Sunday, August 7, 2011
interview with a new mom of TWO! - Holly
Just as I have asked other new moms to answer some questions about their experience with being a new mom to one child, I also asked my UMaine graduate school friend, Holly, to let us know what it is like for her having added baby number two to the family recently. Holly's oldest is Jonathan, turning 4 in a few months, and her newest addition is Miss Jillian. I had the privilege of meeting up with this growing family last month at a photo shoot fundraiser on the UMaine campus. It was so great to catch up with my long-time friend - in between asking her toddler son to stay in her sight and cooing to her infant that it was almost time to go and to just hang in there with her.
I have to admit while reading her incredibly real and honest answers to my questions I cried the entire time. It was mostly because I pictured my college friend going through all of these challenging and yet wonderful moments with her partner, Josh, and her beautiful little family of four. Maybe I also teared up just imagining what it would be like (chaos! crazy! nuts! maybe amazing!) to be a mom to two babies someday.
Enjoy what Holly had to say about being a mother of two.
"When I started answering the questions before me, it took some time for me to answer them. Everything up to today seems like a bit of a blurr. I remember the feeling with my first, Jonathan, who is now 3 years and 9 months but with my second, Jillian, who is now 4 months, it's a much larger blur. So here goes..." Holly wrote.
1. How did you try to prepare yourself before baby number 2 arrived?
Organization and preparation! Jonathan was born unexpectedly at 37 weeks and I remember asking family and friends to finish cleaning my house, packing my hospital bag, and make some last minute purchases for me. This time I wasn't about ready to get caught off guard again. I began digging through totes (we saved everything) for clothes and goodies even before we knew the sex of baby #2. I pulled out everything that was gender neutral and began to pull items together for the nursery. Being a man and never having gone through any sense of "nesting" it was difficult for my husband to understand why I wanted to the baby's room put together so soon. My due date: Easter Sunday, April 24th, 2011. In my head I wanted and needed to have the babies room complete soon after the first of the year, "just in case." As it was I learned that you can never be prepared when it comes to the birth of a child. At 32 weeks I was placed on complete bed rest and was induced at 38 weeks.
2. How did you try to prepare your first child for his little sister?
Jonathan was 2 years and 9 months when we found out we were expecting #2. We began talking with him early on about being a big brother but we knew that he didn't quite understand. As pint sized clothes and toys started to appear around the house he starting understanding a little more that something different was about the take place. As my belly grew he answered all of those adorable questions about where the baby was and her name not fully able to understand the shift in change that would take place. I was hoping to take him to a siblings class offered at our local hospital for expecting moms and the siblings to be but time fell short. Around the 3rd trimester I think is when it truly clicked with him that someone new was soon to appear and live with us. His curiosity would lead him to ask more and more questions about whose clothes I was folding or who's room I was in and he'd answer with "Jillian's?" - always confident and unsure at the same time.
3. What are some of the biggest changes with going from one to two children?
Oh, big sigh on this LOADED question. Everything changed for me. I think because Jonathan was nearly 3 years older and far, far, more independent than any newborn, I forgot about the exhaustion, sleep deprivation, wailing, diaper changes, and the list goes on. Jonathan was at the point where we could go, go, go all the time and never think twice but now with a newborn in the mix, I couldn't go, go, go. In fact, all I wanted to do was sleep, sleep, sleep - this is still the case today.
4. What has surprised you about being a parent to two?
The strain it would add to my marriage. Before Jillian came along we had agreed that once born, I would focus on the baby and dad would focus on Jonathan. We couldn't both be totally sleep deprived. I think somewhere in the sleepless nights and surging hormones I forgot that not only did my life as a mother and wife just change but so did that of my husband. I have always struggled to maintain a balance - wife, mother, daughter, sister - and now with #2 that balance was even harder. My focus and attention shifted to that new, precious, beautiful, baby and though that's the most important thing she wasn't the only one who needed my a love and support. Try not to take things too personally and speak kindly to one another. Just as parenting the first child was a learning experience, parenting the second is just as much of a rollercoaster, but if you hold on and remember that "this too shall pass" when the times get tough.
5. What are some of the greatest things about adding another one into the mix, making two better than one?
With nearly a 3 year age gap, I have enjoyed seeing Jonathan want to be my helper. Taking care of and loving Jillian is what he does best. Seeing him interact with her is a great joy. Having another baby in the house reminds me to: take nothing for granted, to slow down, to enjoy everyday, to laugh, to relax and play. It's hard to explain but for me, having the two children, I feel complete.
6. What did you do with your first child while you were in the hospital with baby number 2?
Thankfully both sets of our parents and other family members live in the area. Jonathan was at daycare when Jillian was born and stayed the first few nights with his grandparents. I don't know what we'd do without the help of our parents.
