I took a pregnancy test on a whim late in July of 2011. It immediately turned negative, so I breathed a sigh of relief and tossed it in the garbage. A minute later, I had one of those hmmmmm moments, so I pulled the test out of the garbage to reveal a plus sign.
This is why you buy pregnancy tests in two-packs.
An hour later, I took another one, and it said GIRL DID I LOOK LIKE I WAS JOKING? YOU ARE PREGNANT, FOOL.
I ran through about five emotions in the next 30 seconds. Disbelief, fear, despair, surprise … but I immediately knew that Jack would be thrilled. I am always grateful for new life and beautiful gifts, so I would never want Minnie to think that she was ever – even for a moment — unwanted. I just had a lot of processing to go through. Remmy wasn’t even three yet, and Sophie only 17 months. There were the asthma issues (all of the allergies had not yet been diagnosed) and the kidney issues and the parenting-two-little-kids-is-hard issues and the this-is-expensive issues. Could I handle another kid?
Guess what, y’all, Minnie’s going to be a year old in 43 days, and I’m not dead yet. I’ve got three children, and my oldest is four, and somehow no one’s threatened to throw me in a room with padded walls. I’m a little premature in saying this because Minnie’s not quite one … but I’ve survived the first year.
A couple thoughts from a not-so-seasoned veteran:
GET HELP. A month after Minnie was born, Jack needed major knee surgery and was in bed for a solid two weeks, with me to care for all three girls all day and all night. A friend organized a few allergy-friendly meal deliveries. A wonderful woman in our community organized a diaper drop-off. A friend came to watch Sophie while I took Remmy and the baby to dance class. All of that collective help within the first month of Minnie being born was a total sanity saver. The new baby + husband surgery recovery stage was intense. (PS Jack, you’re never playing soccer again).
I wrote this blog post about helping new moms, and I’ve been really thrilled every time I get a note from someone who tells me how helpful it was. If you’re pregnant, send it along to your BFF, and I promise she won’t think you’re being shady or self-serving. (IF SHE DOES, send me her email address so I can chat with her. Or subscribe her to Cat Facts.)
If you don’t have any family or friends near you, poke around online for a local parenting group. Find an affordable babysitter, and get drastic if you have to. (For example: We have a television, but we don’t ‘get’ television. We’d rather put the $100 towards something else – like a babysitter!, and are skating by fine with our $8/month Netflix subscription.)
LET GO OF GUILT. ALL OF THE GUILT. You know how when you’re on an airplane, and the flight attendant instructs you to put on your oxygen mask before helping others? I feel that way about the sanity of a mother. Don’t feel guilty about letting the kids watch an episode or two of SuperWhy or serving cereal and a piece of fruit for dinner. Don’t feel guilty about not ending every night with a warm, relaxing bath for the children and four softly read stories. Don’t feel guilty about the laundry piling up.
You’re in transition, and it’s the craziest kind of transition.
– Little kids watching TV is not the end of the world. It really isn’t! I know we read studies and worry that our children will end up to be ____, but trust me on this one. If you’re fighting a cold and the baby is teething and your other kids are having a rough day, put on a show, sit them in front of it, and get a little peace. A little TV time is worth your sanity, truly. I’ll even shove Remmy and Sophie’s toddler beds together, set up an hour long show on Jack’s iPad, and let them watch it in their room while Minnie is sleeping so I can clean in the living room/kitchen without hearing any obnoxious music for awhile. [Editing to add: a clean house makes me feel good. I will utilize Netflix if that means I can make my house cleaner.]
It’s fine, guys.
I simplified like crazy this last year, and I will not let myself feel guilty over it. Pinterest is awesome … and awful, in that sense.
– I did not make one handmade gift at Christmas time.
– I bought everything online, and teachers got a gift card. (Not a gift card in a handmade globe made out of a mason jar and glitter either. Love the idea. Didn’t sacrifice the time or effort.)
– I haven’t thrown an ornate birthday party in … ever. Sophie turned three last month, and I invited exactly five little girls over for a Saturday morning playdate. We baked a cake, put out juice boxes, fruit, gluten-free Cheerios, and apple pouches. We bought bagels and cream cheese from a bakery, and made coffee in the French press. I didn’t have a single activity or craft prepared. I put on a kid friendly CD, and the girls danced and played dress up.
It was great fun, without any added stress or guilt for not doing anything grander.
– You need sleep. If you need to let your baby cry it out so the whole family gets rest, do so without guilt. If you physically cannot stand hearing your baby cry and you need to co-sleep so the whole family gets rest, do so without guilt. If you need to pass out on the couch exactly 90 seconds after putting your kids to bed, do it to it, boo.
LET YOUR KIDS HELP. I know it seems completely “unhelpful,” from the beginning I told Remmy + Sophie that Minnie is their baby sister so they have to help because she is theirs. Sure, it’s a little weird, but even a two year old can fetch a clean diaper from the basket or retrieve a paci from across the room. I was afraid that there would be a lot of jealousy, and while there was an adjustment period, Remmy + Sophie dote on Minnie in the sweetest ways. If Minnie wakes up from a nap, Sophie will run to me with “Mommy, come quick! My baby is crying.” That melts even my cold, hard heart.
Get them to fold their blankets on their bed and put their shoes in the shoe basket. (More on toddlers and preschoolers doing chores here.) Tell them they can’t watch that episode of SuperWhy until their Legos are back in the Lego basket. Hand them each a baby wipe and tell them to go wipe down all of the door knobs in the house.
Be honest with them. I’ve said, “Mommy’s really tired and Minnie’s not feeling so well. I know you want to do a painting project right now, but how about we pretend that you’re a doctor, and I’ll lie down on the couch with Minnie while you give us a check up?” We want to teach them that family isn’t about Mom + Dad catering to their every needs (okay, we do when they’re babies), but family is about being a team. :)
UGHHHH I’m SO SORRYYYY this is such a long post. I’ll stop for the sake of your sanity, but I’m happy to continue the conversation in the comments, if anyone has any thoughts or questions or wants to flame me for anything I’ve said here. I’ve got my beekeeper’s suit on. And if you’ve got tips, we love tips. Leave ’em for me, please. :)
A note: This post got a lot of great feedback and I’m grateful for it! I’ve written a follow-up called 7 Game Changers for Parents – a compilation of practices and products that have helped me. Hopefully it helps you, too!