We added a second daughter to our family two weeks ago, and we are now settling into our new normal.
Alice Elizabeth arrived on Christmas morning. She was born five days past her due date, which threw out all our holiday party plans. Ironically, for weeks, I had joked that I would give birth late, but surely before Christmas. I never imagined that the three of us would be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day waiting for our newest family member to arrive, and wondering whether our new baby would be a boy or a girl.
Three things stand out to me, as we adjust to our new life as a family of four.
Getting Ready to Go Anywhere Seems to Take Forever
When it was just the three of us, we could get dressed and out of the house in an hour or so. Now with the newborn, that time has increased to almost two hours. Even though my husband and I are a little more organized the second time around, our newborn still requires more gear than our four-year-old.
Speaking of gear, our favorite go-to is our Timbuk2 Messenger Baby Bag. We bought this bag almost five years ago, and it is still a champion for lugging both girls’ gear. The removable changing pad is my favorite part. I love how large it is—18 inches by 27 inches—and how it’s useful from infancy all the way through early childhood.
Maternity Leave is Not a Vacation
I recently saw Mother Honestly’s Instagram post on the difference between a vacation and maternity leave. One side of the image shows two women relaxing in the sun with the caption “This is vacation.” The other side, captioned, “This is maternity leave,” depicts the stress and hard work truly involved in taking care of a newborn while preparing to return to work.
Mother Honestly’s post nailed it. After I gave birth to Alice, my mind was racing with all the “next steps” for insurance and work. I was still checking work emails until I was admitted to the hospital.
When I had my first daughter, Ilse, I could actually relax at home, but with two children in tow, both my husband and I are busier than ever. He wakes up at 5:30 AM to prep bottles and do dishes. I wake up at 6AM to get ready, so I can take care of Ilse when she wakes up for school. All of my time is spent on school drop-offs and pick-ups, chores, daycare research and tours, and pumping milk. If I am lucky to not have any plans or projects, I might squeeze in a nap once in a while.
I Needed that Reminder to Be Kind to Myself
After I gave birth to Alice, one of the fantastic caregivers who guided me during delivery, Bridget, reminded me to be kind to myself. It was so sweet, yet profound at the same time. As mothers, we tend to forget ourselves and postpone our own needs, when we really need to ask for help and take care of ourselves. I wish all parents could hear this reminder.
While I am a little disappointed that Alice prefers the bottle to my breast, I am happy that someone else can feed her and that she is not so reliant on me. This means I can schedule a self-care appointment without guilt.
Being kind to myself also means giving myself time and grace to adjust to our new life as a family of four.
The new normal will take some getting used to. It is still surreal to me that I am a mother of two daughters and that my husband is now outnumbered. While I am still recovering from the pains of childbirth—the postpartum cramps are worse than menstrual cramps—I can’t wait to see how our family evolves.