Little Joanie May is 11 weeks old today and rapidly aging out of the sweet newborn stage. I remember this age with Jackson really well; it was probably when I felt the worst, actually. Two and half months of sleep deprivation had caught up with me while the novelty of a brand new baby was wearing off a bit. Reality was setting in… and it wasn’t all flowers and rainbows. It was much harder than I had anticipated, especially since I had another baby of sorts — this site, essentially a small business — that I was trying to care for and get off the ground. While my other new mom friends were enjoying (or, sometimes, not enjoying their maternity leaves), I was squeezing in as much work as I could during naps and late at night during the precious few hours everyone else was getting some sleep. This time, all of that is different.
This time, I’ve enjoyed the newborn stage so much, I’m actually sad it’s drawing to a close. I feel much more confident in myself as a mother and I have all the perspective I didn’t have with Jackson. I know now when there’s a bad moment or a bad morning or a stressful afternoon, that it will pass. I know that these occasions don’t mean Joanie is a difficult baby or that I’m a bad mom or that every day will be like the challenging one I’m struggling to get through.
And, in fact, Joanie is not a difficult baby at all. She’s about as easy as they come, though I’m not sure I’d know that or appreciate that as well if she were my first baby. Having already raised a baby who screamed and cried for hours straight, for months on end — a baby who could never be put down for even a minute without letting you know how pissed he was — I am fully appreciating the more reasonable cries of my second baby. I’m also feeling much more compassionate not only for other mothers I see going through what I went through with my first newborn, I’m feeling compassionate for the me of four years ago. I realize now that not all babies are alike and when my new mom friends back then seemed calmer and more capable than I felt, it was likely because they were having experiences similar to what I’m having now: babies who simply made it a little easier.
I’m also making things easier on myself this time, too. I didn’t stress about breastfeeding like I did before. And for whatever reason, breastfeeding went a lot better. I rented a hospital grade pump like I did last time and started out pumping 6+ times a day. My supply was still very, very low, but I managed to get about two bottles worth every 24-hours. After about three weeks, I realized that I could pump three or four times a day and still get the same amount, so I did that for another seven weeks. Last week, I decided I was done. With Joanie sleeping less during the day and requiring more of my attention while she was awake, it was getting harder to keep up with pumping as frequently as I had been. Plus, I was sick of washing and sterilizing all the pumping parts after every use. So, I stopped, and, unlike last time, I don’t feel too guilty about it. I know my worth as a mom is measured by much more than how I feed my baby, and I don’t feel the need to prove my worth like I did with my first newborn, anyway.
That’s not to say that everything has been less of a challenge this time around. I’m four years older now and my body feels it. Where I bounced back after my pregnancy with Jackson, losing all the baby weight immediately and fitting into my old clothes in record time, it’s taking much longer this time. My weight has barely budged since Joanie was born and most of my clothes are still way too tight on me. My time — and energy — is even more depleted because on top of a caring for a newborn, (and running this site), I have a very rambunctious almost 4-year-old needing my attention. I’m exhausted most of the time and in my worst moments — usually in the middle of the night when I’m having trouble sleeping — my old friend anxiety hangs around, whispering all kinds of mean things in my ear. I’m better at not listening than I used to be, but it’s a struggle to tune it out completely.
In an effort to manage the anxiety — and everything else — I’ve had to prioritize things, and I’ve had to forgive myself — and hope others forgive me — when I don’t get to everything I’d like to get to. Just like there was a huge adjustment of expectations and time-management when I had my first baby, there’s been an equal shift this second time around. It’s ok.
That’s been a mantra lately: “It’s ok.” I didn’t get a column written for today: “It’s ok.” I didn’t return all the phone calls and emails and texts I’ve been meaning to return: “It’s ok.” I don’t have a meal planned for dinner tonight and I’m too tired to cook so we’ll probably get take-out or maybe eat scrambled eggs because that’s easy and that’s all I have energy to make: “It’s ok.” I haven’t lost all the baby weight yet and most of my clothes are way too tight and so I’m wearing the same three things over and over that kind of fit, including maternity jeans still even though I had my baby over two months ago: “It’s ok.”
I realize that not everything always IS ok for everyone, but these things, for me? They’re ok. Twenty years from now, when my babies are grown up and have left the nest, I won’t remember the three things I wore over and over for months after giving birth because nothing else fit. But I will remember the way Joanie’s fingers curled across her nose while she sucked her thumb as she napped and the way Jackson looked walking a few feet ahead of me, his monkey backpack slung over his shoulders, on our way to school. Everything else may be ok, but those things, they’re pretty perfect.