Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Adjusting to the New Normal

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Joanie is five weeks old now and I was going to write a post about the sibling relationship between her and Jackson. I started it a couple times, about how the first week or two were pretty rough and how Jackson was doing a lot of acting out, but, in the weeks since then it’s been kind of smooth sailing. I started writing about how incredibly sweet Jackson is with Joanie — how he kisses her and tells her he loves her about a hundred times a day and how he doesn’t call her “my baby sister” but simply calls her “my baby.” And how, when his sitter, who still watches him three mornings a week until he starts school next month, drops him back off at home when her shift is done, Jackson rushes over to Joanie and tells her he missed her and she looks at him and kicks her little legs, and it’s all so sweet I think my heart could burst. I was going to write about all of this, but every time I sat down to do so, something else needed my attention.

Something else always needs my attention. Five things will need my attention before I can finish this post. I don’t know understand how the addition of one little, tiny baby has multiplied my responsibilities and chores by ten. I remember talking to a neighborhood dad on the playground a few months ago about parenting two kids (he has two little daughters, 3 and 1) and what the biggest adjustment is when you have a second baby, and he said, “You lose all your free time. You know how when you only have one kid, you still have moments to yourself, maybe when the other parent is doing bath time or after bed time?”
I nodded, afraid of what was coming.
“Well, when you have two kids,” he continues, “you lose those moments to yourself because there’s always – ALWAYS — something that has to be done.”

And God damn, he was totally right. It’s a 24-hour cycle of chores and I’m/ we’re lucky to have an hour at night before we pass out when we can decompress (and if I went to bed when I was tired enough to, I’d lose that hour, so I force myself to stay awake, just so I can have that time, even it’s only spent watching TV).

I love, love, LOVE having Joanie in our lives. I wouldn’t change anything for the world and I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I made the decision to try for a second baby and that she’s here and healthy and we’re all doing well. What a blessing, what a gift. But there’s also a part of me that is grieving those lost moments a little bit and wondering when things will stop feeling quite so hectic. Maybe when Jackson starts school in a few weeks. Maybe when I’m not pumping several times a day and when there aren’t so many bottles to wash or diapers to change or a feeding schedule that runs every two hours. But I also imagine things won’t change as much as I will change. I will better learn to balance and adjust expectations and manage my time in a way that helps create some semblance of recuperation between the endless chores. I’ll also probably have to let go a little — let go of my need for everything to be in its place and always clean and dinner homemade by me by 5:30 every night with fresh ingredients procured at the farmers’ market to support local businesses instead of at the more convenient super market where produce is shipped from somewhere else.

We’re five weeks in to this whole “parenting two kids under four” situation, and as much as I promised to be gentle with myself — and I have been, for the most part, or at least more gentle than I was when Jackson was a newborn — the self-criticism creeps up more than I’d like. I have a list of things about myself — my appearance (namely, that I haven’t immediately lost all the weight that I gained and so my pre-pregnancy clothes still don’t fit), my behavior, the way I feel in a fog most of the time and have been forgetful and a little flaky — I’m unsatisfied with. And then I imagine speaking to another mother of a five-week-old baby the way I start internally speaking to myself and I have yet another thing to feel angry at myself about. It’s kind of a vicious cycle. And I know there are things that would help me cope and/or blow off steam: more sleep, more moments to myself (to exercise, to read, to talk with a friend on the phone), and I know that, eventually, I will have those things. We’re only five weeks in.

I set out to write about the sibling relationship between Jackson and Joanie. That relationship — or, at least, how Jackson was going to adjust to sharing his life with a baby — was probably what I was most concerned with before Joanie was born. That part is going great. It turns out the harder adjustment has been my own. But I’ll get there. In time.

25 comments… add one
  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 13, 2015, 1:19 pm

    It will get much easier when she sleeps for longer stretches through the night and when Jackson goes to school. I’d expect the first two to three months to be exhausting and then things to ease up.

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    booknerd August 13, 2015, 1:51 pm

    I feel you, Wendy. I’m terrified at what my life will be like in 4 months with the addition of a newborn. We moved here not long ago, with no family, or friends network. I have some casual friends, but they are all relatively new relationships. My husband has had a really rough and busy week with some really horrible scandal/tragedy with one of his employees. Life has just been extra stressful lately, and I really feel like I’m barely keeping it all together most of the time. I keep telling myself it’s the hormones making me feel this way. I know it’ll be okay, and with time flying by so fast, the tough times will be over quickly…ugh.

