You’ve done it before. You know how to work the buggy, feed, change and soothe a little sleep-thief and you are well practiced in going about your daily business one-handed. You are under no illusion it will be easy and you mentally prepare yourself for the return of sleepless nights and feeding around the clock, but, you think you know what’s coming and you’ve got this; you’re nervously excited.
Fleeting thoughts cross your mind: mostly, how will your firstborn cope? Will they feel rejected or pushed out? Your throat catches and you inwardly sob a little at the idea and make a mental note to keep their routine and world as similar to pre-no2 as possible. You know other moms with more than one child. Some tell you ‘it’s more than double the work’, others tell you it’s easier second time around when you know what you’re doing (ignore these moms. They are either superhuman or lying). And then, before you know it, the time for musing and worrying is over and they are here in all their tiny, soft, scrunched up, boob-demanding, newborn glory. Here they are and despite all of your preparations and ‘research’, you realise you were decidedly unprepared. Or at least I was.
The first few months of my new babe’s life were all about survival. I thought I’d be the mom that had it all together, that got out of the house each day so the eldest could burn off some steam while I enjoyed and snuggled the baby. In reality, we spent far too much time in our pyjamas and I was often left feeling overwhelmed and even suffocated by the whirlwind of sick, nappies, crying, routines (or lack of), tantrums and mess around me. We have since emerged from the initial storm looking older, with more wrinkles, but relatively unharmed. Looking back, here are three things that I wish I’d been prepared for:
1. You will probably cry. A lot. And that’s just fine.
After sleep-thief no1 was born, in the first few weeks especially, I cried many happy, exhausted, sometimes frustrated and hormone induced tears. But this time I cried for these reasons and more. I cried big sobby, snotty tears the first time I tried to single handedly bath and put both boys to bed and they took turns screaming at me because I couldn’t physically hold and soothe my frantic, refluxy newborn whilst dressing my toddler and reading his bedtime story. I cried when daddy went back to work and it took us THREE hours to leave the house, owing to two projectile vomits and full outfit changes, a spilled bowl of cheerios all over the dining room floor, a baby who needed holding upright constantly (anyone who has ever had a baby with reflux will get this!) and a toddler who insisted he wanted to wear my shoes and not his own. I cried because the days were long, and exhausting and because I had to leave the baby crying to cook my eldest’s dinner, then I’d neglect to play with him in the way I used to because I was feeding ‘on demand’ and was at the beck and call of a hungry, growing boy. However, I also cried when my firstborn saw his little brother for the first time and smiled open-mouthed like he couldn’t believe his luck. I cried the first time I heard spontaneous (and slightly devious sounding) giggling coming from the dinner table because my eldest was pulling funny faces at his new side-kick to make him laugh. And I almost cried the other day, when I realised that my baby will be six months old next week and maternity leave second time around goes at least ten times quicker than the first time – for all of the stresses and strains, it is precious.
If you are like me, you will cry a lot in the early days – but it doesn’t mean you are failing. It means you care. You are doing just fine.
2.Tidying up is futile.
Attempting to keep a tidy house with even one child is akin to sweeping leaves on a really windy day. Come to accept that your house will be a mess and you will not see your living room carpet for toys, changing paraphernalia, baby seats and random socks (that always seem to work their way downstairs?!) for the foreseeable future. Your house will be a mess, unless of course you have visitors coming round, in which case it will be as close to immaculate as possible for at least the first five minutes of their visit because, let’s face it, us moms are all in the business of ‘faking’ an orderly existence. Your washing machine will never work harder (neither will you), your iron will probably lie dormant as you tell yourself daily that you will get round to ‘tackling the pile’ someday (never), you will use vanish like it is going out of fashion and baby wipes for literally everything. Tidying up is futile.
3.Get ready for a double dose of ‘Mom guilt’ with a side helping of ‘wife guilt’ for good measure.
To be a mom is to feel guilty. My own mom told me not long ago that ‘mom guilt’ never really goes away. If she reads this I hope she knows that she doesn’t need to feel guilty. I get it now. You can’t be everything to everybody all of the time, and if you try, I think you can end up losing yourself somewhere along the way, and you are important too. Looking back on those first few months, this is what I wish I had realised, because there is nothing like baby no2 to bring on a guilt-infused frenzy. I felt guilty for so many reasons: My eldest was watching ‘way too much’ TV so that I could attend to the needs of the baby. I felt guilty because I couldn’t spend hours cuddling and gazing at my new baby like I did the first time round and because whereas my firstborn went swimming every Saturday without fail, we STILL haven’t taken our newest boy for his first dip. I felt guilty because my eldest’s routine DID have to change, and because I couldn’t physically split myself in two to see to their needs. I felt guilty that when daddy got home, I was relieved mostly because I wanted to hand them over and then I’d forget to ask about his day. Six months down the line I’ve accepted that there are days where we will watch Frozen followed by Stick Man, then The Gruffalo and Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom because the baby is a dribbly, clingy, teething mess. In fact, if you are expecting no2, my advice would be stock up your sky box now, and invest in a tablet full of apps while you’re at it too. It’s a phase. And a short-lived one in the grand-scheme. I also wish I’d known that as your newborn ceases to be a newborn any more, and his eyes start to follow his big brother around the room like he’s the best thing since sliced bread, I would begin to feel less guilty and already I predict that they will enjoy causing trouble together and generally fueling my caffeine addiction for years still to come, so really, what is there to feel guilty about?