Perspective

This is hard to admit, but I used to be terrified of doing anything alone with William. I have been alone for weekends and nights many times, but even in the weeks before having our second baby, the thought of running an errand with my toddler alone made me sweat.

I have now officially been a mom of two little boys for six weeks, and have done preschool pickup, bedtime, and even the pediatrician with BOTH boys. This week I took William to swim alone and it was easy breezy. I had more fun doing swim class with him than I ever have because I am so much more comfortable as a mom.

Like every parent of multiple children, I worry that our second son, Finn, isn’t getting as much undivided attention as William did. But he is getting a mom not suffering from postpartum depression and who is, yes still pretty overwhelmed, but who is still more confident than I was with just one child.

I have also worried about my ability to return to work with the same focus and drive now that I have two kids. I am starting to think that my new perspective, my decisiveness born out of my inability to question myself, will be an asset at work.

Proof of mom (of two)

These Are the Days

I know I will look back upon these days as the days, and there are moments when I want pause time and remember the velvet of my newborn’s head on my lips or my toddler’s voice when he comes home from preschool, but a lot of the time these days feel so hard.

These are the days when my belly feels squishy and my breasts are heavy with milk.

These are the days when I miss the tiny baby I so desperately wanted to put down for a nap in the next room, just minutes after gingerly closing the door.

These are the days when I can’t think beyond the next feeding or nap or else the overwhelm travels up from my toes, threatening to swallow me whole.

These are the days when I feel so exhausted I can feel my eyes in their sockets and so exhilarated the next moment, noticing my toddler’s eyelashes or my newborn’s double chin coming in.

These are the days.

Waiting Game

They say that every pregnancy is different, and that couldn’t be more true for me. Morning sickness was my biggest worry with my first pregnancy, but it ended around 20 weeks, never to return. I was induced at 39 weeks due to a blood condition and had a relatively easy induction (although postpartum was far from easy).

This pregnancy, morning sickness has remained pretty constant, to the point of my weight actually dropping at 39 weeks. I had Covid during my first trimester, followed by the flu, and our 20-week scan showed some complications that were ultimately resolved but made for some nerve-wracking follow-up appointments. I say this without mentioning how different it is to be pregnant while chasing a toddler around.

I was told to plan to be induced at 39 weeks this time, but I’m typing this post at home, just two days shy of 40 weeks, feeling contractions about 15 minutes apart. Part of me thinks I have been “keeping the baby in” so I could take William to his first few days of preschool this week. But now, I just wait.

Still So Little

Everyone says that when we bring home our brand-new baby, our toddler will seem like a giant. I know they’re right, but, he’s still so little. He still has chubby toddler hands and sucks on his fingers – not thumb – like he has since he was an infant. He still sleeps with his knees drawn up to his shoulders; and I still watch him sleep on the baby monitor. He still calls me “Mama.”

Two Boys!

When I tell people that our second child, arriving in August, is another boy, the responses are usually along the lines of: “You’re in for it!” “Another wild one!” “At least you have all of the ‘boy things.'” “You’ll have your hands full!” They aren’t wrong that there are no shortage of toy trucks in our apartment or that William is a very active, curious little guy. But they miss the sweetness of little boys. The sweetness that is most commonly reserved for little girls. The sweetness that is commonly associated with sitting still.

But I think about a dozen times a day I turn to my husband and ask him if he can believe how sweet our little William is. I recently read a quote about raising boys from Joanna Goddard that I loved: “My #1 mission in life is to raise kind boys. I lie awake thinking about how to help them keep their innate sweetness intact as they grow Boys often get a bad rap, especially in TV and movies, as stinky, rude, thankless creatures raised by their long-suffering mothers. But, over the past decade, my experience has shown me something completely different. I’ve met a hundred little boys, and they’re consistently sweet, vulnerable, funny, and beautiful; and they desperately want to be good, kind, and loved.”

So, yes I’m excited for my second little boy to arrive because I know the innate sweetness he’ll have (along with a little it of his brother’s wild).

That Time Our Son Stopped Sleeping

About a month and change ago, our son stopped sleeping. With the exception of a regression here or there and the dreaded time changes that left us out of sorts for a few days, William has slept through the night since he was a few months old. He’s always been an early to bed and early to rise kind of kid, but his early bird tendencies never bothered us since he usually goes down easily at 7:30pm each night, only to wake the next morning.

It started with a skipped nap on the weekend, then a rough bedtime, which coincided with the first time anyone other than family was over for dinner in ages. Next, it was a wakeup at 2am, then at midnight, and a few 5am wake-ups that made us miss our usual 6:15-30am wake-ups. Soon, a few nights of inconsistent sleep became a few weeks. Ian and I took turns sleeping in his room but often resigned to carrying him into our room for just a few hours of sleep.

I started writing down what was happening each night to try to uncover a pattern and took William to a pediatrician where we did learn he had an ear infection. But, after he completed antibiotics and the pediatrician confirmed the infection was gone, he still wasn’t sleeping and the lack of sleep was affecting all of us.

I initially blanched when a friend suggested a sleep consultant. Had it really come to that? Maybe it wasn’t that bad. Losing sleep is part of having kids right? Desperate one afternoon while trying to focus in a meeting and dreading the uncertainty of the night ahead, I reached out to a consultant. As I type we have had five nights of uninterrupted sleep. More than that, it turns out William isn’t such an early bird. He’s been waking up closer to 7am daily and I’ve noticed a difference in his temperament in the morning and that he isn’t as tired late morning. There is so much shame associated with needing extra help (and paying for it, which we are fortunate to be able to do), but I’m so happy we did.

