Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Two kids, one adult

For the past four weeks, when friends and family would ask how we were doing adjusting to life with two kids, Matt and I would respond that things were going shockingly well. Nothing has changed in that regard, except to say that life got a lot more real yesterday when Matt returned to work full time. Adam's first four weeks of life will forever be referred to as our "honeymoon" period because it really was quite easy having two adults at home managing two kids. Now that Matt's back at work and my work is picking up again, I can't say we're going to have the same easy experience.

So, I am trying to adjust to the new normal. With Natalie, the new normal came at times as a bit of a shock. I had to feed her just the same amount any newborn needs to be fed, but as a first-time mom it felt like I was just always feeding my child. Now I see breastfeeding Adam as a quiet break from the sometimes-chaos of the day. But with two kids the constant question in my mind is, "What do I do when they're both freaking out at the same time?" To this, I have no good answer, other than to say that kids are just going to cry at times, and they'll have to be patient (I know, not really something either of them understands) because one adult cannot handle two kids' every needs at every single minute of the day. I just try not to cry with them.

A particularly good moment

Of course, as I said at the beginning, the transition to two adults and two kids and now one adult and two kids has been majorly easier than I thought it would be. Here are some key points from our new life thus far:

The morning shower necessity
Somewhere between 7:30 and 8:45 a.m. Adam and I are "up for the day." The point is, newborns don't have schedules, right? And newborns sleep the majority of the day anyway, so to say that Adam will or won't be awake at any given time is a crap shoot because he's only awake for about two hours at a time max.

Although I feel about 95 percent recovered from my c-section, I am still experiencing the notorious postpartum night sweats and they absolutely suck. I am so tired of waking up (or really, being woken up) in the middle of the night in a pool of my own sweat. Add to this the fact that it's the dead of winter, so the sweats make me super cold, and I'm just unhappy in bed. The point of this is that for me right now skipping a morning shower is just not an option. As tempting as it is to get in 10 more minutes of sleep, I've been trying to orchestrate a shower for myself every morning so I can not feel disgusting.

There are mornings like yesterday when Adam wakes up at 8:25 am., does a quick feeding, and then sleeps in his crib for another hour, giving me a perfect window for taking a shower before tending to Natalie.

Then there are mornings like today when Adam wakes up at 8 a.m. just as I have started running the shower water and I have to quickly throw on a robe, change him, feed him, soothe him, and manage to get him to sit in his bouncer seat in our bathroom for 10 minutes while I get myself together.

Either way, it's not bad, and I'm not complaining. There's just no sure-fire way for me to get in a shower unless I'm ready at a second's notice when there's a moment of peace.

The obliging toddler
Of all the things in my current bag of tricks, here's the best one: my two-year old happily hangs out in her crib until 9 a.m. I know. This is insane and absolutely not normal, but I am hoping to ride this wave as long as possible. Because Natalie is so obliging, on mornings like this one I was able to feed Adam a second time while Natalie played with her (now eight) stuffed animals who have taken up residence in her crib in her new room. I handed her five books from her bookcase, and while I was in the nursery adjacent to her room I enjoyed eavesdropping on her reading Peter Rabbit and Llama Llama to herself. There's something about hearing her say "Floppsy, Mopsy and Cottontail" that makes me smile.

After Natalie's officially done with her books in her crib for the morning, I get her dressed and then bring her downstairs for a morning bottle (yes, she is still drinking milk three times a day out of a bottle -- it continues to be her final vestige of babyhood). We sit and watch a few videos from her YouTube channel while I put her hair in ponytails (still haven't gotten her a first haircut...probably should). Adam may or may not be with us during this time.

She is still a horribly picky eater, so breakfast may or may not happen, with cereal or berries or a bagel. If I suggest cream cheese on her bagel, she says "no cream cheese." If I assume that she does not want cream cheese on her bagel, based on her track record for the past two weeks, she'll of course insist that I get out that cream cheese and slather it all over her bagel. Such is life with a toddler.

Natalie oversees Baby Adam's activity gym time

In addition to showing a positive interest in what Adam's doing for at least a portion of each day, Natalie has been totally into using her art supplies, which is amazing. I just strap that child into her amazing high chair and let her go to town. I have a whole bin of art supplies stationed above our fridge since Nat's art happens exclusively in the kitchen. That bin and its contents will have to be the subject of its own blog post. What I can say now is that art supplies can keep this child happy for up to an hour at a time, and it is glorious.

Breastfeeding 2.0
Although I could probably also write a whole post about breastfeeding Adam, I'll give you a quick update.

