The Parenting Threshold: becoming a mom of two

Having my first baby was hard. It was terrifying making thousands of decisions and being responsible for keeping another human being alive and well. It was oftentimes anxiety provoking and a bit of a shock to my system.

I was surprised by the amount of mental space that this tiny perfect human being took up when I became a mother. I was also surprised by the amount of love I felt for her.

If having my first baby was hard, having my second has blown off my lid! It’s challenging beyond what I ever could have imagined and has stretched me far more than I thought I could be stretched.

I am now managing two human beings who have separate needs and wants, all of which are separate from mine- plus I’m sleep deprived. I’m trying to parent both with my full attention which is, I’ve found, impossible. I am pushed and pulled all day long and trying to just be good enough.

These past five months I’ve felt kind of like an exposed nerve that’s constantly being provoked and pushed and prodded and I’m just trying to maintain some semblance of structure and calm. Yet each day I keep going and pushing forward because that’s what parents do.

I’m surprised that I am capable of far more than I could have imagined. When my first child was born I experienced a lot of fear and also felt an all consuming pure love and awe of my little girl.

And with my second child Ive felt many complicated feelings of guilt and loss of the life with just one child, and also the beautiful shock of loving yet another human being in this indescribable, full body, all encompassing way. He’s my beautiful boy!

And then I see my kids together (and even though the older one won’t leave the younger one alone sometimes😅) they have these moments where they laugh and play and my heart just explodes.

My threshold for struggle and pain has risen but so has my threshold for love.

I am a more complicated and layered human being. I’ve got darker bags under my eyes, less neuroses about myself and a whole new level of compassion for humans young and old. I’m way less judgmental because my children have taught me you are born who you are, and whoever that is is perfect.

I’m just me. I care very little about how I look to everyone else because I simply don’t have the time to care! It’s refreshing in a way.

I guess having two kids has given me a higher threshold for ALL that life brings, and even though that can be brutally hard sometimes it also can be enormously soul quenching.

And in the end what more can I ask for than to live life fully and feel it all while raising these beautiful children? Even on my hardest days I wouldn’t change a thing.

Hazy Moments

My mind races.

I know I need sleep, but I lay awake scrolling through old photos on my phone. What did Emily look like at Ryan’s age? I can’t remember.

I look at photos of her at almost five months. I can’t really recall this stage. How was my big girl once this baby? I have a memory of it somewhere, but it’s so hazy.

Will I recall how adorable he was at almost five months with a smile that lit up a whole room? Will I remember the cute things she said when she was 3 like “yittle” and “yots and yots”?

The questions don’t stop. My mind doesn’t stop.

But I so desperately need sleep so I put down my phone and close my eyes; wishing for just a few consecutive hours before we begin again, and I see their sweet faces in the morning.

Now it’s morning. I didn’t get much sleep again. Just two hour pockets here and there. I feel like I haven’t slept at all.

I nurse him as I write this and wonder how I’ll get through today. I hear her waking, her dad goes to her.

Another day with my two that I’ll probably store away somewhere. Another day where I have the gift of watching them grow, even if I see everything through the fog of my exhaustion.

Will they remember how I was always there doing my best even when it wasn’t so great? I hope somewhere deep inside they’ll know. Maybe it will be in a hazy way, but I hope in some way they’ll remember.

In My Bones

I’m tired down to my bones.

I can feel it in the bags under my eyes, the way my brain works slowly. I can feel it when I can’t quite form the sentences I mean to say. I feel it when I forget to do the simple things- put the milk away, give the dog another scoop of food before he reminds me with a stare. I feel it when I have a moment to rest with my baby but am too tired to sleep and I write instead.

I’m in love down to my bones.

I can feel it when he smiles. I can feel it when he pushes strongly into his legs, wanting to stand and keep up with his sister, his head bobbling. I feel it when she rocks her dolls gently and says “shhh don’t worry you’re not a-yone.” I feel it when she hugs me out of nowhere or makes me laugh with a silly voice. Or when she makes her brother giggle just by talking to him.

