Motherhood – it’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was very young. I got a Cabbage Patch doll for my 5th birthday and knew from that moment that more than anything I wanted to be a mother. I loved having someone to take care of, someone that needed me. Fast forward 23 years and that dream became a reality when my daughter was born (April of 2008). I can’t say it was an easy adjustment, but I still loved it. And there were no extra demands or pressures with just one baby. We figured out routines and what worked for us. And at 3 years old we’ve got a pretty good routine going for Rebecca. And now here we are adding baby #2 to the mix. I thought I knew what to expect…I’ve done this before, right? Well, not so much. After having to leave my precious little girl with others for a few days and coming home to a whole new, sometimes overwhelming, world I’ve done some thinking/reflecting. Just thought I’d share…for me to get it out and for any other new moms that may be struggling. Please excuse my scattered thoughts 😛
The biggest surprise for me was my instant connection with Abram and my disconnect with Rebecca. I know it sounds awful. And I continually feel guilty about it. Rebecca is my first born. She is so precious to me. I love her more than words can say. But giving her my undivided attention at all times, then having to leave her for over 3 days (I’ve never been away from her for more than a few hours), then coming home to a whole new environment really caught me off guard. There are a couple big factors. First, I rarely have one-on-one time with her at the moment. So it’s hard to focus on just her. Two, I can’t pick her up. And I can’t even have her sit on my lap often because someone else is there 😛 So the lack of physical connection is a huge thing. And finally I have to be disciplining more than encouraging it seems. I have to constantly remind her to be gentle with the baby. And she acts out more because she’s adjusting too and isn’t sure how to express her feelings. So we’re all adjusting to this big change and trying to figure it out. At first I was very overwhelmed and anxious by these feelings. But each day it gets better. Why? I know this is just a phase. Abram won’t always need so much of my attention. And Rebecca will soon be able to play with him instead of having to “leave him alone.” I’m making more effort each day to interact with Rebecca as much as possible and tell her how special she is/how much I love her. I make a point of giving her plenty of hugs and kisses, even if I can’t pick her up/snuggle with her often. I also try to be sure I am the one that gets her up in the morning, puts her down for nap, takes her to bed, feeds her, etc…keep her normal routine with Mommy. Even if Abram has to be involved. The initial change really caught me off guard. But we’re figuring out our new situation. My love for Rebecca hasn’t changed one bit. I just have to figure out how to split my time now and figure out how we all interact with a new, needy member. Of course the other important thing is prayer and trusting God to see us through the trying moments. I am very intentional every day to tell her God made her, God loves her and that she is so special, one of a kind. There is nobody else like her. She grins from ear to ear when we tell her 🙂
I mentioned it before, but my instant connection with Abram really surprised me. Up until he was born I wondered how I could love another child the way I love Rebecca. But I guess I shouldn’t have worried about that. I love him more than anything and can hardly take my eyes off him. I can’t imagine life without him. And I would do anything for him. It’s true what they say, you don’t have to share your love when you have more kids…your love just doubles! No complaints there.
There are a few things that are different this time around…related to me and my current health status. When Rebecca was born I was still very unhealthy (both physically and mentally). My OCD was still undiagnosed and pretty out of control. So when she was born and my life was turned upside down my anxiety went through the roof. By 3 weeks old I had her on a pretty strict schedule of eating, etc. so that I could maintain my schedule/routines. And when she didn’t “cooperate” it was very tough on me. Looking back I’m amazed I was able to stick with breastfeeding through it all. I also was not nourishing my body. I was just concerned about exercising and losing all the weight. I ended up losing it all and then some. I dropped below 100 lbs. And ate all low fat/fat free food. Plus I exercised a ton. Again, I’m amazed I was able to keep breastfeeding her through it all. At least one of us was nourished 😛 So, on to baby #2. I’m so thankful that things are much different this time. Anyone that reads my blog knows my health status is much improved. I now eat to nourish my body, not to be skinny. I also have a much better handle on my OCD. So here’s a little update on all of that/how it relates to my kids.
Nursing…I’m starting out nursing on demand…and don’t have any set plans for getting on a schedule. I think that one will naturally form in the coming weeks. And I do want to have somewhat of a schedule…makes life easier for the whole family. But not the same way I did with Rebecca. She ate every 3 hours. If she was hungry before the 3 hour interval was up I hardly dared feed her. I didn’t want to be off schedule! So this time around I don’t have any expectations. We’re just taking it one day at a time. Abram will figure out a schedule when he’s ready. And we’ll all learn together. It’s much healthier for him and for me. Being on a strict schedule in a way made my anxiety worse.
