A Year Ago

Nf3Q4BSy9u6mzf06QirKPQc0lnuWEAJ8tEUuTlKfTGApX92IBToday, my weather app is predicting 7 consecutive days of beautiful, sunny weather. During this same time last year, we had weeks of snow and ice. The school district had to add a week to the end of the school year to make up for the days they canceled due to inclement weather. I had a lot of unplanned days at home with all of my kids. And during this time, we were all adjusting to life with a new baby.

“How are you doing?” people would ask.

“Fine,” I would reply. “The baby is sleeping better. The older kids are adjusting.”

But really what I wanted to say was this:

I’m barely hanging on. Even though the baby is sleeping slightly better, I’m still exhausted. The older kids are fine, but they are very demanding. There simply isn’t enough of me to go around. I wear a baby carrier half the day and never get a chance to sit down. The children all leave a path of destruction in their wake and I’m too tired to make them clean it up or clean it up myself. I desperately want someone to make me dinner, clean my house, or watch my kids for me…but people think I’ve got the hang of it.

I don’t. I hardly make it to lunchtime without wanting to cry. I’m resentful of my husband, who gets to sleep through the night and go to work every day. While he feels bad that I’m housebound with three kids, he also needs to be at work and can’t do much to help me during the day. I really need a break, or at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep.

A year ago, I desperately wanted someone to see through my “fine.” New babies are beautiful and special, and even now, a part of me misses that stage. But that stage can also be incredibly difficult. Everyone assumed I knew what I was doing and didn’t need help. They were partially correct; I did know what I was doing. I felt much more confident as a mother. But if I could go back one year, I would ask the people in my life for help. I wasn’t fine, and I didn’t need to pretend I was.

Advertisements

My Poor, Lucky 3rd Baby

I often feel sorry for my third child. So far, her life has been lived in the shadow of her more demanding siblings. She’s always on my hip, in some awkward position, while I try to help her brother or sister. Or in the baby carrier, attempting to sleep while I yell at the older two. And despite my intention of spending a lot of one-on-one time with her during my maternity leave, she had to share much of that time—due to snow days, Christmas break, and a family vacation. In comparison to my first two kids, she is definitely getting short-changed.

But in many ways, she is the luckiest.

F8BC8354-7B88-4944-98F2-46618486E9FDMy first child had to be the one that I learned on. The one I am still learning on! I thought I was prepared for children, but in reality, I had no idea what I was doing. My son cried more because I didn’t recognize the signals for when he was tired. He was stuck at home all the time with his boring parents who were too scared to take him anywhere. He had and has to do everything first—navigating all these milestones I’ve never experienced as a mom.

While my second has the benefit of any knowledge gained from the first, I still had to learn how to manage more than one child with her. She was forced to grow up more when I had another baby. I asked more of her and she struggled a bit with her changing family status. She is caught in the middle: unable (but wanting) to do things her old brother can, yet also wanting the attention and focus that a baby demands.

But my third…she adores her older siblings and loves watching their antics. I have lots of tricks up my sleeve that I learned with the first two. So despite her having a more difficult temperament, she is still a fairly happy baby. (Unless you put her in the car. Hell hath no fury like that baby in a car.) And as a third child myself, I know that when she is older, she will have some great role models.

In many ways this last baby of mine has the best of both worlds. My poor, lucky third baby.

Mother of Three, That’s Me

A few months ago, I had my third baby. And since then, I often find myself thankful that I am not a first-time mom anymore. Although life with three kids has its own challenges, adjusting to life with one was much harder for me than adjusting to life with three. Our new baby isn’t easygoing, but I’m not nearly as overwhelmed or anxious as I was with my first. My first baby was very difficult, and while his temperament would never have allowed him to be an easy baby, I wish I had known then what I know now:

Breastfeeding is eventually easy and comfortable…but not right away!

For all three of my babies, we really had to work hard to get a good, comfortable latch. With my first baby, it was tough to see past the painful hour-long feeding sessions. But the third time around, I knew that as painful as nursing was in those first few weeks, it would likely improve.

Mastitis is the worst. Do not get mastitis.

My second baby had a horrible cold when she was nine months old and didn’t have much of an appetite. I, stupidly, assumed my supply would regulate itself so I didn’t pump at all to compensate for her diminished appetite. And since I wasn’t sure if I had mastitis or just an uncomfortable plugged duct, I stayed in bed all day—feverish, vomiting, dehydrated, and crying every time she nursed—hoping it would improve on its own. Hours later, I finally gave in and went to urgent care to get treatment. But this time, when I first started experiencing the symptoms of mastitis, I called my doctor right away and asked for antibiotics.

