Contributing writer Letty Tomlinson reflects on Baby Number Two.
Did you know no two babies are the same? Even when they come from the same parents? Because I don’t think I did. Our second baby turns out to be markedly different from our first.
The day before Katie’s delicious Del was born, I delivered our second daughter. Since I’m protective about my kids’ identities on the “open web”, I’ll henceforth call her Luna. Everything about her birth was different from that of our first daughter, whom I’ll call Cliodne. (Careful readers will recognize these as names of Harry Potter characters. You’re welcome, geeks!)
To begin with, Luna made it to her scheduled c-section date without any medical incidents that necessitated emergency surgical infant extraction. With Clio, I had a midnight emergency five days before her scheduled birth and had to undergo full anesthesia for the c-section. And my husband ran into overnight road construction that prevented him from making it to the hospital in time to attend the birth of his first child. With Luna, both of us were actually “present” at her birth. I got to hear her cries as she was being pulled out of me and I got to hold and kiss her within a minute or two of birth. As soon as I was stitched up and out of the operating room, I got to cuddle her tiny, slimy, naked body on mine in recovery and we got to transfer up to the hospital room together, where we were roommates for the next few days. Everything about the birth was in stark opposition to my birth experience with Clio.
Almost three months have passed now, and while the “fourth trimester” with Luna hasn’t been a stark contrast to that with Clio, it’s definitely been significantly different. For starters, Luna was a full-term baby, so she’s bigger. Except for a few bottles of formula in the last couple of weeks, she’s been exclusively breastfed. Clio was both formula-and-breast fed from birth. I’m guessing because of that, Clio very easily fell into a ritual of eating every two and a half to three hours. But Luna is only just now reaching that routine. For several weeks, even after the first month, it felt like she was constantly on my breast. Con.Stant.Ly. I have adored breastfeeding exclusively, but I didn’t anticipate that what is a very satisfying experience on the whole can sometimes feel very stifling. Luna hates sleeping in her co-sleeper next to our bed. She much prefers sleeping cuddled in the crook of my arm, though she is now beginning to learn to sleep in her co-sleeper. Clio was an instant champ at sleeping in her co-sleeper (maybe because it was an upgrade from the NICU Isolette?). But the biggest difference between these sisters has been their crying. Cliodne cried as a newborn, but almost never excessively. Luna, on the other hand, seemed to cry like it was her job. If she wasn’t sleeping or eating, she was almost likely crying. It has only been in the last two to three weeks that she enjoys being awake, alert and engaging. She now usually cries when she’s bored, hungry or feeling exhausted and over-stimulated. My husband and I originally worried that we’d had an overly fussy, colicky baby. But we later decided that the first time, I happened to birth one of the mellowest little creatures ever born. This time, we didn’t get a “fussy” baby; we just got a baby and hadn’t yet learned the difference!
I don’t want it to sound like I begrudge little Luna. I don’t at all. She’s a gem and she exponentially multiplies the joy and love in our family. In fact, some of the significant differences between the two girls have added to that joy. Luna was a healthy six and a half pounds at birth. After losing her initial 10% of birth weight, she turned right around and started gaining back at a good pace. Right on task, she was not only back up to her birth weight after two weeks, but had surpassed it by a couple of ounces. But more importantly, she didn’t have to be goaded or taught how to eat, like her big sister did. She actually fits her clothes in the age range that the labels say they’ll fit. Her little thighs are starting to get chubby now, rather than six months from now. She’s at a weight commiserate with that of other full-term children. She’s had very little tummy time compared to her sister – a by-product of spending the first 6 weeks attached to my breast during virtually every waking moment, and of being the younger sibling who sometimes has to wait for attention – but she seems to be showing signs of physical progress sooner than her sister achieved them. And Clio loves being a big sister. She looks for opportunities to pat her sister on the head and kiss her. She hugs her and shares her toys with her. I am enjoying this now because I know it won’t always be like this between them!
Unsurprisingly, we’re a little less obsessed or overwhelmed about certain items in Luna’s life than we were with Clio. And we haven’t been taking quite as many pictures of Luna as we did of Cliodne – the curse of the later-born siblings. However, what has surprised me most about having another child is that everything is a surprise again. The exhaustion of new parenthood of the first few weeks of life was new all over again. As was almost everything else: remembering to support her neck; dressing her layers; re-learning to sling; learning to pump; learning to divvy parent responsibilities. We’re almost back to square one. But there is a wholly new surprise that caught me off-guard. Shortly after Clio was home, I had begun to return to certain personal and household habits and I could actually get some stuff done during the day while the baby slept. And Clio was expert about sleeping for 90 minutes to three hours at a stretch and then waking up for an eat-alert-sleep cycle. I fully anticipated this to be the case with Luna. But it hasn’t been and not just because of the constant nursing. Nope. It hasn’t been the case because I’m not just caring for a newborn, but also for a toddler who takes one two-hour nap a day. Really, I only have two hours to accomplish things at home, and that’s if I’m lucky enough that both girls are napping simultaneously. I only have two hours to pump, make calls about bills, wash dishes or shower. And usually, I can only get one of those things done on any given day. So the most surprising part of adding another child to our family has been the decrease in productivity, which should have been the least surprising effect.
Luckily, if I’ve learned anything in parenting, it’s that nothing lasts forever and that things have a way of figuring themselves out. Luna will soon sleep the night away in a co-sleeper, then a crib. I’ll find a daily routine that works for us. And before I know it, I’ll be writing more often, again, not just once every three months!