The Truth About My Postpartum Experience the Second Time Around
The truth about life with two little ones. I am not going to sugarcoat, it is hard as hell some days. Exhausting, tiring, emotionally draining and yet, at the same time, ridiculously heartwarming and rewarding. People keep asking how life is with two and I wasn't sure. It was new. It was exciting. It was a novelty. I knew the truth would take a few weeks to wiggle its way out. Once the “just checking-in” messages slowed down and the excitement of a new baby faded. When the sweet meal train came to an end and JD went back to his regular work schedule. That is when I could sit back and really reflect on what life was now like.
We are at that point now. Two kids is the most beautiful and most challenging of experiences. Some things have been much easier than I was expecting (Brody's adjustment, breastfeeding, mental health), and others have been harder than I imagined (guilt, finding more patience, focusing on our marriage, and that dang sleep deprivation).
But before I get into all of that, I need to preface this by saying I am incredibly grateful. Isla's health scare at just a week old really put things into perspective. I realized how much love I have for these two little humans. How the things that drive me crazy some days are so freaking small in the big scheme of things. How life is too damn short to be saying "One Day..." So don't take this post as a whiny post, because I wouldn't change where we are for the world. But take this as an honest look into our first six weeks of life as a family of four.
Here’s a little glimpse at our first weeks together and the replies to the most popular questions you all have asked.
Did my body heal quicker the 2nd time around?
Yes! My births were both so different that it really caused a difference in healing. With Brody’s birth, I remember walking around Target a few weeks after he was born and my vagina feeling like it had been hit with a baseball bat. It felt painful and bruised for a few weeks. I had to have a couple of stitches after Brody’s birth and things stung for quite a few days afterwards. With Isla's birth, having a midwife and doula who were both very encouraging of controlled pushing made a big difference in recovery. Things down there were feeling back to normal before I even left the hospital--seriously. Pooping, that’s a different story (thanks Colace for saving the day). No stitches, no abrasions, no hemorrhoids this time around.
How were the very first few days at home?
Isla’s birth experience really helped us have a positive transition into life as a family of 4. I left the hospital in awe of my body. Of this perfect baby we created. Between the oxytocin and a cuddly new baby, our first week together was pure bliss. A honeymoon phase for sure, but I am so grateful for that week because it gave us a little euphoria before things started to get real :)
Did anything surprise you about recovering from birth?
The after labor pains caught me off guard. I was expecting a few mild contractions when Isla would first latch, but I was not expecting contractions that felt like they did right before she was born. Even with the max dosage of ibuprofen in my system they were so painful for the 3 days following Isla’s birth. A few moms in the Momma Society Facebook group tipped me off on the magic of heating pads for these. When I would feed her during the first few days, I would put a heating pad on my abdomen and it cut the edge off of the pain. By day 3 or 4 they were gone.
How did the postpartum bleeding compare?
The bleeding lasted longer for me this time, but it was lighter. A solid 4 weeks of bleeding. With Brody I remember it being closer to 2.5-3 weeks of bleeding, but heavier.
How did you handle healing while having a toddler running around?
With a toddler, there was no time to think about the healing so perhaps that is what made it seem like it was easier.
Have I experienced any postpartum depression or similar issues this time around?
So far, no. I am so thankful. This was my biggest fear when I found out we were expecting again. I really struggled with postpartum anxiety after Brody’s birth. There were a few really scary days during our first couple of months together. I am incredibly grateful this time has been different in this aspect thus far.
Did I decide to do placenta encapsulation?
No. But I did get to see my placenta this time—so cool!
How much did Isla weigh?
She weighed 8 lbs 11 oz—almost 1.5 pounds heavier than Brody!
How long did you stay in the hospital?
We stayed for 24 hours after her birth.
How did you handle labor and getting to the hospital with a toddler?
We are lucky to have a great extended family support system close by. We made plans for each day of the week I was due for where Brody would go. During early labor, Brody sat in bed with me watching shows on the iPad while I tried to zone out through the contractions. When things started to get more intense, we had my mom come and pick him up to bring to her house. I didn’t want to be worrying about our plans for Brody while I was in active labor—I also needed my husband’s full support and attention so it helped that Brody was out of the house. Although saying goodbye to him realizing it was the last time he would be our only little one nearly shattered my heart.
