This week, tending my newborn daughter in the small hours, I contemplated everything I did with my firstborn that I would like to do differently with my second. Miraculously, I only came up with a list of five. If you’d like to add to it, please share!
1. Let her use a pacifier.
I was adamant, from the moment my firstborn daughter popped out, that I did not want her to use a pacifier. I believed that if she was making a sucking motion, she needed to be eating, and I might miss this nonverbal cue that she was starving to death if her sweet little rosebud mouth was corked by a Gumdrop pacifier.
Now, I’m contemplating taking stock in those things.
2. Not obsess about her gaining weight.
My husband and I have a home video of our firstborn daughter when she was about eight months old. She was sprawled across the floor in our bedroom while wriggling her head back and forth across the ridges of the hardwood.
My husband zoomed in on her rounded tummy, straining against the bird-covered material of her shirt, and said, “And here mama’s worried that you’re getting skinny.”
Tis true: I worried myself sick that my child wasn’t getting enough. Therefore, I fattened her up to the point she could barely move. If our second born is a little more petite, I am not going to panic and try to make her look like a mini Michelin man with hair.
3. Pace myself.
Routine-oriented to a fault, I acted like I’d been shot out of a cannon after the birth of my firstborn daughter. I wanted everything the same as before: the house just as clean, the fridge just as stocked, my daily word count reached.
Now, I am still just as OCD about keeping the floor grit-free of coffee grounds and the left bathroom sink wiped down of my husband’s pepperings of beard hair, but I’ve also given myself a mandatory naptime, which is the same time my toddler goes down for her nap.
I usually just nurse my newborn to sleep and then put her in her bassinet before closing my eyes for thirty minutes. However, those thirty minutes help clear my head and give me the strength to tackle the rest of the day.
4. Not panic if it takes a while for my husband and me to find our equilibrium again.
In the weeks following a birth, my husband and I are both so sleep-deprived that we switch from spending quality time with each other to basic survival mode.
The past two nights, for instance, we’ve both crawled into bed—on opposite sides of the co-sleeper—and said “I love you” and gripped hands over the sleeping form of our child.
It certainly wasn’t a passionate good night kiss, but it was a way to reconnect after an arduous day and to let each other know that we’re in this together—for rest or for sleep-deprivation.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
One of my main struggles, as a parent, is my inflexibility.
Children oftentimes cannot be confined to a schedule, and I have to train myself to be okay with that. The other night, I was trying to sweep the floor when my (previously potty-trained) toddler had an accident all over it.
Meanwhile, my newborn was starting to awaken for her three-hour cluster nursing session, and I found myself starting to panic. So I put the broom down, and my husband and I cleaned up the puddle on the floor, then I fed my daughter.
The discarded pile of dirt was in the laundry room the next morning, but nobody knew it but me. Whenever I start twitching, needing to “conquer” my to-do list, I remember this poem, and it puts everything into perspective. I hope it helps you, too!
Readers, let me hear from you: how did you parent your second child differently than your first?