Being pregnant for the second time did not resemble my memory (fantasy?) of the first time around. I felt much more sick, more exhausted, and the added stress of taking care of an active toddler while nurturing a squirmy fetus weighed heavily on my achy muscles. Emotionally, I was thrilled that our family was growing and I was excited to see my son as a big brother. Physically, I was dead.
The one upside to being a veteran was that I had less anxiety. I knew what to expect – the sleepless nights, the sore nipples, the wet noodle of a newborn nestled on your chest. I also felt more competent as a mother, having just gone through the first twenty months of my son’s life as his primary caretaker.
But there are five things I wish I had known (or believed in) that would have made my life easier with baby #1. I will remind myself of these 5 principles in the coming weeks as I enter a new stage of motherhood overseeing two under two.
Babies are hearty.
When you bring home a baby from the hospital, you feel like you’re responsible for the most fragile thing in the world. The truth is that the baby is much more resilient than you imagine. New moms are often fraught with nervous thoughts regarding napping, eating, pooping, sleeping, etc. Your babies will grow up and thrive regardless of a few crappy naps, watery poops, and projectile spit-ups. Calm down.
Take care of yourself.
Mothers take on a lot of responsibility and often feel guilty that they’re not doing enough or not doing well enough. Give yourself a break. Hire a babysitter. Meet a friend for coffee. Splurge on comfortable pajama pants if that’s your current daily uniform. Don’t be a martyr. Your kids will be in even better hands if you’re well rested, calm and feel good about yourself. Prioritize your mental health and don’t consider a frazzled state to be a badge of honor.
Don’t pay attention to what other people think.
Everyone will have an opinion about what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. From the moment I announced my first pregnancy, I was criticized for what I was eating, wearing, and doing that might harm my baby. I felt demolished and defeated before I even gave birth. Now I know to ignore these comments and not take them to heart. You are the only authority when it comes to understanding what your child needs.
Everything is a phase.
There have been moments when I thought the world was going to end. Weeks on end when my son wouldn’t sleep, difficult sicknesses and viruses that left our whole family barely functioning, and temper tantrums that burst so violently all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and cry. And then there were moments when I was exuberant. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of love seeping into my pores and I couldn’t believe my luck that this was my life. The swings in emotions are enough to make anyone manic. Diminish the hard times and remember that they are transient. Relish and bask in the good.
Moms are warriors.
If the past two years have taught me anything, it’s that no matter what the situation, it is in our evolutionary nature to rise to the occasion. When things get tough and you feel unable to handle the obstacles that come your way, that’s when you miraculously come through. That’s when you take a deep breath, chug a double espresso and get down in the muck. Don’t underestimate your abilities. You are stronger than you know.
I’m hoping that as a mom of two I can take my own advice and get through the early years with ease and grace. Of course, there will be times when I can’t. When I won’t. But having experienced the high highs and the low lows of caring for a baby into toddlerhood, I feel more equipped and prepared to take on the challenges ahead with a new perspective.