Life After Child #2: Things to Savor and Things to Let Go

Welcome Baby Owen

Welcome Baby Owen

A few weeks ago, our family increased by 33% when I gave birth to our son, Owen. In some ways the caring for our second child has been easier–I don’t have to worry about learning how to change a diaper, how to swaddle him or rock him to sleep, nursing has been a LOT less painful, etc…but these first few weeks of caring for a newborn while simultaneously  trying to meet the ever-changing needs of my 2 year old daughter, Jenna, has been challenging to say the least. Already there have been tears, tantrums and epic meltdowns–not all from my children!
To make life even more interesting, this past Tuesday, my husband left for Uganda for 5 weeks, leaving me home with our two little ones. In order to retain at least partial sanity, there are some things I am trying to really savor and enjoy–and there are other things I am working on letting go. I know there are going to be crazy days when the house is a mess and all day is time out and crying and nothing gets done and I feel incredibly tired and overwhelmed. Better to focus on the little things that are important:

1) A Deep Breath

Not as easy a choice as you might think...

Not as easy a choice as you might think…

Each day there seems to be a few dozen times where I could either laugh, yell or cry. Suddenly having to take care of two young children brings out both the best and the worst in me– more love than I could ever have imagined, as well as more impatience and frustration. However taking a deep breath helps to put things into perspective and I find I usually feel better about how I respond. Yes, I still cry or yell, but sometimes I chuckle to myself instead of banging my head against a wall. A deep breath helps me be mindful of the relationships I have and am still building with my kids.

2) Touch

I find touch to be very grounding. Crying or upset feelings can often be soothed with a gentle touch. When my day seems like it is collapsing, I am exhausted and nothing is going right, it helps for me to focus on those small moments of the day when my children and I can connect through physical touch. For me, this means activities like nursing, snuggling and hugging. Co-sleeping with our newborn and reading books together with Jenna also offer opportunities to be close. I love it when Jenna reaches out to smooth her baby brother’s hair and give him a soft kiss on the head. I look forward to these moments of connection and stability and try to create opportunities for physical closeness during the day.

3) Baby-Wearing

Wearing Jenna at around 18 months

Wearing Jenna at around 18 months

Wearing Baby Owen at 2 weeks

Wearing Baby Owen at 2 weeks

Free hands, sleeping baby, comfortable and convenient. What more is there to say about this? I love being able to go on walks, make dinner, or build blocks with my 2-year old while Owen is cocooned safely close to me. My sling from Kangeroo Korner puts him to sleep faster and longer, but the Ergo (which has an optional infant insert) is more comfortable on my back and shoulders. Here is a link about unsafe slings and how to wear your baby safely.

4) Good Weather and Beautiful Nature

The beach at Forest River Park

The beach at Forest River Park

Testing out her wheels...

Testing out her wheels…

After a few consecutive days of cold, rainy weather, my sanity and patience were being pushed to the brink. When the sun finally came out, I rushed outside with Jenna and Owen, our grumpy moods lightening. As summer approaches, sunny, warm weather beckons us to savor nature–the perfect playmate, providing an opportunity for Jenna to entertain herself with all that parks, beaches, hills and trails have to offer. Marta recently recommended some of her favorite local beaches and Halibut Point State Park as some areas to explore. I will be taking advantage of our neighborhood swimming pool, and planning some letterboxing adventures as well. My plan is to try to structure the day loosely around the 2-year old, wear the newborn as much as possible, and keep my expectations low.

5) Help

multicolored_hands

Accepting and asking for help can be a tough one for me. I tend to feel guilty or a “burden” to others. But this time around, I am making a conscious effort to accept the help, and to be more pro-active in asking for it. If someone vaguely inquires, “is there anything I can do to help?”, I have a mental list of specific options for them to choose from. From babysitting, to play-dates to grocery shopping, to dish-washing to free meals, I am very grateful to family, friends and neighbors for being willing to lend a helping hand, and hope to return the favor…once I pick myself up off the floor.

6) Good Friends

Similar to help, good friendships are things you never want to pass up or take for granted. I really savor the opportunity for adult conversation and companionship more than ever and I am so glad for the good friends in my life.
At Devereaux Beach with Marta and Beth

At Devereaux Beach with Marta and Beth

On the flip side, I am trying to let go of:

  1. Unrealistic expectations (Perfection. Let. It. Go. I can’t be Everything to Everyone All of the Time.)
  2. Being on time. Ever. (It’s fine to have a schedule, but don’t stress if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned. It won’t.)
  3. Freaking out because my child is crying (just because it evokes a physiological reaction, doesn’t mean I have to be controlled by it!)
  4. Trying to control my kids (When my 2 year old started trying to boss me around, I realized she was learning from me! Trying to control my kids is a losing battle, and not worth fighting. We don’t like to be controlled–why should they? Better to take a more collaborative approach. I highly recommend the book: How to Talk so Kids Will Listen….and Listen so Kids Will Talk for some great tips.)

Yes, adding another child has been disorienting, and overwhelming. I can’t be two places at once, and I can’t give Jenna all the attention she wants or was used to before her baby brother arrived. I have to remind myself that there will be a time when Jenna will not be particularly interested in anything I’m doing or what Owen is doing; and when snuggling will not be Owen’s favorite pastime. Right now, I’m still the center of their world – regardless of occasional Ms Bossypants and meltdowns…and I want to savor that.

IMG_5759

— Madelene
PS: It might be a while until I am able to post again! It took a lot of baby holding from my visiting brother so I could type this out during naps 🙂
Enjoy your summer!
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2 responses to “Life After Child #2: Things to Savor and Things to Let Go

  1. Congratulations on Owen’s arrival! Your children are beautiful and I think you have a wonderful perspective on how to work through the adjustment. Going from one child to two is a very big deal (harder for me than adding # 3, 4 or 5)… Wishing you lots of wonderful Salem summer days!

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