One of my very best friends had her second baby just over two weeks ago. And while I’m by no means anywhere close to a seasoned mother of two, it’s amazing what two extra months can teach you.
I’ve found that those that have been through it tend to focus on how things will get easier in the long-term. Just get through the first year, and it’ll all start to fall into place. Yes, it’s a small age gap, but you’ll so appreciate what good friends they’ll be when they’re older!
That’s all well and good, but for me – I needed to hear that things would get easier, or at least that I would get better at them, soon. Like, really soon. As in, tomorrow. Next week. In two weeks. Maybe in a month or two, max. I needed someone to tell me that there was a light just around the corner, and to reassure me that I wasn’t far off.
In those early weeks, you can’t quite see as far ahead as a year from now, or even six months from now. On some days, even the idea of tomorrow is terrifying. I know that it all goes incredibly fast when you take a step back, at some point down the track. But when you’re living it, when it’s your reality, your now, you are counting every hour and wondering how you’re going to get through the next one.
So, my lovely, sweet friend: here I am, only 8 or so weeks ahead of you, and I’m here to tell you: next month, it will get easier. Next week, it will get easier. Tomorrow, it will get easier.
I want you to know that in just a few weeks from now, things will change. Some of them will change tomorrow. Some of them will change in a couple of days, or maybe next week. Some things? They need another month or so. Just hang in there. It’s really, really not far away. I promise you.
I know you’re experiencing physical pain right now. I know you’re anxious to start feeling like yourself again. You were one of those incredibly agile and strong pregnant women that people would stare at as she whisked her active toddler and collapsed stroller onto the bus like it was nothing. It’s different now, I know. I know that some days, it feels like that pain, or that fragility, is here to stay and you are trying to fathom how you’re going to run after your toddler if he’s about to fall off the seesaw at the playground, or if he suddenly sprints off in the opposite direction at the grocery store. You will be able to, I promise. Sooner than you think.
You know that thing that was really, really impossible today, or maybe yesterday? It’s going to be less impossible the next time you’re faced with it. The first time it happened, it caught you off guard and you didn’t have a plan. You had to wing it. That’s a difficult thing for people like us to experience and motherhood really tests us in that way. But you’ve done it once now. Even if it was a complete catastrophe, you did it. And little by little, each of these seemingly impossible moments is teaching you how to do it better next time. Without those moments of feeling totally flustered and unprepared, you won’t learn what you need to learn to tackle it next time. And you will. You’ll surprise yourself at how much easier it is next time. One of the first of these things that I experienced was getting out the gate of our apartment complex with a stroller and while carrying the baby in a wrap. The first time, the door whacked into the stroller as it swung shut; I stuck my arm out to stop it and nearly bumped the baby in the head; and then I tried to kick it open with my foot and ended up with one of those shin bruises you and I are so good at getting. Now? I do it without anyone getting injured and without even really thinking about it. And you will too.
Your toddler is going to fall more and more in love with his new baby brother. In the next couple of weeks, you’ll start noticing how he expects to see his baby brother when he wakes up in the morning, because to him, even though the baby’s only been around for a few weeks, to him that’s a heck of a long time. The baby is now a part of his routine, his family, his life.
I know it’s hard having to essentially protect the little one from the big one all the time. It’s difficult to see how you’ll ever be able to leave them both in the same room together. But it’ll happen. It’ll be a combination of the baby becoming stronger and more resilient, the toddler becoming gentler, and you becoming more relaxed. Sure, you might come back and find your toddler sitting on the baby, but I can literally tell you from experience that the baby will be fine. Your mommy Spidey-senses will heighten to include an alert that the baby might need to be rescued from the toddler. It’s hard to describe, but you’ll see what I mean.
I know you feel like you’re not doing enough for your toddler. Listen to me when I say this: he is just fine. He is fine. Stop worrying about him, and stop feeling guilty. That beautiful, boisterous boy of yours is so content and happy, and has so much love around him, that he will never doubt your love for him. He’s going to get better at waiting for you to finish nursing the baby. He’s going to become more helpful, and more patient. He’s going to become more independent and you will wonder how he was ever as tiny and needy as your little one.
