When I first found out I was pregnant with my second child I was ecstatic. And then I was terrified. How would a new baby change our family dynamic? How would my daughter accept the new baby? Raising one kid is hard enough, am I able to raise TWO responsible human beings? Some articles/friends/blogs will tell you that once the baby was born, love took over and all of that fear melted away. I’m not that person. I’m here to tell you that all of those fears were valid, and now, at five months in, I’m experiencing how hard these changes actually are. Don’t get me wrong, there’s love, but with that there is challenge.
I realized that my fears were not unfounded the very first day he was born. We were at the hospital, revelling in the fact that our son was here, but also missing our daughter, who was staying with her grandparents. She came to visit daily, to meet the baby and to get some Mommy and Daddy time in, but already it was different. Things were different. Luckily she accepted and loved him right away (after getting over the fact that he wasn’t a girl) and never once asked to send him back. Once I got home from the hospital and began recovering from my c-section, again, challenges arose. I could carry the baby but I couldn’t carry her. I could breastfeed the baby, but not her. I wasn’t able to drive so I couldn’t take her to places we had gone just the week before. This was hard on both of us.
Sleep deprivation was the next hurdle. You go through those crazy newborn days with your first, and then your promptly block them out of your mind forever. I forgot that newborns scream when you change their diaper, when they ride in the car, when they wake up, when they go to sleep, just about around the clock when they are awake. And even though they nap a lot, your first child no longer does so there is little time to “sleep when they sleep.” But, eventually that newborn settles a bit, you power through, you curse a lot, and although you don’t completely get over it, you get used to it.
I’m a person that thrives on routine and have consequently created a daughter who is the same. One thing I can tell you for sure about your baby; he won’t care about your schedule, and my son was no exception. This has taken a lot of adjusting (and relaxing) to just go with the flow when we can. But some things (like school drop off and pick up) are not flexible, and working in sleep around these hard deadlines has also been taxing. The golden rule to ‘never wake a sleeping baby’ has been broken many times already, sleep often has to happen on the go, and sometimes we all pay the price. This is still a challenge for me every day, but the best way I’ve learned to deal with it is to ask for help. It truly takes a village and right now my tribe is picking my kid up from school while the baby naps.
In general, most things about our family dynamic have changed, which, is really to be expected since our family itself has changed. Dinner time is often disrupted by the need to rock or put the babyto sleep, and many times I miss out on eating with my family altogether. Bedtime with my first has changed and revolves around when the baby falls asleep and whether or not he stays asleep. Arms are always full, and you forget what it is like to do things with two hands. Weekend outings and activities are shortened or skipped because it will run into nap time(s) so our family time together is definitely different. There is more screen time and less lap time, more chicken nuggets and less organic vegetables, more netflix nights than date nights.
But, just when I’m ready to call it quits, to give up on motherhood and curl in a ball, something shifts- be it perspective, sleeping patterns, developmental leaps- change happens. And it becomes easier. And you start to settle into this new normal, this new dynamic. And even though the hard times are still hard, the good times come more often and the love continues to multiply. And the realization comes that this new dynamic will continue to shift and change, there will be peaks and valleys, but in the end, you’ll forget about what you used to be, just like you forgot about those nightmare newborn days. And you’ll hold on with your full arms and your full heart and wait for it to all change again.
Katie is a new mom of two and will be sharing her experiences in parenting a toddler and a newborn though this series “New with Two”.