On Routine 

We established a routine early on that mutually benefited us all. Bath, books, bottle, bedtime became dinner, bath, books, bedtime. The nightly routine was a sanity saver in those early months, and sticking to it has helped William transition when we travel and made moving houses easier on us all.

But recently, everything about our routine has felt stifling. 2022 has been off to a bumpy start. We all got Covid in January and isolating while working full time for weeks with a toddler who, thankfully but also frustratingly never lost his energy while he had the virus, was beyond draining. 

When we emerged out of survival mode and got back to our normal routine, it wasn’t the relief I thought it’d be. I wasn’t finding joy in driving by the bison in Golden Gate Park on the way to daycare, efficiency in squeezing in a Pilates tape before work, or in our tried and true bedtime routine. 

So, this week I tried to switch things up. The bedtime routine has remained more or less the same, but altering other everyday patterns has made a difference. On Monday, I brought William’s toy trucks into the kitchen so he could play while I made banana bread. On Wednesday, did a foggy Lands End hike after dropping William off. 

On Strength

I’ve never considered myself a strong person. Resilient, sure. Hard working. Check. Ambitious. Check. But not strong.

Becoming a mother forces you to look at yourself differently. It forces you to change because you have to. I was terrified of labor, but I did it. I made it through my darkest days with postpartum depression, but I did it. I went back to work after having my son at the start of what would become a global pandemic, without any family around.

When I went back to work our daycare was closed due to Covid, and over the past couple of years we’ve weathered periodic pandemic closures and we’ve had weeks with William home with no more than a runny nose. Those were tough weeks, months even, but nothing has compared to the past few weeks.

Three weeks ago I came down with a virus that knocked me off my feet. I tested negative for Covid and the flu but was bedridden for days and barely left our bedroom. A week later, our daycare closed to an exposure. Two days later, Ian woke up with a fever, tested positive, and – thanks to the vaccine – was sick for just about 48 hours. For William, it was more gradual. A runny nose turned into a cough, all without a fever. In the end, he tested positive and we isolated for 10 days, both of us working full time, chasing a toddler, cooking and cleaning and somehow surviving.

We are almost on the other side. William is back at daycare and Ian is back to 100%. As for me, I’ve never felt more exhausted or run down. The stress of working full time while parenting full time, sleepless nights watching William toss and turn on the baby monitor, making sure we are all hydrated and fed and medicated, the constant testing, the counting of isolation days, the mental juggling of schedules, it’s been a lot. And we are the fortunate ones, with work-from-home jobs and the ability to get groceries delivered.

My first thought coming out of the past few weeks was how weak I felt. But then I realized how strong I’ve had to be. So that day, after putting William down for a nap, I napped myself. And then I got on the Peleton and did a 45-minute ride – something I never do.

Working Mom Poker Face

There are limitless articles about what to put in your work bag when you’re pumping at work and how to prepare for going back to work after having a baby, but no one prepares you for the quick transformation from William’s Mama to your work self. It often has to happen in seconds, giving you whiplash.

Like the time when your son, who never cries at daycare drop-off, cries at daycare drop-off. And you’re already five minutes late to a call with your CFO.

Or the time, when your son was home sick (again), you’re leading a virtual meeting and trying to wrap it up quickly because you can hear that’s he’s outside the door asking for Mama.

Or the time your son falls at daycare and may have chipped a tooth and you’re driving over, palms sweating, tasting his blood in your mouth, and have to call a client to let them know you’ll be missing a big call starting in three minutes.

Or the time you have to take a call while feeing your son dinner, forget to turn your video off, and have to be a serious person and answer questions when you know everyone saw the funny faces and dances you did to get him to eat.

Oh, the Places We’ll Go

Italy, Japan, Indonesia, France. Before having William, we planned one major trip per year. And as my belly grew and grew with the baby that would become William, we talked about all of the places we’d take him.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where my late grandfather lived.

Long Beach Island, New Jersey, where my husband grew up sailing and learned to surf.

Italy, where we honeymooned.

Tokyo, Japan, maybe our favorite place we’ve been to together.

Then, five months into William’s life, the world shut down and travel as we knew it stopped. The majority of William’s major milestones have happened during the Pandemic, and we haven’t been the well-traveled family we aspired to be as a result, but we’ve still managed to take William to some of our favorite places within the U.S. (and snuck in one international trip when things briefly went “back to normal” last summer). Here’s where else you’ve been, William:

Here we are in Bodega Bay. William’s first time leaving
San Francisco when he was two months old, for a long weekend after Christmas in 2019.

La Quinta, California where Pop Pop and Grandma live, in January 2020.

Summit, New Jersey to meet your (other) grandfather in hospital, in February 2020.

Big Island, Hawaii, just before the Pandemic arrived, in early March 2020.

St. Helena and Napa for your dad’s first Father’s Day.

Boonville to see Great Aunt Linda and Great Uncle Andy over the Fourth of July.

Park City, Utah to be with family in August 2020 (and again that September).

Los Angeles to meet our friends’ fellow Covid babies, in September 2020.

Sea Ranch, California right after your first birthday – we were there on your second Halloween!

Olema near Point Reyes Station during the long MLK weekend.

Cambria, California for my 35th birthday.

Napa again for your dad’s second Father’s Day (starting a tradition).

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – your first international trip! Daycare summer break spent well.

My hometown, Newport Beach, to meet your godmother, Jacqueline.

Truckee and Lake Tahoe within a few months of each other – for a wedding and a long weekend with your best friend Goldie’s family.

Mendocino, California for New Year’s 2021.

Not bad for a pandemic!