I briefly alluded in Adam's birth story to the fact that I have such better supply this time around. This is definitely thanks to him being with me since birth. This is also likely attributed to the fact that apparently in subsequent pregnancies many women have increased breast tissue. Whatever got me to this point, I am grateful. At Adam's two-week appointment he was already a full pound over his birth weight, which means we are not concerned about growth charts the way we were forced to be when Natalie wasn't up to her birth weight after three weeks of life.

Part of my routine each day is to meet my goal of pumping twice. Some days this happens, some days this doesn't. If both kids oblige me with a mid-day nap, then pumping is something I'm able to do fairly easily after putting Adam down (he's almost always asleep after Natalie gets down for her nap and rarely before she goes down). I had to relearn the fact that I should pump after feeding Adam, not before, and not an hour or two between feedings. This is one of those facts I forgot in the span of the last two years. I also pump at night while Matt is giving Adam a bottle. We've been successfully meeting our goal of having Matt give Adam one bottle a day, right now at night, so he gets accustomed to being fed by someone besides me. Of course, this means that I had to disregard the admonition of the lactation consultant at the hospital, who cautioned me against pumping or bottle feeding before Adam hit the one-month mark. He's still a couple days shy of one month, and I've been pumping practically since the day I returned home from the hospital, and he's been getting a bottle a day since he was about a week old. Breastfeeding has not suffered as a result -- no nipple confusion here. My philosophy with pumping and bottles is definitely to start as early as possible. That means that I now have in our freezer after about four weeks of pumping as much as I ever had in the freezer throughout Natalie's entire life. This will come in handy in the next couple weeks as I resume my work schedule.

As a quick sidenote, the pump itself has turned into a symbol of the latest healthcare legislation. When Natalie was born I rented a hospital-grade pump -- the Ameda Elite -- from where I delivered and kept extending the rental until Natalie was over 10 months old. I planned to do the same thing this time around, but then I discovered that the hospital I delivered at with Natalie no longer carries that pump for rental, and the prices for Ameda pump rentals from there have increased dramatically. Remembering too that under the Affordable Care Act legislation women are able to get coverage for breast pumps, I looked into what my insurance offers. After getting conflicting information from six sources -- the HR person at my husband's work, the head nurse at my practice, two customer service reps through our insurance (whose statements contradicted what our statement of benefits says), our insurance's lactation consultant, and finally my own doctor -- I realized that because our insurance plan was "grandfathered in" and because the employer mandate does not kick in until 2015 (though the individual coverage mandate kicked in this year) I was going to get zilch in the way of breast pump coverage.

Wanting to have a breast pump at our house the moment I got home from the hospital, I researched online breast pump rental options. The best deal I could find came from the AmedaDirect website, which allows users to rent an Ameda Elite pump for 6 months at $240. This offer also includes free shipping (normally $15) and a free accessory kit (normally $50). This is the best deal, as monthly rentals run $50 and do not cover shipping or the accessory kit. So, we're paying for my pump rental out-of-pocket with no hope of reimbursement, but in the grand scheme this is fairly cheap. I know I could buy a single-user pump for the same cost (or even less) but I just love this breast pump. Yes, loving a breast pump is an oxymoron I suppose, but hey, it's super-duper efficient so it takes me just minutes to pump a lot of milk. Renting from the AmedaDirect site has been really easy -- I did not, as the site suggests, have to send in the rental agreement via snail mail but instead scanned and emailed the completed form, and then the pump shipped out the same day I sent the email, arriving at our house within three days of placing the order.

The dual nap
Natalie has been taking one nap per day since right around the time she turned one year old. She goes down for this nap sometime between 12:30 and 1 on a typical day. I've been trying to get Adam to oblige me with a solid mid-day nap at the same time. Yesterday he did not, so I held him for the two and a half hours Natalie was sleeping. Not bad, but not productive. Today, though, he's contentedly snoozing in his room while Natalie tries to fall asleep. Whether Natalie really falls asleep or not during her nap is a little up in the air lately. She used to religiously sleep for about two and a half hours for her nap, falling asleep within moments of me leaving her room, but now she seems to be entertaining herself and taking an hour or more to fall asleep. She's clearly tired when I leave her, but she's no doubt experiencing a little sleep interference thanks to her brother's arrival (they do share a wall, after all). Whether she sleeps or not, though, Natalie is quiet and content in her crib, and she needs this quiet time in order to make it happily to bed time.

When the dual nap occurs, I can eat lunch using both my hands. If there's no dual nap then I need to figure out what I can easily eat in stages, often while standing. Thankfully, the dual nap occurs more often than not.

