10 commandments of surviving the first few months of a second baby

This is the first in a series of posts about Round Two - having a second baby.

When I was pregnant with Buster I searched high and low ("searched high and low" = searched on Amazon) for a book about preparing for and then existing within a life with an infant and a toddler. The 2-year age gap is so prevalent that I thought such a book MUST exist.

It does not.

Or if it does now, it didn't 2 years ago.

Or if it did 2 years ago, it wasn't sold on Amazon.

Or if it was sold on Amazon, then it needs to have its searchable keywords adjusted.

REGARDLESS.

While we all wait for that book to be written, here is a blog band-aid, a few preliminary commandments for surviving the first few months on your second go-round.

10 Commandments 
of Surviving the First Few Months 
with a Second Baby


1. Thou shalt not

Nope, we're not doing that. 
Shut that down right now. 
You're better than that, Katie. 
You're better than Moses.


1. Everything I am about to say does not last forever except a couple of things. 

This list can be a little grim, but don't worry - seriously - everything on this list is a temporary adjustment you have to make while easing the new baby into the culture of your family, except a couple of things.

Yep, nothing here is a forever change, except just one or two big ones.

So just remember, as you're reading, that this entire list is just a phase! A quickie phase! That will end! I promise!!! Except there are just a few irreversible life changes.


2. Look Fierce, Ma: Your Number One Job Has Changed.

When you had one kid, your number one job was nurturer, protector, teacher, boo-boo kisser, story-reader, singer of songs, coaxer of carrots.

Not anymore, friend.

Now that you have two kids, your number one job has just become "Murder Preventer."

It's not that the toddler hates the baby or wants him dead. Toddler is merely suspicious of the baby and wants him quiet. So when Baby starts to fuss, Toddler holds a pillow on Baby's fuss-hole. Boom. Problem solved.

awww
are you giving him a kiss, honey?
chicken?
CHICKEN?
TAKE YOUR MOUTH OFF OF HIS NOSE
OH GOD
IS IT SEALED?
DID YOU MAKE A SEAL ON HIS NOSE?
HE BREATHES THROUGH THAT NOSE CHICKEN
DIDN'T YOU FEEL HIM FIGHTING YOU?

Again, this isn't malice or a Shakespearean grab for power; it's just Toddler's simple and straightforward problem-solving at work.

Problem: Baby
Solution: Hammer

See? Toddler isn't scary. He's just...

ANYWAY, this stage is totally normal. Try not to get mad at Toddler for hurting Baby sometimes; Toddler is trying to figure out what Baby is made of, and how best to eliminate "C" from the "A-B" lifestyle to which he's grown accustomed.

For a little while you may not be able to leave Toddler unattended with Baby. Bring Baby to the bathroom with you or install a childproof lock on Toddler's bedroom door. Prevent a tragedy, people. Just for a little while.

How long is "a little while," you ask?

... I'll let you know.



3. Let your older child come around to the baby at his/her own speed. 

Polite disinterest is the most you should hope for when introducing your toddler to the new baby.

Sure, some kids might be like, "Is he ours, Mommy? I will love him forever," but those kids' parents lie on Facebook.

Most 2 or 3-year-olds are like "what? Baby? Oh. OK. What's this button do? Who's that nurse? Does she have candy? Can we watch TV? Is that a cookie? Why does the bed have wheels? Can I have pizza?"

standard


This reaction, or rather, non-reaction is normal and OUTSTANDING.

Obviously, you'll stage an adorable pic of the two of them early on. And OF COURSE you should have an adorable pic of the two of them early on. You pooped out two humans and you deserve some fucking cute pictures with good lighting. Just try not to push too many adorable encounters and photo-ops on the older child. Why, you ask?

Quick question. How'd your toddler respond when you pushed "toothbrushing" on him? Loves it, does he? Brushes four times a day, does he? Sends the dentist a birthday card? Hm?

How'd your toddler respond when you pushed "peas" on him? Gobbled them up like gumdrops, eh? Asked for peas instead of a cupcake for his birthday dinner, did he? He did?

