So for about the last six months, I’ve had two kids.
Strangely enough, Anna is going to be six months old next week. I say strangely because it really does seem like she was just born. My memories of the newborn days are becoming hazier and hazier, but I still feel like I’m running on a treadmill at a speed just slightly too fast. Out of breath, struggling to catch up, eyes darting around desperately for a reprieve. (Okay — that’s a bit of an exaggeration at this point, but it describes the first two months pretty accurately.)
Having two kids is so so so different from having one. I knew it would be, but there’s no way to adequately prepare yourself for the lifestyle change. The first two months were absolutely brutal. I’ve mentioned before that Anna is an incredibly easy baby, and she was a very easy newborn, but the postpartum period was very, very hard on me this time around. Anna’s birth also coincided with Will giving up his nap for good, so the daily rhythm we had lived with for over a year and a half was suddenly shattered, and we had no rhythm, nothing felt familiar, nothing felt remotely easy. I talked to myself a lot in those early days and one day I said to the clothes I was folding, I don’t even feel like a person right now. I don’t even feel human.
So that was the first two months. Now, postpartum hormones (and my eventual diagnosis of postpartum depression) explains a lot of that. But truthfully it’s just a big lifestyle change and it was a really tough adjustment. I knew what I was doing one day, and the next day I knew nothing.
We turned a corner when Anna was about nine weeks old and I began to get my feet under me a little. Will had been without a nap for two months by this point and he was really starting to fall apart, so I spent two weeks driving over the mountain to a drive-thru Starbucks every afternoon so he could catch up on his sleep. This was in December, so I would listen to Christmas music softly, drink a peppermint mocha, and read in the car. Those afternoons saved me, I think, because I could finally take an hour or two every day to exhale. I was so, so tense and that break, which I rigidly enforced, kept me from breaking in two.
This sounds strange, but I have fond memories of the spring after my two miscarriages. I was filled with sadness, rage, helplessness and resentment, but because of that I had immense compassion for myself. I felt a little like I needed to protect myself (my inner life, I think) from the trauma I had gone through, and so I spent a lot of time running, practicing yoga, listening to music by the Avett Brothers and Florence + the Machine, and just waiting to feel better, trusting that someday I would. So I remember that time more than anything with a sense of fierce protectiveness.
I did the same this winter. At first, my top priority was just survival. (I’ve always found that concept vague, so I’ll clarify that in my case that meant getting through the day making sure everyone was fed and healthy, and for me, without a long crying jag or losing my temper.) But after those two weeks of anchoring our days with a long drive, I began to feel a little braver. I experimented one Monday with staying home all day long, just to see what would happen. And the neatest thing happened: we had so much fun.
That was a turning point. It was a big relief for me to know how much I could enjoy being a mom again, and how much fun (yes, fun) I could have staying home all day with a toddler and a baby. It helped that Anna was no longer a newborn and I could put her down for short periods of time, and that Will was becoming more and more accustomed to long days without a nap. I was (and am) so tired, but also so happy.
So that was the first three months. The last three months have, thankfully, been MUCH easier and I finally feel like I am getting my feet under me a little. However, it’s nothing like life was before. These are some of the big changes I’ve experienced:
- I am forced to use my time more wisely. This is hard for me because procrastination is one of my spiritual gifts, so the learning curve has been steep. When I don’t use my time well, I wind up stressed and feeling behind in almost every area, so I pay for my procrastination more dearly now than I used to. (Real life example from right now: I should probably have taken a shower today. I didn’t. Now I’m going to have to either figure out how to shower very early tomorrow [not likely, nor a given opportunity] or fool everyone I see into thinking I’m the kind of person who showers daily. Guess which one I’m going to choose?)
- My priorities have changed again. I’ve written about this before, but I care much less about exercise, organizing my home, and losing the last of the baby weight. It’s not that those things aren’t important to me, but I can’t prioritize everything and these are some of the things that have had to fall to the wayside right now.
- Related: losing the aforementioned baby weight has been a much slower process this time around. When Will was a baby I used to devote one of his naps to a workout almost every day, but I don’t have that luxury anymore, so I’m not exactly in the best shape of my life, and I’m sure it doesn’t help that I’m 35 now. At this point I’m only about five or so pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, but I am still decidedly lumpy. Now that it’s spring, I’m finally feeling a little more motivated to get moving (and back into my old clothes, if it’s possible).
- Time is passing much more quickly. You only get one first year with your baby and I’m stunned that Anna’s is halfway done. Some days I dream wistfully of both kids being older and more self-sufficient, but most days I really just want to freeze time for a while.
I actually like having two kids better than I liked having just one. I’m not sure why — probably because now I have two kids to love, but I don’t feel completely overwhelmed by them. And I really, really, really love being at home with them. Many people think of being a stay-at-home mom as something intellectually stagnant, but I find being at home with my kids to be the opposite. Changing diapers and managing tantrums don’t feel like a waste of my time or my abilities; they feel like the reason for them. It’s great.