The conversations around self confidence postpartum exist on opposite spectrums. You’re made to feel like you either need to snap back to your pre-baby self immediately, or you should embrace your post-baby body, stretch marks and all. In reality, we’re all somewhere in the middle.
The thing I know about myself to be true, is that when I feel better about my outward self, I perform better. I never discount the magic ability of a red lip or go-to outfit to make me feel confident for a big meeting, and I have realized that postpartum is no different. I have both boys currently, with Ian traveling, and forced myself to shower and put on jeans for preschool pickup. It may sound silly or superficial, but I know it gave me more confidence to handle dinner, bath, and bedtime solo with a three-year-old and infant.
The thing is, I don’t love how I look right now. My littlest son will be 12 weeks in two days, and in this photo the second thing I see – after his tiny, furled fist, is the wrinkles between my eyebrows. The circles under my eyes are darker these days. There is an extra layer of skin around my middle. There are baby hairs that still haven’t grown out since having my first baby. I know these things are superficial and the most important thing is that I have two healthy, beautiful boys, but I also know that I struggle with feeling confident as a mom and my appearance is a factor.
So, I’ve started making small steps to feel better about my appearance. I got my eyebrows tinted last week. I have a private Pilates session next week. And I just may wear a red lip to my son’s preschool Halloween parade tomorrow.
Breastfeeding is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. For something meant to be “natural” it is incredibly challenging physically, and that’s without mentioning the mental and emotional aspects. My son Finn is seven weeks old and has only taken a handful of bottles, so I have been breastfeeding nonstop since his birth.
I oscillate between feeling grateful and resentful when it comes to breastfeeding. There is a lot of pressure that comes with being the sole food source for an infant, and it can be lonely. But sometimes it strikes me that I am exactly what my son needs, and there are so many sweet moments when his little body is curled around me, his tiny hand gripping one of my fingers. When he’s hungry, Finn gets frantic. And when he latches, his clenched fists unfurl and his brow relaxes. My older son, William, would run his ringer along my collarbone once he latched and was contentedly nursing.
It feels so hard to be perpetually tethered to my baby but this time, with my second baby, I am able to lean into it and know it’s not forever.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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).
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.
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.