NO. NO HE DID NOT.

Toddlers are contrary as fuck, you guys. The more you try to push the baby, the more they will treat the baby like all the other things you pushed: you'll be like "baby is good for you!" and he will throw baby across the room and scream "BABY IS A FUCK!"

(True story, Chicken yelled that like 6 months ago and I'm still laughing about it.)

We did everything the books told us to do when we introduced Chicken to Buster, but the only thing that really helped Chicken adjust was time away from Buster, time that we put down the camera, let him be, time that he didn't have to perform for us or any visiting friends.

We had to stop stuffing the baby down his throat, trying to make sure he "loved" him ASAP.

Newsflash: Toddlers don't know what love is, except when it comes to juice and whatever the other kid has.

Take your cues from the older child. If he's curious about the baby, encourage him. If he gives no fucks about the baby, let it be. There will be TWO LIFETIMES' WORTH of time for the two of them to get to know each other.

Remember, even though there's a new baby, Toddler is still a baby, too.

Read the room. Let Toddler come around when he's ready. He'll get there.



4. Ask for help. That's what friends are for. 

When you're at 39 weeks and you need someone on call to care for your older child at a moment's notice? Friends keep their phones on and charged 24/7 until that baby leaks out.

When you're home from the hospital and he's going back to work and you have your first day alone with two kids? Friends come over with muffins and coffee or sandwiches and a new can of Play-Doh.

When it's been 3 weeks and you feel like you have to stop milking the new-baby free-meal thing, but it's 3:30 and there's nothing to eat in your house? Friends do a grocery run. Friends bring you takeout. Friends order a pizza. Friends cook spaghetti.

Call a friend. Call all your friends. Call me. Don't worry that you're calling too much.

Do not call a frenemy. Call a friend.

This is exactly what friends are for, to be your fenceposts in the dark, sturdy and present and just where you left them, while you pull yourself back up and get your bearings.



5. Accept offers of help, whether or not you think they're sincere. Those carefree bastards offered to help and they WILL HELP. That's what friends are for.

Text exchange with a friend after you have your first baby:

Friend: How are you doing???

Me: Great!!! He's nursing like a champ!

Friend: Awwww he's so cute.

Me: Thank you :)

Friend: Let me know if you need any help, ok? Like a dinner or anything, whenever you're settled.

Me: Thanks, girl! I think we're okay! We have to start taking care of ourselves sometime. xoxo


Text exchange with a friend after you have your second baby:

Friend: How are you doing???

Me: Great!!! He's nursing like a champ!

Friend: Awww he's so cute.

Me: Thank you :)

Friend: Let me know if you need any help, ok? Like a dinner or anything, whenever you're settled.

Me: We need a dinner on Tuesday night?

Friend: Uh

Me: If not Tuesday, then we do need a grocery run in the next day or so. I can email you the list and reimburse you with cash or you can come pick up my card anytime.

Friend: Let me check with Adam...

Me: OK, I'll pencil you in for both. Let me know what works. xoxo

See what I did there? A friend offered to help and I:
a) assumed she was sincere
b) made a specific request
c) gave an alternate option
d) helpfully committed to both on her behalf

You're weeeelcooooome!

Seriously though, friends want to help. Help them help you.



6.  Mourn the loss of your relationship, as you knew it, with your older child. 

When I met Chicken, the last time I'd fallen in love like that was never.

When I met Buster, the last time I'd fallen in love like that was 2 years prior.

There's nothing like your first.

Chicken's only-child days were few and precious. We were a great fucking team. I would sit, captivated, and watch him with a book, running his fingers over the slick pages, his lips moving soundlessly. We would sit in the dirt together at the park watching ants for as long as he wanted. We talked about them, named them silly nonsense names like "Back-Gack" and "Floof." We blew gently on them and marveled at how they held their ground. Those moments of quiet togetherness were unscheduled, frequent, beloved.