How long did we wait until Brody came to meet Isla?
We didn’t have a plan for this beforehand because we had no idea what time Isla would arrive. We decided to play it by ear and work around Brody’s nap schedule since we wanted to be sure to keep as much routine as possible for him. We also wanted to be sure my sweet friend (and photographer), was able to capture them meeting, so we worked around her schedule too. We wanted Brody to meet Isla before anyone else in our family did. Isla was born a little before 10pm and Brody came to the hospital around 9am the next morning. He stayed for an hour or so then went to my Mother-in-Law’s house until the next day. It was nice having our first night at home with just JD, Isla and I as we adjusted.
What did it feel like having an unmedicated birth?
Very empowering. The contractions of this labor were much more manageable because they had a consistent rhythm and I had a great support system with JD, doula and midwife. I do have to admit the ring of fire at crowning literally felt like a ring of fire—ouch.
How did your labor compare to Brody’s labor?
My labor was much more manageable this time because it was shorter and no back labor! Back labor is the devil. Brody’s labor was pure back labor. Thank goodness for epidurals.
Would you have an unmedicated birth again?
In a heartbeat, assuming there was no back labor.
How do you keep Brody entertained while breastfeeding?
We keep a steady supply of new library books on the ottoman in our living room. When I am nursing Isla, Brody will usually sit next to me and we will read a few books. I have also found myself nursing Isla during mealtimes when Brody is entertained by his food. I’ll sit at the table and breakfast and lunch most days and instead of eating the meal with him like we used to do, I’ll sit there and nurse Isla then eat later.
How are you dealing with a colic-y baby?
It has been rough. I get frustrated because I have to give her 100% of my attention when she is in the midst of a massive crying session and that is hard when there’s also a toddler to care for. If I have to pull out the iPad for Brody during this, I try to give myself some grace and as he zones out in front of the screen. I try to remind myself that this is just a very short phase and these first weeks together are not a reflection of how our relationship is going to be or how Isla is going to be. When Brody was a colic-y newborn, I was convinced he was forever going to be a grumpy human. Two years later, he’s the happiest kid and I keep reminding myself the same will be true with Isla.
Has anything helped the colic?
I am not sure. They say colic peaks at 6 weeks, we’re now on week 7 and she seems to be slightly less fussy as each day passes. I think we are starting to understand her cries better and I have also cut out dairy, which may or may not be making a difference. Per our pediatrician’s recommendation we also give her Gerber Soothe Probiotic Drops daily.
What has been the hardest part this time around?
1. Stretching myself too thin. Overcommitting, over-scheduling etc. I took off the month of August from all things, but that time flew by. I should have cleared off a solid 2 months on my calendar.
2. Trying to be everything to everyone. I am slowly realizing this just leads to failure and stress.
3. Prioritizing our marriage. This was tough even when it was just Brody as a newborn, but you add another baby to the mix and it’s another layer between you and your spouse. Date nights are almost impossible for the first month or two. We had our first day night last weekend and it was so refreshing. Definitely helped us feel human again. We have both been making plenty of one-on-one time with each of the kiddos (which I am so grateful for), but at times, that is replacing the one-on-one time we were making for each other. Desperately craving more solo time with JD.
What are you doing differently?
Pacifiers. Nanny. Lots of screen time. It’s survival mode, ya’ll.
Any advice for a soon-to-be mom of 2?
1. Accept Help. From friends offering to bring over dinners to family members offering to take your toddler for a few hours—do not say no and do not feel guilty thinking that you are being a burden. And yes, I need this pep talk for myself because I am terrible at accepting help or asking for help.
2. Stock up on paper plates, disposable silverware, any anything else that will eliminate chores around the house.
3. If you can swing it, find a nanny/babysitter/mother’s helper. We have been so lucky to have an awesome girl spend her afternoons with Brody. She does all of the things I wish I still had time to do with him—park dates, paint, pretend play etc. He gets her full attention and he’s on cloud 9 when she comes over. Isla and I escape upstairs and I lock myself in the bedroom to work on blog posts or just spend time bonding with Isla. It has been so valuable and has really helped us transition. PS: She even puts away the kiddos laundry for us! I am already sad thinking about her moving next month.
Do I have any time for myself?
