Some days, I think back to my first six weeks with Grace and shudder. Being a new mom is already SO overwhelming, and I now realize how much harder I made it. While I wouldn’t change thing I did with Grace, I’ve been able to embrace Ben’s newborn days with a calmer and more centered perspective. Here’s a few things I’m doing different as a second time new mom:
Not wishing the time away
Having a newborn is hard. The days feel long and exhausting. But it’s also fleeting. One of my good friends always refers to the newborn stage as, “The longest shortest time.” It couldn’t be more true!
I look at Grace & Ben almost every day and think, “18 months ago, she was this small. And in 18 months, he’ll be that big.” It’s the bittersweet truth. I remember holding newborn Grace, thinking how I couldn’t wait for her to do so many things: hold her head up, roll over, sit up, hold her bottle, crawl, walk, talk...and here we are. She’s done all those things. She’s becoming a girl; she’ll never be my itty bitty newborn again.
The milestones will happen. The sleepless nights will end. The days will get easier (and then harder once your kid learns how to crawl and/or walk). Time will keep pressing on. There’s no need to wish it went any faster!
Not stressing about nursing
When Grace was born, I was hell-bent and determined to nurse as long as possible. I was lucky that she was big, had a good latch, ate efficiently, and gained weight easily. But when I went back to work and couldn’t pump 8 ounces, four times a day, I ended up stressed the eff out. I was anxious, I tracked her eating and my pumping obsessively, and I end up spending more time prepping bottles for the next day than enjoying time with my husband.
Enter formula. I stressed so much when Grace switched to 50/50 formula/breastmilk. I let myself feel defeated that I couldn’t make it an entire year nursing. But you know what? She was fine. And I got my sanity back.
On day 1 in the NICU, the nurses asked us if they could give Ben formula in the event I didn’t bring them pumped milk in time for a feeding. I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I was lucky to have a good milk supply and keep up with his feedings, but he also wouldn’t latch for a few days. I went in every 3 hours, worked on latching for a few minutes, and then offered a bottle of pumped milk. Then one day it clicked! Awesome!
Later that week, the doctor recommended giving Ben preemie formula mixed with breastmilk a few times a day. Again, I didn’t hesitate to say YES. Fortifying with 5-6 ounces of this mix per day gave Ben some valuable calories that help him grow. And one month later, we still give him a “chaser” a few times a day. Ben’s a great eater, and my crazy NICU pumping has resulted in an oversupply, which created a stash of nearly 500 ounces of frozen breastmilk in just 5 weeks. Would it be great to claim he was exclusively breastfed? Yep. But you know what’s better? Seeing Ben grow and thrive.
Holding him as long as I want...
...but also putting him down. This new baby stage is SO short. Soon, he’ll be a squirmy toddler who is too distracted to sleep on my chest. So, I hold him. When people say, “You should put him down,” I just ignore them. I’m going to hold him as much as I want.
But at the same time, I’m not afraid to put him down. I let holding Grace get stressful sometimes. I held her when I needed to do other things — eat, take a shower, clean, whatever. It’s easy to tell a new mom to that it’s okay to put the baby down...but it’s another to be a new mom, not sure if you’re doing it right, feeling incredibly selfish for letting your baby sit in a baby swing for 30 minutes so you can make dinner. But now I know: it’s okay to keep living life. I have to. I have a house, a husband, a toddler. Sometimes, I have to put Ben down. But when I do, it’s a) my choice and b) not something I feel “guilty” about.
Taking care of myself
Maybe it’s experience. Maybe it’s because my husband is home this time. Maybe it’s because I had a c-section. Whatever it is, this time around I am so much more at peace with the fact that I need to recover.
First, I let go and ask for help. I’m a Type-A person, and didn’t want to relinquish any control after Grace was born. But Ben’s birth was so outside of our control. It was easy to admit we needed backup, in the form of my mother-in-law. For two weeks, she took care of my daughter and my house so that I could take care of myself and my son.
Second, I gave myself permission to be emotional. It’s not always easy! I struggle with showing a “chink” in my armor and letting people in. But boy, that hormonal letdown hits hard. And it’s even harder when you’re frustrated by physical limitations that accompany childbirth (vaginally or via c-section). And even HARDER when you’re also kind of mourning the loss of your freedom. But bottling it in doesn’t make it go away. I spent a lot of nights in the NICU in tears. I spent a few afternoons at home crying. And it helped me heal.
Finally, I’m embracing where I am physically. I’m not obsessing about “bouncing back” or hitting my pre-baby weight. I’m incredibly happy with my body, which has now birthed two perfect babies in less than two years. I’m letting my body heal instead of rushing back to exercise. I went out and bought new clothes. Clothes that FIT MY POST-BABY BODY. Sure, they may only fit a month or two— but they fit right now, and make me FEEL great. I’m also moving (walking every day), but not to lose weight. I’m doing it because it FEELS good. Appreciating my body in its current form...it’s powerful.