5 Reasons Motherhood is Sweeter the Second Time

There’s no question that becoming a mom for the first time is beautiful. I remember so many quiet mornings spent rocking my newborn, studying and memorizing every detail of her perfect face. Showering one tiny person with all my affection was wonderful–an experience I’m happy to have had–but I’m here to tell you, friends, five reasons why becoming a mom for the second time has been even better:

  1. I have more confidence and the benefit of strategic expertise. I don’t know everything when it comes to parenting, by any means. I have a lot to learn. But I can now change a diaper in the dark without getting poop all over myself, nurse discreetly while standing in line at the bank, and fold laundry with one hand while building a Lego tower with the other. This baby can hit me with her best shot, because she’s going to need a lot more than a month’s worth of life experience to get the best of me! Ironically, as my level of functioning has gone up, my expectations of myself have gone down. There was a time, not long ago, when I used to wake up every morning and tell myself I’d have the house spotless by dinnertime. I lived in a constant state of stress and saw myself as a failure. Now, I wake up every morning and tell myself I’ll still have two living children by dinnertime. So far I’ve been able to accomplish that every day, and if I also happen to pay a few bills and put the laundry away, I feel pretty impressed with myself.
  2. I have my older daughter here to keep me company and keep things interesting. Baby snuggles are one of the greatest gifts life has to offer, but sometimes a mom needs a little entertainment to go with them. My newborn sleeps for a good portion of the day, but with my toddler around, I don’t have the chance to get bored or lonely. She’s learning new skills every day, and the things she says keep me laughing in spite of myself. When I hear her thanking the cashier at the grocery store, I’m reminded that all my efforts are paying off–I’m raising some awesome kids here! But the best part is seeing my little girl interact with her baby sister. She’s so gentle, so attentive, so caring towards our new little one it just melts my heart. I couldn’t be more grateful that they have each other to grow up with.
  3. I  have a network of mom friends. With my first, I was making the transition from the workforce to staying at home. As much as I loved spending all my time with my little girl, I missed adult interaction. I had nobody with whom to commiserate over day-to-day frustrations and celebrate small victories. As my baby grew, I took her out more and we got involved in activities like story time at the local library. We met other moms and babies, and over time I made connections that helped me feel more fulfilled at home. Forging those bonds was an awkward and stressful process, and I often felt like I was picking up women in a bar. (The process was completely foreign to me: does she like me? should I ask for her number? am I supposed to wait three days to call?) This time, I already had all those connections in place. I had friends to see me through the transition from one baby to two–there was no awkward period of isolation and uncertainty.
  4. My husband is more involved. I don’t mean to say that he’s more involved with our second baby than he was with our first. He is simply more hands-on with our family as a whole than he used to be. Part of this has to do with how much he’s grown as a dad. Part of it has to do with our older daughter beginning to verbally engage him, and part of it has to do with my inability to be all things to everyone all the time. He sees that I’m outnumbered now and he rises to the occasion. There’s always something to do, so if he doesn’t feel comfortable giving our newborn a bath, he can read to our toddler and help her brush her teeth.
  5. I’ve caught a glimpse of what lies ahead. I remember feeling sentimental as each day passed with my first baby, knowing I would never get that day back and wondering how I would ever love a rambunctious toddler as much as I loved my soft, cuddly infant. Now, I understand that a mother’s love for her children grows with them. Instead of dreading the passage of time, I’m grateful my baby has survived another day of being extremely fragile (no small feat in a house with an active two-year-old). Every day she gets a little stronger, a little more interactive, and we get to know each other a little better. One day I’ll take her to the zoo, one day I’ll show her fireworks for the first time. One day she’ll be able to respond to her sister’s questions and return her daddy’s hugs and kisses. I’m not wishing these newborn days away; I cherish every one of them. But now, understanding just how much I can love a rambunctious toddler, and knowing how fun the next stages in her life will be, I can hardly contain my excitement!

I only wish I would have known how joyful this experience as a mother of two would be. I spent much of my last pregnancy tormented by guilt, wondering if my daughter would ever forgive me for disrupting her life, wondering if my heart was big enough to hold two times the love. It is. So is yours. If you’re nervously expecting your second baby, grieving what feels like the end of an era with your first, please know, the best is still ahead.

