Sunday, June 08, 2008

someone should have mentioned this parenting thing was hard sometimes

The other day, my mom asked me if I would do anything differently with a second child than I'd done with Gabe.

It's funny, because I realized in that moment that having a second child is an opportunity to fix some of the mistakes you made with your first- and make some new ones along the way too! It is hard for me to say at this point what I'd do differently, because let's be honest, I've only had 17 months of parenting. I have a feeling mistakes will come to the surface a little later on, but after careful consideration, these are what I think I will do differently.

1. I'll stress less about breastfeeding.

I was a breastfeeding nazi, but only to myself. I was super champion to all my bottle-feeding friends, and I would beg some of my uber-stressed out friends to let go of some of the stress when they were killing themselves with difficult breastfeeding situations. But for some reason, I couldn't cut myself the same break. I think this is my ultra-perfectionist side shining through. Thankfully, my first six months of breastfeeding were relatively easy and my milk production issues didn't show up until around 9 months, but those last few months were tough. I pumped CONSTANTLY, sometimes 5 or 6 or 7 times per day, sometimes I'd sit in the kitchen in tears until 1 am, shutting the breast pump on and off and on and off. I even got up at 3 or 4am at times, just to stimulate production. It was craziness. All in an effort to avoid formula. Craziness, I tell you.

2. I'm going to leave my children once in a while.

I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but I've never left Gabe overnight. Not once, not yet. I've never had a non-family babysitter, which wouldn't be an issue if I had family close by, but I don't. This means that Josh and I have been out alone maybe 3-4 times? Maybe. We haven't gone to the movies or out for coffee or for walks alone, because our babysitters are so rare, and those same babysitters are generally in town to visit us so we can't very well ditch them when they visit. The non-family babysitter has half-way to do with anxiety, and a lot to do with finances, so I can't totally berate myself, but still. With baby #2, we are definitely going to have to find a way to budget some help. Even if it is 2 hours a week, I think it'll do me good to have a tiny bit of "me" time.

3. Josh is going to have to help more.

Don't get me wrong, Josh helps a lot, but I have fallen into that silly trap of showing that I can do it all. This first trimester awfulness has shown me that I have to make a change. He has to step up and take a bigger chunk of childcare and house operations. Period.

4. I won't always assume this baby is hungry when he/she gets up at night.

When I was still breastfeeding, I assumed Gabe was hungry every time he woke up, even though the books and the pediatrician said he probably wasn't. I know he wasn't getting a ton of milk every time he fed, so I thought quantity was important and I'd feed him in the middle of the night even when we were approaching a year old. Once I'd stopped breastfeeding, he generally stopped getting up at night, but occasionally during trips away from home or when he was sick, he'd wake up and I'd give him a sippy cup. It was so easy, because he'd drink the milk and fall right to sleep. But sometimes, even after a trip or an illness, the waking up would linger and he'd be getting up for a week straight, often just a few hours after dinnertime and asking for milk. So one day, about a month ago, I just stopped. He woke up, I soothed him back to sleep. He got up again and asked for milk and I told him there was none, so he went to sleep. And STOPPED WAKING UP. I wish that when I cut out the nighttime nursing sessions, I'd never started with the sippy cups because I have a feeling we were waking up for much longer than we needed to. Hopefully I'll remember this in another year and a half.

5. I'll print some pictures out, maybe complete a baby book or two.

I still have no baby book completed, and although I have 5000+ pictures, I never print them out. This has to change, or my children will disown me in the future.

6. I'll email out more pictures too.

My poor mom has taken to paying me $5 a picture, if I'll just send her some.

7. I'll treasure the babydom more.

Now I know just HOW fast it really passes. I am treasuring my toddlerdom these days. I want to burn images into my mind- like Gabe standing at the coffee table with a car in his hand, vroom vrooming around the glass top, or singing to him last night in his rocker and the way he turns his face to look at me, watch me sing and give me the sweetest little half smile, or the way he comes over unsolicited and gives me hugs and kisses. Oh, the heartbreaking cuteness.

8. I'll be more patient.

This one will be the hardest, I suspect. Between the baby and the two dogs, patience runs short these days.

9. I'll cut myself some slack.

Or maybe this one will be the hardest, actually. I'm trying, though. A few days ago, I put the dogs in the kitchen, Gabe in his crib, and took a nap when I couldn't see straight from first trimester exhaustion. And I didn't even feel guilty about it. Everybody hits their breaking point sometimes.

What about you? What would you do differently? What advice can you give me? I'm more than a little nervous about this whole two kids under two thing. I have a feeling this winter is going to be a tough one!


Laura said...

I like this post. Although I have no #2 on the horizon, I often think about what I "did wrong" to have such a hard time after my son was born. I feel like I just missed everything that could have made it so much better, and I'll feel eternally guilty for not "enjoying" those first days.
Breastfeeding consumes 90% of my brain right now, I swear. Sometimes I wish I could just sail through, but it's never been that easy for me. Just like all of motherhood. And I blame myself for it a lot.

