I made it through the first three weeks without breaking baby #2. This second rendition of mommyhood is entirely different from the first installment, when I was given the title eight years ago.
Gone are the moments (OK, fewer are the moments) when you check on your perfectly angelic sleeping newborn just to see if she’s alive. Gone are the sleepless moments while she sleeps because you wonder why she’s still sleeping. (I’m taking every opportunity to sleep when she sleeps.) Gone are the phone calls to the pediatrician after every weird cry, burp or poop (or lack there of).
The biggest surprise, despite every second-child cliché realized, is that every baby is so very different—even if it came from the same womb. Truly, though, she only feels like a partial second child. After all, for the baby daddy, she is still a first child and our first child together; an altogether new family dynamic.
Throughout my forty-one weeks of pregnancy, I had an internal breastfeeding debate: would I or wouldn’t I? After much deliberation and overwhelming self-scrutiny and doubt (READ: GUILT), I decided that I owed it both to my child and to myself to give it another chance. Mostly because I didn’t want to believe that my body couldn’t do it. Gosh darn it, my boobs could make milk as much as the next female!
And when this time around, I squirted my sore nipples to see the white droplets ooze out, it brought tears to my eyes. Like the boobies that thought they could, they chugged their way through the first few days to be healthy milk producers. The little boobies that could!
Along with the fabulous benefits of being a milk producer, I also feel a bit trapped, never allowing more than two hours between me and baby boob sucker. The “Breastaurant” is open 24/7 at my daughter’s request and I am the sole proprietor. It strikes me as interesting fodder that some women actually love this—gaining a certain power or control that they are the only ones that can feed their baby. For me, it feels a bit restricting; different from the life I once had—even three short weeks ago.
While I have an eight-year old, the joint custody bit allowed me half a week of complete freedom and even when he was with me, the eight-year-old has become so incredibly self-sufficient, that this constant attachment is a newfound challenge. “But it’s not forever,” they chant. So I nod and switch baby on the boob and take a deep breath.
But there’s another benefit to the boob feeding: THE BOOBS! Of course, only my eyes and those of baby daddy have gotten to appreciate them since I have barely left the house for three weeks. (Why aren’t I on St. Martin’s topless beaches now?) He would argue that why else would anyone else have to appreciate them? I would counter-argue that outfits would just look exponentially better—and this is like the free boob job I’ll never have. But alas vanity has got the better of me.
Then there’s the pacifier. Also known as the binky, the paci, the bobo, baby #2 has become enamored with it. On our third night at the hospital, she was just sucking on the boob—sucking her way into a newborn coma. Flashbacks of baby #1 came back to me and I quickly declared unproductive boob sucking banned from the Breastaurant. So, we did the pinky in the mouth—and it soothed her immediately. An hour later, daddy’s pinky was getting as sore as my nipples and he quickly suggested a pacifier.
A trip to the local Duane Reade yielded a pacifier and the beginning of our mutual love affair with it. Aside from the self-inflicted guilt, it’s fabulous. (The American Association of Pediatrics even say so.) It’s like a plug for any drip. Sometimes it seems that the pacifier will soothe any of a number of her needs—not just the sucking one. It just seems like the greatest distraction tool.
My issue is that babies just look dumber with the sucky thing in their mouth. They also whine as soon as it falls out of their mouth in the middle of the night, day, and nap. And then there is the final how will we get rid of it once said baby gets addicted? But I save that concern for another day.
Another newbie to this installment of Motherhood is the swaddle. At first we implemented the hospital swaddle and her hands would escape. But no, there is a better, more proper swaddle. Larger sheets, trapped arms, and legs. It’s the latest trend (or at least back to what the rest of the world has been doing for hundreds of years). Mr. Happiest Baby on the Block said so in his books, CDs and quoted in every parenting magazine around. It seems to work magic. The first night we did it, she slept seven hours straight. At two weeks. Dare I judge?
Then there are the hormones. The stuff that no one really wants to talk about because it doesn’t fit the pretty picture. (The stuff that even I don’t have the balls to write about. No one wants to hear whining, least of all me.) So while the nine months of hormones leaves your body silently, it creates plenty of loud havoc in your brain. I read somewhere that it’s like the worst PMS you can experience—times ten. “It’s not your fault,” they say. “It’s normal,” they say. None of these words is a salve to the invisible wound that’s bleeding profusely through your mind.
The hormones course through your veins, creating insanity where there needn’t be; creating illogical thoughts to justify the irrational emotions. It’s hard to fit in with the angelic image of society’s picture of the newborn mom. Euphoric, glowing and madly in love.
Since I have joint custody of my eight-year-old, the days that he’s not here seem like a breeze. I wonder why I never thought a newborn was easy the first time around when I didn’t have another one to entertain? Having an eight-year-old creates a new brand of self-inflicted guilt. Both when I’m having to take care of the newborn and just when I need some extra zz’s. I can’t let him play on Club Penguin for another hour! I should be doing something creative, brain stretching, or body stretching with him. I can’t keep him in the house another hour (even though he loves it). All these guilt-inducing, mother-like reprimands chant loudly in my head.
“Give yourself a break,” the baby daddy says. “Take it easy,” the parents say. “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” my sister tells me. It’s only been three weeks.
So we tread forward—the new family. Every day a new challenge, a new opportunity to learn something—or teach something—or just feed the baby I grew inside me for forty-one weeks. I hold onto something I learned with baby #1: as soon as you figure it out, they change it.