SPLITTING THE ATOM - FROM ONE BABY TO TWO
We were only a few months in but Ellie had all the sensitivity of a rottweiler's nose and she could smell pregnancy on me like a piece of metaphorical jerky.
I had already sold my soul to her and she was coming back for seconds. Every bit of my attention belonged to her. At least those were her demands.
"Chocolate milk" was how she greeted us most mornings.
"Okay, daddy's getting you chocolate milk."
"Mommy do it" she threatened.
"No, dad is already getting it."
Encounters like this were the poster for my pregnancy sequel. Different day, different meltdown, same story, Our little girl knew we were turning her world upside down and she wasn't going to take it lying down (I mean that metaphorically. She spent a lot of time on the floor, throwing tantrums) .
After I had Ellie, we'd scarcely been home with her for a week before I was telling Ian that I was ready for another baby. I was blissing out on motherhood. Drunk on the discovery of this powerful new kind of love.
...I'm not totally insane though (you were definitely wondering), and I made myself promise that Ellie would have at least one full year of that special bond to herself. Everything with her was a first for us. For her. It was absolutely special. I wanted to make sure I enjoyed every stage, cherished every "first" , and gave her the time she deserved to have to herself. None of us would ever have any of it back. Everything is different the second time around. Not better, not worse. Just shared. Special in it's own right, but not the same.
Ellie was barely a year old when we found out I was pregnant again (made our goal by the skin of our teeth #goalgetter).
She is bright for her age, but still had no concept of what mom's growing belly meant for our family. Yet still, like a damaged kneecap before a storm, she knew that change was coming.
Mostly she just became very attached to me.
[Times a thousand.]
She wanted me to hold her constantly (which was a major shift from her normal independence and spacial bubble). She demanded I do everything with/for her. Ian felt so helpless during this really difficult phase (I say that as if we're not still in it from time to time). She'd totally breakdown if I wasn't the one to read her a book, play in her room, get her food, change her diaper, or put her to bed. Or essentially anything. It was exhausting.
Then came the regression phase.
Even though she was fast approaching toddler territory (especially on a mental level), she started frequently requesting that I treat her like a baby. It started one day after I had given her a bath. I had wrapped her in a towel and snuggled her in my arms saying, before setting her on the bed, "aww look at my little baby" I said, rocking her in my arms as I spoke.
From then on she walked around with that towel, crying "baby" until I figured out she wanted to be wrapped up in it again.
Every night her bedtime routine consisted of her again requesting "baby". I would gather her into my arms, rock her, and sing various nursery rhymes. Sometimes until she fell asleep, sometimes until I couldn't sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star again for the tenth time (I don't have a lot of songs in my lullaby repertoire,)
She'd also taken to spending literally hours every day swaddling, holding, singing to, and putting to bed her own baby dolls and toys. I'd even find an occasional cracker or sippy cup tucked in for bed around the house.
It was funny, She wanted me to treat her more like a baby now than she had her ENTIRE "babyhood".
Normally I was lucky if I could get her to hold still long enough for a hug or kiss. Cuddling had always only been done on her terms, when she initiated it. Now she wanted to be held, and rocked, and swaddled, and sang to constantly.
For the record: I didn't regret one bit indulging her in this. It's what she needed at the time and phase passed quickly. I still miss it sometimes.
I do, however, like to think we tried to be reasonable throughout these phases (they tended to ebb and flow throughout the pregnancy) I genuinely didn't mind a lot of the time. I was trying to soak up what little time was left with her still as my baby.
Being the oldest child is more weight to carry than I think we ever consider and her shoulders were still so young and tiny.
I wanted her to enjoy that time and I wanted to enjoy it too. (Ian got stuck finding a gazillion other ways to help out and lighten my load - always taking care of dinner, cleaning the house, and rubbing my feet.)
We still knew it was important to prepare her for what was coming though. As much as my mind thought it, we couldn't let her believe she was the center of the universe.
We needed to set boundaries with her. Our parenting philosophy, if we have one (we tend to do a lot of "cross that bridge when we come to it" parenting), is to create independently functioning, adaptable, little humans.
Which meant dad occasionally was the one to get the chocolate milk. Or change the diaper. Or read the book. Or pick her up off the floor, post-conniption.
And if she wouldn't let him him help, that was okay too. It just meant we ignored her until she got over it.
And then I had the baby. [Ellie was 20 months old.]
AND THE WORLD ENDED.
