Call it rose-colored glasses, but my first baby was “easy”. Despite the expected rocky first few months of staggered sleep and navigating the twists and turns of new motherhood, I knew I was pretty lucky.
When my friends complained about all-nighter marathons, feeding refusals, and acid reflux, I sympathized but kept my mouth shut. I knew I was lucky and nobody would want to hear about it.
By four months, my baby generally slept through the night. If he did wake up, it was all business with a quick bottle and back to bed.
My husband and I shared the luxury of taking turns sleeping in. “Sr.” practically begged for naps, survived his first year free of fevers, ear infections, and any major hiccups. We didn’t even know he was teething when his first two pearly whites popped out of of his bottom gums.
Crowning our first year of parenthood a success, it seemed like a great time to do it again. Clearly we make perfect angel babies, so why not give our little prince a sibling?
My first hint that this time around might be a little different was when “Jr.” introduced himself from inside my belly. During my first pregnancy, I frequently stopped throughout the day for “kick counts”. His movements were gentle and slow, sometimes difficult to detect.
Checking for fetal activity was completely unnecessary the second time around. I worried he’d arrive prematurely by how violently he kicked against me as if at any moment he’d propel himself out of captivity.
Although Sr. was not a challenging newborn, I still faced my share of postpartum woes. I beat myself up over imperfect breastfeeding, c0-sleeping confusion, and immunization fears. I routinely woke up at night to stare at the monitor waiting for a slight shift of his body deeming it safe for me return to sleep.
This time around I determined myself to be more confident. I’d relax, take obstacles in stride, and cherish every moment of those precious first few months.
So when we brought Jr. home on an oppressively hot September evening, we weren’t shocked he didn’t sleep much that first night, or even the first couple of weeks after that.
We were surprised, however, when those weeks turned into months. And those months turned into about a year and a half.
Naps were precisely one half-hour long. Night time sleep cycles lasted about two hours. Depression, sleep deprivation, and flickers of regret loomed over our family.
Many of the sleep issues were undoubtedly due in part to various factors that were new territory for us; food allergies, acid reflux, posterior and upper lip tongue ties.
Experimenting with diets, medicines, and treatments led to a cranky baby, a disheveled household, and a shell shocked mother.
How could two babies from the same two parents be so entirely different? Everyone in our family seemed to adore sleeping and eating. Everyone except our new addition…where had he come from? And what was I doing wrong?
Aside from the upheaval of our mostly uneventful and pleasant life as a family of three, I especially struggled with my downfall as a capable mother. The tricks and methods that worked with Sr. fell short with Jr. every time.
Instead of being more relaxed and basking in the bliss of a growing family, I became a first time mother again; complete with the self doubt, anxiety, and emotional roller coaster.
After clearing the cobwebs of sleep deprivation, transitioning to the “new normal” as a family of four, and a little therapy, I’m here to tell those of you in the throes of second child survival mode: it gets better.
In fact now, at ages four and two, I appreciate their differences.
But if I painted my firstborn to be too good to be true, he made up for it just shy of turning into a “threenager”. While a “time-out” for my two-year-old actually WORKS as a “reset” button, the classic “time-out” adversely affects my oldest. It actually leads to escalated wails and hysteria, and reigning him in at that point is a lost cause.
And here I am, reworking the strategies again.
But what I have learned is that while I can’t take credit for the good, I can’t blame myself for the less than ideal.
After all, I’m not perfect the Mom. But we’re all doing the best we can and learning as much as we can from each other as we go.