Vance is now six months old (hard to believe!), and so I’ve been reflecting a lot on the first half year of his life — and of this first half year for us as we’ve transitioned to a family of four. I thought I’d share a few of those reflections here, in list form since that’s how my brain seems to be organizing them:
-The transition from having one kiddo to having two was a harder one than I’d expected. (I’ve written about this a bit already if you’d like to check that post out here.) Adding Maggie to our world felt easy and seamless from the start, but introducing Vance to the mix wasn’t nearly as smooth. Everything felt slower, including bonding with him, acclimating to each other, fully realizing we now had four members in our family, and SLEEP (still working on that part). I’ll admit it caught me off guard since things had been so different when Maggie came on the scene, and there was definitely some guilt and comparison with the first-time mama version of myself to contend with. (Super fun alongside all those postpartum hormones — ugh!) I think it took us a good five months to really catch our stride as a family after Vance was born, and after chatting with other second-time moms I’ve learned this isn’t necessarily unusual. (I wish I’d known that going into his birth, actually. I think it would have lessened some of the guilt I had around the transition being hard and the overall experience being SO very different from our adjustment to having Maggie.)
-The relationship between Maggie and Vance is even more precious than I’d imagined. I mean, I knew it was going to be sweet, but I also anticipated some potential jealousy or regression on Maggie’s end to some degree. So far, we’ve had NONE of that, and she simply adores her little brother. She plays with him incessantly, and never gets frustrated with him even when he pulls her hair (hard, as babies do!). We’ll see what happens once he gets big enough to start taking her toys, but as of right now their sister/brother bond is just incredible and it’s exclusively positive. (Oh, and he could not love his big sister any more. Vance loves watching her, and she was the first person he smiled at several months ago. She can make him giggle like no one else can!)
-Breastfeeding is going so much better this time around. For one, I learned so much during my breastfeeding experience with Maggie and was able to make adjustments as a result. Also, my supply’s been able to stay strong in a way it didn’t with her in part, I think, because he’s not nearly as good a sleeper as she was. I’m still getting up to nurse him two to three times a night, which is both challenging from a lack of sleep standpoint and helpful from a milk production perspective! But another big contributing factor is that my work situation is completely different now than it was when Maggie was a baby. With her, I went back to my 9-5 office job when she was 10 weeks old, and so I was pumping far more than I was nursing her. This time around, Vance and I are together virtually all the time since I work from home and he’s not in childcare. Any time he needs to eat when I’m around, he nurses, and I only pump so Kevin can feed him when I’m gone (which, nine times out of 10, is to teach Pure Barre) or so I can leave him with my in-laws or a sitter once in a while. In my experience, any breastfeeding relationship includes several emotions (so much touching and yet such sweet snuggles, constant worry about supply and your stash, gratitude toward your body for allowing you to have this experience, exhaustion from the “always on” nature of someone relying on you for ALL their food while also feeling like a superhero for providing food for another human, to name a few), but by and large I’m really loving it with Vance, and I feel grateful to have gotten a second go at it (one with a much more positive outcome all around!).
-Now I get it when parents talk about their kids’ sleep issues. As I mentioned in the above point about breastfeeding, Vance Wallace Keller is NOT a great sleeper. Well, I take that back. I think he’s a very normal sleeper, as far as babies go. The thing is, we had an incredible unicorn sleeper in Maggie, and so we weren’t at all prepared for this (on any real level). It’s funny, though — even though I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in half a year, I don’t feel like a zombie or anything. Our bodies truly are incredible, and I was pleasantly surprised to realize I could exist so normally in the world with so much less sleep than I’d been used to. Though the sleep stuff is hard in a way, I’m actually okay with it. After all, Vance is our last baby, so I honestly don’t mind (usually!) getting up to nurse him in the night. I know soon enough that will be over, and part of me will miss those quiet, middle of the night moments that were just ours. Something else that’s helped me adjust to this lack of sleep is just surrendering to it. I mean, why fight it? This is my reality right now, so I just choose to lean into it and be okay with “living here” for not. It won’t be forever.
–Vance has turned out to be such a happy baby! Even though he started out super fussy (largely due to digestive issues, we’re pretty sure), at the three-month mark Vance turned a corner and really transformed into a completely different child. These days, he’s incredibly content and overall just happy. When people interact with him, he tends to smile SO big at them, and he makes great eye contact and seems interested in watching people intently as they talk and move. I think he’s going to be a major people person, just like his big sister. He lights up our house, for sure, and the more mobile and independent he gets, the happier he becomes!
-Our walks are just the best. Because Vance was such a fussy baby to begin with (and always needed to be held), I spent tons of time wearing him in the baby carrier. (I have the Tula Baby Free To Grow carrier, by the way, and it’s amazing!) We began going on daily walks together this way, and at first it was the only time I could count on him being calm. It really helped me bond with him as a result, and I loved the ritual so much we’ve kept it up. Even though he’s now definitely big enough for the stroller, I still prefer walking with him pressed up against me in the carrier, so we’re still at it!. He seems to love it, too, and is always quiet and still while we walk. I know I’ll remember those walks so fondly when I look back on his babyhood.
-I’ve gotten really good at cutting myself slack. I used to pride myself far too much on my productivity. I could knock out things on a to-do list like nobody’s business without feeling sapped of energy…and then Vance was born. I think I assumed that since my productive nature didn’t take much of a hit when Maggie was born it would remain intact this time around, too. As it turns out, that was NOT the case. Maybe it’s having two kids, maybe it’s Vance specifically (he doesn’t nap nearly as well or as long as his sister did), but whatever the cause I just get much less done these days. And you know what? It’s been SO GOOD FOR ME. I’ve always known I shouldn’t base my worth on being productive, and I tried to embrace that reality, but now I’ve been forced to. I resisted it at first because it felt so uncomfortable, but once I started letting this truly be my new reality things got much easier to let go. And — what do you know — I always get the things done that HAVE to get done, and those other things on my list can usually wait until another day.
It’s so interesting to reflect on how changed I’ve already been by parenting. I can only imagine the changes ahead of me as my kids continue to grow and enter new phases. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done as well as the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’m grateful for the lessons I continue to learn as a mama. I’m better for it — I’m more patient (with others, but also with myself), I’m more present, I’m more tuned into the natural world, I’ve learned to be at peace with doing much less (see last bullet), and I’m generally more grateful, too.
Fellow parents: What are some of the biggest ways this role has changed you?