Maternity Leave--Take Two
In previous posts (here, here, and here), I've written about my first experience navigating life with a newborn and how I was nervous about having a second child because that first experience was really, really challenging. Well, here we are. I am almost two months into life with another newborn, and it is going MUCH more smoothly (though the new challenge is navigating life with a newborn and with a toddler whose world got flipped on its head for a few reasons), and I feel infinitely more prepared and confident than I did the first time. I decided early on in this second pregnancy that I would focus A LOT more on my mental health and I would do whatever I could to reduce my stress and limit my struggles. This time, I immediately started implementing some things I learned somewhat late in the game last time, and doing so has proven to be a game changer. It also REALLY helps that my daughter is in daycare during the week so I am able to devote my attention to my son during that time.
Before I delve into the way this maternity leave has been going with respect to the new baby, I wanted to provide a brief explanation of how I've had to handle things with my daughter. I mentioned in my last post that staying away from my daughter (due to being Covid positive) was one of the most difficult things I had to do because she's my little sidekick, and it was even more difficult when I had to continue being away from her because I had to tend to my new baby constantly. I didn't realize how not being able to spend the same kind of time together would affect us both. I was extremely emotional about it, especially because I could see that she was hurt, too, and she did not understand what was going on. She started pushing me away (literally pushing me and telling me to go away) and it tore my heart in two. So, even though I was getting little sleep in the early days, I started setting an alarm so I could spend some time alone with her. As the weeks have gone on, things have improved and I've been able to spend a little more time playing around with her, taking walks alone with her, and putting her to bed again. We're besties again and I can tell that she knows that I'm still her safe place. :)
One of the reasons this is possible is because my newborn is sleeping really well already. My daughter is an amazing sleeper, but she was not in the early days, and I believe that was entirely (or at least mostly) my fault. I did not know anything about baby sleep! (Of course, it could have been a combination of my not knowing anything and her not being the best sleeper in the beginning.) I have no idea why this kind of information is not more widely available or shared. Anyhow, once I understood and got my daughter on a schedule, everything turned rosy. Accordingly, one of the things I was hell-bent on getting going right away was teaching my baby how to fall asleep on his own and having him sleeping in his bassinet right away (as opposed to how it went with my daughter, who slept in my arms for three weeks at least). I was MISERABLE last time, and I refused to be miserable again if I could help it. I know not everyone believes in sleep training and schedules, but I definitely do, so I got started our first night home from the hospital. Even if this is not 100% why I have a baby who naps really well already, I am sure this plays a major role. And because I have a baby who naps really well already, I am able to spend more time with my daughter, and that means so much to both of us. His napping really well at this point also means I have amazing time to myself, too. I can cook for myself and just take care of myself. And, as soon as I was cleared, I was able to use one of the nap breaks to resume my home workouts, too!
In addition to teaching my son to fall asleep independently from the get-go, I have also been a lot more relaxed about breastfeeding. I knew I wanted to breastfeed my son, too, if I could, but I also knew that I couldn't afford to be as anxious about my supply as I was last time. Just as I know not everyone is into sleep training, I also know not everyone is into giving their babies formula, but I am. My daughter did really well on breast milk and soy formula (when we eventually added formula to her diet around four months), so I knew I'd feel fine starting my son on both right away. Last time around, I was so anxious about my supply not being enough for my daughter that I pumped like crazy and I took whatever supplements I could to try to boost my production. I hated it. I didn't want to pump as frequently as I did last time, and I honestly dreaded being tied to a wall and pumping several times a day. I got a knot in my stomach when I brought my pump down from the attic. However, I also knew that I would want to pump at least once or twice a day just to boost my supply and create a bit of a freezer stash. To alleviate some of the stress of pumping, I purchased a Willow wireless/hands-free pump so I could do other things if necessary. Also a game changer! I do still use my Spectra pump, but I love having the Willow as an option. I also plan on using it to pump during my commute when I return to work. At this point, I pump about three times a day, and it has not been stressful at all, thank goodness!
Lastly, I have also gotten so much better about leaving the house (not that I really go anywhere considering we're in the midst of a pandemic), and I think it's important because my daughter still needs some adventures and some fresh air. I also still take my daughter to and from daycare, so I get to go on little adventures myself every day. Sometimes I'll go to the grocery store or do curbside pickup. Sometimes we'll go somewhere as a family and I make the choice to wear my baby in my carrier for one of his naps. It really has been so great and so refreshing. I am not the kind of person who feels antsy and NEEDS to go out, but one of my goals going into this was to relax a little more but also to make sure my daughter doesn't feel neglected and that she still gets to go out and burn some energy and have some fun,
So, for now, about halfway through my maternity leave, things are going really, really well, and we are all figuring things out together. I am certain there will be several bumps in the road and plenty of things to stress me out, so limiting the stressors from the outset has been incredibly helpful and relaxing! One of my proudest achievements, after blaming myself for everything that went wrong last time, is knowing that babies are babies and they don't always do what we want them to and that does not mean it is my fault. I can follow wake times and ideal sleeping environments to the letter and it could just not happen. That's how it goes sometimes and that's really OK! I also know there will be bumps during the days when I have to take care of both kids. I know many parents do it every single day, but I don't and I don't want to! When my husband is not working and we are able to divide and conquer, it's not so bad, but, from my experience thus far, it seems that toddlers have a special ability to know when you need them to play independently or just not break anything and then they do the opposite. It's OK; we're just being tested and we'll be better for it in the end, right? That's what I'll keep telling myself. :)