It’s a weird feeling to be afraid of a blanket. But that’s what new parenthood does to you. You leave the hospital with a brand new, freshly breathing human and weird instructions like, “Whatever you do, don’t leave them alone with a blanket!“
Maybe the best way for me to describe being a parent the second time around is that you don’t shake the rattle as hard. You don’t rock the baby so unnaturally. You wait, you watch, sometimes you just take a shower even though they’re crying. You let the baby be a baby and you shake the rattle like a person trying to show something interesting to another person instead of like an overzealous beginner looking for validation.
I try to notice and appreciate smaller things about my life with my second daughter. Her tiny nail beds she might not even know she has; how shiny her eyes are with tears in them; how her own laugh sneaks up on her. How much she loves me even though we just met. She is heaven. They both are. If this is all there ever is, then this is more than enough. And yet is true contentment a reality? I still struggle.
Sometimes I use the Google search box to try to describe what I’m worrying about.
“Low milk supply and PMS?”
“Anxiety about traveling with kids…”
“Anxiety about traveling without kids…”
“Percentage of parents who forget pajama day…”
Sometimes I find what I’m looking for. Other times, I’m left knowing that it’s time to go on a journey for answers. The kind you actually should brush your teeth to search for. The face to face kind. The: This is me needing you conversations. Humility and compassion are two of the best human qualities, I think. I’ve never had so much interaction with them than I have since becoming a mom. And maybe that is one of the greatest gifts motherhood has given me so far.
I always planned to write this post; a followup to my first essays as a new mother struggling with postpartum depression. My friend sometimes texts me jokes like: “Zoloft for President!” since it has helped us both with postpartum depression and anxiety so much. I thought that would be a good title for this sequel post. But what I think has been more important this time around is having people in my life who say funny, real things like “Zoloft for President!” than actually having the Zoloft itself.
In the beginning, after The Bird (what I call her now more than Skip) was born, it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t without saying things I didn’t mean, but the difference from my first experience as a mom was that it was more instinctual. She woke, I responded, we both fell back asleep. She cried, I wrapped, I rocked, the dishwasher was unloaded. My first mothering experience taught me how to do that. It taught me that you just have to get out of bed and start your day and eventually you’ll all be fine. I learned after having The Bug (what I call her now instead of Sprout) that it’s important to ask for help. Maybe it’s one of the most important things we ever learn to do.
I thought this essay was going to primarily be about how it wasn’t as hard this time and how there is light and ease once you break the seal of motherhood. How I didn’t have postpartum depression. How I knew what to do most of the time.
Instead I think it’s about how motherhood is still hard for me, but that most days I’m ok with that. Parenting is hard in so many different ways because of so many different circumstances, just like life. I’m a good mom because I love my kids, not because I don’t make a ton of mistakes.
I don’t know what thought or action pushes you from “baby blues” to “postpartum depression”. Maybe there’s just a sense. My lowest moments as a second time mom were actually surrounding the return of my menses. I’ve experienced having a reduced milk supply each time I’ve gotten my period. The first time it came back, I couldn’t even get my milk to letdown when I was pumping one night which caused me to say irrational things like “Breastfeeding is the only thing I’m good at! I suck at everything else” and then to cry heaving sobs into my pillow. I’ve had more intense hormonal sensitivity for at least a week of each month. I hope it will get better, but I don’t know.
I told Scott I didn’t think I’d be completely myself again until we were done having kids. The wild unknown of my hormonal cycle is possibly even more of an Everest for me than intense sleep deprivation combined with the witching hour. It paces around me like a wolf.
I’m still becoming. I’m still tuning in. My motherhood conversation is really just beginning. I wasn’t really fully aware of who I was before I had kids anyways. They have made me afraid of blankets in cribs and of our kitchen stools that can tip over when pulled up on, sometimes they’ve even made me afraid of the dark, but they’ve made me less afraid of who I really am.
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