IMG_0823Before I gave birth to Anna I talked to as many women as possible about their experience becoming a mom. I wanted to know everything, and so I asked things like:

How will I know I’m in labor? and When did your water break? and Where did you register and what did you register for? Will I need an Ergo or a Moby? What should I pack in my hospital bag? And so on, and so forth.

When I become pregnant with Owen, I was surprised I still had so many questions.

Will my pregnancy be harder or easier? How will I hold a toddler with a huge belly? Should I plan to have them share a room or will the baby wake her up? Will I go into labor early again, or will he be late? Will my labor be a lot faster this time around? 

One of the most wonderful parts about bringing a new life into the world is that no matter how much experience you have, and no matter how much you think you know, every baby comes with their own bit of mystery and magic. There’s no other way to describe it than that. A woman can prepare and clean and organize and take classes but there will still be surprises with every new baby.

Here are five things that surprised me immediately after Owen’s birth:

I really did love him as much as I loved Anna.  

Everyone told me I’d love my new baby as much as I loved my first, but it was still hard to believe. And yet, as soon as they placed Owen’s sweet face on my chest I became a mother all over again. Jonathan’s grandma, a mother to nine, used to say that each baby brings its own love…and I believe it. While I didn’t find pregnancy quite as magical the second time around, I did find the birth experience and his arrival to be just as special and life changing.

Afterbirth pains are really, really painful after a second baby. 

No one warned me about afterbirth pains, so excuse me for being a little big graphic and giving you a “this is how the body works” talk. After a woman gives birth, her uterus immediately begins contracting back to its pre-pregnancy size and location. It’s very important that a uterus immediately begins this work, and postpartum nurses push on a mother’s stomach several times during the first day to make sure the body is behaving accordingly. A first-time mother doesn’t usually have much pain associated with their uterus contracting, but a second-time mother will. Apparently, the pains get worse with every subsequent birth PLUS they’re much worse during nursing. I’m glad a postpartum nurse told me what to expect and encouraged me to take painkillers. You can read more here.

I bounced back faster, physically, after Owen’s birth compared to Anna’s. 

Anna and Owen’s births were very different since one involved an epidural and one did not. Jonathan was convinced I bounced back much faster after Owen’s birth and he credited the lack of epidural. I agree that I bounced back faster, but I think it had less to do with the epidural and more to do with it being my second birth. Within a few hours of arriving to a postpartum room, I’d napped and showered and nursed and wanted to see visitors. I looked like a wreck (hello broken blood vessels all over my face) but because I’d done this all before I had more confidence which seemed to help me feel better.  There’s a lot that happens in the body during the first few hours after giving birth. This time around, none of it phased me.

Nursing didn’t click immediately. 

Because I nursed Anna for about 10 months, I figured that nursing my new baby would be like riding a bike. I was a little surprised, and frustrated, that it took Owen about a day to get the hang of nursing. After all, I knew what I was doing this time around! What I needed to accept was…he didn’t! Owen kept falling off the breast or generally not acting interested. The hospital nurses reminded me that babies are often very sleepy when they arrive so I needed to just keep trying, be patient, and teach him. Sure enough, it clicked before we left the hospital.

I didn’t like Anna for a few weeks. 

Yup, I totally just admitted that I didn’t like my first baby for a few weeks after Owen was born. A lot of moms warned me that my first child would be jealous of the new baby, and it was certainly the case in our experience. We did our best to prepare her by reading books and buying her gifts from Owen, but as soon as she walked into the hospital room we could tell she was jealous. (Could there be any better proof than the photo above?) For several weeks after his birth she was very clingy with me which was hard because we had loving grandparents visiting who wanted nothing more than to entertain her while I napped. Between my raging mama bear hormones and lack of sleep, I found myself increasingly annoyed by her behavior. I wanted nothing more than to curl up on the couch with my sweet, QUIET, newborn to cuddle. (Spoiler alert: this didn’t happen nearly as much as I hoped.)

For any mamas out there who are expecting a second child, here are my three quick tips:

Prepare a “nursing bag” full of fun activities, games and toys that are only to be played with while you’re nursing. When I could, I tried to plan my nursing periods so that Anna was only awake for a few of them. We’d pull out the nursing bag during once, watch TV during the other, and have Daddy entertain during the morning and early evening periods. Sometimes, I’d try to nurse the baby while Anna ate a meal because it kept her strapped in and happy.

Don’t feel guilty turning on Thomas the Train or Frozen more often than you’d like. This is a time when you’re purely trying to survive, not win a parenting award.

Acknowledge the one thing that helps you feel like a human, and then do whatever it takes to make that one thing happen every day. In my experience, a second baby demands a different kind of strength than a first. Unlike your first child, it’s no longer an option to stay inside for two months, half dressed with spit-up running down your arm. Your toddler wants (and needs!) to get out of the house. But in order to get out of the house daily, a lot of other tasks get thrown out the window. I found that on the days I showered and got dressed, I was a much happier woman. And on the days I made my bed? Those are the days angels sang. I would encourage you to take inventory after your first two weeks. What days seemed to go well? What days didn’t go well? Did they have any common denominators you can control? Maybe, for you, a shower isn’t all that important but you feel great if you eat a healthy lunch. We’ve all got our thing. Set your expectations low for the first few months and don’t demand too much of yourself, yet do make a point to do something daily that helps you feel in control when so many other things aren’t.