Monical’s Pizza

I recently had the best public bathroom experience ever, at a pizza restaurant called Monical’s.

In my younger days, I could never have imagined writing a bathroom review, but lately, I’ve been evaluating the facilities at every public venue imaginable. Some public restrooms have changing tables, and some do not. Then, of the businesses who see fit to provide their patrons with this luxury, there are various levels of thoughtfulness involved, and of course, various levels of cleanliness. Over the past ten months, I’ve pretty much seen it all. Maybe I’m crazy, but if there was such a thing as an online database comparing public restrooms, I would check it on a regular basis and I might even choose where to eat and where to shop solely on the ratings I found.

My husband and I were enjoying our salads, when suddenly, we heard our little ladybug make a very unladylike sound. We exchanged a look. We knew she’d filled her drawers, and she knew it too, based on the proud smile that spread across her sweet little face. “You take her!” I said. But I knew it was no use. Not only does my husband not ‘do’ poopy diapers, when we’re out in public, he couldn’t if he wanted to. Most men’s restrooms aren’t equipped with a changing table, and sadly, I still don’t know whether or not Monical’s Pizza boasts this brilliant monument to political correctness.

I picked up my daughter from the high chair (where she was sitting on a handy, personal high-chair cover we’d brought along (you’re welcome, Monical’s Pizza)) and took her to the bathroom, prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best. I was pleased to find that the bathroom was clean and smelled much better than we did as we made our way into the handicap accessible stall. The changing table was located inside the stall, which is nice, because we didn’t have to worry about random women looking us in all our blow-out glory. I spread our changing pad cover over the plastic fixture and proceeded to change the diaper. As we finished up, I picked up the unfortunate diaper mess and looked around. Where was the trash can? Why, it was placed intuitively beside the changing table, and it had a spring-operated lid which opened with a foot pedal. Brilliant! This is the same setup I use at home, to contain offensive odors and to get the diaper out of my sight (and my daughter’s reach) without ever taking my hands of my squirmy baby. I tossed in our diaper and found the can had a liner, and was not pre-filled with poopy diapers. As the icing on the cake, I noticed that the changing table’s built-in dispenser designed for paper covers was actually filled with paper covers! This was the first establishment where I’d ever seen anything in that dispenser. So, if I would have happened to forget my fabulous changing pad cover, I still wouldn’t have had to place my daughter directly on the plastic changing table. Yay for me–and yay for whoever is in charge of cleaning the changing table! I was thrilled with this, because I could tell that someone at Monical’s has actually taken the time to think about the needs of their tiniest patrons.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise though, because I’ve found Monical’s to be a uniquely family-friendly dining establishment. Their placemats feature word games, fun facts, and table talk–that’s right–suggested questions to ask your tablemate(s) in order to get a conversation started. It’s a sad day in America when we need table talk suggestions from a placemat, but it’s also a phenomenal idea to have placed them there. Our daughter is too young to care about word games or conversation, but my husband and I enjoyed the puzzles, mazes and conversation starters. Neither one of us reached for our phones while we waited for our meal, and the pizza arrived before we could finish our games! I would highly recommend Monical’s for date night, an evening of family fun, or a level 5 bathroom emergency.

 

Pampers and Personals

Why is it so hard to find babies for my daughter to play with? Everywhere I look, there are play groups for preschoolers and even toddlers, but where can we meet the infants? For awhile, I thought infants didn’t need to interact with other children. My ladybug seemed perfectly content just hanging out with me, but then I saw a picture online of twins her age playing together. That’s when I realized my daughter is missing out! I started taking her to story time at our local library, but most of the children who attend are close to three years old. There are a few younger ones, but they are mostly tag alongs, being held by their mothers while their older brothers and sisters play.

My daughter is the youngest one who actually sits on the mat for the stories and then goes into the playhouse and pulls out the blocks. I know I’m not the only mom in my city who only has one baby. Where is everybody? I’m tempted to place this ad in our local newspaper on behalf of my daughter:

SWF, nine months old, seeks anyone age two and under who likes to play. I am getting so bored at home with mommy! If you are friendly and don’t have a runny nose, I would love to meet with you! My hobbies include crawling, pulling up, and waving. I would be happy to share my toys with you, or help you unpack your diaper bag.

