I don’t know what I don’t know.
And boy, DID. I.NO. KNOW.
But, I really think I did!
I really thought that waiting until our daughter was three before adding another child would make the transition easy. He’ll be more independent then, I thought. Also, fully potty trained (HA!), enrolled in school, and interested in things other than just Mommy. Plus, I’ve done this newborn thing before! How difficult is that?
Bless that naive spirit. Because those optimistic expectations definitely don’t match my reality.
I was determined to breastfeed. So after our second baby came home, waking up and dinner just fell on me. This is fine after my first child as I can take a nap later or just sleep.
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But the problem this time is that our first child still lives with us. And he still needs Mom every day, all day.
The time for naps was gone, making me sleep deprived and even sane.
And speaking of my first child—the adorable little 3-year-old couldn’t rationalize enough that Mommy needed to spend a lot of time with her new baby. He would cry for me to play with him and then throw a tantrum when the answer was no. And although I think he understands the idea of being gentle, there are too many mistakes—the memories that still make my heart skip a beat.
Thank goodness preschool is about to start, I thought. It will give me back so much time.
Well, not exactly. The program 5 hours, 2 days a week didn’t give me more time or sanity. Not to mention the extra work of dropping off, picking up, packing peanut-free lunches, and following a million days of dress up.
At night, when the kids finally go to bed (well, if they do go to bed), the work isn’t done. Then it started the second shift, but it felt more like the 60th shift.
You know, laundry. Dishes. Take toys. Prepare tomorrow’s meal. Take a shower (which I don’t do very often). Shop for your next baby clothing size. Take a walk with our sweet and neglected dog. Schedule your next doctor’s appointment (oops, must do during business hours!). PUMP. Found a nanny for date night (OK, this never happened). Made Valentines for my daughter’s classmate.
It never, never ends.
Even times that should be peaceful—like reading a book to my daughter or breastfeeding my son—aren’t easy. No matter what, the endless to-do list of household chores will keep replaying in my brain.
“I HOPE THIS HELPS!” my overwhelmed mind will scream.
And when I desperately scanned the room for someone more mature than me to be an adult, I realized there was no one else-no husband, mother, mother-in-law, aunt, anyone. It’s up to me to get it together, no matter how tired or incomplete I feel.
Let me be clear, no one is to blame here. Not my husband, my 3 year old son, my newborn baby, my extended family, or even myself. It’s just one of those things in life that don’t go as smoothly as you think. As I look back on that time, I can see how God gave me the strength I needed.
It’s been almost a year since I brought my baby boy home. Now I see him and his older sister playing together, and with the blessings of perspective can feel grateful for that crazy time: for the disastrous house, for my disheveled appearance, exhausted, overwhelmed, everything. Because that struggle brought me to this perfect moment. And through it all, I learned so much.
I learned what I needed to be a great mother.
It turns out that this mother needs shut up, uninterrupted time to himself. It’s time to process, relax, and breathe deeply. Time to remind yourself it’s just the season.
And, I really need my people. Friendships and every relationship in my life have become more important and valuable than ever before. Plus, I have a new profound appreciation for everything my mother did for me. I call him more often now and say thank you.
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I’ve heard that you have a choice in every struggle: you can turn that suffering into wisdom or bitterness. Well, bitterness would have been much easier, but I chose the former.
So even though she’s done it before, I always make food for the new mother of two. I’ll bring some coffee and just sit there amongst the mess. We talk like adults, so hopefully—perhaps just for a moment—she can feel human again. And I did my best to ask how he is doing.
After all, Mommy is the one whose life has been rocked the most.
There is a verse in Proverbs that says God will grant your heart’s desire. But you know what wasn’t said? That it would all be easy. Going from being a mother of one to being a mother of two is much more difficult than I ever imagined. But that experience gave me the greatest gifts of my life: my precious daughter and sweet baby boy. How can I be anything but grateful for the difficult?