I was reading my fellow blogger Naomi’s terrific recent post about the surprises of new motherhood, and it reminded me that I had plenty o’ surprises this time around, too. So I did my own list to go with hers the things I never expected, even though I’d been down this road before!
1. I forgot everything
This may be your second (or third, or fourth) time around, but that doesn’t mean you know a damn thing. I’d done it all before in fact, I had a much tougher, weenier, screamier newborn the first time but I was still gobsmacked at the sheer amount of work it took to keep her fed, dry, and comfortable in those first few weeks. Mom says it’s the hormones that make you forget. “Otherwise,” she says, “nobody would ever do it more than once.” This from a woman who did it four times, and who insists we were all perfect sleepers from the moment we came home from the hospital.
2. My big kid is still a baby!
When I need baby advice, I just drive down to Trader Joe’s. Any Trader Joe’s. That seems to be where magical other-parents and —grandparents pop up out of nowhere to offer me words of support, advice, and encouragement. When I was there with toddler-Penelope and my big pregnant belly, one woman came up to tell me her kids were teenagers now, but she had them very close together (I think 15 months!), and the one thing she found vital was that she didn’t tell her older daughter that she had to be a big girl now. “If she was your only, you’d still be babying her. She deserves it. So just pretend they’re twins and let them both be babies till they’re ready.” Of course, in some ways Penelope does want to be a big girl, but now that Abby is here, I completely get it. “You’re my big baby, and Abby’s my little baby,” I tell Penny, and it alleviates a lot of the worry and tension she feels. Of course, your mileage may vary.
3. These are two entirely different people
When you’re pregnant with your first, you pore over photos of yourself and your beloved and wonder what your baby would look like. When that first one shows up, you’re like, “There! That’s what our baby would look like! My eyes, his dimples!” Then another one comes, and guess what? She can look totally different, yet still look exactly like the two of you, or your first kid, depending on the light, or her mood, or her age. This falls under “duh, that’s how biology works,” but it’s still sort of unsettling to realize how many combinations of features nature can come up with. And that’s just how they look! How they act is going to be a lifetime of watching, noticing, and appreciating their differences. Crazy.
4. The Grinch isn’t the only one whose heart grows three sizes in a day
The worry when I was pregnant with Penelope: “How will I love anyone as much as I love Randy?” The worry when I was pregnant with Abby: “How will I love anyone as much as I love Penny?” And yet I managed. Though it wasn’t instantaneous. I was ashamed to note that I felt angry at Abby for taking me from Penny, in those first few days. (I got over it.) I exclaimed, “You’re so beautiful!” when I pulled Abby up to my chest, gooey with amniotic fluid, but it took days for me to move from amazement to what felt like love, and weeks for me to know, deep in my bones, that these two loves can exist in my heart without blowing me to pieces.
5. You can’t breastfeed and read to a toddler
After four kids, our mom has one piece of advice about having two under two: “You read to one while you’re nursing the other.” Mom, I love you, and I value your advice, but this is just nuts. Penny will literally whack me over the head with a book while I’m nursing Abby; I am lucky she hasn’t managed to whack the baby instead of me. She’s quite annoyed that she can’t be in my lap, she wants the book where we can both see it, and also, she’s now hit some developmental thingy where she doesn’t want to be read to, she wants to flip back and forth herself (“THAT’S MINE!”) and read to me, which, it turns out, is a much more athletic activity than what I’m used to. Of course, when I turned on the video camera to record this ridiculously stressful activity, Penelope suddenly became docile and Abby nursed without punching me in the boob and pretty much I ended up with 10 minutes’ worth of model children on video, so nobody is going to believe me. But at least I’ll be able to tell my daughters, “I don’t know why you’re having so much trouble! You both behaved perfectly from day one!” Heh heh heh.*
*I’m not really going to do that. I’m a mush.