A Thank You to My Second Born


Something special happened for me when you were born dear second child. When you were freshly plucked from my insides like a juicy little strawberry and held into the air for me to see, I exhaled all the worry I’d carried with me before that moment. And from then on being a mom has been easier. Lighter. Decidedly more delightful. Dare I say, it’s been even better than it was the first time around?

With your older sibling, I spent so much time worrying. In hindsight, I was miserable. I had a near mental breakdown because the first outfit home from the hospital wasn’t Instagram-worthy perfection. I worried about baby body temperature to the point of putting good old Goldlilocks to shame in my quest for “just right.” I insisted on what felt like sub-artic temperatures on the thermostat and full blast ceiling fans because SIDS. I worried about milestone charts and eye contact and frequency of smiles to the point of practically burning out my smartphone from so much Googling. I worried about some very dark things, like a rogue semi truck slamming me and my SUV into oblivion on those rare occasions I’d leave the house without your beautiful older sibling. That’s not even touching on the skeletons in the closet that came knocking when your sister was born. My level of worry probably wasn’t healthy, but it’s the only way I knew how to cope with being a new Mom.

You see with your sweet big sister, I had to relearn who I was. I had to face all the complicated parts of my own childhood in the process. Each sleepless night, each party I passed up to stay home in the cocoon of new motherhood, each month that went by caring for a helpless creature was a step closer to better knowing myself as a mom, and therefore better preparing me for you, my second born.

It’s like baby number one let loose a tsunami of emotion, one that crashed down on an unprepared village – me and your father – leaving behind only ruins to rebuild. We’d read the books. We’d done the classes. We’d consulted friends. No stroll through Buy Buy Baby to curate our registry was ever going to truly ready us for parenthood. And so we fumbled through the first years with your sister, honing our mom and dad skills until you came around. The moment you were born we were already experts. It’s amazing how a little confidence can change everything.

Just by being number two, you gave us the most precious gift. You are the roof on our rebuilt selves, finally making us the parents we were meant to be. We could enjoy your newborn rawness without fear that you’d never wake from your sleepy newness to join us in consciousness. We could trudge through that first month of agonizing night feedings knowing it would end – making it as sweet as lost sleep can be. We could skip late night hours spent feverishly scanning message boards, knowing that a combination of behavior and instinct would help tell us when something wasn’t right. You let us enjoy the things that we stressed out about the first time around.

When your sister was born we still had one foot out the door in the game of parenting. We didn’t realize it until you came along. But with you darling number two, you brought the other foot back underneath us where it belongs. Thank you for all the big picture things you’ve given us and the sweet little things too. For letting us steal those extra kisses on your soft baby boy belly. For laughing every time we try to eat your toes. For crawling toward us with reckless abandon. For helping your older sister get over her fear of the Roomba. Whether it’s a second child thing, or just you being you, thank you. You’re so darn wonderful, we’d even consider something crazy – doing it all over again.

It’s Okay Mama

It’s okay mama. It’s okay that you bought the original goldfish crackers because your toddler wanted them instead of the organic bunny knock off ones that don’t taste as good. Yes there may be some moms out there who will judge you, but it’s okay. And that’s just silly anyway. Processed food is processed food no matter the label you slap on it.

It’s okay that you decided to fall down an internet shaped rabbit hole for an hour today while your kid watched You Tube videos on repeat. Mama, trust me on this one, it’s totally okay. If you read a few extra books at bedtime tonight to compensate, it’s okay too. And if you don’t read any books at all today, no one will die.

It’s okay mama to not look at your dog the same way. To have a Facebook feed that reminds you that 4 years ago you posted picture after picture of your rescue pup’s big brown eyes. And now the only pictures you’re putting out there are of your gorgeous baby, obviously, and MAYBE a sliver of tail in the background or half a paw. Your dog loves you anyway, I promise.

It’s okay to be weirdly relieved when your kid isn’t the only one crying at the birthday party. Or to be really annoyed when your kid IS the only one crying. Or to be the one crying. Mama I promise, it’s okay.

It’s okay if you’re not swimming in mom friends. If you don’t have a village to help support you through the newborn phase, the one kid into two phase, the baby to toddler phase. Maybe you just moved thousands of miles away from family. Or don’t get along with your family. Or don’t have any family at all. Maybe your marriage is on the rocks. Maybe it isn’t and you feel isolated all the same. Maybe you’re a single mom just trying to make it through each day without losing your shit. Or you’re a mama with social anxiety. Or a mama with a traumatic past. Or a mama with all of the above. I’m here to tell you it’s okay. You’re enough.

