Monday, December 2
Our little chicken recently turned six months. Six! I feel like this declaration ought to be followed with the usual musings on how fast time flies, where does time go, doesn't it seem like just yesterday he was a wee newborn, etc etc... But no. It feels pretty much exactly like it's been six months. Six hard, beautiful, transformative months of really, really shitty sleep.
But it's been slowly getting better and, some days, dare I say it's a bit easier. We made a big switch a few weeks past, moving Cash from our bed, where he'd nurse Lionel Ritchie-style (ALL NIGHT LONG), to his own crib, and he's taken to the change admirably. Miraculously, even. My quality of sleep is slowly improving, and there is more freedom and space in our days now as his sleep schedule is regulating. But even such a positive change can leave us reeling. One night early in this transition, with both boys in bed, asleep, by 8pm, my husband and I were circling around the house in a confused daze: what? no playing tag with the cranky baby? now you're it, now you're it? We hardly knew what to do with ourselves. I'm sure it won't take us too long to figure out.
One of my mama friends, who already had two kids, told me when I was pregnant with Cash that the first six months are the hardest. We're over that hump now, and I feel I'm breathing a little bit easier. While having two small boys has been exponentially harder than I thought it would be, and in some ways I did not anticipate, still, as I'd hoped, there were some ways in which it was easier than adjusting to life with our firstborn.
Lesson 1: You're already broken in
This was my greatest hope heading into the life of a mama of two: that all of the hard, hard work of learning to identify as a mother I did with Silas would pay off. And it did. While learning to mother two children is one hell of a learning curve, there's a lot you've already figured out. You've already given away all of your time. You're used to being interrupted. You know you're not the mama you thought you would be, and you've settled into being the mama your family needs you to be, and you know that's a much better thing. You and your partner have more or less figured out your roles as parents and partners. Your house is already trashed. In some ways, life with two doesn't look so much different than life with one, because you're already broken in. Which is good, because...
Lesson 2: You've lowered your expectations
...because life with two kids is a whole new ballgame. In fact, often it doesn't even look like the same sport. While this is wildly disorienting, and will shake you to the core of your being, one thing it won't do is be too much of a surprise, because you've learned the first go round to let go of expectations. Or, at least, to not take your expectations too seriously. You already know it won't look or feel anything like what you thought or imagined. You've already learned the hard way that most of your unhappiness stems from wishing hard for what you don't have and failing to embrace what you do have, which is this moment, your body, your breath, your baby, unvarnished, just as it is. You've learned the freedom that comes with accepting life as it comes. You know it's just that simple. (You also know that simple doesn't mean easy.)
Lesson 3: You know to wait it out
This may be the biggest one. I remember so keenly, holding a small, sleepless Silas in the dark hour of night and thinking, and really believing, that I would never sleep again. It felt like dying. While I could reason that there was little chance that this would be true, that Silas would grow up and no longer need me to soothe and feed him back to sleep, because I hadn't experienced it, I couldn't conceive of how this would possibly happen, so completely was I caught up in the discomfort of the moment. But once you've witnessed one child go from nursing all night to sleeping all night in his own bed THANK GOD, you know this: this new baby will, too. You know this baby will learn to sleep, eat, walk, will wean and speak, and often with very limited input from you besides your willingness to wait it out and let things unfold in their own good time. You know what's needed is less of your thinking and more of your patience. And so you wait, and in doing so, you get to relax a little.
Lesson 4: Things change
You know to not get too comfortable with anything, good or bad, because your children are both evolving at lightning speed, and what holds true today may be history by tomorrow. Adaptability is key to survival, which is true as much of parenting as it is of the evolution of species. Change is the one true constant. Now you're more willing to plug your nose, jump in, and go with the flow.
Some days I look back at the first few months of my son's life and wonder, how did we manage to survive? But the fact that we're here is incontrovertible. And one more thing is true: I can hardly remember what it was like to have only one kid, just like I cannot fathom what my life was like before I had children. We are now a family of four. I am a mama of two. Life is sometimes hard, sometimes messy, sometimes scary. But it's always beautiful. Always.