As the days and weeks go by and I get to know Teddy more and more, I realize that the single most significant factor in why this maternity leave is SO MUCH MORE AMAZING than the last one is that experience is everything. Being a second time parent is fantastic. I am not worried about Teddy’s eating schedule, how many times he pooped in a given day, how long he slept, feeling guilty about him sleeping on me, feeling guilty about him not sleeping on me, leaving the house by myself, managing a baby in public, breastfeeding with people around, etc. I feel free. Well, as free as one can feel while still certainly being tied to a little creature that relies on me for food every few hours.
I cried so much with Henry. I cried quite a bit the first week we brought Teddy home because the first week is always going to be hard with hormones rushing out and adjusting to little sleep. But since then, I have been really quite well.
I remember with Henry that the silliest things would send me on a google frenzy to try and discern if what was happening was normal or not. There are still things with Teddy that are mysterious to me, but I have a much more laissez faire attitude about it. “Eh, he is more likely fine than not fine. I’ll worry in a day or two if this keeps up.” I still try to micro-manage other people when they are taking care of Teddy, but I think it is better than last time.
Teddy is also the world’s most easy baby (so far, anyway). What I have trouble figuring out is if he really is that easy or if we’re second time parents and are bothered by less. I think a lot of the former and certainly a dash of the latter. Teddy does not cry. He sometimes makes meepy, whiny sounds to indicate he’s not currently as pleased as he could be, but he’s easily comforted and quiets. Even when he’s hungry it is more of a “Hey, so, I am hungry, but… you know, I see you’ve got a couple of things to do before you get to me and I get that so I’ll hang here because I noticed that you noticed I need something. No worries, mama, I’ll chill.” I’ve told a couple of people that if Teddy were a cartoon character he would be Crush from Finding Nemo. He’s a little chill surfer dude sea turtle. We’ve gotten several 5 hour stretches of sleep, a couple 6 hour stretches, and one 7.5 hour stretch last night. I think somehow this is Allen’s doing to get me to see that a 3rd child is emotionally feasible. I say we’re destined for a dud on the next try so we should stop while we’re ahead.
As I enjoy maternity leave (like, honestly… I’m enjoying it!), it makes me realize that more than anything else, the thing I wish I could give all the first-time moms in my life who are struggling, second-guessing, feeling guilty, judging, and feeling imprisoned is the feeling of being a second-time mom. The calm, the security, the confidence. I want that for you. I want to bottle it up so you can spray it on like perfume when things get rough.
Until I figure out how to do that, the next best thing is to say: this hard, sometimes awful, sometimes tearful, sometimes angry experience is everything. Should you choose to do this again, I can promise you it will be so much easier. Not because the child will be easier or harder, but because YOU will have the experience to help you through. The struggle is real, but the experience is worth it.