But today, now that I've come full circle, now that the dust has settled, the yogurt cleaned up (at least today's), the mayhem of adjusting to two has stabilized. Today to you, mom with a toddler and a baby, today I bring you hope. Today I bring you encouragement that you will live to see the other side.
Today, at eight months out, those first six months or so with a toddler and a baby are just a memory for me, but let me be clear - I am not so far from them that it is even the teeniest, tiniest, bit difficult to drum them up.
To be honest, when I think of advice to give someone in your position, the only word that easily comes out of my mouth is "SURVIVE." There are no tricks or gimmicks I'm going to sell you today, only that I get it when you tell me that you got three hours of sleep last night because you were up not with only your newborn, you were up with your toddler who suddenly has decided it'd be fun to play tag-team with the baby waking at night, when he had been sleeping through the night for the past, oh I don't know, YEAR, but now he wakes at least three times a night with a banshee scream that you think might be specifically released to wake the newborn you just got to sleep.
I understand your insatiable need, the yearning deep in your core, to get that newborn on a routine so that you somehow get the immeasurable blessing of a double nap-time utopia. I'll tell you, it's a favor only the gods can bestow, and most of us will not reap that gift for many, many months - and even then the outlook is spotty. I feel you as you wonder how on earth you're going to fit all the groceries you need with a infant carrier in the cart basket and a toddler in the seat. You're not really sure what to do, so you squeeze groceries in on and around both your children, praying the newborn continues to sleep with her head resting on a loaf of bread, and you let the toddler down a bag of Goldfish you nabbed off the shelf because it stops him from throwing everything out of the cart that's sitting next to him.
I see you as you're trying to nurse or bottle feed your baby with your foot out to keep your toddler from "touching" the baby (aka, throwing blocks at her head). I've totally been there as you try to rack your brain for new ideas to keep the toddler occupied while you try to give the newborn a full feeding. It's nearly unbelievable how nothing works - because there is nothing like the lure of a tiny, innocent, little-creature-that-can't-retaliate to a toddler. You can see it written all over the toddler's face when you walk anything more than five feet away from the newborn during tummy-time. You can see the toddler thinking, "What will happen if I drop this giant tractor on this little alien?" And then their face lights up with glee, "Let's find out!" And you dive back to the blanket to catch the tractor in mid-air, not caring that your still healing from childbirth to save the innocent from the curious.
I recognize that look on your face as you pack up your car, the bursting diaper bag slung over your back, the infant carrier on your right arm and the toddler on your left hip because suddenly they've reverted back to infant-hood as soon as you brought a new one home. I see your arms shaking a little at the weight, the grimace on your mouth - but give it a little time momma, at six months out, you better believe you'll be stronger than your husband. These days, I wield around the infant carrier like it ain't no thing, and I can carry it, the toddler on my hip, the diaper bag and a fist-full of grocery bags for at least three blocks before they start sliding off my body. I seriously believe moms are the strongest people in the world, our weight-lifting just looks a little different, and our muscles hide under our soft and supple mom-bods. We are the greatest truth to the saying of "don't judge a book by its cover."
I get it. I get it all. And I also, finally, finally, finally get that the intensity, the struggle, the battle will end. I am living proof that it does. I promise you will find your new normal, and the "fun!" you've been looking for will finally appear. Remember those little glimpses you catch every once in a while of your toddler and newborn smiling at each other? The times the toddler actually gently kisses the infant instead of smashes their face in? Remember how every once in a while there actually is calm and you can close your eyes for ten minutes? Remember how every once in a while, between all the hard, you feel this intense, unbelievable love and joy for your kids and feel so privileged at the fact that you are their mom?
Well, those moments become more and more frequent as time goes on - and soon, they'll become so frequent that they become your new normal.
The newborn will sleep through the night. The toddler will go back to sleeping like he used to. The baby will be able to sit up and you'll be able to use those glamorous, giant, lumbering double carts - and ALL your groceries and the random Target impulse purchases will fit in with ease. The baby will be able to interact with the toddler and fight back just enough with their waving arms and tiny talons (That you intentionally don't cut often - for self-defense purposes, of course.) that the toddler spends less time trying to understand how cause and effect of full-body contact works, and more time on trying to make the baby laugh from a distance. You'll be able to send the toddler upstairs to "get" the baby and while they giggle and play peek-a-boo, you'll have 15 minutes to blitz the kitchen and actually have the energy to do it.
Eventually you will drink a cup of coffee hot all the way to the bottom. You will have time to shower on the regular again. You will reach a semi-regular time of DOUBLE NAP UTOPIA and not even need your own nap during it. You will find your motherhood swagger again, your mom-bliss will return. It's not that it ever left, it was just hidden under lack of sleep and improper nutrition and no time for yourself.
Today I'm here to tell you your going to make it. On those extra hard days when the kids won't sleep, the infant won't eat and the toddler just throws their food, you will survive. Lug the kids and all their crap out of the house and get yourself some Starbucks therapy, close your eyes and pretend you're on a beach - no getting a pedicure - no a massage - whatever, you can choose - and then go home and keep going. You can do this, I promise. It's not forever and before we know it our tiny little minions will be grown up teenagers ready to walk across the stage. They won't ask us to hold their hand, nurse their bumps or snuggle in the morning. We won't get to kiss them freely anymore, nudging them in their necks with our noses, smelling their sweet skin fresh from a bath. There will be no more bedtime stories, middle-of-the-night rockings or early morning tickle-fests. We won't overhear them imaginary-playing with their trucks and dolls, talking about mommy and daddy eating apples and going to work. As "they" tell us, it will be over all too fast and as soon as you enter the toddler-years you realize it's true what they say.
It's okay to feel like you're merely surviving right now, I think that's pretty normal. But also know and look forward to the day when you can thrive again. It will come, I promise. It's not too far away, six months out, give or take a few, but you'll get there eventually.
For now, I hope you can see me tipping my hat to you from the other side. I applaud your efforts - celebrating your wins and commiserating in your defeats. I'll watch you from afar (but not that far away, really) offering hope that soon you can take on my role of encouraging another new mom of two that their going to make it, that this is all worth it, and that the work she is doing matters.
Also, I will pray for a double nap utopia blessing for you today.
Carry on, warrior.
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