The Second Time Around

by Lisa Cucinotta

As a first time parent, I was terrified of everything. I think so much of that had to do with not knowing what to expect.  Not knowing how things worked, if I was doing it right, what was “normal” for each stage and what would come next.  I am an anxious person by nature so this experience was amplified for me more than it might be for some.  Things like Julia waking up in the middle of the night as a toddler seemed extra stressful because I didn’t feel like I had control of when and how they would stop. Was I creating bad habits if I went in there too often? Why was she crying when we had made it so well through sleep training years ago? I clung to my Baby 411 and Toddler 411 books like life rafts, and asked my mother and sister and pediatrician all sorts of ridiculous questions.

I struggled with PPD and with motherhood in general (read most of my blog posts and you’ll get the picture). It wasn’t until Julia was about two that I wasn’t even ready to accept that I might be willing to have a second kid.  I worried about having a traumatic birth again.  I worried about having PPD again.  I worried about the brain fog, the sleeplessness, basically everything. Did I mention I have anxiety problems?

Then I had a second baby. SO DIFFERENT.  Like, epic level of different. In the hospital with Julia, we were separated the first day (she in the NICU, me on magnesium for the pre-eclampsia). With Luca, I got skin to skin right away, and got to snuggle him tons and keep him in my room. With Julia, they wouldn’t let me nurse her after she was born because I needed medical intervention. With Luca I got to nurse. With Julia, coming off the magnesium was brutal, and I had such intense brain fog I couldn’t think straight. With Luca, I waited and waited for the dizzy confusion and it never happened.  Is this what people got to have the first time that didn’t have medical issues for mom and baby? I will never know, but I suspect that even if they did have experiences more like mine with Luca than Julia they still must have been scared shitless because it was their first.

Getting home with Luca, I was concerned how I would manage both kids. But there was so much more that I was confident in that it seemed like an obstacle I could manage. I knew how my breast pump worked and had the hands free pumping bra ready to go. I could diaper like a champ. I knew to set a routine for getting the baby to sleep early, and to drape a paper towel over Luca’s head so I could eat dinner while nursing (I am classy AF).

My kids are different genders so there have been certain adjustments, like dealing with boy parts – turns out it actually makes diaper changing easier in some ways – like no worry about poop going up the other chute. I mean yeah, I got peed on a few times, but we figure that out pretty quick.  Luca is also definitely a lot more aggressive and wild than Julia, especially as a toddler.  When she first got her big girl bed, it never even occurred to her that she could get out of it or open the door to her room for like a year.  Luca figured that out night one.  She never turned her toys into weapons, or kicked us when we tried to change her diaper. She didn’t roar at strangers. She didn’t jump off of everything she possibly could with no fear.

But for the most part, genuinely things are pretty much parallel within reason.  I know now how old a kid needs to be to process certain information, and what kind of discipline is generally most effective. I know that at some meals he won’t eat anything and at others he’ll chow down three hot dogs and that this isn’t something to be concerned about. I don’t worry when he wakes up at night crying that this will be a thing that happens forever.

I do miss being able to tag out. The days where Brian could watch the baby for an hour while I napped don’t work as well when there are two and they have different things they need and different places to be etc.  But we still split up sometimes with one kid each and it feels so relaxing, which makes me laugh because there were plenty of times where being alone with Julia made me feel nervous or stressed.  But now she is older and my shopping buddy and my crafting buddy and dance partner and we have the best time when we’re together just the two of us.  Getting solo time with mom seems to make her behave much better.

On the downside, the two together often means chaos. When the two of them fight I want to run out of the room and hide or scream because it frustrates me so much.  But then I see them hold hands or play together or snuggle up and I forget that Julia kicked Luca hard enough that his head smacked in the wall, or that Luca jumped on Julia and bruised her (does this happen if you have two girls, by the way? I don’t remember if my sister and I were violent with each other much.)