Now, these moments are scheduled in advance, set aside, designated, focused, urgent. I turn my gaze on him and it is not the warm, soft, waiting shine that it used to be. It's pointed and overbright, "this is our time. We have to do us now. Now."

Our only child relationship is over. I miss it. He misses it. But it is gone and it's never coming back. The best we can do is go out on pizza and tic-tac-toe dates, steal an extra book after Buster goes down for a nap, throw a blanket over our heads and giggle. The best we can do is still great.

Birth, like death, is a wall that goes on forever, but unlike death, which stops the way forward, the wall of birth lies behind you. You cannot go back, no matter how beautiful it was back there.

It's ok to be sad about that for awhile.

Also, totally ok to be fine with moving on. Whatever you need.




7. Make a nursing basket for your toddler!

This is such an amazing idea I got from Pinterest. You know how newborn babies have to nurse a lot, and whenever your toddler sees that you're basically shackled to the chair with a cradle-capped succubus on full-drain, your toddler is like NOW is the moment I've been waiting for my entire life. NOW is the moment I shall drink the stuff from the blue plastic bottle that Mom keeps under the kitchen sink.

All you have to do (and you guys seriously so easy) is just put together a nursing basket for your toddler! First, you need a basket. Easy solush: Pottery Barn Kids. Then you need to fill the basket with handmade wooden math toys and human anatomy puzzles and a cello, and any time the baby needs to nurse, you just pull out the basket and the toddler learns and blossoms and gets into Princeton and

I'm fucking with you.

Turn on the TV.

Nobody fought harder than me to get the nursing basket to work, but if your toddler is anything like mine he will toss that nursing basket against the wall with freakish strength, set the coloring books on fire, stalk over to the drawer where he knows you keep the iPad, settle down on the couch, key in the iPad code, and fire up a Dora without even looking at you.

Truth: the only way I could get a nursing basket to work was if I put an iPad and a juice box in it.



8. Repeat after me: "I don't remember anything."

People seem to think you're an expert parent when you pop out that second-round kid. Not just your friends, but also, more distressingly, the health care professionals whose job it is to make sure you're informed about, you know, maintaining baby's pulse and stuff.

The lactation consultant pops her head in and she's like, "oh this is your second? Great! Bye!" Never mind that the last time you nursed it was for a year-old toddler who could literally pull your breast out of your shirt himself, latch, nurse, and then put it back without any assistance from you. Same as nursing a newborn, right?

The pediatrician is like, "you don't have any questions, right? You know how all this works, right? Great. I'm going to step out for a moment because I've gotta snapchat this video of a penis... it's not mine... it's... a medical penis snapchat video... to a... colleague. She's an expert in... medical penis questions... scusemeberightback." Never mind that Baby has a rash you've never seen before, certainly not from when Toddler was a newborn. You're a PRO! Right?

Wrong.

You are not a failure if you have not mastered infant parenting, having done it ONCE, TWO YEARS AGO, under HEAVY PSYCHOLOGICAL AND HORMONAL STRESS, and with LITTLE TO NO SLEEP.

Seriously? There is no other skill for which the requirements of mastery are a single cracked-out interlude, years in the past.

"Hi, I'm here for the brain surgery."

"Oh, are you the master brain surgeon?"

"Yes, I am. I've performed this surgery once before, in 2012. I myself was the early days of recovering from a notable physical and psychological trauma. I hadn't slept more than 3 hours straight in several weeks, and at the time I had absolutely no idea what I was doing."

"You sound SO QUALIFIED for this brain surgery! How's that patient doing, by the way?"

"Inconclusive. He knows a lot of words but won't wear his shoes on the right feet. OK! You ready? It's a beautiful day to save lives!"

Fuck no, I'm not ready. Homey needs some help!

It's okay to say that you don't remember. It's okay to ask to be treated like a first-timer. With this child, you are.



9. Explore the limits of what is acceptable to you as a parent. 

Not what is "ideal." Not what is "preferred." ACCEPTABLE. Some things are going to be good enough, and not one drop more.