Because Natalie stays in her crib until at least 3 p.m., and because Matt is usually able to be home from work between 3 and 3:30, the afternoon is pretty manageable. It will not be as easy in a couple weeks when I resume my afternoon and evening work schedule, as Matt will have to rush home, walk the dogs and be ready for a dual-baby hand off within a matter of minutes before I have to get to work, but he will figure out a way to make it work just as I'm learning to care for two kids during the first half of the day.

Nighttime "routine"
Although we're raising Adam in almost an identical way to how we raised Natalie as a newborn, here's something that's different: Natalie stayed in her bassinet next to our bed for about six weeks, whereas Adam spent a little more than two weeks next to our bed before we decided it was time to make the switch. I am way less concerned about whether or not he's breathing (I watched Natalie in the middle of the night like a hawk) because I know that worrying isn't going to change anything. That helped making his transition to his bassinet in his nursery less difficult for me. Adam? He did not notice the change at all. I'm glad we did this as early as we did. I'm sleeping better, Matt's sleeping better, and Adam wasn't affected positively or negatively -- he's just a typical newborn.

One aspect of newborn life that Matt and I kind of forgot is that newborns don't have much of a routine when it comes to sleep and "bedtime" (what is bedtime to a newborn? Isn't their life one perpetual bedtime?). So, we tried a couple weeks ago to get Adam to go to sleep for the night starting around 8 p.m. so we could enjoy some evening adult time. After a few nights of doing what Matt correctly dubbed "chasing our own tails" as it would take a couple hours to get Adam to go to sleep, we finally realized we needed to accept the fact that for at least the next few months we don't get an evening break. We have to trade off who's eating dinner when and live with the fact that one, if not both, of us will be eating cold food.

With Matt back at work, though, we have been trying to change Adam for bed and give Adam a bottle sometime between 9:30 and 10. Ideally, Adam would fall asleep after having a 3-ounce bottle, and then he'd stay asleep for at least a few hours. But, nights like last night remind me that Adam is most content breastfeeding. So, he took the bottle, but then he fussed, and fussed, and fussed. Traditional soothing methods did not calm him down, so I resorted to doing what I do not like to do and breastfed him for comfort rather than nutrition. He barely fed -- because of course he was totally full -- but he did fall asleep within a matter of minutes.

So last night Adam slept for 3.5 hours, then woke up at 2 a.m., breastfed for 15 minutes, and immediately fell back asleep in his bassinet for another two hours. He woke up at 4:30 a.m., breastfed again for another 15 minutes, but wouldn't fall back asleep in his bassinet. Not wanting to experience what we did a couple weeks ago when it would take him at least two hours at a time to fall asleep each time he'd wake up in the middle of the night, I resorted to putting him to sleep in his swing. He slept contentedly in there for another 3.5 hours. This is, for the record, one of his best nights of sleep. Although I don't like to put him anywhere but his bassinet at night, I need to remember -- as my current rereading of my favorite baby book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, reminds me -- that there's really no such thing as establishing bad habits for a baby under four months old. A line I reread last night said to "do whatever is necessary to get your baby to sleep." Duly noted!

Sometimes I wonder if Adam is going to be a good sleeper or not. It's way too early to tell. But I am meticulously tracking his eating and sleeping habits on my iBaby Log app just as I did with Natalie. I can still see all of Natalie's data from two years ago. It's reassuring to see that Adam and Natalie are so far practically identical in their newborn sleep habits. In fact, Adam wins bonus points for the fact that he's willing to take at least one nap a day in his bassinet in the nursery, whereas Natalie basically never did that for the first six weeks of her life, and rarely even took naps in her crib before she was four months old.

Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses?
I'm writing this blog post on a good day after a really good night, so I know it sounds like my life is easy and everything is perfect. And my life is pretty easy and I am pretty lucky as well. But I've also just spared you from another post I drafted on a really crappy day. It sounded really complain-y, so I'm happy to have something real but less annoying to share.

Also, I have yet to venture out of the house with the two kids by myself. That experiment will take place later this week when we (attempt to) attend Natalie's music class. We have done plenty of family-of-four outings, and Matt is getting the hang of the Baby Bjorn carrier we borrowed from our friends (I'm still rocking the Ergo, but Matt's not comfortable getting that on by himself, hence the Bjorn loan). So, for now, while I contentedly hang out at home with two kids, I feel like I have things somewhat under control and will wait to tackle the next challenge of the outside the house adventure in a couple days.

1 comment:

  1. So glad to hear that you're adjusting (and being flexible!) to life with two. What I've learned is that every day is an adventure, even now with an 18 month old and a 3 & 1/2 year old! :) I didn't realize you went back to work. Do you still teach?