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    Kate August 13, 2015, 1:58 pm

    That picture is hilarious!
    .
    I have no kids, but your post made me text my mom and ask if she felt like she lost all her free time when she had her second kid (me; my brother was almost 3 when I was born). She said free time was pretty much not a concept – she also worked, I’m not sure if it was part-time or full-time at that point – but that they tried to carve out some time now and then because my grandmother and my aunt were around to babysit, though they didn’t abuse that. She said she did NOT feel bad about herself, which is kind of surprising because I don’t think her self-esteem is the greatest overall. She said “It’s not that it wasn’t hard. It’s just you know what we’re like, we just jump in and do what’s needed… We had a good time with it.”
    .
    I do know she wasn’t worried about things like cooking an all-natural meal. I remember being dragged around Star Market, sometimes in a wet bathing suit, and eating junky snacks and things like Tuna Casserole, and my school lunches were like a thermos of Chunky Soup and some chips or a Twix bar, and I grew up in good health without eating disorders or anything. I would say she was in no way doing everything perfectly, but it was totally fine with everyone involved. The house was decently clean but not perfectly organized with California Closets. She wasn’t running around doing fitness activities and trying to be skinny either. But I remember her looking good and pulled together. She’d bring us to the mall and get some shopping done.
    .
    I feel like, be way easier on yourself.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy August 13, 2015, 2:02 pm

      I need to be more like your mom!

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        Kate August 13, 2015, 2:11 pm

        She does say “it was a different pace than now, and for sure your dad made it better by jumping in with me. Yes I would say it was challenging, but not without rewards. Attitude and mental place are key.” One thing they both taught me I think, is about when you don’t know what the hell to do and feel overwhelmed, just jump in and prioritize and start doing stuff. Since I don’t have kids, that’s been my approach at work and in life. Like just start doing the most important things and everything will be fine. I think my grandfather used to say, “good enough is good enough,” or something like that. There have been lots of times over the years when I’ve felt really freaked out and overwhelmed, but thinking like that got me through.
        .
        My mom was never a size 2, but everyone always thought she looked great and pretty and way smaller than she thought she looked. And this was just with the normal makeup and clothes and stuff that are available to everyone, she didn’t have any special resources. Everyone thinks you look beautiful too, Wendy. Change your thinking, it’s all in your head!

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      • Lianne

        Lianne August 13, 2015, 4:13 pm

        Such a nice sentiment, Kate!
        .
        And I agree, Wendy! I am sure it’s hard to not to want to do all the things you talked about, but you can also let it go a bit now and then pick it all back up (the clean house, farmer’s market dinners) when the pace slows down a bit.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray August 13, 2015, 3:13 pm

    I love that picture, too. You should frame it! I, too, was inspired to ask my mom how she handled so many babies at the same time. (She had 4 under 3; twin toddlers (my brothers) and twin newborns (my sisters)). Her response: “I don’t know. I didn’t sleep for 5 years. Your body has a way of blocking out the bad memories.” Obviously the experience wasn’t too traumatizing; she still went for #5 (me). So all that to say: you got this, Wendy! It’ll get easier. I hope it does, anyway!

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      MissDre August 13, 2015, 3:18 pm

      Addie when are you due??

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray August 13, 2015, 3:36 pm

        I’m due on Labor Day (ha!) but I found out yesterday I need a C-section. So I’ll be having this baby the week prior, on Aug. 31, Sept. 1, or Sept. 2 (to be determined). I also found out I’m having a big baby (not the reason for the C section). Estimated to be 9 pounds, give or take a pound. We’ll see soon enough if they were right or way off.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy August 13, 2015, 3:38 pm

        Nine pounds! Probably a good think you’re having a C-section!

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray August 13, 2015, 3:42 pm

        Yeah, no complaints here. I was looking forward to experiencing what labor is all about. And my only birth plan was to do it un-medicated, but I reserved the right to change my mind if in the moment I so decided. … But oh well, there are perks to C-sections I suppose, especially when you would otherwise have to push out a baby that big. I knew there was a higher risk for a C-section in my case. So it’s all fine. I can’t wait to see how close they were with their estimate. I mean, how can they really, really know? Though, if you were to see my huge gut, you’d guess the baby to be big, too.

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      • Ika

        Ika August 13, 2015, 4:06 pm

        Supposedly the margin for error is +/- 10% With M the day before she was born the dr. said around 3.7 kg, she ended up being 4.15 (8lb 2 oz and 9 lb 2 oz). I think it was bcaue she was loooong and skinnnnny. So the thigh circumference made her seem lighter.

