toddler

The Second Time Around

My first pregnancy was tough. Emotionally and physically I’m not sure I was completely ready a little after a year of completing cancer treatments. I spent most of my pregnancy hardly being able to eat and didn’t have a good support network as I was mostly the first/only one in my friend group to be having a kid. At one of the lowest points, I called a dear friend who had also had a very difficult pregnancy the year before and told her “I need you to tell me honestly this is worth it. You’re the only one I’d believe right now.” And she, of course, responded that it was absolutely worth it and that it all faded behind you once you had your baby and that helped me get by.

Now I’ve made it through my second pregnancy and have a one-month-old and a two-year-old. I was warned by some friends with multiple kids that during pregnancy (and after) you’re a lot more tired this time around and in some ways, it’s harder, which is totally true because you can’t be as self-indulgent in your needs when you have a little person with needs. I also continued to struggle with various pregnancy induced ailments that have led me to the conclusion that my body does not like being pregnant and I will not miss that.

However, this is a very different experience of being pregnant this time around and I’ve learned and grown a lot from the first experience.

1. This time I have a village. A lot of that village is remote and that is totally fine. It comes in forms of close friends who have kids/are pregnant now and being able to ask advice from or just understand the frustrations. It also comes from friends forgiving the fact that I’m in a tough friend period right now with my availability and weathering through that with me (thank you so much). I also have an amazing Facebook group this time full of a few hundred parents in New Orleans that has been invaluable with advice, support, and humor around kids, babies, and pregnancies (It’s basically 90% of the reason I have a Facebook account). They’re not affiliated with anything and the tone is very “do what works for you” which is exactly what I need. I also made Mom friends in New Orleans while struggling through newborn and baby life with Nono. This time I don’t feel like A. and I are doing it alone. I closed myself off a lot my first pregnancy and looking back recognize there was a lot of depression going on with that as well and this time around I made the time/effort to see my friends, have phone dates, and return texts/emails even when I was exhausted from pregnancy because I knew when the infant days came it’d be a while before I return to the world again.

2. I got a doula. A. and I decided last time to do it just the two of us and take a really extensive birth class. I don’t regret it at all, but this time around I recognized that I would feel anxiety about being completely reliant on A. with Nono in the picture. We had a plan for Nono when I went into labor, staying with A.’s parents who live a mile away, but what if they’d been sick or he’d been sick? There’s a lot of things that can happen and I didn’t want to be in the position of having to choose between having A.’s full attention and stressing about Nono or being alone for any of my labor. It was absolutely the right decision for me. I went into labor on a Friday night (same as with Nono) and it was perfect having Melanie there to support me and for her and A. to tag team getting a hospital bag packed (she was early!) and coordinate Nono and the dogs without me having to be alone. It was also really awesome to have someone to check in with when I was having a tough time with hospital staff that has been around the block with labor.

3. I got a new job. My last job was not pregnancy/family supportive and I worked long hours and had a lot of stress at the end of my pregnancy, no real plan for coverage while I was out, and then had my team and boss tell me how hard things would be when I got back (while still on maternity leave). It was exhausting and it definitely deprioritized my self-care at a time I needed it the most. This time around I’m at a very pro-family company that I’m able to work from home when I want to which made the end of pregnancy much easier and the hours are significantly better. They also offer 12 weeks of paid leave which takes a lot of stress/burden off and we prepared for me to be gone for months ahead of time, including telling the clients 4 months ahead of time. It enabled me to feel like I could make time to do a lot of self-care things I needed and the peace of mind being part of a strong transition/coverage plan.