Rev Dr Mom said...

Looking back now that my kids are grown, I'd say for me it would be more relaxed and less worried about being in control--but it's much easier to see that in retrospect than in the moment.

It sounds like you do a great job with Gabe, and have some good perspective on what you need to let go of.

Chatty said...

It's funny, kids are so different that they require you to adjust your parenting to fit the kid. I was never super anxious about parenting Lady, but I was RIGID with our scheduling. RIGID might not even do it justice. Mister was an inherently laid back baby, and Lady was so on-the-go by the time he showed up on the scene that I had to be more relaxed about our schedule, and I had to be fine with it if he took one of his daily naps entirely in his carseat (gasp!). I find myself being so much more relaxed about everyday transgressions too- if Lady had spent 40 minutes opening and closing the kitchen cabinets, I think my head would have exploded, but with Mister, I find that I draw the line with taking anything out of the cabinet. He's pretty good about it, but I find myself spending a good 20 minutes repeating, "Put! Good boy. No, put. Mister, put it back, PUT. Good boy." But he's so stinking cute while he's doing it that I let us be in the moment of the "take out put back" game sometimes.

Of course the number one thing I am changing about parenting Ol'Number Three over here? I didn't breastfeed Lady or Mister for reasons various and sundry, however I FULLY PLAN on breastfeeding this one. We'll see what else changes. Parenting is such an evolving process.

My Wombinations said...

This is all great advice. I hope you are able to follow it! I definitely plan to be more mellow on breastfeeding (I hope) and also more diligent about a baby book....

one day in the life of me said...

Since we already went through the what we did wrong with #1, and made some changes with #2 I haven't decided yet if we have #3 what else we will do differently.

The major thing we changed was sleeping issues. #1 wouldn't sleep in her bed by herself or go to sleep by herself until after #2 came and we only did that out of sheer desperation.

We started early laying baby #2 down awake getting her use to her bed. Rocking to sleep only here and there. And it worked well. #2 slept through the night at 10 months unlike #1 she didn't sleep through the night until 20 months after #2 arrived.

I am sure there are lots more things I could list that I'd wish we'd done differently with both of them but over all I think we are doing ok.

jess said...

Hmm. I'm still in the trenches, more or less, with #1, but can relate to the breastfeeding thing. Whenever someone expresses amazement that I'm working full time and still breastfeeding an almost 6 month old, I shrug it off like it''s not a big deal.

I don't know anyone who has worked outside the home and still breastfed, so I ususally end up saying that I'll switch to formula when necessary, usually because the person I'm talking to stopped breastfeeding after 3 months or so. I'm all rah rah formula in public. But secretly? I am DREADING feeding him formula and agonizing over my reduced supply. Even as I see my freezer stash depleting and as I pop fenugreek like candy and spend more time hooked up to that damned pump . . .I'm not ready to admit defeat.

I do wish that I hadn't been so fearful in those first few months. I was convinced that I was going to break him.

Beth & Rob said...

Hindsight is such a great thing isn't it? I have many the same as you...
Breastfeeding - I don't know why I held onto it when it gave me SUCH a hard time. I keep on through mastitis and even an abcess and a few nights in hospital and I am not sure why? I just didn't want to give up on it to prove to others (???!!) that I COULD do it. I would never put myself through that again.
Not stressing - I guess you could never NOT stress during the first months of a newborn's life but I am determined that I will be more relaxed with number 2 and not worry about them so much. If they are awake and not crying then that is totally cool. I would worry about this and try everything in my book to get her to sleep when maybe she just didn't want to and that is FINE.
Sleeping - I would try harder to just let a crying baby cry for a little while. I am sure I have gone into Daisy's room 1 million times JUST before she was going to settle herself and made the whole process twice as long and stressful for us all. I will wait longer. Get out of the house so I can't hear it and not have my heart broken and blood boiling in frustration.
The list goes on and on and on. I am looking forward to number 2 (whenever that will be) to try and right all my wrongs and I guess make some WHOLE new mistakes. I guess the main thing is that I will try not to have too many expectations (or any) because that means you will only be disappointed/frustrated and anything can happen with a baby so why even try and plan something? Good luck!

susan said...

Seems like if you can achieve #9, all else will follow :). Plus, I think your two-under-two will encourage #9. Just follow their lead--and the fact that you're thinking about all this now suggests you're going to be just fine.

Knit and Purl Mama said...

With Mack, I decided that I wasn't going to have him sleep in our bed, and he hasn't really. Only if he gets up at 5 am, do I feed him half asleep and then he can nap in our bed until the morning, but not the whole night. No way!

Also - I tried breastfeeding, and succeeded longer than with Sean, but it wasn't working out because of the jealousy with Sean, so I wans't so hard on myself this time when I stopped nursing.

I think that's all I changed. Other than that, I'm confident enough in my parenting skills and how I raise my children, that I don't think I'd change anything else!