The new life of the two-child family

And now, how we’re doing back on the home front, after 2.5 weeks: Mommy, Daddy, big brother, little sister… just like the Berenstain Bears.

The New Family

What’s the same:

  • The new baby looks like Daddy! Although now, people are more likely to say she looks like her brother (who is Daddy’s Mini-Me). She does, quite a lot… but I personally think her eyes are very much her own. I spend as much time as possible staring into them, so I know.
  • It’s been easy to fall in love with her, as with her brother. I’m sure they make babies so snuggly and adorable like that on purpose.
  • Breastfeeding is hard at first. I’ve had a relatively hassle-free time of it – no serious latch or milk supply problems – but it was like starting from scratch with this baby. Re-learning how to help her open wide, and cringing through the pain of the first few days of feeding. By this point, we have reached the stage where I only wince when she first latches, and then we’re good.
  • Of course, we’ve also reached the stage where the milk is ALL IN and it’s a bit too much for her sometimes. She’ll get the flow going and then let go – and get sprayed in the face. (This helps her keep her youthful complexion.) Now I remember why we went through so many receiving blankets in a week with E.
  • She often does the “fresh-air pee” when the diaper comes off, just like E. I thought it was a boy thing, but no, girls have the skills too. Just not the aim. (Which is in fact a good thing, since E was known to aim at his own face sometimes.)
  • Baby A didn’t like her first bath either… although she resigned herself to it more quickly than E did as a newborn. (She was positively mellow for the second bath.)
baby's first bath
Angry Birds shows her angry side.
baby bath
Learning to live with it.

What’s different:

