You know how people know a lot of things about parenting before they have kids? Well, I knew a lot about parenting before I had my second child. Ever wish you could go back in time and give yourself a lecture? If I could go back to myself before I had my second child, here is what I would say.
I am pretty cheap. I once spent a year not buying clothes so we could pay off school debt and I usually have a coupon for everything. But sometimes, it's better to get nice things. I wish I could go back to myself during my first pregnancy and tell myself to spend a little extra on good maternity jeans (just one pair) and a really good nursing bra instead of a bunch of cheap ones. Also, make sure you like the things you are getting for your baby. Don't just get the stroller because you are tired and you are a week before your due date and Target is having a sale. This doesn't always mean spending money. This time around I did a lot of thrifting for good quality baby items and I bought a great maternity coat off of eBay. Quality makes a difference especially if you plan on going through childbearing and rearing more than once.
With my first, I tried to do everything myself. I rarely got away because I didn't like leaving her. And I went a little nuts, staying up late scrubbing floors and trying to do it all. With two, I realized I can't do it all. I need help. I don't have family in town, so the best thing I did after my second child was born was find a babysitter who was in college, who could come over and help me during the day. I also saved my pennies and splurged on a cleaning service for five months. Learning to ask for help has been hard and humbling, but I have to do it.
If there is one rule of parenting it's this: You don't know anything. And the moment you think you got things sorted, they throw you for a loop. With one kid, I thought I had this parenting thing down. But then, my second came along and I had to learn all the things I learned before, but this time in the context of having two kids. "You think you know things?" I want to tell Lyz with one kid. "You know nothing!"
With my first kid, I didn't snuggle a lot because she wasn't that snuggly of a baby, preferring to sleep on her own. But I also didn't snuggle a lot because I was stressed out about all the things I had to do, plus I was worried about teaching her bad sleeping habits. I wish I could go back to myself and give me a little shake. "Just snuggle that baby! Soon she'll be eight months old and snuggling her will be like trying to hold a bag of snakes. Don't think! Just snuggle!"
Someone once told me that when you are parenting the days are long but the years are short. That advice seemed a little trite at the time. But now that I have two kids, I see the wisdom of that perspective. With my first, I never knew what was coming next. So, each little baby milestone took forever and I wanted to rush her to the next stage. With my second, I know what's coming next. I know that these little things like the babbling or the adorable butt-in-the-air-fist-raised baby stretch won't last forever. The days feel so long and sometimes I go to bed wishing they were in high school so they could make their own freaking breakfast. But then, I realize my son's first year is almost half over and I want to cry.
My first child was easy to sleep train. So, when I had my son, we did exactly what we did with her and expected things to go smoothly. They didn't. He is five-months-old and still struggles with sleeping through the night. My daughter, slept through the night at 8 weeks. Kids are different. What works for one, won't always work with the other. So, all those tricks you think you have? Wipe that smug grin off your face. You're going to have to learn a whole new set of them.
My daughter quit nursing when she was three-months-old and I stopped pumping at nine months. I know I could have made it work, but I was tired and overwhelmed and I felt out of my league. With my son, I made it happen. We are still nursing. But you know what? He won't take a bottle, so the blessing is also a little bit of a curse. I want to go back to myself and tell myself, "Stop beating yourself up! Each child brings their own challenges and rewards. And sometimes the blessings you wish you had can be curses too."
Dear Lyz with just one kid: you think you are fat? You don't know anything about fat! Anything. And I'd actually like to go back to Lyz before she had kids and shake her a little and tell her to just wear that bikini. Wear it all the time. And take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. So, when your kids are older, you can show them how hot you used to be before they ruined it.
That picture is of me with my first kid. Back when I could actually sleep when the baby slept. Back when I had a child who would take a bottle, so my husband could let me sleep in on Saturday. Back when I could drink my coffee in leisure without a toddler whining for toast and juice and princess music at six in the morning.
Every day my heart breaks into a million little pieces because of these two. So, yes, sometimes the poop and the exhaustion drive me to binge eat pie. But if the work increases exponentially with two children then so does your capacity to love.
With two children, the work doesn't double it increases exponentially. So, it's easy to feel like you a drowning in a sea of everyone's needs. But it gets better. It does. Each new challenge brings new joys. Hang in there.