I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
And boy, DID. I. NOT. KNOW.
But, I really thought I did!
I really thought that waiting until our daughter was three before adding another child would make the transition easy. She will be more independent then, I reasoned. Also, fully potty-trained (HA!), enrolled in school, and interested in some things besides just Mommy. Plus, I’ve done this newborn thing before! How hard could it be?
Bless that naive spirit. Because those optimistic expectations sure didn’t match my reality.
I was firmly set on breastfeeding. So after our second baby came home, the nightly wakings and feedings fell solely on me. This was OK after my first child because I could nap later or simply sleep in.
But the problem this time around was that our first child still lived with us. And she still needed Mommy every day, all day.
Time for naps was off the table, leaving me with far too little sleep and even less sanity.
And speaking of my first child—that sweet little 3-year-old couldn’t quite rationalize that Mommy needed to spend lots of time with the new baby. She would cry for me to play with her and then tantrum when the answer was no. And although I thought she understood the idea of being gentle, there were way too many near misses—memories that still make my heart skip a beat.
Thank God her preschool will start soon, I thought. That will give me back so much time.
Well, not exactly. Her 5-hour, 2-day-a-week program didn’t provide me with much more time or sanity. Not to mention the extra work of drop off, pick up, packing a nut-free lunch, and keeping up with a million dress-up days.
In the evenings, when the children finally went to sleep (well, if they went to sleep), the work wasn’t nearly done. Then began the second shift, but it felt more like the 60th shift.
You know, the laundry. The dishes. Picking up toys. Prepping tomorrow’s meals. Taking a shower (which I very often didn’t get to). Shopping for the baby’s next clothing size. Walking our sweet, neglected dog. Scheduling the next doctor’s appointment (oops, will have to do that during business hours!). THE PUMPING. Finding a babysitter for date night (OK, this never happened). Making Valentines for my daughter’s classmates.
It never, ever ended.
Even the moments that should have been peaceful—like reading to my daughter or breastfeeding my son—just weren’t. No matter what, the endless list of domestic tasks would continue to rapid-fire through my brain.
“SOMEONE HELP!” my overwhelmed mind would scream.
And as I desperately scanned the room for someone more adult than me to come be the adult, I realized there was no one else—no husband, mom, mother-in-law, aunt, whomever. It was up to me to get it together, no matter how tired or unequipped I felt.
Let me be clear, there’s no one to blame here. Not my husband, my 3-year-old, my newborn, my extended family, or even myself. It’s just one of those things in life that doesn’t go quite as smoothly as you think it will. As I look back on that time, I can see how God gave me the strength I needed.
It’s been almost a year now since I brought my baby boy home. Now I watch him and his big sister play together, and with the blessing of perspective can feel grateful for that crazy time: for the disastrous house, my disheveled appearance, the exhaustion, the overwhelm, all of it. Because that struggle led me to this perfect moment. And through it all, I learned so very much.
I learned what I need to be a great mom.
Turns out, this mom needs quiet, uninterrupted time to herself. Time to process, relax, and breathe deeply. Time to remind myself this is just a season.
And, I really need my people. Friendships and every relationship in my life became more important and cherished than ever before. Plus, I have a new, deep, appreciation for everything my own mom did for me. I call her so much more now and tell her thank you.
I once heard that you have a choice with every struggle: You can turn that suffering into wisdom or bitterness. Well, bitterness would be much easier, but I choose the former.
So even though she’s done it before, I always make meals for the new mommy of two. I’ll bring coffee over and just sit there amongst the chaos. We talk like adults, so hopefully—maybe for just a moment—she can feel like a human again. And I do my best to ask how she is doing.
After all, Mommy’s the one whose life has been rocked the most.
There is a verse in Proverbs that says God will give you the desires of your heart. But you know what it doesn’t say? That any of it will be easy. Going from a mommy of one to a mommy of two was so much harder than I ever imagined it would be. But that experience gave me the greatest gifts of my life: my precious girl and sweet baby boy. How could I be anything but grateful for the hard?