7. What is your advice for moms who are going to have a second child?
It's ok to cry. Being a mom of two is hard work, no doubt, but it is also the most rewarding. There's never enough hours in the day to get everything done when you have two little ones demanding all of your time and energy. It's exhausting and at times overwhelming but take it one day or even one hour at a time. Pace yourself. So you don't get the laundry put away, but at least it's clean and if you're lucky folded. There's always tomorrow. I don't like to make excuses for housework not being completed but the truth of the matter is we need to cherish these crazy, ever changing moments because we will never get them back. Enjoy the ride. Embrace every new milestone as the beginning of a new and glorious adventure. Sure it's sad to see them grow older in the blink of an eye but it's just as wonderful to see the excitement in their eyes when they learn something new. Even if that something new is finding their feet or rolling over. Get up and move. Whether it's with the kids or without, be active. Play kick ball, roll around on the living room floor, play pretend, dance to music. Even if it is a 10 minute walk, moving around will help your energy level and your mental health.
8. How was it when you were pregnant with baby number 2 with a toddler running around, was it a different pregnancy?
Being pregnant the second time around was different than the first. In the first and second trimesters, I don't remember being as tired with the second and I think it's because I didn't have time to be tired. Jonathan kept me moving and thinking. There was no time to stop. Being on bed rest for 7 weeks was more than challenging with a toddler. Even with all the help in the world I still wasn't able to be completely still. Partly because of my own independence but also because Jonathan would want me to hold him or tuck him into bed and I couldn't resist.
Any advice for those pregnant with a toddler?
Take advantage of nap time while you can. Once you have the second there are few moments when napping is possible. Thankfully Jonathan still takes an afternoon rest but typically when he's awake she's asleep and visa versa.
9. Any books, Web sites, blogs, or friends' advice that helped with the transition to two?
I had already read the "What to Expect When You're Expecting" books but found myself referencing them every now and then. www.kellymom.com was a huge help regarding breastfeeding and I still find myself searching the site. Like everything we do as a mother, advice is everywhere - good and bad, wanted and unwanted. One of the best quotes a friend told me was "God doesn't give us anything we can't handle" - I remind myself of this quote every now and then when the days are long.
10. Can you share any silly or funny moment between your two kids or your husband and you when baby number two came that shows what it's like?
On a few different occasions I'll be packing up the car with groceries and Jillian will start to fuss because she's fighting sleep and then Jonathan will bump his head getting into the car and he'll start to whine because he has a boo-boo and all I can do is laugh when what I really want to do is start crying myself. There will be times when I'm trying to bathe an exhausted and whiny Jonathan when Jillian starts fussing, ok screaming, because it never fails that she's ready to be fed right then and there. I once had a friend say, "so this is what it's like when you have two crying at the same time." Again, all I could do was laugh, take care of one to move onto the next. As long as no one is dying or in danger, it's ok for them to cry too. We're wonder woman most days but we're not super woman by any means.
11. Think back to all the things you worried about before and after baby number 1 came along... did you worry about those same things, or lighten up a bit and worry about different things the second time around?
The newest worry is making sure Jonathan doesn't step/fall or hit Jillian when she's playing on the floor mat. Toddlers are oblivious to the world around them at times. At the same time I think I'm more relaxed knowing that accidents happen. She's going to fall, she's going to pinch her fingers, she's going to bump her head. With Jonathan I was overly cautions trying to avoid all accidents, big and small, but with two you're attention is split and realistically you can't be in two places at the same time. She doesn't appear to be as fragile in my mind as Jonathan was. With the first you're so afraid to change their clothes and pick them up but with the second you know better (not that I'm rough by any means). I still wake up worrying when shes slept longer than usual. I still check on her periodically when she's sleeping. I still feel helpless with every cry. I still drive with extra caution. I still look both ways 8 thousand times before pulling into the road. I don't however tend to check on Jonathan as much as I did before Jillian, though I do still use a monitor for him and yes, I sleep with his too.
12. Name 3 things you could not live without having a second child.
Family! We'd be lost without their help. Swing and baby monitor. Though I could probably live without the swing and baby monitor they make my life so much easier. Recently Jillian and I traveled to Michigan and did not have access to a swing. I had to be clever and think of some new calming techniques. It was a challenge. We don't have a video monitor, just the traditional voice monitor and it's true, I sleep with it next to me like a stuffed animal.
13. How has your relationship with your first child changed by adding a second one?
Yes, in a positive way. I think we're closer because it's not just the two of us anymore. We do more snuggling when we can. We read more books when we're able. We hold hands. It's difficult to explain without having been there yourself but yes, I do think our relationship has changed.
14. Do you try to put special time in for your older one, mommy and son time?
We make special time around the house when we are able. I find it difficult to do much of anything without Jillian these days. I'm nursing exclusively so we're pretty much attached at the hip. When my husband is home I do take advantage of the extra pair of hands and pass off the babe to spend more time with Jonathan.
Thank you, Holly, for being so incredibly honest with your responses to my questions. I have always adored you, and your responses to these questions show me just one more reason why that's true - the uncensored truth that is you. I hope you continue to remind yourself that yes, "this too shall pass," and that even when it's tough if you can stop to remind yourself that you can get through this as a close family and that the sweet moments will be gone before you know it so to cherish those I know you will survive!
You have a beautiful family. Be proud of all that you are to them.