A few weeks ago I found myself at a playdate with five other moms. Three of the moms are nearing the third trimester with their second babies, and the other two moms will likely be pregnant this year. That made me the only one to embrace the title: mother of two.
My mom friends had so many questions. Was your delivery faster the second time? How has Sam handled the transition? How do you keep him busy while you’re feeding Nora? When do you sleep?
Although I’m still fairly new to this gig, I’ve learned so much since the day Nora was born, and I’m here to share some things that have made the transition easier for all of us.
Be flexible. I like routine as much as anyone. But that word does not currently exist in my vocabulary. Each day is different than the previous one. Some days Nora needs to nurse every hour, and she cries every time I put her down. Sometimes Sam struggles to nap and other times he sleeps for three glorious hours. And occasionally, just minutes before we’re ready to leave the house, both kids have horrendous poops, and at least one requires a bath.
All that being said, it does get easier. We are fast approaching the “magical” three-month mark, and we have all become much more comfortable in our roles. Sam is finally going to bed at a decent hour, and Nora has started to sleep through the night. I’ve become quite efficient at getting everyone dressed and fed in the morning, and I have a go-to list of activities to keep us all busy during the day. Nora rotates between my arms, the jumperoo, her bouncy seat, and a blanket on the floor. While Sam and I play cars and trains and dinosaurs, color or paint or construct towers of blocks, or simply chase each other around the house. Rarely does one activity last more than 20 minutes. Which is why flexibility and patience are so important!
Get out of the house. We were blessed with a very tolerant baby. Nora is perfectly content to tag along to every playdate and activity we plan, and for that, I am so grateful. Because I would lose my mind if I was trapped inside with my wild child Sam. Ever since Nora turned one month old, we have tried to get out of the house at least three times per week. On cold days, we go to the mall or meet up with friends at the local rec center. And on warm days, we head to the playground or take long walks around the neighborhood.
It probably goes without saying, but if you’re going to take your newborn out for several hours, you’re going to have to get comfortable breastfeeding in public (if you are able and choose to do so). I have nursed Nora at the bookstore, the science center, the circus, and countless restaurants. I simply throw a muslin blanket over her, and she’s happy. Just don’t forget to pack extra clothes for both you and the baby in the event of a major spit-up. Heck, while you’re at it, you might as well pack extra clothes for the toddler, too! Because who knows what kind of trouble he’ll get into while you’re out.
Wear the baby. I never purchased a baby carrier before Sam was born, and I rarely used our borrowed Bjorn. But I heard from so many moms that a wrap or carrier is absolutely essential the second time. And, yes, they were right! Nora spends time in the K’tan almost every day, which allows me to have both hands available to play with Sam, prepare our meals, and even vacuum the house. I plan to use it for a few more months and then purchase an Ergo when she gets a bit bigger.
Involve the toddler. Sam still absolutely adores his baby sister. His first request when he wakes up in the morning is to hold Baby Nor-wah. And he is constantly kissing her and hugging her and holding her hands. I have tried to involve him from the very beginning in everything from bath time to tummy time. And I honor his requests to sit with us in the rocking chair while I feed her and to push her stroller around the mall. Of course, I still can’t leave him alone with her for more than a minute because his sweetness can quickly escalate into crazy toddler hand squeezes and out of control bouncy seat bouncing.
Accept help. In the form of freezer meals from friends; family members who are eager to run errands and entertain the kids while I shower; neighbors who offer to kick the soccer ball with Sam while I nap with Nora; and a husband who may vacuum and fold laundry differently than I do, but who is helpful nonetheless.
Help may also come in the form of extra TV time while I nurse Nora or prepare dinner, or iPad games in bed while I close my eyes for just five minutes. And I’m OK with that.
Find time to spend with each child individually. This is not always easy, but it is oh so very important. I have found that Sam is much happier and better behaved if I am attentive to his needs. Sometimes we sneak out for frozen yogurt, or I take him to the grocery store and let him ride in the race car cart. And Nick often spends time playing with him in the yard, or invites him to tag along to Home Depot (which, for our son, is better than the toy store).
Also, now that Nora goes to bed about an hour before Sam, I spend that time focusing on him and only him. We color and do stickers and read books and sing songs. I cherish that time each night.
Likewise, Nora needs my attention, too. I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not able to spend the same quiet hours with her that I spent with Sam. But when Nick is able to get Sam out of the house for a bit, I totally soak up the snuggles. And, although, I do love when their naps overlap, I also love when I get to lay on the floor beside Nora or let her bounce on my belly or fly her around like an airplane while big brother sleeps upstairs.
Finally, give yourself a break. Both literally and figuratively. Me time is rare, but I savor it when I can. Whether it’s yoga on my bedroom floor, a few pages from my favorite (and very neglected) magazines, a run around the neighborhood at sunset, 20 minutes spent wandering the aisles of Target, or a cup of coffee before the kids wake up. I’m able to be a much better mother when I have a few moments to myself each day.
Honestly, for me, the transition from zero to one was more challenging than the transition from one to two. By now I have accepted the sleepless nights, the endless amounts of laundry and dirty dishes, and the fact that my pants won’t fit for awhile.
Just remember that babies aren’t babies forever. And our toddlers will be off to preschool before we know it. So let messes linger longer than usual, spend an entire afternoon watching movies, have ice cream sundaes for dinner, and always always sneak into both bedrooms for extra kisses goodnight.