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      • othy

        othy August 13, 2015, 4:23 pm

        Go for the 2nd. Awesome people are born on the second (as my husband, whose birthday is Sept 2, will totally vouch for).

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      • Pamplemousse Rose

        Pamplemousse Rose August 13, 2015, 11:02 pm

        There are a bunch of early September birthdays in my family and even though none of them share a birthday, they were all born on Labour Day! My daughter was estimated at 8lb 2oz 10 days before she was born and she was only 7lb 7 oz, so I don’t think the estimates are super accurate. I have also heard from multiple sources that big babies are easier to birth…

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      • cmary

        cmary August 14, 2015, 10:51 am

        Hey, Addie Pray! I had a planned C-section, too. If you have any questions or concerns about it, I’d be happy to share my experience.

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        megustalaplaya August 14, 2015, 1:21 pm

        I had a planned C-section as well (baby was breech), and I’d be happy to offer advice, too 🙂 The only thing I will suggest, Addie, is to Google gentle C-section. Something to consider, as your original birth plan sounds like it was a bit different (mine was, too). And the differences in procedure between a normal and gentle C-section are generally not offered unless the mother asks. Also-yay for being almost done! I hope we all get an update when your little (or maybe big!) burrito arrives. 😉

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      snoopy128 August 13, 2015, 3:30 pm

      Addie, your mom was brave to go for #5 after two sets of twins!!!

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray August 13, 2015, 3:34 pm

        Yeah, well she waited a good 10 years. So it took her a long time to get ready. At that point, she was hoping for twins so I wouldn’t be all alone. I guess she assumed she’d have a third set of twins because “she always has twins,” but no. Though, maybe I had a twin, but I ate her in the womb. Dun dun dun. (That’s what I tell my nephews to scare them.)

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        mertlej August 13, 2015, 4:03 pm

        I’ve actually been advised to use a line like that with the next person that is rudely shocked about the size of my stomach. “WHAT? You are due in November? Are you SURE you aren’t having twins??” “Well, i was, but the dominant one ate the non-dominant one…”

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    Stillrunning August 13, 2015, 4:19 pm

    I have that exact photo, my daughter laughing with the “what?” look on her face sitting next to the screaming newborn.

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    Anonymous August 13, 2015, 6:27 pm

    If it’s any comfort, from what I’ve seen of my friends who have two, the free time starts to creep back when the second is a year or so–especially if there is more like a 3 year age gap between the kids, which you have! Not to say the work doesn’t multiply–it does, but I also think the newborn stage is, well, the newborn stage, which is to say…SO HARD. Anyway, just the perspective of someone who is currently sleeping 8 hours a night 🙂 You got this!

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    Visharoo August 13, 2015, 10:24 pm

    My kiddos are 18 months apart; right now they are 2.5 and 1. It really was not easy at first- there was always something that needed doing. But, it gets easier. You are right- you will change and get used to the new “everything,” but your kids will also change and get more independent. I don’t know when that time will be for you with your family, but one day you’ll sit down and realize that everything is a-ok again.

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    d2 August 14, 2015, 6:10 am

    That is a great picture. I can imagine the smiles when that photo is pulled out at a family event years from now. Thanks for sharing your story Wendy.

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    Miss_C August 14, 2015, 7:36 am

    I really, really love the honesty in your articles. My own friends won’t even be that frank with me. I would totally get it if they would say something like; “I miss my old life, I’m so tired” and meaning “I love love love love love this life” at the same time. But they only tell me how great, how rewarding it is, how it’s just a matter of adjusting to a new life, while they look exhausted and sometimes act a bit envious when I tell them about a party I’m going to. (“Oh, parties, yeah, well, I’m glad I’m not dependant on parties anymore to have a good time”). I mean, if they don’t want to tell me, for whatever reason, what it really feels like, then that’s okay. And there’s also a chance that they mean it and that I hear a subtext that isn’t there.

    But I’m in the doubt-phase right now (children/no children) and your honest articles provide me with such great information and insight, so much more than my own friends do. I read this article and thought: “aaah, that sounds tough”, without even thinking “okay, forget it, that’s not the life for me”. I still don’t know what I want, but I’m glad there’s this place here well people dare to say what it’s really like. So… thank you! 🙂

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      Girafe August 14, 2015, 9:50 am

      Yes! This.

      Thanks for keeping it real, Wendy. I too, am in the “unsure” phase. It is always great to read your upfront and honest insights about your life and feelings.

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