  • Girl parts. It is a very different thing, and rather intimidating, changing the diaper of a baby girl. So many more crevices! I guess it’s handy that Mother Nature sees fit to enlarge babies’ genitals when they are first born – like a magnified version to practice on until you have your bearings.
  • Pink stuff. We have been very grateful for the gifts and hand-me-downs that are clothing our daughter so far… but wow! You’d think it was the law for baby girls to wear pink and only pink. We throw in some “unisex” clothing just for fun sometimes.
baby girl wearing green
Yep, she’s a little cross-eyed sometimes. That’s normal, right?
  • Baby A is actually kinda chunky. E was always long and lean, even though he was a big eater, but A has the beginnings of baby thunder-thighs. Yay!
Baby A a few days old
Only a few days old but already squeezable.
  • “Cute little” baby noises. I remember that E used to make noise while eating – contented sighs and so on – and that was pretty sweet. Baby A does too, but I swear it’s five times louder. In the quiet of the night, when she needs feeding, she sounds like a ravenous wolf-pup who’s never eaten before. If she accidentally pops off her latch, it’s even more loud and angry and frantic. And those times when she’s working on filling her diaper, she grunts and growls like a dump truck going full-tilt on rough terrain. (HA – dump truck! Get it??… Yeah. Sorry about that.) It’s not ladylike… but it does make us giggle.
  • Sleep deprivation. Good thing the embodiment of my exhaustion has such a cute, kissable face. (There’s no way that’s a biological coincidence.) It is a whole other world when there’s a new baby and a busy, ebullient, non-napping three-year-old in the house. So far, I’ve been very lucky: my brother is in town and has helped us quite a bit, taking E out for bike rides/park visits/swimming lessons while I nap with the baby, holding A while I do other things (like brushing my teeth, sorting laundry, etc.). He even has some cool techniques for burping her. My elder sister, though busy, also steps in when she can (she’s done a heck of a lot of dishes, among other things), and Sean always makes sure I get to sleep in with the baby when he’s home on weekends. But on those mornings when E is all raring to go and it’s just the three of us… I’ve tasted what it is (and what it will be) to suck it up and just function – albeit in a blurry, half-numb kind of way. Still totally worth it. And E is (mostly) such a good boy… He learned while I was pregnant that Mommy needs a few minutes of “warmup” before getting out of bed – and now he even understands that sometimes his sister has to eat breakfast before he does. He’s very patient with us. Again: I am one fortunate mama.
  • We are gradually figuring out some nighttime sleeping. It’s been… pretty okay. Looking back, I realize that E slept quite well at night right from the beginning – 3-4-hour chunks were his standard – but A has shown more nocturnal tendencies. There were a few nights right at the beginning that were very wakeful and tough – one in particular where, for three-and-a-half hours, I would feed her, she’d fall asleep, I’d put her down, and within two minutes she’d be rousing herself, making desperate rooting noises and wildly trying to suck her fingers. By 2:30 a.m., I was starting to wonder if she was actually a possessed demon-baby. (Then she fell asleep.)
  • Brother/sister dynamic. E is so excited to have a little sister; it’s beyond awesome to see his face light up around her. The tricky part is making sure he doesn’t literally smother her with love. If he had his way, he’d be right on the nursing pillow with her, with both hands on her delicious cheeks, and he’d never stop kissing her. We are constantly quelling him – but of course trying really hard to encourage him, too. And reassure him that he is just as loved as ever… and that Mommy is still capable of being fun – at least a little. Sigh.
big brother and little sister
Big brother, baby sister, and Auntie Em.
  • There are times when we can tell E is still working on this adjustment – getting inordinately upset over things that wouldn’t normally upset him. He is also demonstrating very selective hearing at the moment. And occasional bursts of outright defiance. We just try our best to help him through those… without overindulging him. (It’s not simple – anyone have tips on this?)
  • The hormone-coaster. I was definitely hormonal after E was born – I remember crying at all kinds of little things – but it was all happy crying. This time, it is similar, but more bittersweet. For most of the first week of A’s life, Sean and E both slept in E’s room, away from our family bed – until I had a meltdown. I was no longer brushing E’s teeth or reading him stories or taking him for bike rides or doing most of the other fun things I’ve been known to do, and it suddenly hit me that things would never be the same for us. I could never give him as much as I had been giving; it was the end of an era. I found myself grieving the loss of our relationship, the way it used to be… and the hormones just made me sadder. Now, it does help to have him back in our room at night, where I can hear him breathing and put my hand out to touch him. (Of course, when he decides he’s ready to be by himself in his own bed, I’m determined to be fine with it.)
  • Speaking of postnatal emotions, I’m sure you’ve guessed that Sebastian is still in my mind all the time. It’s part of what makes me grateful for every single aspect, good and bad, of this experience. It’s also what makes me tend toward hypochondria where A is concerned; all of her noises have made me fret about whether her nasal passages are wide enough, even though I’m pretty sure she’s perfect… I worried about SIDS with E, but actually worry more about it now, instead of being more laid-back with my second time parenting a newborn. But I’m trying not to dwell on it.

What I’d forgotten:

  • The milk jugs. I was reminded last summer of how giant one’s boobs can get when the milk comes in; what I’d forgotten was the sensation of looking down and realizing that they’re actually considerably larger than my baby’s head. Bizarre. I’m glad that stage is waning – especially since it’s because I get to feed that milk to someone this time. That part is inexpressibly wonderful.
  • Baby softness. You know in your mind that babies have soft skin, but it’s impossible to believe how soft it really is except when you’re touching it. It’s almost liquid.
  • Milk face. There’s this expression Baby A gets right when she finishes eating and “pops off” – she gets the pouty lips and looks full to almost bursting. E made that exact same face, but I didn’t remember it until I saw it in his sister.
  • So many adorable newborn things – the bobble-head effect, the startle reflex, the big luxurious stretches, the sleepy arms that are so limp it’s like they have no bones, the way she tucks up her legs and sticks out her bum when you pick her up… Such great stuff, and so fleeting.

