I have a four-week-old newborn and a toddler. I’m trapped in a loop of perpetual exhaustion. I spend my days with a cluster feeding infant so all I can do is sit on the couch watching YouTube conspiracy videos. Needless to say, I’ve been convinced by internet experts that we live in a simulation. If you’re reading this, call for help. I’ve been a mom of two for almost two weeks and I think I’ve lost it. Now I just have to find the simulation code so I can program myself to get some sleep.
During the day, I’m saying “no!”, “stop touching your penis”, and “We’ve already seen Boss Baby four times today.” At night I’m falling asleep while Googling for information about newborn gas pains and colic. I’m starting to believe sleep is a made-up concept from the simulation master. (See, those weird conspiracy videos on YouTube paired with sleep deprivation are really getting to me.)
I expected the transition from mom-of-one to mom-to-two to be a challenge. But nothing could have prepared me for the experience of being tag-teamed by my children.
I’m four weeks into the intense cocktail of postpartum emotions, nursing, and sleep deprivation. When you add an overactive almost-three-year-old to the mix you lose your loose grip on reality and create the perfect recipe for losing your shit.
During the day, my husband and I rotate the responsibilities of the firstborn and the newborn. Neither of us have the brain cells for life’s smallest task.
Our oldest seems to think it’s funny to try to make more noise than the newborn. If she starts crying, he starts howling or making some other ridiculous sound.
I’m being tortured and what’s worse, now our heater has stopped working. In the middle of winter. Send help.
Thankfully, my husband was able to take some time off work to divide the labor, but the nightly feedings fall almost exclusively on me, thanks to my “genius” decision to breastfeed. Or at least I thought it was, but after all these 3 a.m. (and 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.) feedings, I’m not so sure.
My swollen boobs and the alarm clock, like wails coming from my newborn, remind me that I’m responsible for feeding our bundle at regular intervals. But there’s no one to feed me. Somehow the meal train I requested never left the station and I’m quickly withering away (just kidding, I have enough postpartum fluff to feed the cannibals for awhile).
Sure, I have milk pumped but using a bottle would just add to the ever-growing mountain of dishes that has taken over our kitchen.
The only thing more terrifying than the dish monster in the kitchen is the Mt. Everest of Laundry that has sprouted on each floor of our split level home. I need someone to send reinforcements and please have them bring food.
Motherhood is challenging at any stage. But the uncertainty of newbornhood is enough to break even the strongest of soldiers. In my experience, it’s like holding a football that is on fire and you’re tasked with putting it out to save the world. But you love this ball despite the terror it brings to your family. So you try to save the world and the ball. (We’re going to pretend what I’m saying makes sense. If I had more sleep, it would).
When I’m not in a state of semi-awakeness, I’m questioning why I wanted to go through this a second time. Particularly when the first child has become fairly self-sufficient and low maintenance in comparison. But my doubts are eased when I look into her beautiful little eyes.
Taking care of two children when one is a newborn isn’t just hard. It’s equal parts challenging and beautiful so it makes you behave in ways that contradict your own self-interest. You do things like staying awake while your baby is sleeping with glossy eyes in awe of how beautiful they are. And you’ll complain, but you don’t really mind because they mean the world to you.
Despite all the chaos and crying, there has been a surprising upside to all of this. For the first time in ages, I feel like my husband and I are functioning as a team. We’re far from perfect, but together we have found humor in the exhaustion and laugh more than we fight.
Along the same lines, my deepest fears were proven wrong. I can parent two children. I’ve also learned that I’m much stronger than I ever imagined. And more notably, my heart is capable of expanding to love both of my children with my full soul. That alone is worth a few sleepless nights (and heaps of laundry).