It’s okay to not be the fun mom. The creative mom. The Instagram perfect mom. The take a picture of every milestone and share it with the world mom. Maybe your life doesn’t resemble an inspirational life quote meme and it’s okay. (It’s also pretty cool if you are that mom, and I’ll be honest, we’re all a little jealous of you. And even THAT is okay).

It’s okay to not be okay. To strongly dislike your post-partum body. To not think your c section scar is a work of art. To wish you didn’t have wounds that make pregnancy and child birth look like it’s a battle. Even though everything about it is worth it, and so much about it is beautiful, some parts of it might not be pretty to you, and it’s okay.

It’s okay to be sad, mama, for the you you’ve lost. And to still be getting to know this new version, this mom you, months, even years later. It’s okay mama, it really is, to be annoyed with your childless friends because they’re annoyed with you. Annoyed that you’re not the same. That you bend to bedtimes and seek out kid menus and can’t brunch for four hours on a Sunday. It’s okay that you’ve changed. It’s pretty awesome actually how gracefully you’ve left your old life behind.

Motherhood can be lonely and claustrophobic and emotionally draining at times. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. To feel tired. To want to be the kid instead of the mama now and then. It doesn’t mean you adore your little humans any less.

It’s okay if you love most of it. Hate parts of it. And want to keep your kids in the safety of your home forever one minute and set them free the next. Being a mom is awe inspiring and complicated and scary. And you’re doing better than just okay, mama, you’re doing great!

 

Seen, Not Heard: Crying Babies, Airplanes, & Tootsie Pops

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When my daughter was almost three months old, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Hawaii.

Like many new mothers who would travel for the first time with a baby, I was terrified.

What if I had the kid that kept everyone from feeling the Aloha?

You know the one. The baby on the plane who does not stop crying. FOR HOURS.

I mean, my daughter was borderline colicky, wailing it out at the witching hour with the worst of them. It was horrible, and confusing, and exhausting, but it appeared she was finallygrowing out of it. I hoped.

But what if she wasn’t?

Babies are unpredictable. In three months of mothering, I didn’t know much, but that was one thing I knew for sure. There was a fifty fifty chance that baby girl would freak the f out. The noise. The altitude. All the strangers. Plus, I worried that my fear of flying would somehow rub off on her.

So, I decided to follow the lead of an adorable Pinterest photo I’d seen. I put together consolation prizes for the poor passengers seated next to us.

The night before our trip, I spent hours filling plastic baggies with tootsie pops and ear plugs. I wasted entirely too much paper in my attempt to get the font size just right on the note I included, the one apologizing for any crying before it happened. I sacrificed valuable sleep to preemptively make my fellow travelers a little more comfortable.

But, of course, no ear plugs were necessary and my kid was a glowing example of what traveling with a child can be like. Easy-ish, all the gear and diaper changes in small spaces aside.

So when I recently saw a mom friend sharing pictures of the in-flight, I’m-sorry-my-kid-might-cry goodie bags she made, practically identical to my own, and likely also inspired by some Pinterest travel board somewhere out there on the internet, I started thinking.

I started thinking about how you don’t see the guy with the bad gas writing notes to his fellow travelers apologizing that he smells like a dozen sick chickens have hatched rotten eggs inside him. (What’s the difference between him and a baby? HE can control himself, save a medical condition).

Nor do you see the overweight passenger, buying you and your row mates a round of drinks because his or her arm is protruding into your lap the whole flight.

Or what about the old lady in the wheel chair? The one who gets to disembark before anyone else does. Sure she holds up the line, and probably pisses a few people off, but you don’t hear her grown children asking the flight attendants to make an announcement thanking everyone for being decent human beings.

Because farts happen. People get fat. People get old. And you know what else is a natural part of life? Babies. And babies cry. Sometimes a lot. It sucks. But that’s the way it is. And the fact that babies cry definitely doesn’t warrant dirty looks and parent shaming. Nor does it require consolation prizes.

Recently we had some people staying at our vacation rental. When they arrived, I asked the typical, “How was your flight?” question. They replied with a rant about a brat on the plane who wouldn’t shut up and the brat’s incompetent parents.  Okay, so they didn’t say that exactly, but they might as well have. It was clear they took personal offense to the crying baby and the miserable people who made it. Sure, this couple was just being honest. I’d probably have said something too, if asked, but with empathy and concern for the poor parents and their unhappy child. Because had it been an obese person they were seated next too, giving them a little less leg room or something, I highly doubt they’d have had the audacity to vent about THAT with such obvious disdain. Kids and their parents seem to be the one group left available for bashing without fear of unleashing the politically correct police.

