If you're new here, the cliffnotes are: I had a rocky start to motherhood in June 2013 when we welcomed our first daughter, Ellerie. Some people feel like they are "born for this job" and I was not one of them. While some days and weeks were great, overall, I struggled immensely for about a year. I didn't have enough help. I didn't seek professional advice. I battled with myself constantly. I fought with Paul over what our roles were often. I was a mess and it sucked.
I can't tell you WHY (or even exactly when) the switch eventually flipped but it absolutely did. I embraced my mama role, found my footing and life got really good. I figured "hmmm, maybe I am just not one of those people that loves the 'newborn phase' or the 'baby phase'."
So when I was gearing up for the birth of our second daughter, I was prepared for The Struggle. I felt like I was on the starting line of a marathon. I was wearing my battle armor. I was ready for the overwhelming panic. I was carrying all the buckets to catch my tears. I had seven or eight flashlights strapped to my back to help guide me through the darkness. (It was all extremely heavy and overly dramatic.)
And then she was born.
I heard her cry, I saw her sweet face and I felt her warm body on my chest and I physically relaxed. I dropped the buckets and the flashlights and the armor. It was instant and immeasurable. I knew immediately: this was going to be a completely different experience.
The only explanation I have is that I'm already a mom this time. Last time, I had to learn how to be a mom in addition to learning how to care for a newborn. This time, I just get to work on the caring part. I am still figuring things out, but I know now that I can figure them out. I've got the tools this time. I've got perspective this time. I know who I am as a mother. I'm happy with who I am as a mother. I know we've already gone through a lot. I know we know how to get through a lot. I know that this is all just phases. I know these phases are so extremely short. I know that there is magic coming tomorrow and the day after that. More importantly, I know that TODAY is magic.
Plus I'm not trying to carry all those buckets and flashlights.
But really, I'm not focusing so hard on the waves that I forget how to swim.
It's been a dream this time around.
Still hard, obviously. But hard in a normal, life-is-bumpy, sort of way. Those first few weeks, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and the panic and the darkness to set in. But it hasn't yet. And if it does, I'm ready. I'm not going to wallow this time.
Aside from the fact that I felt more comfortable in my role from that first minute, I've done (and continue to do) a ton of things differently for kiddo number two. These are not recommendations by any means - babies and mamas are so different it's ridiculous - but here they are anyway.
We checked for a tongue-tie immediately. I had extreme breastfeeding issues with Ellerie and ended up exclusively pumping for 9 months. This time, we checked it out quickly and found that it was not an issue. Phew.
I went into this thinking if I can't breastfeed, no big deal. My attitude was and remains completely relaxed. In the hospital I refused to stress out and I was determined to not feel any pain. The combination somehow resulted in crazy levels of patience and I was able to work on the holy grail - that perfect latch. I never once cried over milk. I think I spent the first five weeks of my original newborn phase in tears over milk. Last night I said to Paul something I never thought I would say: "I think breastfeeding is going to be one of the best experiences of my life."
I refuse to google anything. ANYTHING. Last time, those first few weeks, I got lost on google. "c-section scars." "leg swelling." "newborn latch." "c-section scars week two." "newborn crying." "c-section scars one year later." "newborn spit-up." "newborn crying." "new mom crying." "postpartum depression." "newborn belly button." "newborn gunk in the eyes." "wtf is happening to me?" GOOGLE IS THE ENEMY OF A SLEEP DEPRIVED NEW MOM. This time, I either live in blissful ignorance and the "problem" resolves itself OR I seek advice from a doctor, not a new mom forum. (PS, the c-sections scars will for sure resolve themselves. I could kick myself for the time I wasted worrying about that.)
We have a plan this time. I was basically working a full time job when I had my first baby but somehow we thought I would just work from home! No childcare! I can do this! No. I definitely could not do it. It was a dumb, terrible idea for our family and it led to a lot of hurt feelings, passive-aggressiveness, tears, stress and battles. This time, not only do I have so much more help from my mom and Paul, but there's A Plan! The Plan is: I'll make it work while it works. And when it stops working? I'll get more help instead of crying.
I know it will be okay. Again, last time, I spent the newborn phase so worried about everything. About sleep. About lack of sleep. About birthmarks. About the swelling around my incision. About everything. It was a spiral of worry that led to a spiral of depression. I didn't care about anything because I was so caught up in the worry. Ugh. It was so rough. Just thinking back on it is rough. But DUDE. It gets easier. SO MUCH EASIER. Every day is a little easier and every day this newborn grows a tiny bit into a kid. A KID. Babies are lovely and warm and cozy and cuddly. But kids?! Kids are so awesome. I have so much perspective now that I don't have to worry and because I don't have to worry I get to enjoy this perfect, lovely, warm, cozy, cuddly baby.
So what's the moral here?
I don't know exactly. I do know that I would do anything to relive that first new mama period. I would do anything for a time machine to go back and sit down with June 2013 Elise. I'd give her a cup of coffee and a glass of wine. Then I would delete Google from her phone and nurse Ellerie for her while she took a shower, went for a walk and took a nap. And then I'd hold her hand and look in her eyes and say "I KNOW. NO SERIOUSLY. I GET IT. It's okay though. I promise you can relax. You, my friend, are making mountains out of molehills."
The trouble with that plan, of course, is that without what I went through the first time, I wouldn't know how to give June 2013 Elise the support she needs. The trouble with that plan, of course, is that there is no time machine. We simply move forward. Sometimes at a crawl. Sometimes at a sprint. But always forward. I can't change the past. I can only be so incredibly grateful that it happened.
And this is what I know: I am so grateful. I am so lucky to have these girls. I am so lucky I got not one, but two chances at motherhood. I am so lucky Paul and Ellerie stuck with me while I found my balance then lost it and refound it again 101 times. I am so lucky that Piper is here now to join them and stick it out with me that inevitable 102nd time. I am so grateful for the ebb and flow and the ability to just keep swimming.
I am so grateful for this stage of life. Ellerie Eve and Piper Frances, you are my joy. Being your mama is a gift that I work on and look forward to unwrapping every single day. Thank you for trusting me.
photos by Lisa Bardot of Little Goodness.