4. Self-care! I started going to a chiropractor at the end of my first pregnancy because I was having bad nerve pain and walking was a struggle. It helped, but was limited in what we could do at that point. This time around I started seeing a chiropractor very soon after finding out I was pregnant, Nono and I actually see the same one which helps with cutting down on appointments. One week I was in intense pain whenever I moved and she fit me in that day and I felt so much better after she adjusted me, it was like fucking magic. I actually got adjusted the day I went into labor (probably not a coincidence), but I think it really helped how I felt post delivery. I’ve also gone to yoga on an almost weekly basis for the second half of my pregnancy. It’s meant that I miss some bedtimes and have to make time when I feel tired and overwhelmed, but I think it’s been so good to do something that both physically feels good and mentally makes me clear my head and be present in what I’m doing. I also started seeing a pre/post-partum therapist. Looking back, I badly needed to do this the first time around but was so overwhelmed with appointments and not feeling like I could make the time that I didn’t. It’s been a really interesting experience seeing someone who we just focus on pregnancy/birth stuff and preparing for that and she’s made house calls for my early post-pregnancy appointments so I wouldn’t have to drive. I got incredibly lucky with my referral having space, taking my insurance, and being someone I click with. It is NOT easy finding mental health resources.

5. I made things easier based on experience. First time around we were new parents and had no idea and was also skeptical of “what we needed” (seriously it turns out if your baby is into it that a wipe warmer is a game changer). This time around I knew exactly what things were more difficult and am not trying to power through it now that we’re juggling infant and toddler. Examples would be getting a used glider chair (nursing is so much easier in those but they’re so expensive new), a king size bed so that Noah and baby can fit with ease when we happen to overlap bedtimes, and a dockatot because even though we weren’t co-sleepers with Noah there are times an infant is only going to sleep on/with you and it was incredibly stressful/not conducive to sleep not having a way to manage that with some baby protections in place. I also did a thing I said I WOULD NEVER DO, I got a TV for our room. I was exhausted by 8:30 when I was pregnant and going downstairs to hang out was just often not in the cards for me and now I also have the option of staying upstairs with our infant and not being bored out of my mind if she’s sleeping on me and we’re upstairs. Plus now I go up to bed with her around 7pm and I’m up for the night.

6. I stopped feeling guilty (mostly). The first time around I felt so guilty for how little I could help A. at home because of how sick/exhausted I was (if you can’t eat, you also have no energy). I felt guilty doing things for myself and I felt guilty for leaving him to go do things with my friends that were “girls only”. It was all in my head and it sucked. This time around he did even more with being Nono’s primary caregiver the majority of the time, I probably did 10 or less mornings with Noah since becoming pregnant because my number one focus in the morning was ‘take it slow and try not to vomit’. BUT instead of feeling guilty, I feel empathy. I appreciate everything he’s doing and I empathize with how much he’s putting into work, household, dogs, pregnant wife, and kid which is often at the expense of time for himself. I also recognize that being pregnant is really hard on me and we made this decision together so we each have our sacrifices and roles to play while we get through this. From last time I’m also very aware that in the infant days I am going to be really limited by breastfeeding and exhaustion that’s going to take a really heavy toll on my social life that he’ll have some more flexibility with. So I (mostly) let go of the guilt and I try to find balance with empathy in supporting him when I can to take some time for himself too, and also give myself permission to do things for myself that ask him for more time (such as going to a women’s retreat for a day a few months ago). I read something recently that talked about how it’s rarely 50/50 in a marriage, especially with kids and appreciation is really how to make it work which I completely agree with.

So is it better/easier now that I’m one month in (well technically tomorrow). Yes and No. It is better. I’m not a scared first time parent and the comfort and confidence I have with an infant this time around is soooo much better. I also get to have time with Nono that feels so precious and is a big mood boost that I didn’t have the first time. It is not easier though. It’s still exhausting, it’s still an emotional rollercoaster, and this time we have to divide and conquer rather than take turns. But just like with our first infant go around, it gets better with more sleep from her, big brother moments with him, and I know her first smile is not far away to really change the game.

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The Lasts and the Firsts

The experience of motherhood is rarely talked about without a discussion of the losses it brings. First, there’s the loss of your body as you’re told repeatedly that it’ll never be the same, and entire sonnets are written for breasts after nursing ends. You’re told of the sleep you’ll lose, the connection with your spouse that’ll suffer, and the freedom you once enjoyed being at an end. The friendships you’ll be forced to neglect, the ability to multi-task at work that you’ll lose, and the sense of self that will diminish. With my first baby, I felt weird being happy in the sea of loss. I wasn’t sure how to enter the conversation sometimes with the good stuff. After having a miserable pregnancy, the baby part of it felt amazing, it was tough, but unlike being pregnant, I had an amazing little human that I was falling in love with and experiencing so many new things like his smile.

