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Thursday, May 17, 2012

interview with a new mom of TWO - Angela

I interviewed my good friend Holly last summer about her experience adding a second baby to the mix. Now I'm answering the questions myself, having recently added baby #2, a beautiful girl, to our family of 4.

1. How did you try to prepare yourself before baby number 2 arrived?
I started nesting before I was even pregnant with #2! We started trying in the summer when I was out of work from my school job, so I had more time on my hands when my toddler would take wonderfully long naps in the afternoon after being at the beach all morning. So my goal was to get our house and life pregnancy and baby ready. I organized everything top to bottom - including bathroom drawers and medicine cabinet, digital photo books, and toy boxes. I went through everything. I had a small project every day and crossed things off the list as I went. I just predicted that I'd be extra tired being pregnant, working full time and having a toddler, so getting things done ahead of time was the goal. I also read a lot about what it might be like for my toddler age son to deal with becoming a sibling. 

2. How did you try to prepare your first child for his little sister?
We did things gradually. We were very conscious of how things may affect our son. We took out the baby swing, seat, bath tub, bassinet, etc. in slow motion, one at a time. We took them out far enough in advance before baby arrived so my son could get used to them and get over how exciting it was to push the swing really fast. We talked about babies (babies cry and sleep a lot and drink milk), read books about becoming a big brother and about babies. My son started playing with his baby doll that a cousin had given him so we started capitalizing on that, helping him put a diaper on the doll and wrap her up in a blanket and feed her bottles. I took him to one of my early doctor's visits also by chance and he got to hear the heartbeat, so after that he on his own got out his doctor's kit and frequently wanted to hear the baby's heartbeat. Because he was only two, we knew he didn't quite understand what this all meant with me being pregnant. I also started teaching him things I knew he'd need to do after I had another C-section and couldn't do as much for him for a while. I taught him to walk up and down the stairs holding my hand instead of me lifting him. I stopped carrying him everywhere. I taught him to get out of his bath tub on his own, putting one leg over and then the other instead of me lifting him. Overall, I think both my husband and I just tried really hard to be conscious, focused on how this process affected our son.

3. What are some of the biggest changes with going from one to two children?
The single biggest change is that there is NEVER a dull moment. I thought having one child meant I was a busy person, but now I'm crazy busy. There literally is never ever a second when I'm not supposed to be doing something for my children. The only time the house is quiet is at night for about an hour when both my husband and I retreat to our respective computers and tasks around the house before we collapse into bed and try to stay awake for a half hour to talk and watch an episode of Friends on TV. That's the biggest change - somebody always needs something from me, at all times of the day and night. My only alone time now is taking a shower - which I have to now take at night or else I don't get one. The toughest time of day is when we all get home together in the late afternoon and are starting dinner and my husband wants to talk about work and I want to talk about anything and my son wants our attention and my daughter is screaming because she's overstimulated... we can't get any conversation finished. That's just a big change we've had - figuring out that evening routine without all of us going crazy. Another change is just that there are now two of them. Two babies who need their diaper changed. I have to remind myself to change my son's diaper now because he's running around and not screaming at me to change him like my daughter does. Two babies who need to be fed at various times, two huge loads of laundry now, two baby books to write in. It's all just BUSIER.

4. What has surprised you about being a parent to two?
How naturally and easy some of it has been to adjust to. Some of it just feels normal and like we've done this forever. It also surprises me how in love with my two children being siblings makes me feel. I literally tear up all the time when I see them together. I am surprised at how incredible my husband is. He already was, and now that I see him with my son taking charge more than ever before I'm just surprised how happy it makes me. It surprises me how little I recall the newborn stage though, having done this already. I keep waiting for my newborn to be on a schedule, a routine, like my toddler. However, I have to stop and remind myself that my toddler was not on a schedule either at this little. I'm just so used to being in a routine with my first for so long that I get frustrated sometimes with her lack of routine. I am surprised that I don't recall the newborn stage as well as I thought I would!