Baby carriers are awesome. Make that baby like them!

Babies love to be held, and fussy babies love it even more. Now I use my baby carrier, and I use it often. But with my first, I wasn’t sure how to use them. He also cried when I first tried it, so I gave up and ended up holding him instead. All day. And all night. While my arms got much stronger lugging him around, I really wish I had trained him to ride in the carrier sooner.

Some crying really is okay.

With all three of our babies, I eventually had to do some sleep training. And the point where I needed to do it was earlier and earlier each time. After my first, I learned that letting the baby cry a bit to learn to fall asleep wouldn’t hurt them. And getting uninterrupted sleep was good for her, but more importantly, good for me. I knew I couldn’t be a good mom to the baby or her older siblings if I was running on empty.

It doesn’t get easier, but you can still enjoy it once you come to peace with how your life has changed.

I still remember wondering with my first baby how people could possibly take care of their kid (or KIDS!) for years without a break. This tiny being needed me 24 hours a day. It was exhausting, and a little scary. Our life had changed drastically with the addition of a baby, and it took some mental adjustment for me to picture our new future. But now that I know what life with children is really like, having my third wasn’t a shock—it was familiar.

You still don’t know what you’re doing, but you are okay with that.

I was so uncertain with my first baby. Was I doing it wrong? Why was he crying? Did he think I abandoned him at day care? Would he hate me for sleep training? Was I giving him allergies by introducing food when I did? Should I let him nap in the swing even though the books say I shouldn’t? I questioned every single decision I made. And now, I’m still not sure I’m doing it right, but I know that I’m probably not doing it completely wrong. And I know that the fact that I worry about it means that I am doing something right. Because it means I care about my kids, and that’s really the only thing I need to do.

perdue-351

My Rose-Colored Glasses

As a mom, I often look back at stages of my children’s lives with rose-colored glasses. Without them, my first child would have remained an only child. While I know that I look back on many memories with a rosy perspective, I must have reserved my rosiest glasses for pregnancy.

pregnancy

After my first two pregnancies, I simply recalled that it was a sweet time. I loved the cute clothes, the belly bump, and the attention from people. I even enjoyed my prenatal appointments. At worst, I remembered it being a little stressful or anxiety provoking at times. But overall, pretty fun.

Now, I am 37 weeks pregnant with my third. I spent the first four months constantly feeling like I needed to throw up. I was gassy. I had indigestion. I was exhausted. My body ached and I was uncomfortable. And while the morning sickness (or let’s call it for what it is: all day sickness) eventually dissipated, the rest of it didn’t go away. I haven’t enjoyed much of the last 8 months; it’s felt more like a means to an end. For some reason, I had conveniently forgotten how awful pregnancy could be.

It’s easier for me to think about the time after pregnancy rationally. The newborn stage? Exhausting. I cried all the time. I constantly thought I was a failure as a parent. The toddler stage? Frustrating. Those little tyrants knew what they wanted. Reasoning with them was futile. Preschool years? Teaching them manners and appropriate behavior felt like a losing battle every other day.

And pregnancy? Pregnancy is the time that I remembered as being “cute” and “fun” where I was a little more tired than usual. Seriously?

Before this pregnancy, I was a little surprised any time a pregnant woman made a comment like “I’m never doing this again.” I mean, you aren’t exactly at the most clear-headed place of your life. It’s a major decision to make with that hormone-addled brain.

But now? For me?

I’m never doing this again.

Want a Happy Baby? Try These Useless Tips

Being 6 months pregnant with my third child, I don’t really feel the need to read parenting tip articles anymore. But over the last few weeks, a headline on the cover of a pregnancy magazine kept catching my eye: “9 WAYS TO RAISE A HAPPY BABY.”

not happy

Wow. She is not happy. I guess I should have found a way to turn meal time into play time.

Now, I’m all for parenting tips. And some of them were really helpful when I was a new mom. But a headline and article like this one? It’s basically setting up a mom for failure. Don’t have a happy baby? Well, apparently you aren’t doing it right.
 
Here are the paraphrased tips, along with my helpful feedback:
 
1. Play with your baby for 10-15 minutes before you leave for work. Make sure it’s quiet and peaceful.
Yeah, because the morning routine is where I have a lot of extra time. I wake up at 5:00 already and don’t get to work until 7:30, adding 10-15 minutes of play time isn’t exactly feasible. And is this for each of my three kids? So I really need 30-45 minutes?
 
