In my last post, I discussed the moment I found out I was going to be a mom of two children under the age of two and the months leading up to Sawyer’s birth. However, nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for what that first year had in store for our family. Those nine months flew by and there we were in the hospital, introducing our 17 month-old son to his new little sister. Needless to say and you can tell by the picture, he was not impressed. The caption should read, “Girl, bye”.
When Jackson was born, I was so eager to get home and begin our new adventure as a “little family”. I remember bawling my eyes out when the nurses told me they were keeping us an extra day to monitor his jaundice. With Sawyer, not so much. I was not ready to leave the hospital and be home with two little ones. In fact, I was pretty terrified. The first few weeks at home with Jackson were magical. Yes, I was tired and in pain from the episiotomy but none of that mattered to me. Waking up every two hours to pump was exhausting however, I remember just sitting there at 3 am staring at his angelic little face in awe. I felt so fortunate because my husband was able to stay home with us for a month. We would have marathon TV watching sessions, binging on “The Sopranos” or “Storage Wars” while we were taking turns feeding and changing our little guy. Looking back, it was probably the happiest month of my life, poop diapers and all. Everything was new and exciting.
I was not ready to leave the hospital and be home with two little ones. In fact, I was pretty terrified.
There was a different newness being home with Sawyer. The exhaustion I experienced with Jackson seemed like a cakewalk compared to this. I am sure I looked like a character off “The Walking Dead” in a messy bun and robe most days. It was an enormous feat if I wore something other than pajamas those first two months. Moms of multiples, seriously, how do you do it? Anyway, my husband was only able to take a week off this time, so there were no shifts at night because he had to be up for work in the morning. Jackson would wake up promptly at 6:45 am so I would be dragging ass to the kitchen after only being asleep for one hour since Sawyer’s last feeding. Everyone has heard the advice to nap when the baby naps. This is all well and good when you are home with only one child, however it is next to impossible with two little ones who are on completely opposite nap schedules. Mom naps were a thing of the past and I needed an IV drip of the strongest coffee out there.
The jealousy was real for Jackson. It took him awhile to realize that sissy was not just some inconvenient house guest but a permanent fixture to our family. I was DETERMINED to nurse Sawyer because I had been unable to do so with Jackson. She latched well at first but then regressed when we got home and we would both get very frustrated. I would be sitting on the couch with her propped on the nursing pillow, trying to get her to eat. The second she would latch and stay there, Jackson would need my attention. It was like clockwork. When I would not give him immediate attention, he would come up and whack his sister on the head, which would result in a hysterical newborn, a pissed off toddler and a failed nursing session.
I remember reading an article on Scary Mommy a few weeks before Sawyer was born and the advice has stuck with me these past 18 months. The author said something to the effect of: It is impossible to please everyone all the time, there are times that you will disappoint someone and that is okay!
Although this seems pretty straightforward and simple, it took awhile for me to fully grasp and the overwhelming guilt for having another child so soon that I discussed in my last post, crept back in. I was very accustomed to tending to Jackson’s every need almost always when he needed it, so it was a rude awakening for both of us when he had to learn how to wait. He would be screeching at the table that he was finished eating while I would be changing or feeding his sister that was also most likely screaming. (Sawyer had colic and reflux, which is not something I would wish on my worst enemy!) The longer he waited, the louder he got.
Eventually, the inability to please everyone began to pick away at the perception I had of myself as a mother. I was terrified about going anywhere with both kids because I was scared of someone losing their shit in the produce aisle and getting looks from strangers. At this point, I would plan errands for when my husband was home or when one of the kids had childcare. This plan worked for a while, until he had to go away for a long weekend when Sawyer was two months old. I thought we could go the whole four days without going anywhere. Jackson and I could play outside during Sawyer’s nap time. I would be able to hear through the monitor if she woke up and it would all be good, right? WRONG. I hit the brink of insanity at approximately 4 p.m. on that Sunday. It had been two days since we had left the house and we were all stir crazy. We had watched Frozen probably fifteen times and most importantly, there was no more wine. After strategizing about the logistics (IE: Who would I get out of the car first? How would I load them back in the car and take the shopping cart to the corral? How would I get Jackson past the candy aisle without him seeing it? What if someone had a blowout?), I bit the bullet and we went to the grocery store.
“Eventually, the inability to please everyone began to pick away at the perception I had of myself as a mother.”
Once we arrived, I put Sawyer in the sling and got Jackson settled in the cart with no problems. We were able to get the necessities: Goldfish, bananas, string cheese, Pirates Booty or as Jackson calls it, “Pirates Moody”, and wine. Yes, the Goldfish were opened in the store and Jackson nearly had a meltdown when I would not let him stand up in the cart, but it went surprisingly well. I felt like I had accomplished a small victory on the ride home. Of course now, I do not think twice about bringing both of them to Target and I have been so accustomed to the public toddler shit fits that I do not bat an eye to a look from a judgy stranger. If I am being real, about 95% of the expressions I get are those of pity or “I’ve been there”.
Again, this was a small victory but I still felt myself often struggling and questioning what I was doing or not doing. The constant dwelling on my imperfections-the negatives, eventually impeded my ability to bond with Sawyer. I was an anxious mess and unable to enjoy my baby which led to even more guilt. I view my role as a stay at home mother as a job and there were too many days that I felt like I was failing at it; days where I would find myself sobbing in the bathroom or snapping at my husband for no reason. It took about six months to admit how unfair this was not only to my family, but to myself, and that I probably needed some outside help.
With the encouragement of my husband and mom, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist. I was terrified when I walked into that office but the doctor assured me that my feelings were valid and medication would likely be a temporary thing for me. She put me on an anti-depressant and an anxiety pill that were not compatible with nursing. At this point, I was so tired of being in a constant state of panic that there was no question about stopping breast-feeding. Honestly, nursing and pumping were a huge source of stress for me, so having to quit was a blessing in disguise. I did not get that lovey-dovey experience that so many women gush about when it comes to breast-feeding. Formula was a godsend for us and if we have a third, I will not hesitate to quit nursing in a heartbeat if it is not working out for mama or baby. The fun for Sawyer and I truly began when we made the switch and there is not an ounce of guilt I feel for saying that. A lack of bonding does not equal a lack of love one has for their child. I fell in love with her instantly but it just took a little longer for us to “get” each other.
“I have fully accepted that there are days where I am ‘mommying’ the hell out of it and others where I have ran out of shits to give.”
The medicine did not fully take effect over night but when it did, I felt like a better version of myself. I came out of the fog when Sawyer was about eight months old and was able to wean off all medication by her first birthday. The true victory was learning to put it in God’s hands and stop judging myself so much. I have fully accepted that there are days where I am “mommying” the hell out of it and others where I have ran out of shits to give. Sometimes I get the kids out of the house by 8 am, make it to the Y for an exercise class, put on make up and prep dinner during nap time while managing to somehow fit in a park visit and a cookie baking session. Other days, The Wiggles are a glorified babysitter, I opt out of putting pants on, showers are an afterthought and dinner is Stouffer’s lasagna. This is my reality and I’m quite content with it now. Mommy wars aside, it is safe to say that we are our own harshest critics and I’m TELLING you right now to just stop it and be kind to yourself. We are human beings after all and can only do our best.