With baby number 2 I had an easier pregnancy, although it was still tough and not something I’d be eager to do ever again. Part of that was having Nono to distract me and also thinking about the fact that soon we’d be a family four, so our family of three was something to soak up and treasure before that period was over. I made a lot of plans for the end of pregnancy around getting special time with Nono before I entered months of needing to make our new baby my priority. I told my Mom she couldn’t come over Mardi Gras because I wanted those two weeks to just be the three of us to get the house ready and spend some time as our little family of 3 before things changed. I worked over MLK and President’s Day so I could take Mardi Gras and Lundi Gras as holidays and have a 4 day weekend with Nono to enjoy parades and each other. I planned all of this weeks and weeks before my due date to make sure it would work out because I was confident baby girl would be coming earlier than planned.

We had our first mardi gras weekend and it was a little bit of a mixed bag with Nono telling us “time to go home?” before either parade was over, but we still had fun as he enjoyed for the first time the New Orleans kid experience of waving at floats and getting footballs and light up swords and all sorts of random kid treasures. He sat on my diminishing lap for the bands as I covered his ears and we discussed how the drums are loud. He saw the horses prance by and the dance groups sparkle in their variety of styles and themes. I most enjoyed the time after the parades when he would repeatedly bring up the things he saw and experienced in his few words over and over again “Bands?”, “Drums loud?”, “Cover ears?” “See parades?”.IMG-0744

I carefully planned out the parades we’d try to go to for the big weekend, knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to sit through multiple ones and that we needed to plan around nap time as well (he’s pretty militant about his nap schedule). I finished up my work on Friday and couldn’t wait for my four days off to relax a bit and all the Nono time I was going to get.

Then, of course, my water broke. It wasn’t anything dramatic and seemed pretty low key so after some googling and discussing with my doula, I was hopeful that this wasn’t it. It was going to mean I’d have to be diligent about taking it even easier the next few days, but it was still going to be ok. I wasn’t having contractions so I took a bath in an effort to calm things down and hoped this would pass.

It didn’t. 13.5 hours later and baby Pom made her entrance into the world and A. and I cried with happiness when I held her the first time and marveled at her full head of hair.

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But the first hour of actual labor I cried for a different reason. I cried over losing my four days with Nono, knowing that it’ll be quite a while until we’ll have the opportunity to spend time like I had planned together. I was deeply sad to lose that time I’d planned for and looked forward to so easily, right on the cusp of having it. Losing those “lasts” without being able to soak them in was and is hard.

But now we have the firsts. Pom is just beginning so many firsts and having experienced them with Nono I look forward to them in a new way and appreciate the little windows of her newborn behavior while they’re here. And now Nono is a big brother for the first time. I love each day as he warms up to the idea that she is here and part of his life now as he talks about his little sister and being a big brother. He points out her MANY sleeping items (my single biggest lesson from Nono was having baby sleep options is key) and talks about how she was in my tummy before. He smiles at her more and more and wants to look at her and talk about her more and more as he wraps his head around this new world where we are a family of four.

I still grieve a bit for those lasts that will never be, but just like it is and has been with each baby, the firsts more than make up for the lasts and I find myself enjoying where we are so much more than looking back at where we’ve been.

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Toddler Travel Tips

My husband and I decided we’d like to take one last big trip before Nono started costing us a plane ticket. We chose Hawaii (we live in New Orleans) because it was a big trip, but seemed very baby friendly given the ability to have a laid back beach vacation instead of a trip requiring a lot of plans and activities.

Hana Waterfall

The most daunting part of the trip was the flight. About 10 hours in the air with a 17 month old who could walk and wouldn’t have his own seat. How was this going to go?