5. What are some of the greatest things about adding another one into the mix, making two better than one?
Definitely the best thing is having another one of us around here. It's incredible to see that our daughter looks like our son did, and yet they are very different as babies, having their own distinct personalities. We keep saying we feel truly blessed - one of each, how incredible! Another great thing that I never imagined would be so special is seeing how my son adores his little sister already. He's jealous sometimes and a little weird toward me and his dad, but toward his sister - unconditional love and excitement. He has his own little baby voice for her and he's gentle and simply infatuated with her. That is the sweetest thing to see. Every single time he asks to hold her or does something sweet toward her (sharing his toys, stickers, asking to read to her, asking if it's OK to share his crackers with her, etc.) and when I see them together taking photos of them I literally tear up every time. It's just such sweetness. I know someday they will fight like siblings naturally do, but for now I'm in this place of "aw he loves her" type of sweetness.

6. What did you do with your first child while you were in the hospital with baby number 2?
We took our son to his babysitter the day of our baby's birth. We had planned that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law would take him up to see us at the hospital to meet the baby before anyone else did, but when we went into labor a day early we and were in disbelief that it was real we just had him go to his sitter for the day. My in-laws brought him up to us in the afternoon to meet his sister. Then my in-laws stayed at our house those 4 nights we were in the hospital, did the bed time routine. They took Owen up to see us in the hospital most mornings and evenings for dinner with Dad in the hospital cafeteria. He'd come in to see us for about 30 minutes, during which I made sure I was free to sit with him, read stories, play with the toys we'd given him as a big brother present, and give him a special treat for snack each visit. We picked him up from his sitter on the last day on our way home from the hospital so we could all go home together.

7. What is your advice for moms who are going to have a second child?
My advice is to do lots of nesting and organizing beforehand and before you get too tired with pregnancy, spend tons of time with your first child before baby comes, and let go of expectations and worries. It is what it is, tell yourself that. Give yourself a break. Keep priorities straight - your new family. I would also say don't just jump into getting out all baby stuff around the house, do it gradually so to make it an easier transition for baby #1. I'd also say to talk to your partner about things that bothered you or were difficult with your first newborn or hospital experience, before baby #2 comes, keep communicating.

8. How was it when you were pregnant with baby number 2 with a toddler running around, was it a different pregnancy?
It was much, much more difficult than my first pregnancy - all because I had another child to consider and could not just rest when I wanted to like I could with my first pregnancy. I was physically more tired from carrying my big boy around plus the belly. I couldn't just sleep off the morning sickness when I had to go change my son's diaper from the night and be up with him. I think being pregnant while having a toddler was one of the toughest things I've had to do.

Any advice for those pregnant with a toddler?
Rest whenever possible, typically during your toddler's nap time. Spend quality time with your toddler as much as you can. Teach your toddler to walk up and down stairs way ahead of time so it's not a shock when you can't lift him after baby comes home. Teach him to hop down from his high chair and from the car seat, too, to teach him to be more independent. Teach him that you can't pick him up all the time, again, so it's not a shock when you can't do it after baby comes home. Make the changes as gradual as possible. If your partner doesn't help out with bed and bath routines as much now, ask him/her to step up and help out more way in advance before baby comes home and your partner is ultimately helping more than normal. My husband helped all along and still it was an adjustment for my son to see that there were multiple nights in a row when I couldn't do the bed routine after my C-section, so I really encourage those of you who don't have a partner who helps tons now to ask for help from him/her so your child is prepared for that change.

9. Any books, Web sites, blogs, or friends' advice that helped with the transition to two?
Other mommies! Seriously, asking questions of other moms helped me tremendously. I read a few books ahead of time about what it's like to transition from one to two kids, but didn't find much.

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?
Let's see... a typical evening around here is my toddler running around with tools, saying "work, ma, work!" making all of his noisy tool toys go off at the same time, while the newborn is screaming her head off because it's too damn loud and crazy around here and she wants to be attached to my chest, and my husband is saying "nevermind, forget it" because he's had to stop mid-sentence 3 times already telling me about his day at work, while he is making dinner and I'm pacing trying to get the baby to stop screaming. Oh yes, just another day in paradise! 

