We are now in the third week of baby William’s life outside the womb. Corey is back at work, Alexis is adjusting well and I’m beginning to understand William’s different cries and noises. I’ve been hashing away at this post for most of a week. Sorry about the length but I couldn’t get my head around where to break it up if I was to split it into multiple posts.
The “second baby” experiment: first two weeks
– To successfully integrate our second child, William, into the family.
– To document the similarities and differences in welcoming a second child compared to the firstborn child.
– To survive the experience and come out smiling.
– Birth baby William
– Bring him home from hospital
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
William is a different sort of baby than Alexis was. In some ways he is easier: as long as he is not hungry or tired or windy he will happily lie on the floor and observe the world around him (Alexis needed to be held often); he lets me eat a meal in peace if I time it right (Alexis would always know if I had food near my mouth and demand a feed); and he is easier to carry because he is lighter than Alexis was; he feeds quickly whereas Alexis would mess around for over an hour.
In some ways he is a little more tricky to manage: he wees and poos almost constantly; he is a boy (nappy changes are like Russian roulette); he wakes every two to three hours at night; he grunts and moans and whimpers and farts and poos in his sleep; he needs antibiotics on his belly button three times a day and one of his eyes has been infected since birth.
This time Corey and I knew how to handle a baby and that has made things much easier in that respect. It is nice to know how to breastfeed, how to change a nappy (apart from his ability to squirt me), how to put him in a carseat, what to put in a nappy bag, etc. We are more confident handling him, don’t worry we will break him and don’t feel the need to stare at him constantly. We used to have to watch Alexis at all times as a newborn because we had this weird feeling she would suddenly disappear.
I was a bit messed up through giving birth to Alexis. This meant that I couldn't do much housework and everyone knew that. I didn't get upset with myself for allowing Corey or my parents or other visitors to do things for me and they didn't mind because I had a physical reason to need to rest. I also had physical excuses to indulge in nice long showers. (The onset of mastitis kind of helped there.)
This time around I didn't need stitches or anything so I left hospital very early and feeling great. Within hours I had terrible afterbirth pain and headaches and sore muscles in places I forgot existed. A few times my tired overwhelmed husband responded to my cries of "it hurts" with "you shouldn't have come home" so you can imagine how that made me feel. He was just worried about me but I felt unwanted.
I didn't do much housework either time but this time I felt like I should. I felt like Corey would resent me if he had to “do it all”. (On a side note, breastfeeding a newborn is a full time job on its own. Don’t listen to anyone who would tell you otherwise.) I've been a stay at home mum for 20 months so I felt like housework was my job. It was hard to turn off the urge to chip in help out. I just reminded myself that Corey was on holidays from his work (mostly.. its a long story…) so he could help out. He also hadn’t just gone through labour or nine months of pregnancy.
Corey liked helping and was very helpful most of the time but it was equally hard for me to accept that Corey does things differently to me. He did not appreciate my suggesting how and when to do things to maximise efficiency and fit in with Alexis' routine. He saw my attempt to help by mentally coaching him (I mean I was too useless to do anything else, right?) as nagging, patronizing and being ungrateful.
Sometimes rather than insisting something be done NOW it was easier to do it. I was on pain killers heaps so when I didn't feel in pain I sometimes overdid it a bit and since have noticed some problems that I probably could have avoided. I've got to go back to the doctor and see if things will heal on their own. I will spare you the details. I have since seen Dr and it should be ok over time.
We haven't had many visitors this time around. With Alexis we had multiple groups of visitors every day for weeks. We lived closer to our friends and family, my sister wasn't off on a well-deserved road trip, people didn't have to worry about our toddler's nap schedule (coz there was no toddler), and there was the novelty factor.
Alexis was the first grandchild, the first great grandchild, etc. We were the first of our friends to breed. I still had contacts from the life I lived before I became a mum. She was visited a lot. I was visited a lot.
I had one friend who was incredibly clucky and not working at the time Alexis was born. She spent day after day with us. She cuddled Alexis while I hung washing out, she listened to my horror stories, she kept me sane, she cooked us meals, she cleaned my house. She's now interstate. I miss her sooo much.
This time our family are busy, the novelty has kind of warn off, and we have made new friends who are all busy with their own toddlers. Also apparently I'm a hormonal mess and people don't like being around me. Hmmm yes I’m hormonal. I’m also exhausted, hungry, overwhelmed and sore in places that shouldn’t be sore. People think that women will find it harder to recover from labour the first time but it’s actually not like that. The female body is sorer and takes longer to recover after every subsequent pregnancy and labour because things never really healed properly from the first time. I am terribly sorry I’m cranky at times but, like, people saying stupid insensitive things like “get over yourself”, “stop whinging”, “bring out the violins”, “get off your fat ass” and “just be happy” don’t help…
Having less visitors has been nice but a little lonely too. I’ve made up for this as best I can by staying in touch with the online community of mummy bloggers and my friends on facebook. I didn’t have this source of support last time. Although it’s not as nice as face to face contact the practical advice and genuine empathy do mean a lot.