We hadn’t flown with Nono since he’d started walking so I really had no idea what to expect and visions of meltdowns while we were stuck on the runway were starting to flash in my head.

One of the tactics we took was to split up the flights. We flew to San Francisco and spent the night and flew to Maui the next morning. We stayed with friends so we didn’t have to add any hotel cost and it meant a 4.5 hour flight one day and then a 5.5 hour flight the next day instead of doing it all at once. On the way back we chose to take a redeye with a long break at SFO before heading home to break things up again.

A good friend of mine who flies regularly with her son shared some great tips with me. Her son is a little younger so I had some challenges that she does not yet with the walking and him being too big to wear in a carrier, but many of the tips were really helpful. Here’s how I took her tips and applied them with our trip and toddler:

  1. Get on the plane as late as possible to cut down on time that Nono will have to be sitting in our seat.
    • We normally fly Southwest so this isn’t really possible, but when we flew to Hawaii we were flying Hawaiian air from San Francisco and Alaska on the way back so we had reserved seats.
    • Overhead space can still be a concern so what we did is one of us would board during the ‘traveling with small kids’ time to gate check the stroller and car seat and also stick our two overhead bags up above our seats. The other one of us would hang out with Noah in the waiting area until almost everyone had boarded so he was able to walk around and be a crazy baby up until the last moment. I talked to boarding staff ahead of time and all of them were understanding and supportive of this and we didn’t have any trouble boarding without Nono during the small kids boarding time.
  2.  Think of the flight in 15 minute increments
    • i.e. Don’t give them everything you brought at once. I gave him one thing at a time and tried to maximize the time with whatever that item was, food, toy, or book. It required a lot of attention from me or A. to keep him engaged, but welcome to traveling with a toddler…
  3. Go for slow to eat foods
    • This was a great way to keep Nono focused on something and happy. Rather than mostly doing pouches, which he goes through very quickly, we did crackers and puffs that he would pick up individually and take his time with.
  4. Get some new toys
    • Nono has some favorite items that I made sure to bring, a couple of books that he can’t get enough of and some toys, but I also got some new items with that 15min increments in mind:
      • Little animal figurines:┬áDefinitely the most bang for my buck. I used leftover easter eggs and put 3-4 animals in them and had a small bag of them. I brought these out one at a time through the flight and Nono had a great time playing with the animals as well as packing and unpacking the eggs with them. They also take up very little room so they were perfect for the flight and cheap enough that if we’d lost some it didn’t matter (miraculously we didn’t).
      • Magnetic Sketchpad: This was the longest lasting entertainment. The stamps are hard to keep track of, but Nono didn’t seem to mind when those would disappear. He spent hours drawing on this. It’s great because it’s compact, no mess, and easy to keep reusing.
  5. Books that hold attention
    • This one was a little too advanced for him, but a few months later (now) it would be perfect. It didn’t hold his interest for long a few months ago, but now it’s great for the “where is the…” or “what does a ….. say?” that he’s really into. There’s ton of animals on each page so if your kid is ready for it, it is definitely a book that can eat up a lot of time.
    • Open up book. This one was good because it is super tiny so it hardly take up any space and Nono had fun opening the doors on the page and finding the animals in them. He needed a little help to open the doors because they stick a bit, but definitely a good plane option based on size and enjoyment.
  6. Fuzzy Headphones. These were a waste of money. First I thought they were adjustable and they’re not so my toddler’s giant head wasn’t a good fit. Second, he didn’t want to wear them AND he didn’t care about sound. I had downloaded some videos to watch and he ended up watching free videos on the plane entertainment center without sound and being perfectly happy.

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When we got to Hawaii I put away all of the new plane items so that we could use them on the flights back and they’d still have novelty. We got very lucky and he slept the whole redeye back to San Francisco (so we did too) and we really had no issues with all four flights. I now appreciate the flights where I am by myself and can read a book these days, but I think with the right preparation and a cooperative kid, flights don’t have to be something you dread.

Any tips or tricks to share that worked for you?