Nothing can prepare you for motherhood, and the way it completely overhauls life as you know it. But they should tell you that nothing can prepare you for a second child, no matter how experienced you think you are. And “they” didn’t tell me, so I’m telling you just in case you find yourself in that place down the road.
After Mia was born and we brought her home from the hospital, I was ready to get back to real life. None of this hazy newborn hibernation for us, no sir! Of course we took it easy and mostly stayed home those first few weeks, but I had a very active almost-two-year-old and a business getting ready to undergo a huge transition.
So I was thrilled that things pretty much went my way in the early months. The hormones didn’t hit me nearly as hard as they had after Parker’s birth, and I felt like myself pretty quickly. Breastfeeding was a total breeze. Mia was a sweet and adaptable baby.
I was getting a bit more sleep this time, too, and even found plenty of time to work (mostly in the wee morning hours after nursing Mia back to sleep). I figured out how to survive and keep two tiny children alive by myself for entire days at a time. I took the summer “off” as a “maternity leave” — and while I didn’t see clients or students, I put in more hours than I can count on the business and my own personal projects. I didn’t miss a single week of my podcast. Sure, I hadn’t had a full night of uninterrupted sleep since before Mia was born, but I wasn’t going to let my exhaustion get in the way of productivity.
It was all working beautifully, until it wasn’t. All of those things I had been sweeping under the rug — lack of sleep, wacky hormones, absence of time to myself — hit me like a ton of bricks in December. I remember having an anxiety attack on a Tuesday afternoon, shortly before it was time to go to work. I was standing in the middle of the family room, holding Mia, feeling completely paralyzed about how I was going to get through the rest of the day, let alone the coming weeks and months. I honestly had no idea.
That was scary, but I’m glad it happened. I needed a slap in the face from reality to remind me that I’m human, and that it was time to start acting like it. I took a break from all the “extra” stuff (writing blog posts, the podcast, involvement in organizations) and made no apologies. I did the bare minimum.
When I think back on those first six months of Mia’s life, I feel mostly happy but also a tiny bit regretful. Although I spent nearly every waking hour (and there were LOTS of them because sleeping is NOT her strong suit) with her, my mind was elsewhere more than it should have been. I know that comes with the territory of also having a toddler and running a business, but I probably could have done it better. But, you know, hindsight and everything.
I didn’t set any goals for the New Year other than to simplify, streamline, and put self-care first. We spent a week on a Disney cruise, completely cut off from work/email/technology/life on land altogether, which did wonders for my psyche. When we got home, I was ready to start easing back in…but in a healthy way, this time.
The six months that followed have been so, so much better. Not easier, but better. I still spend almost every waking hour with Mia (and she STILL isn’t sleeping through the night) save for the few hours I see clients and students 4 days a week, and Parker is home with us on Mondays and Fridays. I completely lost my early morning work sessions, since Parker decided that 5:45 am is the perfect wakeup time, but I’ve gotten smarter about prioritizing and making better use of the little time I do have to work.
I’m no longer trying to be superhuman, and I’m much better at asking for help when I need it. Having two kids is humbling in that way. I still don’t like admitting I need help, but I grit my teeth and do it anyway. Never before would I have texted my friend Angie and asked her to wrangle my baby, along with her own two, while I teach music class because no one else was available to watch her. Again, humility.
I have an amazing support network: my husband (who does everything he can to make my life manageable), my parents (especially my mom, who does more for us and the kids than I could ever list here), my in-laws (I am indebted to my mother-in-law for all of her help in the evening hours when I’m still at work), beautiful friends (especially Crystal, who is an endless fount of parenting advice, gorgeous photography, delicious food, and texts at all hours of the day) several wonderful babysitters, and a saint of a business partner.
Running a business is hard enough, let alone when you’re doing it with a mom of two young kids. There aren’t enough Starbucks gift cards in the world to repay Katey for the times she has stepped in to cover classes, take care of administrative tasks, bring me caffeine, and be a shoulder to cry on when I’m even more sleep-deprived than usual. This year we moved well beyond “business partners” and became “work wives” as we often joke :)
Mia’s first year is complete, and it truly took a village to get here. This summer will look a little different than last: I’ll be more relaxed (no more midnight painting parties at the new studio), Mia will be mobile, and then in August, she’ll be joining her brother at school 3 days a week. And while I feel a twinge of guilt for looking forward to that, I know having dedicated hours to work will make me a better mom. Then I can truly unplug and enjoy Mondays, Fridays and weekends with my babies.
Yes, it has been the longest and hardest of my life so far, but like the title states, it has also been the shortest and best-est: Mia completed our family in the most perfect way imaginable (at least, we’re mostly sure it’s complete), and she’s grown from a tiny baby to a tiny almost-toddler in the blink of an eye.