I feel it in my bones- every day in ways big and small- love radiating through the fog of my exhaustion, lighting the way ahead. It’s the fuel that keeps me going, that kept my mom going, that kept her mom going.

And so here I am. Laying beside my son. Tired and in love. I can feel it in my bones.

Life Rafts

This transition from one kid to two has been the biggest challenge of my life so far. There are massive emotions all around, and my sleep deprived, hormonal, emotional self doesn’t always respond well to them. Some days I am pushed so far past my limit that I’m not certain how I’ll get through it all. Here are a few things that have helped keep me afloat when I felt like I was drowning.

Caregivers

I’m lucky to have the support of some amazing babysitters whose presences have been a lifesaver and gotten me through some particularly difficult days. They’ve gone above and beyond to step in to help, and have even taken the initiative to remind me to take time for myself.

Fellow Moms

I’m lucky to have the support of friends and fellow moms who I write to at all hours of the day and night. They write back when I text things like “how is it only 8:20am???” or “I’m so tired I don’t know how I’m going to function right now.” These conversations make me feel less alone and more connected to the outside world.

Social Media

I recently talked with a friend about how there’s way too much pressure on parents nowadays. Social media paints these pictures of how we “should” do things and if we fall short it feels like we’ve failed.

On the flip side though, social media holds the potential to make us feel less alone. I can imagine before social media parents probably felt the same isolation I sometimes feel, but had no way of knowing there were other parents out their feeling the same way.

So long as we are discerning about who we follow and how often we check our social media pages, I think it is a helpful tool for parents just trying to get through the day.

Family

Days when my husband is able to come home early make a world of difference in my anxiety level. Weekends are the best because daddy is home! I’m also blessed to have the grandparents living nearby so they step in when they can and fill in the gaps. Without all of them, I don’t know where I’d be!

My biggest lessons of having two children have been to surrender to the chaos, accept help when it’s offered, and to offer myself, my husband and my children grace during this heightened time of stress.

We will get through. We will wonder how the heck we did it. And we’ll remember all the blessings above that helped us float on through.

One Day I’ll Miss This

“One day I’ll miss this.” I try to tell my exhausted self as she wakes us all up at 5:50am after I’ve been awake since 3am with Ryan.

“I want mommy.” I hear her voice boom down the hallway. She repeats it over and over. I don’t want Ryan to wake so I get up.

“Mommy I lost my ding that picks up dings again.” She’s talking about that gray tool from her doctor kit that she slept with. She’s obsessed with that thing.

I walk to the kitchen and silently fill up my water bottle. I tell her I’ll look for it in a minute. I take a sip and breathe.

Using my phone as a flashlight I peer under her bed and find her “ding that picks up dings”

“Ganks mom!”

“Mommy I want to put on my undies and drink my milk and watch my screem.”

I tell her to go pick out undies and I’ll get the “screem” (an iPad) that I hid in my room yesterday after she was too rough with her brother. “Tomorrow’s a new day” I had told her, and she would get another chance to use it as long as she was kind to her brother.

We change her out of her pull up into her undies and I pour her a glass of milk. I set her up in her nest- surrounded by pillows and place her milk on the table next to her.

“Mommy dis isn’t the show I wanted to watch. I wanted Captain Underpants.”

I find the show she wants. “Ganks mom!”

And here she is now. Drinking her milk and watching her show. I think of all the shame thrown at parents for screen time and think of how useless that pressure is. Our screen is giving us all a few more moments of peace this morning.

It’s 6am and I’m tired to my bones. This is motherhood. This is survival mode.

One day I’ll miss this.

Supermom or just mom?

There I was at the gynecologist, feet up in stir ups with ten week old Ryan on my chest. I had finally gotten him to calm down after nursing him. My phone rang.

The doctor poked me with a needle again to numb me. “Can you feel this?”

“Yes!” I said while my whole body jolted. “I can STILL feel this.” This was the fifth or sixth attempt to numb me.