Just kidding, it wasn't that bad. (You should have seen your face)
It didn't help that the first week we had Layla, Ellie had caught a bug so she was already a bit fragile and on the weepy, clingy side.
But all in all, we were shocked at how well she adjusted.
She genuinely seemed to enjoy having a baby around. She loved looking at her hands and feet and would come over and gently pat her and then go back to whatever she was doing.
She'd always (and still does a lot of the time) refer to Layla as "Sister" and would get upset or worried when she didn't know where she was.
If I came downstairs and didn't have the baby with me, she'd walk around looking for her in the usual places. She'd get upset if I got her out of the car and took her inside before also getting Layla out. She'd cry "Sister!" as I took her up the stairs, worried that I was going to leave her.
She was such a little mama. (I think this is pretty common with oldest daughters.) She loved watching Layla be fed, changed, bathed, etc and she would mimic everything. (including breastfeeding, as we quickly learned)
(I mean, literally as I am writing this she's got a baby feeding and changing station going)
REAL FRICKIN' HEART-MELTING CRAP YOU GUYS. 😵🥰💓
But it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns 🌈🦄
The first two weeks were definitely the hardest.
She wasn't overly jealous, surprisingly enough. It was *usually* only when it was time for me to nurse Layla.
As soon as I sat down to feed Layla, Ellie would suddenly need something that only I could get get or she just had to have me hold her right that minute .
Coincidence? Definitely not. #kidsarejealouspunks
She basically would (and occasionally still does, 3 months in) cycle through all the same phases she did during my pregnancy.
↶ The "BABY/REGRESSION" Phase ↷
And back by popular demand was:
The "ONLY MOMMY CAN DO THINGS FOR ME" Phase.
The thing is though. IT'S SO NORMAL.
I had to constantly remind myself that this was her world too and it was turned upside down ever since "Sister" came into the picture. Ellie was trying to cope, and really she was doing amazing. It just was an adjustment for all of us.
Can I #nofilter it here for a minute?
When we first brought Layla home from the hospital and Ian's parents dropped Ellie off, and it was our first time all together on our own I wasn't sure what to expect. It's not like I expected our lives to just fall into place and to be one big happy family immediately or anything.
But I didn't expect to have terrible thoughts about wishing that one or both of my children would conveniently disappear.
BEFORE YOU GO AND JUDGE ME.
POSTPARTUM HORMONES ARE REAL, OKAY?!
THE BABY BLUES AND PPD?
So I was overwhelmed, is what I am trying to say.
[and that's okay]
Having a new baby that is 1000% dependent on you for almost everything?
Trying to remember all the things you can and can't do with that fragile baby?
Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion?
Leaky boobs, tear ducts, and hormones?
Your house looking like a natural disaster struck and endless laundry ?
Having a clingy, needy, heartbroken toddler begging for your full attention 24/7?
You can't expect to have all that going on and not breakdown. Something's got to give.
And it's going to be you. [Because that's what moms do. They give.]
Now here's the part where I tell you there is hope and pretend to know WTF I am doing and give you my best advice:
↓ ↓ ↓
➀ Try your best to give her/him at least 5 minutes of undivided mommy attention every day (our pediatrician always tells me I need to spend the time to read her at least one book a day.)
➁ Even though they will probably prefer it come from you...
attention is attention.
[Whether it comes from you, your spouse, a grandparent, a daycare provider, WHOEVER. ]
As long as someone is taking the time to play with them and give them attention at some point each day it will fill their lil' bucket.
[So let others help!!]
...It was really hard for me at first.
I FELT SO MUCH GUILT. I wanted to try to do everything for her. And take care of my newborn baby. And try to heal from birth. It's too much.
As hard as it is, the sooner you can find that balance between letting them still know they have your attention and affection, and letting them know they are NOT the center of the universe and that they have to rely on someone other than mom occasionally, the better things will get and the happier you will all be.
They probably won't like it...(you probably won't always like it)
But they will adjust.
Kids are so good at this stuff as long as we set boundaries and stick to them (don't let the guilt get to you, remind yourself it's what's best for everyone!)
It took Ellie about 2 weeks of heavy adjustment and since then she's been great at sharing mommy!
**(most of the time)**
**(Toddlers are still A-holes)**
If I can survive it, so can you.
**but I only did because I have an amazing support system! Just because these feelings and struggles are all valid, doesn't mean we don't have to talk to others about how we're feeling and seek help when we need it! Take care of yourself so you can take care of those little a-holes.
Good luck, momma. 😘