My physical health is also much different. I have been in the process of healing my body for some time now. And I think that just doing full GAPS has already made a big impact. I now eat to nourish my body. I focus on what I need, not what I can’t/shouldn’t have. I also eat to nourish Abram. I know what I eat impacts what he gets. And that is so important. My first time around I wanted to lose the baby weight as quickly as possible. This time I’m being much more relaxed about it. I’ve already lost close to 30 lbs. without trying. And the rest will come off in time. Yes, I still have a belly. And that’s fine. He stretched me out pretty far…and I have a large incision in my abdomen. It will take time. And may never be what it once was. And that’s ok. My 2 miracles are much more important than flat abs. I’m more concerned about healing and nourishing than I am about fitting into my old clothes in 2 weeks 😛
Both my physical and mental health are wrapped up in my OCD. I’ve been battling it for many years. At the beginning of the year I said I wanted to conquer it this year. And laid out some steps. They helped. But pregnancy kept me from making a ton of progress. But now that Abram is here I’m wondering if he might just be my miracle baby…for more than one reason. I’m using his birth as a new starting point. Trying to let go of routines/compulsions/expectations/etc. In the hospital I couldn’t dictate my daily schedule. And I did just fine. Since I’ve been home I have not done my usual compulsions, etc. I’m trying to take the day as it comes. Nursing on demand is helping with that. I have to be available for Abram whenever he needs me. He’s forcing my exposure 🙂 In some ways my OCD seems silly to me. I’ve wasted so much time and energy…worrying about my bowels?? I want it to end. I want to live. So I’m doing my best to battle my mind every day. To forget old habits. To not worry if one day is different or better/worse than another. My body knows what it’s doing. I don’t have to force anything. Just let it be. Thankfully overall my digestion has been pretty good since giving birth. Hopefully it will continue as I continue on GAPS. And hopefully each day will get easier. I know I still think about it a lot (the obsession), but I’m trying to let it go and not act on it (the compulsion). The less I do the compulsion, the less I’ll have the obsession. When I look at Abram’s precious little face I am more determined than ever to let go my old ways and start living free of OCD. It usually takes a total life change to force me to make change. And hopefully this was the one that will do it for me.
That being said, I do have the opposite issue. I have a 3 year old. And as most people know young kids thrive on routine. They know what to expect. They have less anxiety. We have a great routine with Rebecca…meals, naps, bed, etc. And in between those scheduled items is unscheduled/free time. Her world has been turned upside down with a new baby. So I want to at least give her the predictability of her normal routine. So I’m doing my best to balance her daily routine with Abram’s current lack of routine. It’s tough sometimes to nurse, feed her, read books, etc. all at the same time. But it’s worth it for her sake. Soon enough we’ll all have a routine. For now we are doing what we can to maintain hers.
In the first few days at home my emotions were all over. Sometimes I was so happy. And other times I was so overwhelmed. The first full day at home I was sitting with Justin, Rebecca and Abram. And I almost broke down. I wondered how am I ever going to do this? How will I reconnect with Rebecca? How will I keep up with things around the house? How will I maintain my own sanity? There’s no turning back now…but can I do it? Thankfully these moments don’t last too long. And when I’m in a better state of mind I can think about things logically. Here are my thoughts on that.
First, I have no relaxation techniques right now! That’s the toughest part for me. Normally when I’m stressed/anxious I exercise, cook or clean. Right now I can’t really do any of them. I don’t have the time or the physical ability. So when things seem overwhelming or cause me anxiety…I just have to deal with them. And that’s tough. Especially with hormone fluctuations from birth and breastfeeding. But…all in good time.
I also constantly remind myself that each step in this process of raising kids is just a phase…it will not last forever. And even though it may be a tough phase I need to embrace it and enjoy it while it lasts. Soon I’ll look back and miss it. I’m trying to soak up every moment of the newborn phase. I know it’s gone so quickly. And who knows if we’ll ever get to experience it again. Even this phase of Rebecca’s adjustment is something to embrace. She seems to be growing so quickly. I need to enjoy her still being my little girl while I can.
One thing that I have a hard time with but am trying to get better at is learning to let things go. So, the bathrooms don’t get clean for a couple weeks. Or the laundry doesn’t get put away immediately. Or the toys are a little more scattered than usual. It’s ok. All in good time. Soon enough I’ll have the time and energy to deal with those things. For now my focus is on my kids and getting us settled.
Obviously I love to be in my kitchen…cooking, baking, whatever. But right now I just don’t have the time. I’m lucky if I have 2 minutes to make myself lunch let alone bake. Although it’s sad, again, my focus is on other things. So keeping meals simple and flexible has been key. It’s also good to make things Justin can help with if need be.
I’m finding that getting out of the house is a big help. Even if it’s just to take a little walk and get some fresh air. I’m thankful that I feel good enough to do that kind of stuff one week after a c-section. We’ve already taken a couple family walks around the neighborhood and to the library. And tonight we’ll be going to Kindermusik family night. Our first real outing.
Finally a very important part of my day and how I get by is prayer. I know that God will guide me through the tough times. When my anxiety suddenly spikes and I wonder how I’m going to manage I say a prayer and give it to God.
