To the mom welcoming her second baby,
The warm weight of a newborn against your chest feels both familiar and somehow brand new as you settle into your role as a mom of two. The excitement and overwhelming love is just as strong as it was the first time, but thankfully the nerves and anxiety have loosened their hold just a bit.
You may be tempted to resume your daily routine and get “back to normal,” but instead of rushing things, take time to embrace the sweet chaos of it all for a short while: the baby blankets strewn on the furniture, the collection of water glasses half full on the coffee table, napping at random hours, the perhaps inordinate amount of TV-watching, the days everyone spends in their pajamas from beginning to end. Take time off from “real life” for just a while, to relish the transformation of your family in all of its exciting, scary, sleep-deprived irreplaceability.
One of the sweetest parts of bringing home your second child is watching your first baby grow into the big brother or sister. Little things can make the adjustment easier on the newly minted big sibling. One of the easiest things to do but often the easiest to forget is eye contact. Even if you’ve got your hands full feeding or rocking the baby, making eye contact – if only for a few seconds – with the older child. Your attention lets them know that you still see them, too. You might not be able to give them exactly what they want in the moment, but they’ll at least feel acknowledged. When you can, enlist big brother or sister as your special helper to bring you diapers, sing to the baby while you pour a much-needed cup of coffee, or designate them assistant errand-runner with dad or a grandparent.
A wrap or sling can be an invaluable tool to help you keep your newborn close while keeping both hands free to care for your other child. Stretchy wraps and ring slings are perfect for the newborn stage. Remember that no matter what kind of carrier you choose, your baby should never be in a position that puts their chin to their chest (as this can restrict breathing) and that baby needs to be close enough for you to kiss so that you can properly monitor them while in the carrier. Make babywearing a family affair; encourage your partner to wear the baby. You can even use a piece of fabric or scarf to create a small sling or wrap for big brother or sister to tote a doll or stuffed animal of his or her own.
In the flurry of trying to meet your children’s needs, remember to care for yourself. At first it will feel like everyone always needs something and always from you. The older child needs a hug or a cup of juice (but in the red cup, not the blue cup!) right when the baby needs a diaper change and then needs to eat and then needs a diaper change again and family members are calling to come visit and you feel like you just need a minute to catch your breath. It’s okay to have your limits. It’s okay to need a moment. It’s okay to let those tears of frustration fall. These days are precious but they can also be daunting.
The balancing act in the beginning may feel like a tenuous one, but you’ll find your footing. The family and the life that you’re creating are perfectly yours and you will rise to each challenge as you cherish each little victory.
Jennifer Stutzman, Freelance Writer
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