Dearest Auntie Leila:
We’re expecting our second baby in about 6 weeks. I’m over-the-moon excited, getting almost antsy to hold him or her, and still kind of in awed disbelief that I get to be someone else’s mother, too. (I still marvel that I am Mama to our 20-month-old, and it seems nearly too good to be true that we should get another beautiful little human being to love this much!)
So, yes, I’m thrilled! And not really all that nervous or stressed out (yet?!). (I’ve learned a great deal about trusting in Him since becoming a mother!). But, while I think I’ve tried to, for lack of a better word, mentally “prepare” myself for what the transition from one to two might be like, I’m betting I don’t know the half of it!
Can you ladies enlighten me? I mean, I know I can’t really know until I live it, and there is no way to get good at mothering more than one babe until I actually just start doing it … but surely you have some thoughts I could tuck in my pocket for the road ahead? Little bits about how to gird my expectations or steel my nerves or practically get anything done (chores, grocery shopping)? I’m definitely not a total Type A, wigging out and needing a set of black-and-white instructions here; I’m more just wondering about the top things, looking back, it would have been helpful for you to know/realize/do when you went from the relatively easy routine of one toddler to a toddler and a baby.
People have no problem telling you you’d better make freezer meals ahead of time, but I’m guessing you have more eternal and nebulous secrets, like helping a young girl to *think* about things so she may keep a happy heart, even through all the possibly rough adjustments and sleep deprivation to come.
[If it helps to know: I stay home full-time, and I have about 3 weeks of help lined out for when the baby comes, so that I may nurse and snuggle and not get up doing too much too soon. We also have friends and neighbors who will bring a meals for 2-3 weeks. Oh, and I have a huge old-fashioned playpen, and I’m not afraid to use it; Big Sister is quite accustomed to spending time there when Mama needs to mop or what have you.]
Thank you so much for your consideration. Your blog is my absolute favorite, and your wisdom and example have been a huge part of changing me — and thus, our family and our home and our faith-lives — for the better over the past 2-3 years.
You have the most important piece, the help, lined up. Take advantage of it! I know you will.
With a little toddler, I think it’s just as important for you to stay in your nightgown and rest lying down as much as possible as it was when you had your first, but after a day or so, try doing so for few hours at least on the sofa, so that you aren’t in the position of being in your room and a sort of ready target for this little one who wonders why things are so different. It’s hard to feel calm when the door bursts open and she is racing in and jumping up on you and what suddenly seems like (and to be fair, is) a very fragile infant in comparison…
If you can manage to rest where things are going on, even for a little while, she can do her normal motoring around but have you there to check in with.
Then you can retire to your bedroom for a long nap while someone takes her on a walk or otherwise occupies her. Even an hour a day spent on the sofa in that first week will be helpful to get her used to the new normal.
Still, let her clamber on the bed with you and don’t worry… even an “accidental” kick or shove to the baby won’t be too fatal! (Hopefully someone took her shoes off first!) She isn’t being naughty, and soon she will learn to be gentle. It’s better to say “let’s be gentle” and show and demonstrate gentle strokes and pats than to get angry and say “don’t be rough” — a child that age really doesn’t get it. Demonstrate what you want to see from her. Give her a dolly to practice on!
I will tell you one thing: when the baby is born, your little girl will seem positively ENORMOUS to you — sort of horrifyingly so! Your husband too. You will wonder how you ever coped with these monsters before! So be ready for that and just laugh. Soon enough you will regain your equilibrium!
When you are first alone with the two babies, you will feel overwhelmed! And there will be those panicky moments. That’s okay. Everyone will survive!
My dear husband used to remind me only to try to do one thing each day. It was helpful, coming from him, and given that he was willing to come home and do the three or ten things I couldn’t get to.
Chores will have to wait. It’s true that once I brought a meal to a new mother whose laundry was neatly folded in a basket (granted, the basket was on the kitchen table) and whose house was astoundingly neat and tidy. I repressed the urge to ask her to bring me a meal, because I can assure you that things were not that orderly at my house! Some people are naturally more tidy than others! But for most of us, the chores will have to be done one at a time for a while, if that. Remember that if you have managed meals and laundry (and by managed I mean even gotten someone else to do them), you are doing what you can!
Grocery shopping will be the hardest of the outings to get used to, I think. Try to put it off as long as you can, and I realize that might not be long enough… I definitely went first with the newborn, leaving the toddler at home — the early evening can work. Once you figure out how once again how to wear the baby or maneuver with the car seat, then you can add the other piece of the equation, the wiggly toddler. Teach her to touch the side of the car or the cart while she is waiting for you once you are convinced she won’t just run away. Get the baby settled and then get her out, talking her through the process so that it gets imprinted on her mind.
What seems impossible now will be very possible in a shorter amount of time than you dreamed. Just take your time. Find the parking space near the shopping cart that someone left out in the parking lot. Put baby in the carrier, then get the toddler in the cart… or put the carseat in the cart and then get the toddler out. Take your time and don’t even give a thought to anyone watching you :) (Am I the only one who continually visualizes hordes and droves of judging on-lookers?)
Once in the store, I used to go first to grab a bag of pretzel rods, deploying one straight away. I find a pretzel rod will last a toddler for most of a grocery trip, won’t spoil an appetite, and doesn’t disintegrate into a paste the way a treacherous graham cracker does.
Keep the outings to one, and plan your escape route. Do little practice runs that you can ditch. Soon you will get the hang of it! There’s nothing like doing, you know? You really do have to try it without too much of a mental picture — it’s like actually just knitting something or kneading dough… there’s only so much you can visualize beforehand.
One other thing: Remember that your toddler can be best motivated to behave by being a helper and a worker. Give her something to carry for you. Ask her to throw away a diaper. Have her fetch the wipes. Everyone likes to be thought of as contributing and capable, and she will be just that!
All will be well. Even the tiredness and the tears… every one of us has gone through that, so don’t let it get you too upset. All the best to you! Thank you so much for reading!
God bless and a big hug,
Deirdre added the following:
I’ll just reiterate that yes, the toddler will look hilariously ginormous and yes, do take your sweet time with getting back to grocery shopping. I like to park as close as possible to the cart drop-off spot so that I can unload my kids into the car and then just shove the cart right in without having to worry about returning it somewhere approved or feeling guilty about leaving it somewhere unapproved. Once both kids are in the cart/in your carrier/stowed safely in some form, it’s all good. (I do definitely prefer wearing the baby and keeping toddler in the cart rather than wrangling the car seat into the cart… there’s just so little room for groceries if the carseat is in there!) It’s the loading and unloading that’s difficult.
When I had my first, there were a couple times when I just gave up in the midst of an errand or outing. Things got overwhelming and I just kind of folded (or went through many phases of almost folding before recovering).
With the second, I ran into those similar, overwhelming moments, but I was able to regroup more peacefully, knowing that it was totally fine for me to sit down, say, on the neighbor’s rock wall in order to regroup, or nurse in the car, or what have you. I imagine you’ll have similar experiences: it’ll seem like the world is about to end because suddenly both kids are crying and one is having a big poopy diaper and you can’t find your keys… But then you’ll just realize that you can take it one thing at a time and that in five minutes it will actually be a very different outlook!
Anyway, I hope everything goes very smoothly and you have a great birth and easy postpartum time!
Sukie adds: “I had to go grocery shopping with my two [they are 16 months apart!] when the baby was two weeks old. [Her husband was doing a rotation at a hospital an hour and a half away from home.] You do what you have to do!”
And: Look into grocery delivery in your area, if only for that first month that you are on your own.
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