You’re going to start tailoring the activities with your toddler to work with the sleep you’re getting, or not getting, and he will be okay with it. I promise. I know it’s hard to feel like you’re culling back on all that you used to do for him, and that somehow he’s missing out, but you will be astounded at how adaptable he is, and how hanging out with you and his baby brother is more than enough for him. So what if you spend the entire day at home? He will get used to it. He’ll be just as happy going to the playground downstairs for fifteen minutes or taking a walk down to the grocery store down the road. Take the pressure off yourself to do everything and be everything. You are enough.
Leaving the house with both of them is going to get easier really, really soon. All the prep that goes with it will require less forethought on your part. I know it’s hard going back to packing a bag for a newborn when you’ve gotten so used to packing one for a toddler. You’ll be able to go through the mental checklist a lot quicker without having to go through every potential contingency for which you need to prepare.
In just a few weeks, your baby is going to smile at you. Ah, that first smile. I remember with Tuna, I cried when she first gave me that gummy grin. Do you remember that feeling, mama? The feeling that this tiny little baby, who seemed to be existing in a realm of their own, now recognises you. He sees you. He knows you. You just looking at him makes him smile. Those smiles are sort of like little rewards peppered throughout your difficult, tiresome days. They’re little thank-yous for waking up with him on the hour and nursing him, for changing him, for bathing him, for holding him and loving him; for keeping him safe and doing everything you can to keep him happy and content.
Now just you wait until you witness the first time your baby smiles at your toddler.
Oh. My heart.
I’m not even going to say anything more about this, because when it happens, you’ll understand what I mean. Tell me when it happens, because I want to cry tears of joy with you.
In the next month or so, you’re probably going to experience your first full day alone with both of them.
Call me that day. Please promise me that if you need to, you’ll call me.
You might do what I did and look at your husband forlornly as he leaves for work, silently begging him with your eyes not to go. You might get that odd feeling that maybe you’re a little bit afraid of your children and what they might conspire to do to you once you have sole charge.
Trust me when I say, you have got this.
Look, it might be an unexpected piece of cake. It might be a complete disaster. You might be more exhausted than you’ve ever been in your life. You might have several moments during that day where all three of you are crying while you look up to the heavens and ask, how am I supposed to do this?! You might try to leave the house with them both and then vow to never do it again.
You will do it again, and you will do it better every time.
You will panic less. You will throw your hands up in exasperation less. You will doubt yourself less.
You’re going to experience more and more of those moments where you smile quietly at yourself and think, “Hey, I did it!” Something that once seemed so difficult will become second nature, because having a second baby in the mix just forces you to upskill, fast. You’ll sit on the floor with your toddler and play with him while the baby happily gurgles and coos on the mat next to you. There will be more calm moments. You’ll be able to sit back and watch them lay next to each other while your toddler giggles in delight at his baby brother batting at his face.
The truth is, and I say this from the bottom of my heart and the core of my soul: you are an extraordinary person, which makes you an extraordinary mother. You are patient. You are loving. You exude calm and compassion. You are so many things that I strive to be. I know there will be difficult days that will test you, but knowing you, and knowing how beautifully you mother your babies (because I’ve seen you do it first-hand), you will come out winning. If you have one of those days where you think you’ve failed, or that you’re doing a terrible job, call me and I will tell you how amazing you are. Because you really, truly are.
You never need to worry that you’re complaining too much to me. I know there are times when everything is just hard. Let me be your person, the way you were mine when I went through it. The way you still are while I’m still going through it.
We both don’t want to talk about the fact that I probably won’t be here when a lot of these things happen. And I’m so, so sorry that of all the times to decide to move countries, this is it. But know that I’m just a message or a phone call away. And if we need to set up our iPads so that our toddlers can FaceTime each other while we nurse our babies, so be it.
You’ve got this. I have so much faith in you. It’s all going to get easier; not in a year, not in 6 months, but next month. Next week. Tomorrow.