"Explore" doesn't mean reconnoiter from a distance. Get right on up on that line, girl.

How many episodes of Sesame Street can your toddler watch in a day before turning into a monster? LET'S FIND OUT, JOHNNY!

Cereal for dinner? Is that acceptable? HELLZ YEAH! Pour up dem O's and drizzle the milk up on it!

If screen time and nutrition continue to be places where you cannot compromise, rock on and I salute you. Just know that as you acclimate to meeting the needs of at least three living creatures (are you wondering who the third living creature is? It's you, dummy. You count, too), something has got to give. You can pick what that something is, or you can fall into a fugue state and wake up in Reno. Your call.

Some of my favorite acceptable compromises were:

- Rotisserie chicken and bag of salad for dinner (3 nights a week.)

- Indoor mall playgrounds (But it's sunny! We should go to the beach! The beach is where your children will learn about death. Your toddler can climb on a scungy plastic shoe outside Old Navy for 20 minutes while you nurse the baby. Not forever. Just for a little while.)

- Starbucks drive-thru meals

- I mean, obviously TV

- In-home playdates (and by that I mean in my home. Just come to me, you guys.)

- Walking barefoot to and from the car because I can spot broken glass from a mile away and shoes are just I can't even with the shoe thing anymore


10. Gear up.

When I was pregnant with Buster I was all, "we have everything we need! I'm not trying to acquire temporary baby solutions that are wasteful and expensive. Besides, women have babies in huts with nothing more than a sheet and a gourd. I can totally make do with just a single stroller."

I WAS A FOOL. I don't live in a hut alongside my extended family whose job it is to support the tribe. I live in a city where I take two children to the park by myself and I need a fucking double stroller ok? I actually have two - this one for long walks/runs (I got it at a consignment store!), and  this one for tighter quarters like shopping or the zoo (I got it on Craigslist!) I use at least one of them every day.

I needed a comfortable body-carrier. I don't mean comfortable for an hour. I mean all-day comfortable. Shoulder straps like rolled-up velvet beach towels. Back support like you work at Home Depot. Buster weighed 10 pounds at 2 weeks old, and only slept on my body for 4 months.

I already had a swing and a bassinet and a mini crib but dammit Buster would only sleep in a Rock'n'Play. #GOTIT #GEAR.

I know we're all hip-deep in the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up but there is a time and a place for having an entire room for a single teacup, and that time is in 18 years. Right now it is time for gear.

Bassinet? Mamaroo? Rock'n'Play? Swing? YES. ALL OF IT. YES. WHATEVER YOU NEED. DO IT.

Everyone's gear needs are different. I'm not here to tell you what YOU need - I'm just here to give you permission to acquire whatever gear YOU need. Do not apologize for creating a baby registry for your second baby - if some people find it distasteful then they can just not shop on it and go buy chalky Grandma mints to hand out next Halloween like the soggy douche pastries they are.

If money is tight, troll Craigslist and the consignment stores for your gear - at many stores you can put your name down for specific items and they will call you if one comes in, which is how I got my double Bob stroller for way less than half the retail price. Get on a local Facebook parents' group and see if anyone is ready to pass along their gear, either for free or at a reasonable resell cost. And when the time comes, pass your gear along in turn.

Are you grossed out by the unapologetic consumerism and privilege in this one? Yeah, me too. Sorry. But we're a product of our time and place here, you guys. If we still lived in extended family units where there was always a waiting set of hands for each of your children you wouldn't need any of this crap. But honestly, you should probably get used to being grossed out by the sheer volume of crap you own - you're about to have two babies in America. I'm just trying to be real here. And you can donate it all later.




** This is how we made it through the first few months with a baby and a toddler. But I'm like 80% sure it's not the only way.

If you have any tips, advice, or questions about the first few months with a second baby, please leave a comment or shoot me an email!

1 comment:

  1. This is the funniest thing I've read in a long time. Thanks for sharing and for the good belly laugh!

    ReplyDelete