I’d love to hear from you. What is something that surprised you after your second child’s birth?

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Owen’s first birthday is creeping closer and closer, so I’ve become a sentimental mess over here. I’m up late ordering photos for his party, working on his video montage, and thinking about all the highs and lows of the past year.

(Side note: I’m convinced the reason so many families have children spaced two years apart is because mamas get weepy around first birthdays and then…whoops…9 months later there’s another baby around! That’s why I posted a photo of myself, 9 months pregnant, eating cookies and a giant bag of Costco popcorn in bed. If anyone is wondering whether I’m ready for another pregnancy right now, the answer is NO.)

…Moving on…

I’m realizing, as I look back on my blog archives, that I haven’t written about Owen nearly as much as I wrote about Anna. This is partially because I’m so much busier since his birth, but more so because he’s been a much harder baby than she was. When Jonathan was sick I found it hard to publicly write about some of the tough stuff as it was happening. With Owen I’ve felt the same way. Some months I was in pure survival mode and all I wanted to write was, “THIS IS SO HARD AND I LOVE MY BABY BUT I DON’T LIKE HIM VERY MUCH RIGHT NOW AND PLEASE SEND OVER A MARGARITA AND PEOPLE MAGAZINE!” Also, when I tell people that being a mama is hard, I always worry they’ll think my baby isn’t sweet and darling and charming and a lovebug. He is ALL those things. He just likes to be held, a lot, and he simply cries if he’s not being held, a lot.

I guess all the fears and baby holding is why I’ve never written much about our sleep training trials (and eventual successes!) or how I quit breastfeeding a few months ago and why that’s okay. I have new philosophies on parenting, and survival ideas for new moms of two kiddos, and several favorite baby products. I just keep meaning to sit down and tell you about all these things but then sometime never seems to happen.

So, with the start of July and the beginning of Owen (and Anna’s!) birth month, I’m going to catch up what I’ve been wanting to say for the last year, but haven’t had the guts or the time to follow through on. I hope you’ll stick with me!

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What I’m Into: June 2014

by Lesley on June 30, 2014 · 17 comments

in what i'm into

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Books: The NEW Strong-Willed Child, and the book of Daniel. (Beth Moore’s Daniel Study is kicking my butt, in a good way.)

Music: My 2014 Music list can be found here. I was disappointed in Coldplay’s new album, but excited about JJ Heller’s newest release.

Food: A lot of egg tacos with fresh avocados for breakfast, homemade backyard bowls using Costco’s Acai superfruit packs, Argentine grilled tri-tip, s’mores on our patio firepit, and Peach and Roasted Vegetable Salad (although Jonathan prefers strawberries over peaches.)

TV/Movies:  I’m on a HUGE documentary kick right now. I think this is partially because TV shows are on summer hiatus, and we’ve also had a lot of visitors this month. Documentaries are great to watch with others because they can lead to such interesting discussions! Favorites this month include: Twenty Feet From Stardom (can’t recommend this enough for anyone who writes, sings or creates art!), Blackfish (thought provoking and well done), The Price of Gold (about Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding. So fascinating!), and Tiny (about people who make and live in itsy-bitsy houses. It will make you want to downsize, I promise.) 

Wearing: My new Old Navy tank top with a big United States and stars emblazoned across the front. It’s the only new item I purchased for myself in June, and was meant to be worn on Fourth of July but the US soccer team made me bust it out a little early.

A few of my favorite purchases in June: SHARKK® Hair Brush for Anna’s locks. (She doesn’t cry when I brush her hair anymore! It’s inexpensive and miraculous.) Also, these are our favorite probiotics for kids.

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Things I loved in June (and May, for that matter):

Thursday night picnics at the Mission with lots of other young families

Watching my kids learn to play together–they chase each other around the house giggling! Does it get any better than that?

Our new $100 Home Depot patio furniture which was the best steal of the internet. I’ve been eating lunch and dinner outside, and sometimes lighting a candle and working out there after the kids go down to bed. (Please note the “dollhouse furniture” I was shopping for in the above photo. Someone’s birthday is coming soon!)

Visits from Sarah, Sharon, Jenny, Katie, and Erin. Some of my very best friends have warmed my house and my heart is full after spending time with them. (Erica & Brent will be here soon too, and Ashlee comes with Everett in just a few weeks!)

Things I learned in June:

1) Finding good babysitters is hard work. I went a few weeks without a sitter and ended up working LATE LATE nights. I’m so glad we have a sweet sitter named Jenny who will be with us another month and I begin the babysitter scramble again.

2) I really like hiking! We went on several easy hikes this month–one to the top of “Hawk’s Peak” where we buried my grandpa’s ashes. There’s something wonderful about escaping into nature and having intentional time to talk with those you love.

