I had my 6-week-old son in his front pack as my back screamed at me while I tried to get dinner together. It had been weeks since I’d made a home-cooked meal. All of the casseroles brought over by family, friends, and neighbors (which were lovely) were gone, we’d ordered out enough, and I thought it would make me feel better to make a healthy meal for my family.
I was wrong.
I slammed dishes on the table as my husband walked into the house and flipped through the mail without looking up, and my 3-year-old asked me why I didn’t make rice to go with “the yucky meal.”
I was trying to get back in the swing of things after giving birth for the third time in three years. I thought if I forced it a bit, my mojo would start flowing and I would feel like myself again. I was finding with each birth, it took longer and longer to “bounce back,” mostly mentally and emotionally, and I was trying to force my old self out of me.
But you can’t force that shit. And if you try, what happens instead is you end up feeling like you aren’t living up to your mom duties, and you will never find your way back to yourself. You will be more overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted than ever. Really.
The truth is, when you bring a new baby home and have a toddler (or a few) at home, you are often a disaster for a good, long while.
You want (and need) help but can barely wrap your head around what you want much less find the time to ask for it.
You don’t want guests stopping in to see the baby and just hanging around, especially not during your toddler’s nap time. Scheduling visits around naps is no picnic and you end up either feeling resentful that people expect you to work around them, or you let people come over when you and your family should be taking a much needed rest because you don’t have to energy to keep going in circles to coordinate social hour.
Or, you shut it all down and worry you seem bitchy and put up with comments about how you are “keeping family from your child.”
Everyone calls because they love you and want to see how you are doing and if you need anything, but you literally can’t answer the phone because when you put toddlers and newborns together, you don’t want to talk to anyone unless they come bearing hands to help and know exactly what you need without you having to ask for it.
If you birthed the child, there is zero time to heal. Let’s face it, a few nights in the hospital doesn’t cut it and any rest you get is erased as soon as you walk in your front door and see the dog has shit on the carpet and you realize you have to constantly watch the way your toddler interacts with their new sibling and the two of them can’t leave your eyesight because they may try to “help” you by feeding them something they shouldn’t have or think it’s okay to pick them up. Toddlers are exhausting in their own right, but toddlers paired with newborns are a whole new level of intensity.
Your tummy will look like bread dough, which is fine and normal, but your toddler will probably remind you every day. You don’t need the reminder.
You will wake up and wonder how you are going to face the day and feel like the only way to pull off this shit-show known as your new life is with the power of 10 women.
You will cry all the damn time and feel like a prisoner in your own home because leaving is too much work right now, and when you do, you immediately want to pack up and go back home.
You will be feeding your baby while you make your other kid’s lunch and at some point breast milk or formula will get spilled, prompting a meltdown of epic proportions.
Toddlers don’t give a flying fuck if you’ve been up all night with the new baby. They want to know why people are coming over and not bringing anything for them, and how they can hold a boring bundle for so long and not want to watch them do 10 summersaults in a row instead.
Bringing a newborn into your household when there are already toddlers to care for requires a level of grit I never knew existed. It doesn’t just fall into place and it takes a really long time before you slide into a rhythm.
You feel like you will never catch up on sleep, your need for quiet time is immense, and you will question how you can ever have a sex drive again.
There are good moments sandwiched in between which keep you going.
Then, it will get easier. It will. That’s not just cliche advice, though hearing it in the moment will make you rage (rightfully so).
It’s just going to take a while for you to really breathe, so lower your expectations of yourself and stop thinking you should have the hang of it after a few weeks. Or even a few months.
Acknowledge this is hard, and remind yourself the only thing you are responsible for is doing your best on any given day.
And slowly, you all will find your way. You all will. And you won’t really be able to imagine your life any differently.