Knowing Only What I Don’t Know

This weekend Mellow in the Midwest wrote a great post called On Knowing I Know Very Little. (Sorry if my title is a rip off, M!) The post is about the contradictory place those of us who are waiting for second children find ourselves in: On the one had we know what it’s like to have a newborn and yet, on the other had we have no idea what it’s like to navigate our days with a newborn AND toddler. We also have no idea what our second children will be like, so really, we don’t know all that much at all.

It seems, in fact, that the only thing I am more aware of this time around is how much I don’t know.

During our big discussion last Friday, Mi.Vida and I talked about his fears surrounding our son’s arrival. At one point me reminded me of how confident I seemed before Osita was born. I kept assuring him that it was going to be alright, that we’d know what to do and we’d get through. I promised that everything was going to be fine. This time I’m offering no such platitudes. The truth is I’m just as afraid as he is, maybe even more so, though I rarely talk about it. I may not voice my fears but evidently my silence speaks volumes; Mi.Vida has noticed how infrequently I assure him that everything will be alright and it makes him uneasy. He’d probably be terrified if I admitted the truth: I honestly don’t know if it will be.

When I had my daughter I had no idea what to expect. I thought I did, because I’d spent so much time around children and babysat for so many families over so many years. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but really I had no idea. Having a first child is like trial by fire. This time I’m not sure what it will be like, all I do know is how likely we are to get burned.

It’s a strange predicament, for one’s experience to provide no frame of reference except to make one MORE aware of how little she can comprehend of what’s coming, how impossible it is to predict. I’m trying to think of what else in life creates such a contradiction.

The truth is, while I know what it was like to bring my daughter into the world and parent her for the first three years of her life, I have no idea what it will be like to bring my son into the world and parent him, along with his sister, for any amount of time. I don’t know what he will be like. I don’t know how well he will nurse or how easily he will sleep or if he’ll be content to hang out anywhere besides me. I have no idea what he will require of me, and while it’s hard not to assume my future experiences will mirror (or at least resemble) my past experiences, I’m constantly reminding myself that I have no idea how it will go this time around. I also have no idea how his sister will react. I don’t know what kind of support I’ll get from Mi.Vida. I don’t even know what kind of support I’ll ultimately need. It seems I don’t know much of anything.

And of course, there is no part of me that thinks I could ever fathom what it will be like to navigate two children with constantly contrasting needs. The first months with my son will look nothing like the first months with my daughter, because this time there will be a demanding, highly verbal, emotionally charged 3.5 year old in the house where before there was only a grumpy, resentful cat. Some how I suspect my daughter’s anger and frustration at being usurped will be considerably harder to ignore than my cat’s was.

The one thing I have going for me is the many bloggers who have traveled this road before me. While their circumstances aren’t the same as mine will be (most have children much closer in age than mine will be and most are SAHMs) I appreciate reading what the first days, weeks and months have been like with their children. I absolutely believe that I will reflect back on the blog posts where they explain what parenting two children is like when I’m mired in the sleep deprivation of the first months.

I do wish more women I read had situations that more closely resemble my own. I find myself assuming (based on their experiences) that things will get better at some point, but I’m realizing that point will probably arrive right when I go back to work, if not a bit afterward. Unfortunately very few of the moms I read have to figure out the unique challenges of returning to work with a very small baby (that is still breastfeeding) and a preschool-aged child. At a certain point, when they really start to hit their rhythm, I realize their experiences apply less and less and I wonder what mine will look like when I’m leaving my tiny three month old every day to teach other people’s children.

Leaving a three month old is something I didn’t do before and the prospect terrifies me.

I am 34 weeks (adjusted) today. My due date is exactly six weeks away. I should really have my long term sub plans done in five weeks, at the absolute latest. I think I’m in denial about how much I should already have prepared (when I read the posts where other to-be-mamas-of-two list what they’ve accomplished I begin to hyperventilate). There is still a part of me that is letting fear dictate what I do and don’t do and I’m always couching every thought about his arrival with “if’s” and “hopefully’s”. I know these fears aren’t letting me properly prepare–either mentally or physically–but there is nothing I can do to banish them.

So I take baby steps to get ready, sorting through old clothes and washing them but not putting them away. Moving the nursery furniture into the back room but not arranging it or even putting all of it together. My financial lockdown means I can’t buy anything new so the few new things I would like to have this time around probably aren’t going to arrive. I’m trying to open my house, and therefore my heart, to this baby who is supposed to be here in a month and a half but I have a hard time embracing the possible reality of it. Instead I focus on all I don’t know. And hope that by the time he comes, I’ll be ready enough to muddle through.

