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I had a very difficult time adjusting to life as a new mom after I had my first son. I remember a friend telling me it took her three
months until she felt like herself again: for me, it was more like a year. I'm
happy to say though that after having my second child, I feel much happier, more capable and less exhausted
than I did after my first. Here are a few reasons why:
Delivering my first kid was pretty much the most
traumatic thing that had ever happened to me, and that affected me
physically and emotionally longer after I left the hospital. For months, despite my exhaustion, I
wasn't able to get to sleep until I had recounted every step it had taken to
have my first son, from admittance to discharge. While
there were some similarities between my two delivery experiences (I was
induced early both times and given a cervical ripening balloon), the second was
much faster and relatively free of pain and discomfort. The worst
part was the 9 hours I spent in triage waiting for a room to open up, because
it was boring and my tailbone hurt. Since I've been home I haven't had a single labor flashback and I felt much readier to move around than I did last time.
A toddler at home:
If parenting is like exercise, I feel like having a
toddler is akin to very intensive core work: it strengthens everything else you
do. I love my three-year-old but he can be exhausting, between his mood swings,
his running around and his nonstop talking. So in comparison, the relatively
basic needs of a newborn seem sweetly simple in comparison.
Now, I know, for better and for worse, everything that's to come: the smiling and laughing and food-throwing and teething and first haircut and crawling and walking and running and falling down and on and on.
We know what we're doing
It felt like so much of my first time with our first son was
trying to come up with a system or a plan—as much as can be done with a baby,
anyway. Just dealing with the bottles and formula, for instance, was its own
mini drama: how are we washing them and where are they getting dried and when
are we doing this so that we will always have bottles available and what will
the situation be at nighttime and what about when we
go out and how about daycare? Now multiply that times everything else and that's
how intimidating having a new baby can be. This time, though, we have
experience on our side: just knowing right off the bat what our sleeping arrangement will be saved us a lot of angst. I've taken this new baby places I would have been too
scared to the first time around, too, which helps. Not being terrified to go to the grocery store or even to get a manicure means I'm not stuck at home pondering my own existence.
I can enjoy a newborn
I had zero perspective with my first son. I could never imagine
that he'd be anything other than the squalling, fussy little thing that he was.
Now, I know, for better and for worse, everything that's to come: the smiling
and laughing and food-throwing and teething and first haircut and crawling and walking
and running and falling down and on and on. Knowing how temporary this all is makes me appreciate having a new baby more: both for the good (the snuggles,
the not-talking back) and the bad (the barfing, the constant pooping.)
One to two is easier than
zero to one I sometimes describe first-time parenthood as the process of adapting to—not
recovering from—a brain injury. With a new baby, life is fundamentally
different in a way that's completely impossible to prepare for. Unsympathetic
people frequently say things like "How did you not know that having a baby will
be hard?" But knowing and experiencing are two very different things. There's
simply no way to really prepare for the change your body, your relationships,
your energy, your home, your entire life goes through when a child enters the
scene. With a second, though, the adjustments have been smaller. Make no
mistake about it: I haven't figured out how to handle it gracefully when both
children and my husband need something from me at once, and it still stresses
me out when we all go someplace, but behind that all there's a sense of
capability that I didn't have the first time. It might be unpleasant or
stressful but I know I'll make it.
I'm taking care of
myself physically and emotionally
After my first son was born and I struggled to find my way, I
consoled myself a good deal with both food and liquor. Friends brought comforting
meals, or we'd order in, and I figured if I had nine months to put all the
weight on, I had nine months to take it all off (actually, try twelve.) On top
of that, with little to do during the day and so much company coming over, I
took a favorable view towards the 11a.m. glass of white wine.
indulging myself so much probably contributed a bit to my slow mood recovery: I
was probably constantly hungover and feeling sluggish in addition to everything
else. This time, I'm watching what I eat and drink more, in part because I
sense that if I take too long to lose the weight, I may never lose it. More
importantly, I'm on top of my mental health. I started seeing a
psychiatrist this year when it became apparent that I had the baby blues before
the baby was even here. The day after my second child was born, I started a low
dose of Zoloft and have been in regular touch with my therapist. I'm not sure
exactly what the Zoloft is doing for me right now but just knowing that I'm
keeping an eye on my mood—and that I have backup—makes me feel like I'm taking
care of myself where it matters.
Put this all together and confidence begets confidence. Feeling
like I can do it means I can do it! It almost makes me wonder how much more
capable I'd feel having a third child. Almost.