2. Play with them after eating
Apparently all babies are happy after eating, so you should play with them. I’m not totally sure how this contributes to raising a happy baby, but okay. I guess if someone is too dumb to figure out that they should play with their baby when they are happy (as opposed to screaming and crying), then they might need this tip.
 
3. Sing and talk to your baby when they are in the stroller
Remember that time you went for a walk because you were so exhausted and hoped that your baby would finally go to sleep in the stroller? Well, you were supposed to be singing to them. The whole time. It would have made them happier.
 
4. Play with them while you do chores
I guess you shouldn’t only have play time with them, you are a mom after all, and you need to do your chores. Heaven forbid you do them when your baby isn’t around (since you’re missing out on a key time to raise a happier baby) or that your husband do them.
 
5. Bring them in the kitchen while you’re cooking
I was just going to leave them unsupervised in the other room, but I guess I should keep them in the same room as me. Weird.
 
6. Play with them after their nap
Babies. Nap. All. Day. When is it not “after nap”?
 
7. Play with them when you are in a waiting area
Oh, I was supposed to try to entertain them while I was at the pediatrician’s office? I thought I should just sit there, with no interaction at all, and let them scream the whole time. But now that I’ve heard THIS tip, things will be WAY different for baby #3.
 
8. Play during the bath
What? I thought they were just supposed to get clean in the bath. Is this what bath toys are for?
 
9. Play quietly before bed
Wait, I’ve played with them all day, you want before bedtime too? I guess I was just phoning it in before.
 
Now that I’ve read this article, I’m pretty sure all the tips boil down to “play and interact with your baby.” So if you try to play with your baby and they are still cranky, I guess you aren’t doing it right. Clearly you should just try harder. I mean, it’s not like all babies are born with different temperaments or anything.

Lies We Tell Ourselves and Other Parents

DSC_0746

1. The toughest part of pregnancy is the first trimester.

(Unless you already have a kid. Then most of pregnancy is tough. Plus that whole labor part isn’t exactly a walk in the park.)

2. Newborn babies are only fussy until 6 weeks old, then they calm down and start to self soothe.

(Or they are fussy for a year or two. That’s basically 6 weeks, right?)

3. Don’t worry, your child will sleep through the night soon.

(Or when they are five years old. But who’s keeping track?)

4. If you introduce a bottle to your breastfed infant early, they won’t reject it later.

(Sure, that could happen. Or they could still reject it. Because, ya know, they are people with opinions of their own.)

5. I already have a dog and/or cat, how much harder could a baby be?

(Much, much harder.)

6. I’m never going to let my child have/do/use ____________. It’s really important they learn to ____________.

(You will. And you will be appalled at how easily you gave up. But there are only so many battles a parent can handle at one time.)

7. If your child helps you prepare the food, they will eat it.

(Or they will just continue to play with those vegetables at the dinner table and only eat the noodles.)

8. If you make them hold your hand to cross the street at a young age and enforce that rule, they will never run out in the street on their own.

(Until that fun dog runs across the street. Then all rules go out the window.)

9. Your good-natured child was a result of your amazing parenting.

(But more likely, you got lucky. Thank your lucky stars every time you see some other kid freaking out in public.)

10. If you introduce a variety of foods and eat them in front of your child, they will also eat them.

(This is totally true, if your kid wanting mac n cheese for every meal counts as a “variety of foods.”)

11. Parenting is hard, but one of the best things that can happen in your life.

(This one isn’t actually a lie. Having kids is great. But there are some days we have a hard time believing it!)

We Saw the Light

A friend of mine, who has two children of her own but always thought she would have three, recently confided that she was happy to stop at two. Her two kids were finally starting to be more self sufficient and it made her realize how appealing it was to be finished with the baby stage.
 
I can see her point. My youngest is now 3 years old, she communicates fairly well, she has no problems walking and running, eats regular food, and she even entertains herself at times.
 
My oldest is five and he is in kindergarten this year. Kindergarten! He can be pretty self sufficient (although frankly, he chooses not to be self sufficient fairly often). And while he prefers to hang out with us instead of playing alone, he is still becoming his own person and doesn’t need as much from me as he used to.
 

I can see why my friend is happy to stop with two. It’s reasonable. It’s nice to sleep through the night. To have children who can feed themselves. Children who take themselves to the bathroom.

But despite all those logical reasons for stopping at two children, my husband and I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and thought, “Why stop now when it’s getting easier? Time for one more!”

IMG_2765 copy