7 responses

  1. Yes, its a strange in-between place. I pretty much psyched myself up for L being just as awfully colick-y and non-sleepy as B, and was pleasantly surprised. If at all possible, get family help for Isa for the first couple of weeks. That helped me immensely feel like both G and I could focus on the baby a good portion of the time and that B was having a great time getting spoiled by grandparents. Then when they left, we sent B back to daycare 5 days a week, so I could just nurse and hang out with L. It also got us back to our usual morning/evening routines.

  2. I wish my friend wrote blogs, she is almost exactly in your situation, except her daughter is a year older than yours. Her son was born in June, and she’s a part time teacher back at work. She was very worried about similar things. The first few weeks in general and again when she started back to work, were hard, but they are all doing wonderfully right now. I’m sure you all will have your ups and downs, but everything will be fine.

  3. It was hard, especially in the beginning. B started hitting me whenever I nursed. I was also just sooooo tired. She is very high maintenance due to her needs and hospitalizations but what is weird is if I look back on the last year and think about my son, I think about how wonderful it was. He is such a joy–such an easy baby. Then I look back at my year with my daughter and I think how hard it was and it makes me sick, honestly, when I think of the diagnoses shes gotten this year. It’s like there were two me’s going through two different experiences. I don’t know why I’m telling you this–I guess it’s just the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about his first year. So while things are hard, they can also be wonderful at the same time. I can’t speak to going back to work because I haven’t experienced that, but I am sure that it is going to be hard for you. Keep talking to people who have done it. And drink LOTS of coffee. I didn’t when I was pumping for B, but this time I ingest an incredible amount every day and baby boy is just fine and still nursing (too much in fact). And don’t be afraid to have her watch tv. Make it educational so you feel better 🙂 And enjoy it!!!

  4. As someone who had to put my second in day care at 6 WEEKS, I can tell you that it will be okay– hard, but okay. And yes, the 3 year old will struggle, however, we were pleasantly surprised by how well she adjusted when we were able to keep her typical schedule. Also, my second child was more low key (maybe I was less stressed?) and despite having some reflux like her sister was less likely to scream all night due to it. Now that they’re older, those patterns have persisted. My oldest is a sensitive little soul and my younger just dusts herself off and keeps going. I know that it’s hard not to know what things will be like, but you and Mi.Vida will be okay and Osita might love being a helper/ older sister, I know our oldest (surprisingly) did.

  5. I love how you explained the difference between this time and last time – last time I knew we would be ok. I knew I would be able to handle it all even though I had never done it. I was sure I could meet the needs of one newborn and I did. Yes, I was exhausted, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it. this time is a whole different thing, learning how to split time and meet the needs of two. but i know somehow it will work out for all of us. xo

  6. My children are the same age difference as yours will be. My almost 4 year old son is very high maintenance and I was so worried about caring for both of them. But he has really done so well. I would really recommend that you try to get MV more involved in caring for Osita now. Especially with the night time routine. I really think having my husband’s help caring for my son so that I could focus on my daughter made a huge difference for me. Also that way your daughter is used to getting a little more Daddy time and less Mommy time before the baby comes, so she might not attribute it as much to the baby. My son still gets up at night for potty etc, so I know I could not have handled both that and my daughter’s waking for the first few months. I second the other commenter’s advice on having family help for your daughter too. My daughter actually ended up having some health problems and we were in the NICU and my son got some extra grandparents time which made him feel special I think. But really, I’ve been amazed by how sweet my son is with my daughter and how much he loves her and that he hasn’t really been jealous at all. Yes, he needed Daddy to take him out and keep him occupied sometimes and it was clear he felt a little neglected every once in a while, but he has been such a good helper. And luckily my daughter has been way more laid back than he was as an infant. As for leaving the baby in daycare early, both of mine when to daycare at 3 months. It is hard. I had less trouble this time because I knew the caretaker and was at least comfortable that my daughter was with someone that would love her, etc. But it is still just really hard at first. Just remind yourself that it gets easier. And it really will all be ok! It will be wonderful actually!

  7. This sounds very familiar! I’ve been thinking lots about the first few weeks/month with my son and how hard they were. There are ways that it may be easier the second time around (partly just with the confidence of knowing that we survived the first time!). But it is hard to predict how it will all go. And I feel like so much of those first days/weeks is shaped by the kind of temperament the new baby has–which is another thing that can’t be predicted ahead of time.
    Thinking of you all as you prepare for this new stage of life. It sounds like you’re doing lots of good things to get ready, and that there will be lots of wonderful things about it, even if there are also hard times.

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