A few years ago, I wrote about my strategies for coping with first-time motherhood. I recently had my second child, another girl, and some of those same strategies still come into play. However, I also have a 2-year-old toddler to parent in addition to life with a newborn, so it’s VERY different the second time around. I’ve augmented and added to my post-partum survival guide, aka “postpartum-sorta-kinda-getting-through-the-day” guide and here’s what I’ve learned.
The most important thing that hasn’t changed since the first time is having a loving, supportive, and equal partner. My husband is very hands-on, as we divide and conquer, each taking a kid to get fed, dressed, diapered, etc. Most days my husband handles our toddler, while I take care of the baby. Luckily, our little girl is now potty-trained, so we’re only changing (and buying) one set of diapers. I do try to spend some one-on-one time with my older daughter, usually in the evenings. We play or read books, or she helps me (in her way) make dinner. So, even with the new baby, she has time with just her and mommy. In the mornings, my husband has his one-on-one time as he gets her ready for daycare, while I diaper and nurse our newborn.
Speaking of daycare, it is a blessing for our family. I’ve joked with numerous friends that every Sunday night, I thank God for daycare. Call me crazy, but I’ve definitely started looking forward to Mondays, even before I had my second child. A full weekend of parenting a rambunctious toddler makes the start of the workweek seem like a welcome respite. Now that I’m on maternity leave, I look forward to the relative peace of Mondays when my daughter leaves for daycare, and all I have to do is keep my newborn fed and clean.
Of course, as every mother knows, keeping a newborn fed and clean is NOT a walk in the park, even when you’re able to get yourself around actually go for a walk in the park. Breastfeeding can be quite challenging. With my first daughter, it was a physical and emotional struggle getting her to latch and eat enough. We supplemented with formula; I pumped, I cried and sought advice from specialists. I was relieved to stop breastfeeding when I returned to work. With baby number two, nursing has been much easier and less stressful, but it’s still demanding. Babies don’t care about schedules or timetables — getting things done around the house all depends on the baby. So, I’m trying not to get too wrapped up in a daily “to do” list, but instead focus on spending time with my daughter, and recovering from her birth.
The biggest lesson I learned from having my first baby is that it takes time to recover and that I should have been kinder to myself. After my first delivery, I totally expected to bounce right back, physically and emotionally. I wasn’t prepared for how first-time motherhood changes a person. I struggled with a sense of self, as well as the time it takes to heal. I felt that I was at fault for not having more energy, for not getting back into shape sooner, and for not being more productive during my leave from work. Now, on my second maternity leave, I’m being much easier on myself and not getting wrapped up in “bouncing” back, because I’m a person, not a rubber ball.
Some things that haven’t changed this time around are my need for coffee and daily showers. During this hot summer, I’ve traded in my regular cup of joe for DIY iced coffee, thanks to pre-made cold brew and almond milk. I also make it a point to get a shower each day and change out of my PJs in the mornings. These small things can make a big difference in outlook and attitude, because when it comes to survival post-baby, sometimes all you can control is your outlook and attitude.