Nowadays, we’re bombarded with social media messages that we shouldn’t be sorry. We shouldn’t be sorry for our post-partum bodies. We shouldn’t be sorry for our messy houses. We shouldn’t be sorry for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. There’s a whole list of things we have permission to no longer be sorry for. So should we really be begging for forgiveness from people we don’t know for something that’s as synonymous with life as breathing? Crying happens dear riders of the headache inducing skies, get over it.

I think we’ve come a long way from the “Children are to be seen, and not heard” generation, but I think we still have a long way to go in building the new village. I picture the new village as one in which we have understanding and patience and respect for the littlest among us. Their crying included. Clearly there’s work to be done to foster a culture that is kind to those that might slow down the herd or, God forbid, prevent you from enjoying your airline peanuts in silence, if that’s what you call the sound of turbo jet engines.

I know the issue of crying babies on airplanes seems like an inconsequential one in a news cycle of racially motivated violence and terrorism, but this matters too. Being tolerant of the inconveniences imposed upon us by those that further the species, and being kind to the people who choose to raise them is important. Just remember, that baby on the airplane you wish you could gag with your neck pillow, might be wiping your behind in the rest home someday.

So would I do it over again? Waste sleep and money on bags of candy for people I don’t know and probably will never see again, simply because my kid might make someone else miserable for a few hours? Simply because my kid might do what kids, by nature, are prone to do?

Absolutely.

In addition to tolerance, the world needs a little more sweetness. And if my now three month old son’s adorable, innocent face doesn’t do it for you. Maybe a tootsie pop will.

The Hardest Part

It was a typical end of the week afternoon in my backyard when I realized what I dislike most about being a mom.

My single best friend had stopped by for a visit. She was attempting to entertain my kids while I grilled dinner, me cursing myself for not bringing home a Costco rotisserie chicken instead all because of some article I read about the dangers of carrageenan.

In between baby coos, and trying to dissuade my toddler from feeding dog kibble to her stuffed animals, my friend and I talked about her Friday night plans, because of course I didn’t have any beyond DVR.

She, on the other hand, had options.

The kind single girls dream of.

Reservations at a swanky restaurant was option one. Jazz and wine at the Museum of Modern Art was another. Meeting up at a new gastropub downtown was a third.

In an hour or so, she’d leave me to bedtime routines and cranky babies, when she’d scurry off to luxuriate in a long uninterrupted shower before slinking into any number of in-the-moment outfits. She’d then head out into the night, the possibilities as fragrant as her perfume. Her mind swarming with thoughts of work and wine. She’d probably get drunk. She’d probably order late night takeout. She might even kiss a stranger. My friend could be recklessly irresponsible if she wanted to, answering to no one.

Picturing all that lay ahead, for both of us, was when I realized what the hardest part of parenting is. And it isn’t what I thought it would be.

It isn’t the poosplosions. The goriest of them always happening when you’ve forgotten the extra wipes or spare outfit or when you’re wearing white.

It isn’t the stretch marks. Oh the stretch marks. No hundred dollar cream or magic potion is ever going to restore the skin on my hips to what it once was.

It isn’t the crying. The newborn colic crying. The 6 month old teething crying. The toddler tantrum crying. The just because I want to annoy you crying. The two children at once crying. While pretty freaking awful, it isn’t even the crying. Though there’s no other more disconcerting sound in the world than a child in pain, be that pain real or imagined.

It isn’t the mess.

The expense.

The discomfort of having to hold your own pee, to deal with someone else’s.

The hardest part isn’t even the sleep deprivation. I thought the sleep thing would be easier the second time around. I was wrong.

Car keys have ended up in the freezer. I’ve slept through my first born LOUDLY dumping a bottle of Kefir on the master bedroom floor.  There have been moments of exhaustion so poignant, with both children, that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to wake up again.

The hardest part isn’t any of those things, though admittedly, they do suck. No one likes the smell of fermented dairy products in their brand new carpet.

The most difficult thing about being a mom is something I still struggle with, two kids and two years later.

It’s that I’ll never truly feel free again.

