Friends! In case you haven’t been following me on social media you may have missed the great news: we welcomed baby boy J. to our family on June 28! (That explains my long absence around the blog. I think it’s a pretty good excuse, if you ask me.)
Already a month old, he’s packing on weight like a campeón, grunting like a little old man, and enjoying the moving shadows on the blank wall next to the changing table.
That last one: watching the light on the wall from the changing table. A fine, but important, detail about my son that I completely missed postpartum with E.
I attribute my noticing J.’s intense fascination with a blank wall – and my not shoving baby rattles and mirrors in his face – to the fact that going from one to two kids is so much easier than becoming a mom for the first time. Not easy, just easier than.
I’m already used to the sleep deprivation – I wouldn’t wish newborn-level sleep deprivation on even the craziest driver to cut me off on the highway. For as much as new parents read and hear about how little sleep they get the first three months of their baby’s life, they never really know how it feels to sleep in two to three-hour intervals until they’re deep in the middle of it. So, maybe it was my third trimester pregnancy insomnia that prepared me for the sleep deprivation this time around, or maybe it’s still hardwired in my brain from when E. was born. Either way, I’m doing okay with an average of five hours of sleep a night. I also know that this phase will pass and that sleep will come, a fact I refused to believe the first time around.
Routine of independent play for my toddler – Seasoned moms of multiple children, when I would ask them “what’s the hardest part about postpartum with two little ones?”, would all agree that the newborn was easy; it’s the toddler that’s hard! However, I’ve found the opposite to be true. Thanks to a better understanding of independent self-initiated play through my reading of RIE, D. and I began a consistent routine of a “yes” space for E. about six months ago. It has positively transformed our home dynamic and enabled E. to engage in deep, uninterrupted hours (yes, hours) of play in her bedroom every day. And, now that I have a newborn, I am able to give him my full, undivided attention during caregiving activities (nursing, diaper changes, etc.) while E. is safe and content doing what she does best, play.
Not a mommy martyr – Self care. Self care. Self care. Another beautiful tenet of RIE that I’ve learned and begun to apply to my parenting. If our physical (rest, eating) and emotional/mental (meditation, therapy, stress level) needs aren’t met as mothers and our cups are always empty, how can we give to our children? With my first child, I struggled in physical pain for almost six weeks postpartum, trying to “make breastfeeding work,” only to be left a heap of despair, riddled with the infamous “mommy guilt” because I would have to (gasp!) pump and bottle-feed my baby. Not this time around. No, sir! After only two days nursing baby J. with a poor latch, my nipples were left red and damaged. Instead of plowing through the pain like a mommy saint, I switched to pumping/bottle feeding full time for a week to heal. While I knew there was a chance of the so-called “nipple confusion,” I felt completely at peace with my decision because my baby was being fed, my milk supply was protected, and I was taking care of myself. Three weeks later, J. latches perfectly and nurses just fine.
Already in parent lifestyle mode – As if pregnancy, labor/delivery and sleep deprivation aren’t hard enough for a new mom, add to the mix the inevitable closing of a chapter of adulthood where your money, time, activities, hobbies are all your own. That was a huge adjustment for D. and I as first-time parents. Pre-kids, we traveled every summer, ate out regularly during the week, went to the movies, held dinner parties. That rhythm came to a halt when we had E. Although we are completely happy and settled in our current life stage as parents, that change was hard for us (we were married for ten years before starting a family). Now,however, we’re completely unfazed by days scheduled around naps, early bedtimes, dirty diapers, and regular meltdowns. It’s just par for the course.
Mindful statement of mind – With baby J., I find I’m more at peace with the ups and downs of postpartum life. More than just operating on survival mode and “do-whatever-it-takes,” I’m slowing down, listening closely to my son, waiting and watching. What does he have to teach me? What does he need? This time around, I’m okay with big emotions. When he cries, and sometimes wails, instead of swooping in to shush him or swaddle him or pick him up, I wait, just a few seconds, sometimes a minute or two. I sit down next to him and say, “Hola J. Veo que estás llorando. Estoy aquí contigo. Cuéntame, que te escucho.” (Hello J. I can see you’re crying. I’m here with you. Tell me what’s going on. I’m listening.) I’m not afraid of his crying because I have come to realize that it’s a baby’s (only) way of communicating his needs. It’s not always a sign of distress. Sometimes it means gas. Sometimes it means hunger. Sometimes it means “you’re changing my diaper too fast. I don’t like that.” RIE has helped me to accept my children’s emotions and feelings, as well as their expression of them (tantrums and cries), as valid and worth listening to, not in need of fixing. I like to occasionally joke that I’m a recovering “do-er” and RIE is helping me learn the beautiful art of just “being” in the moment.
Whereas as before I would rush through a diaper change with newborn E. because she was crying, I now slow down, converse with J., inform him of what I’m doing. He cries? I listen. He turns his gaze to the shadows on the wall. I wait. I watch him until he decides he’s done. Sometimes I watch the shadows, too. Together we enjoy the moment.