I have an 11 day old (how did that happen?!).
She is my third child, but my second healthy, living baby. Her brother is almost 21 months old and they are my “rainbow” children, conceived after the loss of their big brother, who died in the womb at 20 weeks’ gestation.
After my first healthy son was born and I turned into a sleep-deprived zombie nursing my way through all seasons of LOST at 12, 2, and 4 am in the early days, I started to make a mental list of all the important pieces of information that “they” (you know who “they” are: friends, family, colleagues, imposing strangers on the subway gawking at your belly) didn’t tell me about being a first-time mom.
Now that I’m on to Baby #2, I’m struck by even more, new realizations. If you’re on the second go-round, I’m here to tell you that:
1. Your love for your first child will grow exponentially. I can’t believe how much more my heart swells for my brilliant, tempermental, mischievous, intrepid toddler. How grateful I am for how well he trained us for parenthood with all of those feedings, stages, mysterious cues, diaper crises and more. He was the most tireless drill sergeant and looking at him now, I can’t believe how far we have come. He is my greatest achievement and while the adjustment to parenthood was probably one of the most challenging experiences of my life, I am now all the more grateful for going through it with him and seeing him here, as he is, now.
2. Postpartum hormones are LEGIT. The first time I was sure something was very wrong with me, despite my clinical and academic experiences. This time, I’m “feeling all the feels” with my new little one and allowing myself to cry over everything and anything in these early days. It isn’t always rational, and that’s ok. Take the drama from three nights ago:
Hubby: why are you crying?
Me: I was thinking about heaven and how when I get there my parents will want to spend time with me, but I will want to spend time with [our son], but he will probably have his own family he wants to see! What will I do if he doesn’t want to spend time with me? (Cue gasping sobs).
I am a highly existential thinker, but even for me, that one was a stretch. My husband wisely responded by giving me a hug and telling me I’d have all of eternity to figure it out.
3. Everything really is a stage, and it’s fleeting. Continuing the existential theme: I’m realizing that when people said “these days pass quickly so enjoy them” it’s because they really do— I blink and it’s bedtime again. The first time around, hearing it made me resentful. How could I enjoy the newborn stage when it was so exhausting?!
This time I’m seeing things with the bigger picture in mind, taking mental (and far too many cellphone) snapshots of these fleeting moments: my son reaching for a book and crawling into my lap, his chubby fingers drawing circles on my arm as I read. My daughter, her floppy head rooting against my chest and the sweet smell of her. The middle of the night exhaustion when the entire world is asleep and I roll over to feed her again. My husband dancing with my daughter to soothe her and wrestling with my son to exhaust him and the brilliant chaos of our interwoven lives.
4. I can trust my gut and be confident in my parenting. I don’t care about the “mommy wars” anymore. I don’t stress over friends who made different decisions about nursing or co-sleeping or childcare. I really am the expert when it comes to my own family and paying attention to the extra noise out there isn’t helpful, it’s dangerous. So if I feel insecure I go to the few sources I trust: my close friends, my doctor, and, as an academic, the research. Then I take a deep breath and carry on.
5. It takes a while to get here. Life isn’t idyllic. It’s messy, full of emotions, stresses, and challenges. Anyone who’s spent a little time as an adult knows this. And life is cyclical too, so sometimes I’m right back where I started, crying in bed, missing my first son, feeling bitter and resentful after a long, hard day. But there are more and more moments, this time, precious realizations that “I can do this”, or “I’m not an expert, but I think I’ve got this tiny piece of it”, or “tomorrow really is a new day”, that help me carry on.
Perfection is boring and leaves us with nothing to strive toward.
I’d rather teach my kids that I’m a work in progress, evolving as they help me unfold, and that because of their presence in my life, all other experiences pale in comparison.
6. I am grateful. So, incredibly grateful. I was when my son was born, and with another healthy living baby in my life, I’m grateful again. Grateful for all of it, and for the path my first son set me upon by leaving the world too soon.
I’m a grateful, grateful mom.
Author: Erica Goldblatt Hyatt
Editor: Alli Sarazen