And just a few other tips that seemed to work well for me – prep ahead and don’t jump right into cloth diapering. Before Abram was born I cleaned the whole house very well. I made quite a few freezer meals for us. I had everything organized for my parents and my in-laws for while I was in the hospital. It really made the process easier. And it’s nice to know on crazy days I can just reach into the freezer and pull out a healthy meal. My plan is to use cloth diapers with Abram. And I am very excited about it. But I also know that in the first few weeks I don’t have extra time for laundry and for learning new stuff. So I decided before hand that I would hold off on cloth diapers until we were more settled…and the wet/dirty diapers didn’t happen every half hour 😛 We’re ok with using disposable for a few weeks. We’ll still have a couple years of cloth diapering after that 🙂
This post ended up pretty long. And I’m sure I didn’t even say everything I’m thinking. It’s hard to get it all out of my head. Hopefully I at least gave an idea of some of the struggles and joys of bringing a new baby home…at least the ones I’ve experienced. Sometimes you feel like you are on cloud 9. Other times you want to run and hide. But in the end it’s an amazing journey filled with lots of love and God’s guidance. It’s a chance for change and growth in ways you never thought possible. It truly is a miracle and a blessing to be a mother. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. All moms struggle. We all get overwhelmed. And that’s ok. Just take it one day at a time and trust that God will lead you through it.
Yes, life with two children is so different from life with one. I know exactly what you mean about feeling the instant bond with the baby and the instant disconnect from your firstborn. It is hard, and a struggle to feel like you are spending enough time and love on your first child. I was just talking to my husband the other night about how the first child brings us together – cooing and loving on her together. Having a second child seems to pull us apart because we are each dealing with a different child. (We also don’t really have anyone to take care of our kids to give us a break, so we haven’t had any time for just the two of us since before our son was born 15 months ago.)
I read somewhere that the first year after having a second child is the most difficult year for a mom. She has to let go of the idea of being a perfect parent. This is so true. Anyhow, hang in there! If I had to do it all over again, I would make myself relax more with the newborn rather than worrying about getting back to life as usual.
What a wonderful posting, Mary! All your reflections were so open and honest and right on. I think all of us mothers out there could identify with the thoughts that you shared. Praise God for the way He is working in your life and for the way He always comes through for us when we come to Him in our weakness and rely on His strength. Prayer definitely changes things. We thank God with you for your two precious miracles. I also thank God for entrusting them to such a devoted, loving mother as you are.
Thanks for the feedback, Sarah! It’s good to know I’m not the only one with these feelings. Definitely not what I had expected. But I’m doing my best to relax and know it takes time. We’ll get there.
We don’t have any family in town either. So we very rarely go out. Maybe once or twice a year. It is tough.
It sounds like you are doing fabulous! All normal feelings of being overwhelmed, but as long as you can name that, you don’t get swept under by it. Like you said, any one stage won’t last forever.
Rebecca will obviously be a great big sister – the days will pass so quickly when Abram is so fragile, and you will delight more and more in sharing him with her. Still, I recall when my 2nd was a few weeks old, my 1st threw a tantrum and ended up whacking the 2nd on the head. The baby was fine, but I was ballistic. Such a mama-bear instinct for that new little one, and then such guilt later for how I treated the older one, who was just doing the best he could with a new and confusing situation. The good news is, neither one remembers that now!
Thanks, Jennifer. I definitely feel overprotective of Abram. Especially right now…Rebecca caught a cold (at church again :\). It’s hard to balance keeping him healthy with letting her feel involved/loved. All in good time.
Mary: Your honest and beautiful reflections were a real joy to read. It is a gift to be able to understand and treasure every phase of your relationships with your children. Love, Dad
What a wonderful, honest post, Mary! You are such a great mother! Rebecca and Abram are so blessed to have such a loving, caring, Godly mother.
Its great to hear that your OCD is really taking a seat right now. I hope that continues and you will be mostly free of it one day soon.
Glad to hear nursing on demand is going well, too. We fed Carson on demand. We never developed a true schedule. It was more of a rhythmic routine. Still is. Things happen in a window of time (which could be a 2 hour timeframe). He has gone through short phases where I could say he’d be napping at such and such a time with a 15-20 minute confidence, but it was mostly a window. Like now. He could be ready for lunch at 11am and napping by 11:30, or he could be ready for lunch at 1:00 and napping at 2:00. Its the way he has always liked to function, though. He likes routine, but not schedules.
Thanks, Sara. We’re just trying to take things as they come at the moment. We will for sure get on a schedule at some point. Else I’d have kids napping all day and would never be able to leave the house! 😛 But I’m not going to rush it or force it. Hopefully Rebecca and Abram will continue to nap at the same time in the afternoon (like they have been so far). We’ll have a schedule. I’ll just be more flexible with it.