3) Pilates is fantastic post-baby exercise. I’m not going to class nearly as much as I’d like, but I’ve already noticed a considerable difference in my core strength. After two babies, my abs need serious attention. I can’t tell you how great it feels to realize I can do things in class that I wasn’t able to do a few months ago.

Anticipating: The birth of Baby K, and our kiddos’ birthdays celebrations. We bought Anna a big surprise for the backyard and I can’t wait for her to see it!

Any good music, book, tv, movie or recipe suggestions? You can link-up with What I’m Into by clicking here with Leigh Kramer. 

Also, there are some Amazon affiliate links in this post which means if you purchase an item I’ve recommended I will receive a small commission from Amazon. Thank you for supporting my blog! 

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Chaos and Cheerios

by Lesley on June 15, 2014 · 0 comments

in friends

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If you follow me on Instagram, you probably noticed we had special friends at our house this week. Sharon, Sam and their girls came for four nights and we soaked up the late nights, early mornings, and the pure chaos that comes with two crawlers and two (almost) preschoolers. You guys should see the amount of Cheerios smashed into our carpet.

Sharon and I were lucky enough to be pregnant together both times, and our two sets of children were each born six weeks apart. One of the hardest parts about leaving Sacramento was watching our girls say goodbye to each other. Eden and Anna have known each other since they were babies…

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…and now they’re practically all grown up.

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Sharon and Sam were also here to see Jeremiah and Kristi, who live just a few blocks away. Kristi and Jeremiah were in town last summer when I went into labor with Owen, and we hoped that maybe she’d go into labor this weekend so the Melvins could meet the baby. Baby K didn’t cooperate, unfortunately, but with all the child chasing Kristi did over the last few days, I have no doubt we helped move things along.

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Highlights of the weekend include: a run with Sharon (sans children!) a girls night at The Palace (one of our favorite restaurants in Santa Barbara) watching our kids make rocket ships in the backyard (out of old boxes) talking with Sharon about the book Simplicity Parenting
(and how we hope to cultivate our children’s imaginations), a couples only breakfast to Summerland Beach Cafe (another favorite place we’ve loved since college), time at the beach (did you know babies love eating sand?) and a barbecue last night with lots of old Westmont friends (cornhole! margaritas! rice krispy treats! no pictures because I was too busy holding a little boy who likes to be held!)

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While pajama breakfasts are too few and far between these days, and while we’ll definitely appreciate the day when we can all sleep in past 6:00am, I don’t think there is anything sweeter than these four faces.

Chaos and Cheerios? That’s the good life.

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I’m saying no to stage fright

by Lesley on June 10, 2014 · 8 comments

in writing

In the blogging world there are people who fill arenas, there are people who fill two hundred seat dinner theaters, and there are people who simply fill a quiet subway station with their sweet melodies.

A few years ago, at the advice of industry experts, I decided to take my subway station performance and turn it into something with a little more pizzazz.  I spruced up my costume, added a few more show times and even began performing in other venues. I wanted this thing, this place, to be a gateway to stardom…otherwise known as a book deal.

I wrote and wrote and wrote until more of you began showing up for my performances. You trickled in from off the street, or a friend brought you, or maybe you even saw me on another stage around town. Regardless of how you got here, I’m really happy you came. But, can I admit something? The house lights are on just high enough that I can see your faces. And I have some major stage fright.

Last week I sat down to write a new blog post and I stared at the screen for a really, really long time before shutting my laptop and moving onto something else. Some people call this “Writer’s Block,” but I promise you I have plenty to write about. The problem is I’m much too self-conscious about my pitch and costume. What if I slip and fall? What if I forget the words? What if someone finds my act too conservative, too liberal, too opinionated, not Christian enough, too narrow? What if they just want country music but sometimes I rap?

Have you seen the way people tear up authors and bloggers and performers who don’t say or sing the right things? There’s a big, huge critical world out there and I’m still deciding if I’m brave enough to face the booing.

You should know that some of this stage fright is probably also rooted in the fact that eight publishers have now denied my book proposal. They say I’m a great writer… but…they won’t represent me. A few say cancer memoirs are too depressing, while another publisher already has other cancer books in the works, and another publisher just doesn’t take on memoirs, period.

I’ve been left to ask, “What do they really want?” “Am I on the right track?” “Maybe the book isn’t very good?” “Maybe I’m making a big fool of myself?” “

So, here I am, standing on the edge of this little dinner theatre stage wearing a costume and awkwardly tapping the microphone. My agent says there’s still hope for my book, and you, my blog readers, keep showing up (thank you!) but I’ve made a decision: I’m putting my jeans back on.

I’m not giving up—I’m definitely not giving up—I’m just going back to what feels comfortable and true and ME. You’ve never asked me to be a big star. In fact, many of you have thrown quarters in my figurative tip jar since I started performing back in 2006.

What does this mean for Barefoot? It means I’m re-committing to write what I feel about, when I feel like it. No schedule. No set topics. No strategy.

I’m giving myself full permission to create with abandon, no worries about booing or cheering at the end. I may sing country ballads or gospel, a little rock and even some rap. (LORD help us.)

Just listen for me when you exit the subway car. 

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