4 Lessons I Learned in the 4th Trimester with Baby #2
Life with baby #2 felt like it got started off on such a strong foot. For the first month, our little Ellie belly slept so well, we felt more stressed by our toddler turning 2 than with her!
Dylan transitioned so well to being a big brother and I had this grand hope that I could get so much stuff done - productivity makes me feel so accomplished and feeds my soul.
Just a few weeks later my husband went back to work leaving me to figure out how to care for two little ones solo (way harder than I thought). We battled another case of baby reflux (Dylan had it too) and issues with Ellie gaining weight - my stress increased quickly.
Crying and anxiety attacks over the worry and confusion of the newborn phase, made it hard to breathe. I was mourning the loss of any solo hours during naptime since they wouldn't overlap and it made me question if I'd ever have more freedom to be me again - including connecting with you.
Although caring for a baby has felt easier the second time around, the dynamic with a toddler going through his own developmental changes (becoming a brother, turning 2, ditching the pacifier, molars etc.) every time you add a new member to the family there needs to be an adjustment period.
I thought I'd only need a month or so but those first 12 weeks are really what I should have focused on.
Now that we've officially graduated from the 4th trimester, I'm doing a check in as to what I've learned the least three months and how I can apply them to life moving forward.
4 Lessons I Learned in the 4th Trimester with Baby #2
1. It's ok to step back from life & take a break
When I thought about transitioning to life with two kids, I was like "I'm sure we'll have it figured out within a few weeks".
Then Ellie came and she was sooooo chill and slept so well (Dylan had reflux early on and it made sleep more challenging for the first 5 weeks).
Then I noticed Ellie also had reflux at week 6, she went on medication just prior to week 8 and it was like life just went from somewhat balanced to extremely chaotic. Tyler also went back to work at this time and it felt really hard to manage.
I was on from sun up to sun down (with one feeding in the middle of the night).
I just wanted to get back to a small piece of feeling like myself - workouts, work, and having space during the day (and night) to think and breath. It felt like the rug had been ripped from underneath me and it was hard not to feel depressed by the lack of time without a child (Ellie isn't always soothed by Tyler yet and is a mommy's girl... and Dylan is a mama's boy... so...)
As I tried to move back to being myself and feel a sense of freedom, I reminded myself it's ok to take a break. I was on maternity leave for a reason and my main priority right now was taking care of our children and finding a rhythm that would be sustainable when going back to work.
Without that rhythm, nothing would be possible.
2. Life has many seasons - focus only on what you can handle in this one
Oy! Just like we go through four cycle phases every month, our minds and bodies have different seasons too. Pregnancy is a season. Then of course the 4th trimester would be a season too.
Some seasons are easier than others. While the tough ones stretch you to learn, grow, and break down barriers that keep you confined. Growth is always uncomfortable and it takes conscious effort to remember that.
So in this season - the 4th trimester - you've just gone through pregnancy (which is hard) then the physical and life changing demand of delivery, to meeting your new baby and entering an entirely new chapter in your life.
I needed to relearn that this was a new season and in order to get through it with grace, I can only focus on what I can handle right now.
3. Motherhood IS the Achievement
Even when we become moms, we put endless pressure on ourselves to feel productive and move our lives forward. It becomes really hard to just be, and this type of energy is something I tried to dive into.
I found myself trying to find answers to something more deep rooted in taking an extended break from regular life:
why do I have a hard time taking a break?
why do I feel the need to be doing something all the time?
What I found was when I'm working, I have a clear path to feeling accomplished at the end of the day. I can see from the projects I've worked on or the women I've served there is a clear goal achieved at the end of the day.
Making money and productivity at work gives me a sense of accomplishment.
But I wasn't feeling accomplished at the end of the day as a mother.
I felt so defeated during many moments of the day and focused too much on my old way of thinking for what I had achieved.
I've often heard women say their kids are their biggest achievement. And on some level I do feel that way, but I also am here to help others outside of my family. It's taken a lot of getting use to, but I had to shift my mindset and focus on the beautiful moments happening around me like:
Dylan holding Ellie's hand when she cries and telling her everything is going to be ok.
When I'm feeling frustrated, Dylan reminding me to take deep breaths so I can feel calm
Ellie looking up at me and smiling, cooing/squealing and showcasing how happy she is
Dylan learning how to calm his emotions
I am now choosing to focus on their goodness and milestones as my achievement at the end of the day and shifting the programmed way of thinking that was leaving me conflicted.
4. Find what works to create a new balance
With every new season or new chapter in your life, finding a new balance is necessary.
Life feels rocky and it takes time to get in a groove with your new dynamic. Whether you're having kids too or getting married, starting a new job or moving, it takes time to adjust to the newness.
Having a toddler and a newborn in the house taught me to find new ways to create the balance our family craved.
One of the things I started introducing was "taking turns" for the family.
And vocalize it so everyone knows when its their turn.
It's been the perfect system to take your toddler into a more collaborative mode and learn how to wait for a few minutes - either from getting your attention or something they want like a snack or going to the park.
Dylan gets a turn (like a diaper change or a snack), then Ellie gets a turn (changing clothes after spitting up or a feeding), then mommy gets a turn (to go to the bathroom, get water, shower, etc) and daddy gets a turn (space to take a shower without his kids coming in).
Every time someone gets a turn or needs to wait for the other, I'll vocally express it to Dylan. This "turn taking" was meant to teach him patience and truly has worked like a charm (most of the time)!
I'll tell him its mommy's turn to get dressed for the day and I'm taking my turn before getting him a snack. He has loved it so far and chats about how everyone gets a turn!
I can't say I learned it anywhere, but seeing how well it's worked, I wanted to share it with you!
It's helped us navigate this new transition and make sure everyone gets what they need.