It is safe to say I was almost as terrified to have the second as I was to have the first. The first time around I was afraid because I didn’t know what to expect. This time, I was afraid because I did.
Postpartum depression did a number on me and I wasn’t quite sure how I would handle it a second time. I know I am only five weeks in, but thankfully I haven’t sat in the soul-crushing despair and anxiety that I had the last time I had a baby. Let’s pray things stay that way.
Our family of four on Labor Day Weekend
On the one hand, some things have been easier this time around. Many moms reassured me it would be since you only go through the “first-time mom” experience once. With your second, you have been through it once before; you know they won’t likely die if you accidentally snooze an extra half hour, and you’re not as neurotic about checking on them every five minutes just to make sure they are still breathing. You’re a little easier on yourself and have more realistic expectations about the first few months. If you’re not able to continue breastfeeding, you know you won’t be feeding them poison or lowering their IQ by giving them formula. You understand newborns aren’t always cute, and new moms aren’t always in a blissful state; newborns have a tendency to be really annoying, particularly at 4 AM when they are wide awake and you haven’t slept a full night in weeks.
And then there are the overwhelming feelings — first, the overwhelming feelings of love. When I became pregnant with KJ, I often wondered how I might love another child as much as I loved Aliya. She had stolen my heart, and I was sure that any other baby would not be nearly as cute, smart, charming, funny, or endearing as my number one girl. I was certain that any future children were doomed to be unattractive and boring in comparison. But little did I know how my heart would expand with love for my little guy. We’ve had a much shorter relationship than with his sister and we are still getting to know him, but all things considered, he’s pretty great.
Then comes the overwhelming exhaustion, an inevitable consequence of being sleep-deprived for weeks and/or months on end. I often wrestle with questions of eternal significance in the middle of the night, like — if men were born with nipples by design, why can’t they lactate and share in the joy of breastfeeding? How many hours/nights/weeks can a human being survive without sleep before they die? Because surely, I will combust tomorrow if I don’t get some sleep tonight. And what on earth would compel mothers to do this again and again? I swore for the first year of Aliya’s life, she was destined to be an only child. And of course, the question all new moms ask – will I ever sleep again?
Of course, I know I will sleep again. I have living proof in my three year-old. But I don’t know when I will sleep again, and that day could not come any sooner. For now, I will thank the good Lord for helpful family, thoughtful friends, and strong coffee.
For now, we are all adjusting. We are learning how to care for a newborn alongside a toddler. We are learning how to deal with very fragmented sleep (and how to play musical beds at night when older sister has night wakings). Aliya is learning how to be a big sister. Thankfully, she doesn’t blame her brother for turning her world upside-down. She only blames us.
I am looking forward to getting to know our son better and seeing these two interact with one another. And more sleep, of course.