motherhood is a constant battle between wanting so badly for them to stay little and squishy forever and being so excited about what they will accomplish next. But those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Let’s celebrate them today and be excited for tomorrow! Mother on, you beautiful people!