I’ll never get lost in the night like I did before my kids were born. Never again will I float from place to place on a whim, dashing from one exciting oyster pearl of a party to another, via smoky cabs and forgotten conversations with the people who drive them (way back then 3 years ago Uber wasn’t a thing) with nothing on my mind but the moment. I won’t be able to let go like that, to lose track of time. Not on a dance floor, or, even, on a long run. My kids will always be clouding my judgment, shaping my decisions, deciding my night.

Realizing I’ll never be able to set out into the world without my babies and not constantly feel the pull back to them, as if a magnetic umbilical cord is still attached, fills me with both joy and a strange a sense of loss.

Sure, I’ll hire a babysitter like everyone else does. Have dinner. Drinks even. See a movie. Mingle at a party. And dance, I’ll probably even dance. But a part of me, almost all of me, if I’m honest, will have one foot already out the door, in a rush to get back home to peak in to see if the humans I helped create are still breathing.

I’m wistful for my emotional independence, I really am. Because I can’t even run to Target alone without missing them. Worrying for them. Hoping with every pang in my heart that they’re okay.

That’s when it hits me, how close my wings have been clipped. It’s exhausting loving little people this much. And while my kids are the best thing that has ever happened to me, the lack of freedom a love like this entails is the hardest part of parenting, hands down.

 

 

3 Months of Leif Love

Whether a combination of the Whole30 diet I started when Leif was 2 months old, or digestive and brain maturity (his not mine haha), being mama to my baby boy is blissful. He’s no longer colicky. He spits up only sometimes. He’s sweet and smiley. He sleeps for wonderful, long 6 hour stretches. I absolutely, positively adore him! Imagine that.

My little hunk of baby meat LOVES attention. Where his sister was content to sit under a play mat for a good 30 minutes, he’s begging for you to talk to him after five.

The little guy will try to strike up a conversation with anyone who will listen. It’s adorable. I’m not kidding, hold him in your lap and whisper sweet nothings to him and he lights up – smiling, sticking out his tongue, cooing – it’s the cutest thing I have ever seen. The. CUTEST.

His chunky baby thighs. His big blue eyes. His sweet personality. I want to bottle his cuteness and sell it, he’s that delicious.

It’s amazing how things can go from being EXTREMELY difficult, to relatively easy, practically overnight. I can do this parenting 2 children thing. Yes. I. Can. And you know what’s c to the razy? I’ve actually been thinking that maybe, just maybe, there might be room in our home for a third child if biology and finances cooperate. Probably not. But maybe.

Earlier today I joked on Facebook that since Leif rolled over today for the first time that we’d be ditching the swaddle and that, as a result, we’d no longer sleep. Well ugh. Little guy napped for a total of an hour today, split up in 20 minute chunks. This was even with a little swaddle action. I paced around so much holding him like a football that I think I may have burned a hole in the rug.

What do I think caused his refusal to sleep for more than a few minutes today?

His recent discovery that he can control his hands. They’re just that cool.

HANDS, people.

When was the last time you took a moment to appreciate, I mean REALLY appreciate, the power of your hands?

Mine have begun to look older. Weathered. Used. I have the first few sun freckles of an older person. 

But my babies keep me young and age me exponentially at the same time.

Last night, when I looked down at Leif in the crook of my arm, and he looked up with eyes that I think will stay blue, a beautiful storm swept color, I wondered…

Baby boy, what kind of man will you be?

Will you be strong?

Will you be kind?

A fair judge?

A wise king?

Will you be an adventurer?

Will you climb mountains?

Or get lost in libraries?

Or both. You can do both.

You can do anything.

I’m so lucky I get to watch you decide, I told him.

That I get to be your guide, I told him.

I am your mama, and you are my boy, and everything is right in the world when we’re together.

And then finally, I whispered the thing I’ve said every day since he was born, I love you little guy, thank you for choosing me.

 

 

Moving With Children

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We’ve been in our new old house now for about 2 weeks.

The week of the move things were crazy. I mean bat poop insane.

An example: We went to buy boxes/run errands as a family of 4, and decided to bring the poor lonely dog along. When we got home the baby, who hates the car, was screaming his head off, while D had just taken a giant dump. I manned her, while Merp manned the baby. An hour and a half later, D asked, “Where’s Henry?”

We had left him in the hot car, baking in the afternoon sun.

Thank GOD he’s okay, but wow. Not a good moment in our life as dog parents. We were so consumed with our human babies we completely forgot our fur one… 😦

That incident about sums up the last few months in which I’ve been silent in this space.