Yes! I make sure of this and JD has been so encouraging of it as well. Isla has milk stored in the freezer, so I can’t use that as an excuse for not making time for myself this time around. Some days when JD gets home from work, I’ll set a timer for 30 minutes and go upstairs and do my little miracle morning routine that I so dearly miss.
How is Isla sleeping?
Pretty well! She wakes up 2-3 times a night to eat then falls right back asleep. Brody on the other hand, has been waking up in the middle of the night a few times a week since she has arrived. Drives me nuts!
Did Brody regress on potty training?
No. We decided to do his night training the first weeks at home with Isla as well since we were already up all night. So far, so good.
How much time did JD take off of work?
JD took off the first week with Isla. The following few weeks he would take off on Wednesdays so we would get a mid-week break. It worked really well.
Is everything ok with Isla after her health scare?
Hopefully! We will be meeting with a hematologist at the end of October for more tests. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for good news, but in the meantime trying not to think about it.
How has Brody handled the transition?
Like a champ. I am so proud of how well he has done. Even JD and I haven’t handled the transition as well as he has. The only negative thing he has said about Isla is that his ears hurt one day when she was screaming. Ugh the way he said it broke my heart a bit. I find myself being shorter with Brody and rushing him, which is hard to accept. There is some serious mom guilt in those moments.
How has breastfeeding been the 2nd time around?
It has been a very similar experience just without the huge learning curve I had with Brody. Isla seems to have a better latch, so we haven’t had to use a nipple shield. She’s a fast eater. I definitely feel more comfortable nursing her than I did with Brody. Nursing in public happens a whole lot more often than it did with Brody.
How many years apart are Brody and Isla? Do you like this age difference?
They are almost 2.5 years apart. So far, I love the age difference. Brody is pretty independent and understands what is going on. He gets excited about helping and loves holding/kissing her. When she wakes up from naps he goes right up to her and says "awww" in the sweetest voice. If someone other than JD and I are holding her and she starts to cry, he will immediately give his tips on calming her "maybe put sound machine on?" "maybe walk her?". I could go on and on about the sweet moments between these two over the past month and a half. These moments are what makes every bit of this worth it.
How do our days flow?
Our days vary greatly depending on everyone’s mood and what we have on the calendar, but here is what a good day looks like for us.
6:00 Brody wakes up and crawls into our bed. I am still half asleep so I hand him the ipad to watch cartoons.
6:30/6:45 Isla wakes up. I feed her and we all change out of our pajamas.
7:00 Breakfast—cereal and yogurt—gourmet meals around here!
8:00 I try to do a little preschool lesson with Brody. I use the Busy Toddler curriculum because let’s face it some days—I can barely remember to take a shower, let alone plan out activities for Brody. It takes about 45 minutes to finish. I keep Isla in the Solly wrap so my hands are free to help Brody.
9:00 Brody dumps all of his toy containers and plays around. I attempt to tidy up the kitchen/do dishes from the night before. Most of the time I end up on the couch scrolling through my phone and watching Brody play.
10:00 Nap time for Brody! If I am lucky, Isla will snooze for part of the time too and I can take a quick shower. I work on blog posts and catch up on emails (one-handed).
Noonish Brody wakes up and we eat lunch. Quesadillas for lunch 90% of the time.
1:00 Our nanny comes over to play with Brody and Isla and I go upstairs to work.
3:30 Nanny heads out. Dad comes home from work. I wrap up whatever I am working on and head downstairs.
The rest of the afternoon—we run errands, try to calm Isla (this is her witching time), try to get out of the house and get dinner ready.
5:30ish Dinner together & lazy time until bed.
7:00 Bathtime/bedtime for Brody
9:30 Isla/JD and I head up to bed
Do you want more kids?
If you asked us a few weeks ago, the answer would be a solid no. However, as the newborn days fade away perhaps we will catch baby fever once again (not for a long, long time though). JD and I are both the first to admit that we are not newborn parents. If we could birth a 2 month old baby, that would be perfect :) For now, we are happy as a clam with our family dynamic.
So there is a little peek at our first 7 weeks as a family of 4! Crazy, exhausting and beautiful. Filled with moments I never want to forget and maybe just a few I'd rather not remember. We are really starting to get to the good part now. Smiles and coo-ing. Routines and cuddles. I am ever so grateful for this sweet little family of mine.
If you have any more questions, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to reply. I'd love to hear your postpartum experiences!