I answered the phone with one hand while holding my baby with the other. I had no choice- this was a new babysitter with my older daughter and I couldn’t let it go to voicemail.

“Hi. The AC guy is here asking where you keep your double A batteries.”

I am poked again by a needle and jolt again. This hurts so bad.

“They’re in the hidden drawer. It’s to the left of the sink.”

I wince in pain. And then don’t feel anything.

“To the left of the sink there’s a drawer. Open that, then open the one above it. There may not be batteries. I’m not sure.”

“Oh I see what you mean. I only see triple A’s though.”

I look Ryan and he’s staring at a wall sweetly.

“Tell him just to take the batteries out of the remote and use those.”

“Oh he just told me that’s what he did.”

“Okay thanks.”

I hang up. My doctor tells me it’s done.

She’s burned off the granulation tissue. This is extra tissue that formed during the healing process after giving birth. It contains nerves and causes a lot of pain- pain I have had to deal with for over 2 and a half months since giving birth. Pain I pushed through every day as I cared for my newborn and toddler and cried about each time it burned as I peed.

“Talk about super mom. Holding your baby while getting this done while talking to the sitter while coordinating with the AC guy. I am seriously impressed.” my doctor told me.

I wasn’t impressed with myself though. I was just in shock. Did I really just have granulation tissue removed while holding my baby while talking to a babysitter while problem solving how to find batteries for the AC guy?

This felt like a hyperbolic version of the stuff I do all the time. It was a next level messy juggling act that mothers do daily as we try to take care of our most basic needs while taking care of everyone else.

So it was done and here I was in the doctor’s office getting back into my wet clothes because they had been soaked on the walk over in the pouring rain. I put Ryan back in the carrier and off we went.

On the walk home the rain had cleared so I had a free hand to called my best friend to process it all. I also bought a giant Twix and housed it in two minutes.

Had that all really just happened?

One day I’ll write about this, I thought. One day soon.

But for now, back to my daughter and motherhood. Because moms don’t get a break.

In All My Messiness

Emmy’s out the door on the way to camp. I run to the shower; this is my chance! Tangled hair between my fingers from postpartum hair loss distracts me as I rush to get reasonably clean. I hear Ryan’s cries over the running shower. I am pulled to him but allow myself this time, this two minutes, to feel a little bit human.

He continues to cry as I step out of the shower and search for something to wear from the pile of clothes I haven’t had a chance to put away. I’ll wear shorts that are a little too tight and one of my maternity shirts that can pass for a regular one. This is what fits. I sing to him while I clumsily get dressed.

I finally pick him up and his cries stop immediately. I need to find the carrier and get him in it so I can walk Romeo. I put him down again and he cries. Once he’s snuggled in near me he stops again and we can both breathe, probably in unison.

I write this in my phone as I allow Romeo some time to play at the park. I wonder if people are judging me with my wet hair, bags under my eyes, and fingers typing away on my phone.

This is who I am right now. A messy version of myself. A version where I am so needed- to literally keep these humans I somehow created alive. It’s not pretty or instagram worthy really, but it’s life.

We get back home. Ryan has fallen back asleep in the carrier. I’ll squat down and grab Romeo a scoop of food trying not to wake the baby. I’ll wonder how I’m able to do this while still recovering from childbirth, with my ab muscles separated and healing.

The messy kitchen and dishwasher that needs unloading glare at me, but I’ll sit and bounce on the yoga ball while he sleeps. Hoping soon I can put together something to eat. Hoping soon I can maybe put on a bit of mascara and concealer to appear a little more awake.

Until then I bounce, with my baby boy peacefully sleeping on my chest. Knowing that within this mess is the most incredible love I’ve ever felt. I’ll look back one day and wonder how I did it. I’ll think “wow that was hard.” And I’ll also, not for one minute, regret that I wasn’t able to “keep it all together.” I’ll be grateful I was able to be there, in all my messiness, for my babies.