BUT UGH… I had an entire post typed up, with more juicy details, that literally DISAPPEARED when I pushed publish. Maybe multi-taking has something to do with it?

Right now, a high needs fussy baby is writhing around on me in the carrier, a toddler is trying to climb the pantry to get to the treats, and my house looks like Box City barfed all over it. AND I have an Au pair (who is the best thing I have ever done in my entire life. Hands down. LOVE HER). Thank God for her, as she prepares our Blue Apron dinner, because without her help I’d have checked in to the psychiatric unit weeks ago. No joke.

God help the woman who spends her day alone with toddlers and babies with no assistance at all. This multiple kids thing is INTENSE. My husband and I agree that he is LUCKY to go to work. The job of the stay at home parent, with or without two extra hands, is by far the most challenging thing I have EVER done.

Two for the Show

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Last week, the light of my life turned two years old. Two!

If I wasn’t well acquainted with the tremendous mental, physical, and emotional growth of the last two years for her AND me, I am now.

Cradling her baby brother in my arms, while I watch her jump, twirl, attempt ballet poses, sing, and dance demonstrates the miracle of the human form quite beautifully. In just two years she’s transformed from a completely dependent infant into a little girl – a frustrating, brilliant, silly, sassy, active one at that.

Here’s a little bit more about D right now…

  • She still LOVES Thomas the Train and trains in general. She spent 15 minutes this morning watching real locomotives chugging through mountain scenery while I nursed her brother.
  • She is equal parts big girl and baby, wanting to put on her own shoes one minute, but to be rocked the next.
  • She is quite the singer. D dazzles us with various renditions of “No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” monkeys has been replaced with everything from babies to turtles and then back to monkeys again. “Mama finger, mama finger where are you…” is another one and it gets stuck in all of our heads frequently so that we have to ban humming it and other children’s songs at the dinner table. “Twinkle Twinkle” had a good run, during which she’d have her father and I stand outside at dusk and sing it again and again, followed by her singing it again and again. The mischievous monkeys, however, have been the favorite for the last two weeks now . She carries a phone, remote, or other similar shaped object around pretending to call the doctor, FOR HOURS.
  • She still fights sleep, especially naps. She ends up in our bed some nights, especially in the few weeks her brother has been home, which makes for an interesting evening of  avoiding kid kicks, and/or moving her so I don’t fall off, while also comforting/feeding her gassy brother. My husband  insists that her brother won’t be like this, that we won’t create this kind of “sleep monster,” but I’m pretty happy with the fact that she goes down in her big girl bed and stays there most of the time and has for many months.
  • She’s obsessed, I mean obsessed with her “binkies.” If we let her she’ll carry several around at once and talk to them, yes TALK to them. We’ve had full on meltdowns because we can’t find “blue” binkie, or any of the other various colors we have floating around the house. Binkie will be going bye bye at age 3. In fact, D was so stressed out about it before her birthday that she made me reassure her, over and over, that the binkies would stick around when she turned 2.
  • She’s a talker, that’s for sure. 8 times out of 10 we can understand her. Here are a few favorite phrases:
    • “Mama I want to go upstairs downstairs, beach, pool, playground, MyGym etc.” This kid always wants to GO somewhere.
    • “Treat mama, I want chocolate treat.” She’d eat candy all day long if I let her.
    • “I love it.” (When she’s eating something particularly delicious)
    • “I’m sick.” “Owl is sick.” “Mama is sick.” (She’s also obsessed with stories about the hospital, doctors, and playing doctor).
    • “No no no no NO.” She was singing this today while she was eating lunch. For real.
    • “That’s a black one.” She loves to identify things by color. Black, red, pink, yellow, green, blue, white…
    • “See guys working.” She likes to walk to the construction sites near our home to see the workers and their equipment. Hey, if she’s the next home improvement wiz I would be thrilled!
    • “This is mama’s, dada’s, mine, Pat’s, baby Leif’s, Henry’s.” She’s been quite concerned for months now about who belongs to what.

Where some kids are tidy, D is not. She’s a mess and mischief maker, going from one room to the next sprinkling a trail of chaos as she goes. I treasure her curiosity, but I’m trying to teach her to clean up after herself too (it’s not easy).  Together we read all the books, and now count all the chocolate covered raisins. I’m amazed at how well she’s adjusted to life with a little brother. I’m amazed by her beauty and strength and light every single day. I feel so very blessed to call this special two year old my kid. How did I get so lucky?