In terms of mommies, I don’t know if mine is capable of interacting with other grown-ups, but bring yours along and we’ll find out!

I don’t have older siblings of my own, but I am open to meeting yours, as long as they recognize that we (babies) are people too.

Five Favorite Newborn Essentials

A recent conversation with a friend who’s trying to conceive reminded me of how overwhelming baby shopping can be. A newborn is so small, and really very simple in hindsight (at least when compared with an eight-month-old baby), yet thousands of products are marketed to expectant mothers as “must haves”. I remember feeling overwhelmed and frantic when I registered for my baby shower, and deciding it was better to be over prepared than find myself without some vital newborn essential.

Today, I can easily point to five products that were lifesavers in those early weeks, and when I showed them to my friend, she found it particularly helpful to see them. I am not being paid to complete any reviews or advertise any products, so these are my 100% honest recommendations to help expectant mothers like my good friend.

  • Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘n Play Soother

Rock 'N PlayI was hesitant to invest in a bassinet, because they’re bulky and we were low on storage space. But I wanted to keep the baby beside our bed for the first few months, and we found this to be the perfect solution. It folds flat, which is great for travel and storage. The size and angle of incline were also reassuring for me, because I knew my baby couldn’t move around, roll onto her tummy, or bump her head on the slats of a crib. Newborns usually don’t have the mobility to do those things anyway, but seeing my daughter nestled in this bed helped to ease my irrational first-time-mom fears.

I later learned, from speaking to other moms, that the incline angle is a great solution for babies who suffer from reflux. I was unable to use the safety straps at first, because I was swaddling my baby, but the sides were deep enough that I knew she was held securely. My daughter first slept through the night at the age of six weeks, and she continued to do so until she outgrew her Rock ‘n Play at the age of four months.

There was a recall on these recently, due to some parents finding mold between the hard plastic framework and the plush hammock. I checked mine, and I did not find any mold. As with all baby products, the use of common sense is key. The hammock is easily removable and can be machine washed. Just be sure to wash it regularly and dry it thoroughly–especially after any diaper blow outs, or if your baby gets particularly sweaty during the night.

  • The First Years Deluxe Fold N Go Diapering Kit

Fold N GoThis fold-out changing mat would have been a bargain at twice the price. I thought I knew how to change a diaper before I brought home my daughter, but I ended up being in for a surprise! Not only does a steady diet of breast milk lead result in very thin, mustard colored stools, but my daughter seemed to pride herself on pooping at the exact moment when I removed her diaper. Towels were not a good solution, because she would stain them and the mess would soak right through.

This changing mat wipes clean easily, and as an added bonus, it has pockets to hold diapers and a case for wipes. I would pack three diapers into one pocket, put wipes in the other, and keep this diapering kit on my bedside table. It was handy for late night changes, and since I was breastfeeding, it contained all the supplies we needed to make it through the night. Restocking it each morning gave me a sense of confidence and order in the chaotic new world of parenthood.

After awhile, I got the hang of diaper changing and things weren’t quite as messy. But this diapering kit was still a lifesaver when it came to leaving the house with my daughter. Most stores and restaurants have changing stations in their restrooms, but I didn’t feel comfortable laying my baby directly on them. So I unfolded my diapering kit on top of the plastic tables for a softer, more sanitary changing surface. When we visited friends and family, I felt competent and courteous using this rather than changing my baby directly on someone’s couch or floor. My wipes never dried out, and it was easy to refold the kit with just one hand.

The only small problem I encountered was that the Velcro on the underside of the changing mat put a small snag in my bedspread. I have never had a problem with it on any other surface, and I’ve gotten into the habit of placing a clean diaper or my daughter’s cotton pants under that spot when I change her on a particularly delicate surface. One small snag was a small price to pay for the convenience of this awesome diapering kit.

