I learned a hell of a lot during my first pregnancy, and some of it didn't come easily. I fought myself in learning how to compromise, how to be patient, how to live in discomfort and be "OK" with it, and many other first-time lessons. It was tough but, in the end, I got through and managed to (maybe) grow in the process. I wasn't necessarily prepped for my future pregnancies though, because each pregnancy and baby is different. In fact, there are different lessons my second baby has taught me that really solidified this whole parenting thing (for me) in ways that my first simply didn't.
For me, having a second baby meant so many things would inevitably change. In the beginning, I feared I wouldn't know how to navigate being a whole mother to two separate, whole beings. I was afraid I'd have to split myself into two to get anything accomplished and, to a degree, I suppose that's kind of true. After two miscarriages prior to the birth of my son, though, I'd gotten to the point of wanting him so badly I'd have done anything to bring him into the world.
As a result, I suppose my perspective changed during that pregnancy and from the moment he took his first breath, all the things he'd teach me were already different than the lessons that came along with my daughter. With that, here are some of those gems I'm still learning, everyday, as the mother of two beautiful babes.
It's Not Going To Be Like The First (At All)
I foolishly thought having another baby meant I could replicate the routines, quick-fixes, and sleep schedules I had with our firstborn. Do you hear me maniacally laughing through your screen?! I was so wrong (and naive) to believe my kids could be anything alike. The pregnancies were different and even in having the same birthday exactly five years apart, they're like night and day. Because — hello — every human is made uniquely.
While it was fine to lean on the hope I could get through the rough patches by trying things that worked in the past, my son was a different person than his sister in literally every way. It was no wonder we struggled for so long. The things that calmed her, didn't calm him. He didn't like to be swaddled like she did and hated the foods she once loved. They had different personalities and, of course and always, that's OK.
I wish I'd have accepted all of this sooner so that we could've figured out what would fulfill his needs to suit him. Now that he's 5, I know he's a separate person from my daughter who requires different, well, everything. I've tried to make something so simple into the most exhausting, difficult thing ever. My bad.
Adjust To The Overwhelm Or Be Eternally Stressed
With my daughter, sure, I was stressed. That's because everything was new and unknown. I didn't know what I was doing on any level and had to figure it out as I went. With my second, the overwhelm was a different flavor. Dealing with two kids at the same time was, and is, something I can't always figure out how to do. It's draining to listen to both voices at once, to give two baths at night, to put two kids to bed, the list goes on. I can't even imagine adding another to the mix.
However, what I've learned with two is, yes, it's a lot but the only way to get through it is to give into the process. What I mean is, in order to be less stressed over all the things to do every day with two kids, I have to be OK with feeling overwhelmed at times, knowing I'll find a way to get through it. (Yes, it's easier said than done, but work with me, here.)
I Don't Need All The Stuff
I still remember doing the registry thing during the first pregnancy, scanning all those items I'd never actually use. I think most of us do it because, a) it's fun and, b) we don't know what will be useful and what won't at that time.
My second baby showed me I don't need most of that crap. While my daughter had all the new, expensive stuff, my son got her old crib, her old swing, her old everything. Guess what? He was just fine without any of it. I'd even dare to say he thrived on hand-me-downs. It can be done!
Appreciate Those Fleeting Moments More
Looking back, I know I took so much of my daughter's younger years for granted. While I struggled through severe Postpartum Depression (PPD), so many moments went either unnoticed or unappreciated. Now that she's older and I'm going through them with my son, I've learned to hold onto those memories a little tighter and linger a little longer. I want to remember. All of it.
Take Time For Myself
I didn't take care of myself when my daughter was a baby. I felt selfish and, in doing so, it was taking time or affection away from her. I've learned with my son, not only is self-care not selfish, it's so very necessary in order to be a better mother. They're learning that when mommy takes care of herself, she can take care of them in ways she wouldn't otherwise be able.
Laugh Instead Of Cry
Oh, man. There were so many times I cried in despair when my daughter was a baby. If she wasn't sleeping, not eating, or fussy for any reason, my first instinct was to curl up into a ball. I was so stressed in figuring out how to be a mother, it was often hard to find the humor in things. With my son, it's quite the opposite. While I haven't necessarily lost any of my anxiety, I've learned how to wrangle it, and more importantly, how to laugh my way out of the worst situations.
Just this week, our furnace went out the same day our car died. Past me would've hidden in bed and sobbed with a box of chocolates. Now? Telling everyone I know about the hilarity (still, with chocolates) because, seriously, it's been the worst. My Gram always said, "The only way out of the darkness is laughter." So, just in case, I've been laughing my ass off, hoping the clouds will soon pass. (Please pass.)
If I Need Help, I Ask
The biggest lesson my second baby ever taught me was that, while leaning into the overwhelm so not to lose my wits, I also have to know when it's time to ask for help. This isn't easy for me. I'm an independent Type-A, who prefers to get things done solo no matter what the toll they take on my mental health. This isn't feasible anymore.
When my two kids need the best of me, it's clear the only way through the hard times (aside from laughter) is reaching out. Surprisingly, people are sometimes there, willing to do whatever is needed and that — having a weight lifted — is one of the best feelings parenting can offer. Well, that and more chocolates, if we have them.