The good thing about not expecting visitors is being able to nap or go out or walk around without clothes without worrying what time it is. The problem is that with a baby and a young toddler we can't really do spontaneous anyway. We have to fit in around Alexis and William the best we can. I have noticed though that we have settled into a groove so much easier this time. This has probably at least partly got to do with more time spent “just us”.
The visitors we have had have been great. I have enjoyed cuddles with my kiddies and I have enjoyed watching my kiddies have cuddles with Corey, their grandparents, their aunties and uncles and their cousins. I’ve also been blessed by people helping with dishes, laundry, bathing the kids, cooking meals, bringing supplies, playing with Alexis, and holding William while I spend time with Alexis… It is lovely to receive help. Really I am sorry if I haven’t seemed grateful.
The hardest part of the early weeks with baby number two is baby number one. For 20 months it was just Alexis and I against the world. Neither of us was prepared for sharing me with William. I tried to be prepared, and I tried to prepare Alexis, but it really is one of those things you just have to work out as you go.
I had no idea how much it would hurt to pick her up. I had no idea she would wake at night screaming for me. I had no idea that when I finally did get quality one on one time with her I would cry silent tears when no-one was watching because I realised just how much I had been missing. Surprisingly she has not asked for a breastfeed yet. I really thought she would.
We had a few offers from people wanting to help by taking Alexis away for a few days but apart from our first day home I really wanted her here. Some may think I'm crazy for this but my reasoning was:
– to keep her routine as close to normal as possible
– so she didn't resent baby William
– so she didn't pine for me or feel replaced
– so she could have quality time with Corey while he was on leave
– because I miss her like crazy when she's not around
– because I wanted to get used to our new family dynamics as soon as possible, especially while Corey was around to help
– because I was scared if she had a really good time she wouldn’t like coming home again and it’d be even harder to adjust because she was used to undivided attention.
What has been most helpful is when people come play with Alexis here, and when people come to visit baby William they equally acknowledge Alexis. Usually this happens naturally, especially when children visit, as Alexis is so fun. We only had one lot of visitors that basically ignored Alexis while doting on William. I actually took William away and told them to spend time with Alexis for awhile. This might seem harsh but I really didn’t want Alexis feeling overlooked or replaced or ignored.
Alexis has benefited from being part of William's life right from the start, I am certain of that. It has been great for her and Corey to have special quality time too. It has, however, spread Corey and I a little thin at times. We have to make sure Alexis doesn’t accidentally hurt William by being a little too excited. Some of her hugs are a little long and some of her tickling is too rough and his basinet is not very stable so we have a blanket “no touching baby’s bed” rule.
Unlike when Alexis was born we can’t sleep whenever baby sleeps because the newborn is not our only responsibility. We have to take turns to stay up with Alexis or try to all nap as a family. On so many occasions by the time we finally get both babies to sleep I am too worked up to sleep, no matter how tired I am.
Toddlers are exhausting. You will never fully appreciate how tiring a toddler is until you have one of your own. It has been a real challenge trying to ensure we meet her needs for attention, cuddles, food, rest and active play and still foster her growing independence. She’s an interesting mix of clingy and “I’ll do it myself”. She’s hard to predict.
It's been tricky for me emotionally to be feeding the baby and hear Alexis crying for me. It's been hard for Corey to deal with trying to comfort her or play with her while she just wants me. It's been hard for us to get enough rest and sleep. It's been hard to stay happy and friendly when we are both buggered and just want to sleep.
The first two weeks with baby number two were very different to the first two weeks with baby number one. We had expected this. In some ways this time around was easier and in some ways it was harder. All in all it was just… different.. It was different in so many ways. We are all still alive and healthy and happy so it was a success.
Corey and I have really had to work together. We have had some great mini achievements and some epic fails. There’s times where I get so cross with Corey and I know sometimes he thinks all I do is whinge and nag. He will never understand how tired I am because it’s me who is up most of the night and I’m the one with the boobs. Likewise I don’t understand how weird it would have been for him to be home for two full weeks watching Wiggles and Playschool and making peanut butter sandwiches when he’s used to being at work.
I think Corey has realised just how hard Alexis can be at times and why I would sometimes collapse in a heap when Corey got home from work when I was still pregnant with William. (It’s better late than never I guess. I love you sweetheart 😉)
Even though having a toddler makes living with a newborn more complicated and challenging it also increases the fun. My favourite memories of the last two weeks are the rare occasions when Alexis and William were both in a suitable mood to “play” together. This is what clearly sets this time apart from last time.
I love how proud Alexis is when she sits up on my lap holding William. I love how excited William gets when he watches Alexis and Corey play. I love how Alexis’ eyes light up when she sees William wake up in the morning. I’m not thrilled that they like to wake each other up (already) but it does make me chuckle.
It has not even been three weeks yet and it already feels like William has always been around forever. I know my kids will fight often but I also have a feeling they will be great friends. If I had to choose a favourite first two weeks, I’d have to pick this time, for no other reason than both my kiddies are here and I can barely even remember life before them.