Some people say that two is more than twice as hard as one.  I think if you are a stay at home parent that might be true, but as a working mom I honestly haven’t felt that way too much.  I know this sounds strange, but I always felt a little like something was missing when we just had Julia.  These two adults with this tiny person, it felt like an uneven balance.  I feel much more like a family with two.  Maybe that’s because I grew up with a sibling, but either way, that feeling of satisfaction helps me enjoy the experience more.  But two is definitely my limit.  More power to those folks who have three or four or more, but I am good with my little set.  I think you need to know your limits. But if you’ve got one and you’re on the fence, I say go for it. The second time around brought a great sense of redemption for me, along with a greater sense of family.

 

The (not so) magic of babies

By Lisa Cucinotta

I was at a client meeting today and overheard a conversation between a mom that just returned from maternity leave and an expecting father.

“Oh, it’s just magical.  You’re going to love it,” she raved.

Being the nosy nancy I am, I of course butted in.  “Are you referring to having a newborn?” I asked her.

“Yes, it’s just so wonderful,” she gushed, smiling radiantly. Say what?

Listen, I had postpartum depression with Julia, and that’s not everyone’s experience so yeah, I am a bit jaded.  Having Luca was a fabulous course correction, and I genuinely enjoyed a lot of my time with him, but let’s be real here.

Being a first time mom to a newborn is an experience that can be described as magical.  But not without also caveating that it’s also many other things like terrifying and exhausting.

Moms (and dads): If you are selling the lie, you’re not just lying to yourself, you are setting our parenting culture up for failure.  Dramatic of me to say? Maybe.  But I literally can not count on two hands the number of women who told me that I was one of the ONLY people that warned them that those early weeks were going to at times, between gazes of love and wonder and unicorns prancing also be demoralizing, mournful, emotional, foggy, bloody (yes, bloody) and confusing.

People will make comments about how you won’t get sleep.  They’ll make jokes about it.  But they won’t tell you that the sleeplessness will often be accompanied by unending screams that simultaneously break your heart, hurt your ears, and feel like a condemnation of you and your failure to parent correctly.  Because surely other moms can make their babies stop crying (spoiler alert: bag of nopes there).

You might hear in passing about colic.  But you won’t be given the details about how colic is defined by multiple days of THREE PLUS HOURS IN A ROW of crying.  That shit is hard.  I did not have a colicky baby, but I remember even just average crying with my daughter and how hard it was.

Maybe, thanks to a few parenting memes going around FB, you have somehow heard about the hospital underpants.  It is essentially an underwear sized maxi pad.  Because if you have a vaginal birth you will BLEED.  I was sent home from the hospital told not to be worried about clots unless they were LARGER THAN A TENNIS BALL.  I’m not sure I’d even be able to worry at that point because I would have passed out from fright.

Let’s just take a moment to talk about breast pumps.  Do you know I did it for three months before I found out about hands free pumping bras?  I held those damn flange things against my boobs multiple times a day when I could have just been hanging out, still a cow but with hands free.  And surely no one told you that you actually have to get the right sized flanges for your nipples.  It’s not a one size fits all situation.  And how weird it is to be LITERALLY milked.  I never even made enough milk with Julia without supplementing with formula.  For the first month, my doctor had me nurse Julia, then pump right after – including middle of the night feedings.  Do you know how much it sucked to not only nurse, then pump, but then have to wash fucking pump parts in the middle of the night.  I remember more than once crying in the bathroom at three in the morning as I washed and sanitized pumping supplies thinking that this will never end.  Magical I tell you.  Like prancing unicorns of joy.

I could make you a list more numerous than the number of pee and poop diapers you will change in those early months of other “magical” moments.  Projectile poos, the fear of touching your baby’s umbilical cord before it falls off, the porn star rocks that your boobs will be when your milk comes in, reflux, baby acne, meconium. Trimming miniscule baby fingernails (without making them bleed) so they don’t scratch themselves up like Edward Scissorhands.