A sweet moment is that my son always wants to kiss his sister and say hi to her in his baby voice. Every single morning he comes in to say goodbye to me and "Baby Addisyn." He comes in, says, "Hi, mama, Hi Baby Addisyn, hi." Then after I give him a kiss and ask how he slept at night, he says, "Put baby bottles in sink, ma, hold on!" and runs with the couple of bottles from the night before and tosses them into the sink. He then returns and proceeds to pass to me in bed everything on my nightstand, saying that I need them - glasses, cell phone, water bottle, baby's pacifier... It's adorable. He won't leave with his dad until he says goodbye to his sister. He's such a big helper!

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?
This is the best part about having a second child - you lighten up! I know with my first son that I was a pretty relaxed parent. We didn't care if the pacifier dropped, we'd just wipe it off and call it good. We let anyone and everyone hold our son from day one in the hospital. We were pretty OK about things. And yet, even us OK parents, now with a second child I see that we were still neurotic about things. It's a forced thing that happens with your second - you HAVE to let go of the little things. There is no time to dwell or worry like you did with your first. I've heard more crying than I care to admit the last 4 weeks because I have to say, "I'm coming, sweetheart, be right there, one more second..." because I'm filling a sippy cup with milk for my son or helping him put on his shoes. The biggest thing that I've lightened up about is nursing. It worked easier this time around so I know that's a huge part of what's helped me relax about the milk supply and pumping schedule. 

There are a few different things I worry about this second time around though. I worry that I'm not giving enough attention to my son, and I worry about how he's being affected with the changes. I worry that because my husband is totally with my son a lot of the time then he's not bonding as much with my daughter. I worry about how on earth to ever be alone in the house or out of the house with two kids. Just different worries.

12. Name 3 things you could not live without having a second child.
Experience - having had a child before makes doing this a second time around - when things are a thousand times busier and more chaotic and demanding - much easier. Family and friends - Seriously no idea how people do this when they don't live near family and friends! We have relied so heavily on people the last 4 weeks that I don't know how to do this on our own anymore! It's so amazing to have help. A swing - my daughter likes it, thankfully, and it's a nice place to put her down when I want to really be one-on-one with my son. Oh, I'd also add that I never could have had a second child and given her breastmilk without the pump bra holder thing from Medela that allows me to pump hands-free. It's good for when I have the baby sitting in the Boppy next to me and my son running around or wanting to read with me while pumping. OK one more, BOPPY! It's the best thing for nursing.

13. How has your relationship with your first child changed by adding a second one?
This makes me tear up actually. This is the worst part, the only bad part really, about having another one. I know that things won't ever be the same as it was for two years with my son now that there is another one here. I don't put him to bed as often as I used to. I don't do the stories and bath time as much as I used to, my husband does. That's the plus - he's even closer to his dad, which is incredible to see. I feel sad that there is someone else who needs me now and taking me away from my son when it used to just be the two of us a lot of the time. We've both adjusted already though, even in a short time. It makes the one-on-one time we get together even more special. And seeing how he adores his sister makes me not feel guilty at all. I think it's just sadness I feel sometimes, like I'm grieving how it was with me and my first for two years. Of course it's all worth it, I wouldn't trade having another one for anything in the world. So my relationship with my son has only changed slightly in that I'm not physically doing as much as I was doing with him pre-baby #2. Most of that is due to the fact that I had surgery and can't lift him though. I anticipate this summer when I'm back to feeling OK and the newborn isn't so demanding with feedings and things, my son and I can resume some extra special one-on-one time.

14. Do you try to put special time in for your older one, mommy and son time?
Each day I try to make sure my son knows he's still my number one monkey man! I try to make sure we do something, anything, even for 10 minutes, every day where it's just me and him, no baby around us, and he sees I'm all about him. Sometimes that's in the car while baby is asleep and I've picked my son up from school and we're driving home. I'll put on his favorite song and we'll sing and dance. The other day he wanted me to put on the lights in the car and we laughed about it. It's usually small things like that, but I see it's important. I also try really hard to get on the floor and just play with him on his two-year-old level. My husband does the same, although he's doing tons more one-on-one with my son these days, which my son LOVES.

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