It wasn't all that long ago that I was a brand-new mom, freshly home from the hospital with my first little miracle of a baby boy and glowing that new-mom glow. My eldest son is eight years old - it wasn't that long ago.
But until recently I'd completely forgotten just how hard being home all day long just Mommy and Baby can be.
My life has been a bit of a whirlwind over the past few years - in rapid succession following my twenty-sixth birthday I had a baby, moved, had another baby, got divorced, moved again, started a new job, started a new relationship, moved again, started another new job, got married, moved again, and had another baby. All in the space of six years. So forgive me, but somewhere in the chaos of life some of the earlier parenting moments have slipped through the cracks of my thirty-something memory. (I probably should have started this blog eight years ago!)
When my third son was born a year and a half ago I was a little nervous about going back and doing the baby thing again, I was a little nervous about giving up the grown-up time going to work had become for me, I was a little nervous about how I'd manage coordinating my older boys and their activities and our family routines with a new little one. I wasn't sure if it would be harder than I remembered, if it would all come back to me, if I could do it all again.
My fears turned out to be for nothing and the transition from a family of four to a family of five was smooth and easy and baby-Mommying all came back to me right away. In fact, it all seemed a heck of a lot easier to me this time around.
In part, I think this is because of the third-child-syndrome: First child falls while learning to walk - Mom scoops him up, kisses him from head to toe, puts down more blankets and hovers three inches behind him the rest of the day; third child falls while learning to walk - Mom glances over and says, "You're ok, baby." Leaving the house with first child, Mom stuffs a luggage-sized bag with diapers, wipes, change pad, blanket, bottles, pacifiers, toys, stuffies and a couple of changes of clothes, grabs a seat and travel swing "just in case," and bundles baby up in four layers of outerwear; leaving the house with third child, Mom pops an extra diaper in her purse as she runs out the door, Baby balanced on a hip.
But in part, too, I think it's because adding a baby to an already large family is very different from a couple having their first baby. A baby is an enormous change and a lot of work for new parents used to freedom and independence and alone time and an adult lifestyle. A new baby in a family already full of kids barely causes a ripple - there's just one more kid to love. It's simply not all that life-altering. When a couple have their first child, Baby dictates the family schedule - but in a larger family there's so much going on as it is that Baby and Baby's care have to fit in with the existing lifestyle and schedule.
The benefit, of course, is that in a larger family the days are so busy that there's no chance for tedium to set it.
It sounds awful to say. Of course spending time with our babies is full of joy and incalculably precious for all moms - but let's be honest. It can get boring. Babies don't do much. Especially newborns. All day, every day, stuck at home just you and Baby, no adult conversation...the days can drag. I remember when my eldest was a newborn, as much as I worshiped him and treasured every moment we spent together, there were days when waiting for six o'clock when my husband would arrive home from work seemed to take forever. Those newborn and early baby days were L-O-N-G.
This time around, with baby number three, I didn't have any of those days. Instead of an early morning wake-up followed by twelve hours of nursing, changing, snuggling, and staring at him in his rocker or bouncer or swing (sometimes just moved from one to the other for the sake of breaking things up a bit) with the TV or radio on for background noise until my husband finally got home, since Baby was forty-eight hours old our early morning wake-up was followed by the frenzy of getting the older kids dressed, breakfast made and eaten, beds made, lunches packed, agendas and notes signed, backpacks organized and then bundling up, packing the stroller and walking the boys to school. By the time we were back home with the morning mess cleaned up it was only a couple of hours until our playgroup - less on those days I brought the boys home from school for lunch. After playgroup it was time to pick the older kids up from school and another whirlwind of unpacking backpacks, after-school snacks, homework, making and eating dinner and getting the family organized and out of the house for soccer or swimming. There simply wasn't time for the days to drag.
But I do remember how it was. A visit to a girlfriend who recently had her first baby reminded me just how different my life is now with three kids of varying ages than it was eight years ago when my first little angel was born - the silent house, the lengthy discussions about nursing and sleeping and what the doctor said (because, with no-one to talk to and nothing to do all day long, that's all there is for New Mom to think about), the sheer loneliness of silence and solitude. I'd forgotten how hard it is to entertain yourself and a baby all day long before that baby learns to walk and play and communicate with you.
It's hard to say. No-one wants to admit it. But it's true nonetheless - at times, at home, alone all day long for months on end, the days can drag with Baby.
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