What I remembered:

  • Healing your lady bits is not as fun as it sounds. Ha ha. I’m very stoked to have only two stitches this time, but it’s still hard to find time take care of them properly. (Very much worth the trouble, though. Let’s hear it for the sitz bath!)
  • Newborn ears are so tiny and exquisite. One of the perks of breastfeeding is getting to gaze at them a lot.
newborn baby ears
Perfect baby ear. (The other one’s just as cute.)
  • Sleeping baby… ahhhhh. Nothin’ like it.

sleeping baby

sleeping baby 2

sleeping baby 3

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12 thoughts on “The new life of the two-child family

  1. Mama says:

    Ohhh, mmmm! I remember those things too – and I remember how incredibly fast it all changes.

    “I cradle and cuddle and cherish,
    And you speed away,
    Ahead at every milestone,
    Shedding infancy precociously
    While I clutch at what is left
    In adoring desperation.”

    So keep cherishing and recording – you’re so good at both!

    • diblog says:

      Thanks for being there for all my infancy – and childhood etc. – especially since I know it couldn’t have been easy with all of us! Even if you remember mostly the good parts, I’m sure there were times you wondered how you would manage. We appreciate that you did. <3

    • diblog says:

      And thank YOU, Auntie Em, for all the countless times you have been a third parent around here. There have been so many occasions in which I don’t know what we would have done without you. <3

  2. Erin T says:

    Yes, yes, yes to all of it! So much about everything you say to relate to in my own little two-kid family. And LOVE the photos, especially the reluctant bather, nursing (in ubiqutous pink! Yay for unisex colors) and that last photo, which I have a near duplicate of with MJ: same beige sheets, same pose, grey outfit – weird!

    I’m going to ramble on now. The feeding part really made me laugh, since S was a gentle little nurser, but, similar to your story, M was so *loud*. I would try to discretely nurse her in public, under a poncho or receiving blanket, and it was like “Alien”, with her kind of seething forth from under my shirt at the chest, making these horror movie noises. It was a MEAL, no disguising it. And completely agree – breast-feeding is not like riding a bike, you have to get used to it and toughen up a second time and get your partner to learn his or her part.

    No useful tips for you about the balancing act, except that you’ll get used to it — and don’t be too hard on yourselves as parents! Struggle on and they’ll live. Be the “good enough” parent, that’s my motto. At first I felt really emotional, too, that M had suddenly become a Daddy’s Girl and resented me for becoming so boring, while I just lugged the baby around all the time. But the “seperation” with my girl came at a good time for her – it’s so wonderful to see them growing up, becoming independent, and being so protective of their little sibling – and it gave me time to really appreciate S’s babyhood, which could have slipped by so quickly now that we’ve so, so busy. Being the oldest myself and having four years to love M as I did, I thought I would always have to hide this secret preference for my first born, but S is just so lovable in his own, different way that I realized I would never have to try to not play favourites – you just don’t have one.

    • diblog says:

      Thanks for rambling, Erin! I love hearing about your family, too, especially in your own evocative words. I appreciate the “good enough parent” motto, because there are those times when it really feels like one is just bumbling through this parenting gig, making mistakes at every turn. And I’m seeing what you mean about not having favourites – it’s hard to imagine loving either one of them any more or less than this unfathomable amount.

  3. gosh, reading this entry made all the memories come flooding back from when we brought our little lion home. bear was so happy, we all were!

    the night before lion was born i cradled bear sobbing, because it was, as you said, an end to an era. we were growing as a family and things would never be that same. i am still struggling to give the kids what they need, and i am not saying that to scare you, but to say, it’s a process. just like everything else in mothering is.

    sounds like you have lots of support, lucky you! good luck with the hormones and milk jugs and sleepless nights! all of those things will come to an end… one day!

    • diblog says:

      Aw, lola. It’s not that I like to think of you sad – but I appreciate knowing I’m not the only crazy mama with that kind of emotion related to my firstborn. It’s a strange feeling to have when really, I couldn’t have been more ecstatic about adding to our family… but these things don’t always make sense.

    • diblog says:

      Hey, Daddy John! Good to see you! Thanks for reading – and I agree. A snuggle with a self-molding armful of newborn is priceless.

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