  • Eddie Bauer Nursing Privacy Cover

nursing privacy coverOn several occasions I’ve wished I’d purchased more than one of these. It was affordable and still works great. Nursing covers are available in a wide range of prices, and I considered going with a more expensive mode, but I’m so glad I didn’t. The material on this one is somewhat sheer (if you hold it up to the light) but it serves the purposes of keeping eyes of my breasts when I nurse in public. It is lightweight and has an adjustable neck strap. Some moms simply use a receiving blanket as a cover, but that would make me nervous with a squirming baby. With this, I’ve been able to nurse while showing visitors around my home.

More expensive nursing covers are often wider, and their tops stay open better so you can watch your baby as she eats. I’ve always felt sufficiently covered when I’ve used this, and it’s easy enough to take a peek at my daughter. Personally, I prefer that the top doesn’t stay open on its own, because it gives added privacy from people who walk past me while I’m seated. I may not be as thrilled with this cover if I compared it to others like the BeBe Au Lait, but at one third of the price, I’ll stick with the Eddie Bauer.

  •  Gilligan & O’Malley Cotton Nursing Cami

nursing camiThese tanks are an absolutely brilliant idea. They provide easy access to one breast while keeping the other, and your postpartum belly, completely covered. The material doesn’t cling to your body, and I was comfortable in one the day after delivery. They are available in a variety of colors. I like to wear them over a nursing bra since they don’t provide much support, but depending on your body type and comfort level, you might opt to skip the bra altogether.

They look like standard tank tops and can be worn alone on hot days, or layered under regular, non-nursing tops which you would then unbutton or pull up to nurse. The sides are easy to snap down with one hand, and I have never had one stick or break. I have also never had one come unsnapped by accident. Several different companies make nursing tanks, but these were so affordable, I haven’t felt compelled to try any others.

  • All things Medela

medelaSince I was planning to be a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t think I’d have much use for pumps, bottles or other feeding accessories, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Due to a particularly complicated delivery, I was unable to produce any milk in the first five days of my daughter’s life. She lost an alarming amount of weight, and we ended up having to supplement with formula before we ever left the hospital. Our nursing relationship wouldn’t have stood a chance if it weren’t for the innovative thinkers at Medela.

At the hospital, I was issued a Medela Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). It involved an inverted bottle of formula and tiny tubes which I taped to my breasts. My baby still latched onto my breast, still received colostrum, and still stimulated milk production. She wasn’t at risk of nipple confusion, but she was getting the nutrition and calories she needed. We got to go home, and when my milk eventually came in, we were able to discard the SNS. We’ve been successfully nursing ever since! There’s no way to know if you’ll end up needing to supplement (and I hope you don’t), but other Medela products can prove to be just as useful for you as the SNS was for me.

Even if you plan on being with your child at all times, it’s a good idea to pump and freeze some milk. Pumping will help get your supply established, and the frozen milk will be invaluable if you happen to become ill. While it’s advisable to continue nursing if you get sick (you’ll pass antibodies to your baby through your milk), some illnesses can cause a temporary decrease in supply. When my daughter was three months old, I was unexpectedly hospitalized for appendicitis. Fortunately, I had enough milk in the freezer to sustain her until all of the medications from surgery were out of my system.

The Medela Feeding Gift Set pictured here includes three bottles with collars and three slow-flow nipples, as well as six storage bottles and twenty storage bags. Medela’s parts are all interchangeable, so you can pump, freeze, thaw, and feed your baby all with the same bottle. Fewer dishes to wash means more snuggle time with your baby.  I used the Pump In Style Advanced double electric breast pump, because I found a great deal on it, but Medela offers other less expensive pump options as well. A single, manual pump such as the Harmony would most likely suit the needs of a mom who won’t be pumping often.

Obviously these aren’t the only items a new mother needs, and as I sit here I can already think of five more. I’ll probably make a ‘Part Two’ to this post, but no products I’ve used can beat these five in terms of convenience, quality and affordability. I am still using everything but the Rock ‘N Play, and it has all held up wonderfully. I look forward to reusing each of my fantastic five favorite newborn items with our second baby (a couple of years down the road).

Please feel free to comment and share your own favorites, or ask questions about any of these products.