I named this blog Truth in Parenting for a reason ya’all.  Only in sharing the truth with each other will we be able to know that parenting is two sides of a coin.  In truth, we don’t have to feel shame or disappointment that our experience isn’t like others, because there’s a really good chance that it is – both good and bad.

 

 

Some day I’ll sleep in

By Lisa Cucinotta

“He needs a back-up alarm” my hair stylist told me, after complaining that the guy who was supposed to open the salon that morning had overslept.  “You know, I always have my phone alarm, and then a back-up, like an alarm clock or my boyfriend’s phone” she said.  “Especially in the winter, when it’s dark and you’re so snuggly, and you just can’t get yourself out of bed, you know?”

I did know, once upon a time.  I remember those days.  In fact, I probably slept more than most people.  I spent my early twenties doing freelance jobs and working for myself, which meant a lot of flexibility in my sleep schedule.  I could sleep some days until noon.  When I was depressed, on my days off I’d sometimes sleep all day, waking up just to go to the bathroom and eat.

But when you have children, sleep is something you dream about… and get woken up from. I suspect I’m luckier than many because currently both my children sleep through the night in their own rooms.  I don’t have enough hands to count the number of friends I have who either intentionally, accidentally, or by sheer exhaustion end up co-sleeping with their kids at least some of the time.  Brian and I decided in our earliest parenting days that we were going to set boundaries on the co-sleeping, so other than when they slept in bassinets with us as babies we’ve never done it.

Neither Julia or Luca slept more than three to four hours at a time until they were about five months old, probably a product of them both being such skinny babies. But both became pretty good sleepers after some basic sleep training.  We certainly had some rough times with Julia between ages 2-4, nothing unusual, just the basic stuff like nightmares.  I suspect we’ll go through it again with Luca as he gets older.  He’s still in a crib at two and a half, but based on his personality I suspect we’ll have trouble keeping him in his big boy bed once he gets one.  So I’ve got that to look forward to.

Both our children’s optimal bedtimes are quite early, which I’ve mentioned before – 6:15 or so for Luca and 7pm for Julia.  So we have whole evenings to ourselves to eat dinner, watch tv, catch up on work etc.  But the trade off is that we got woken up EVERY SINGLE DAY at 6am.  Now, as I’ve also mentioned before, this works for us 5 days a week, because that’s around when we wake up for work anyway.  But getting up at 6 am on weekends is kind of brutal.  At this point, it doesn’t make me too tired anymore, because my body has adjusted.  In fact, it came in handy when Brian and I went to Universal studios by ourselves this fall because we had no trouble getting up for early admission.  But our trip to the Dominican Republic last year where we fantasized about sleeping late – that one was a damn shame to wake up every day by seven.

The early wake up is a double edged sword.  I’ve done more by 8:00 in the morning than many childless people do in a full weekend day.  Even with lounging in bed with the kids for early morning TV watching, by about 8:30 on a Sunday we have usually cooked and eaten breakfast, emptied the dishwasher, tidied up the first floor, looked up something or other on the internet, broken up at least one fight, and changed a few diapers.  The trade off is that there is so many more hours in the day during which we need to entertain the kids.  Bored children are no fun.  If I was a perfect Pinterest mom I’m sure I’d have long lists of craft projects and inventive games and would love every minute of every hour of the time I spent with them.  But sometimes mom just wants a nap.

Brian and I have this fantasy for the future.  Some of it revolves around sleeping later once they kids are able to take care of themselves when they get up.  But our particular favorite one is for when the kids are teenagers who will inevitably sleep super late on the weekends.  We’ve decided at least once we’re going to throw open their door as loudly as possible, run into their room, jump into their bed full force and immediately demand that they get us breakfast and put the tv on for us.  There’s even been talk of banging pots and pans.  But we’ll decide when we get there, since I suspect we’ve got miles to go before we sleep.