Meeting the Needs of Multiple Children

When I was expecting my first child I worried about a lot of things. What kind of mother would I be? What would childbirth be like? Would breastfeeding work?

When I was expecting my second child, most of those questions had been answered. My children are 3 1/2 years apart, so by the time I was pregnant again I had some experience. I had honed a parenting philosophy and spent my time in the trenches. I still worried, of course, but I worried about different things.

This time my worries were about how I would meet the needs of a my preschool-aged daughter Hannah, my newborn and – dare I dream? – myself. Sometimes, when I was big and pregnant and my daughter wouldn’t sleep I panicked. How would I handle this with two little ones? I feared I would never sleep again.

Big sister Hannah meets newborn baby Jacob
My daughter Hannah meets her newborn baby brother Jacob

The good news is that second babies are almost always easier. At least it was that way for me. When baby Jacob arrived I had more perspective, and more experience in infant care. I didn’t sweat the newborn fussiness as much because I knew it would pass. After successfully breastfeeding one child I was able to avoid many of the struggles I’d encountered on my first go-around. I think many second-time parents share my experience.
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Co-sleeping Outside the Family Bed

I love co-sleeping, and I have co-slept in one capacity or another with both of my children. There are few things sweeter than curling up to sleep with my toddler and sharing a good night’s rest. Co-sleeping has made breastfeeding easier, it has helped my babies to sleep better and it has meant that I don’t have to wake up as fully or as often.

In spite of my love of co-sleeping, I occasionally wonder whether co-sleeping loves me. There are the mornings that I wake up sore, contorted in some awkward position because that’s the only way my little one would sleep. There are the infrequent but jarring kicks to my head or fingers attempting to pry open my eyelid. And there is the amazing ability that my toddlers have both cultivated that allows them to take up 75% of a king sized mattress.

Hannah and Dorothy napping together
My daughter Hannah, napping in her parents’ bed

I am willing to sleep with my kids for as long as they need me, but with both of my children I found that at around 18 months the family bed stopped working so well. The space grew increasingly cramped, and our babies stopped sleeping as soundly. However, my little ones still needed me throughout the night for breastfeeding or just for comfort, and so we had to get creative.
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What’s Your Parenting New Year’s Resolution?

2010Happy New Year!

Today is the day that millions of people around the world make a New Year’s Resolution. Losing weight, eating healthier, and working out more regularly are some of the more popular resolutions. I wanted to find out what parenting-related New Year’s Resolutions the AP community is going to make this year.

The following are a few of the responses that I received from API staff, the blogging team, and a few regular readers of API Speaks.

Jennifer
This year I am resolving to try to admit when I am wrong, including to my
kids.  I am also resolving to make more of an effort to include my kids in
 the housework, even when it would be faster and easier and more efficient
to just do it myself.

Kate
My resolution is to attend La Leche League meetings as I strive to breastfeed my daughter (currently 6 months old) for at least 2 years, as well as help to promote the goodness of breastfeeding in my community!

Katie
This year, I plan to make at least 2 meals each WITH my kids, teaching them kitchen safety and food prep.

Monica
I’m holding the intention to manifest a few things in 2010 for the benefit of my daughters, ages 3 and 1. One, I’m going to incorporate more self-care into my life so that I’m not running on empty most days and better able to be fully present and nurturing in our daily interactions. I’ll call it the “Happy Mama Trickle-Down Effect”:  Regular exercise.  More sleep which will mean going to bed before midnight. Dedication to eating greens every day. Development of sugar alternatives for desserts. My diet is essentially my girls’ so they will have direct benefit there. And, I have a strong hunch that sleep and exercise will influence, if not fully enable, my second intention for parenting in 2010:  more consistent patience with my 3 year-old.

Sonya
I will engage in more self care this year so that I can have more energy, stronger health, and be a more patient and present parent.

If you’re the resolution-making type, what is your parenting-related New Year’s Resolution?

Photo: ba1969

Christmas and Crisis

The only Christmas I was pregnant, my second pregnancy, was not one I spent celebrating with carols and singing and anticipation of things to come giving cards to my friends using this Christmas SVG designs which are still trendy. Instead, I spent the time in a cramped van for two days, and laughing for the first time.

When I was 19 weeks pregnant, my father-in-law passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. We had all been at my niece’s first birthday party the day before, and the next morning he was dead.

At that moment, the entire focus of our family changed. We were no longer a young family expecting a second child; we were a family in mourning. The pregnancy was suddenly so far on the back burner that it wasn’t even cooking!

The next weeks and months were a muddle of relatives and tears and wakes and a funeral. Additionally, my father-in-law owned a business, and it was up to my husband to take it over until it could be sold. This meant that my husband had to work his own job for four 10-hour days, and then work his father’s business the other three days for 10 hours each day. He was working 70-hour work weeks while mourning his father, trying to support his mother, and expecting a second baby.

For my part, I was trying to make life as normal as possible for my young son, who had so suddenly lost his beloved grandpa and subsequently very rarely saw his father. I never had time to think about the baby on the way. I relied on my friends very much: one would watch my son while I went to my OB appointments, another made him a scrapbook of Grandpa. Our neighbor boy mowed our lawn. I tried my best to think of thoughtful answers to my son’s many questions about Grandpa and death.
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Following the Principles: Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Part 6 of a series of 8:

As we enter the last few (days? weeks?) of our pregnancy with LF#5, I have to admit that one of my biggest, most gigantic fears about having two nurslings under the age of two is “how will I EVER find a sitter for two completely attached, nursing babies AND my high-needs 6 year old???” Not that we have a need to spend a ton of time away from our kids, but having the option for some time together every few months seems like a marriage saving idea!

In  the past, with the wide age spacing of the older children, it was really never a big deal. Everyone was always happy to have the older, experienced “helper” tag along to provide invaluable care-giving advice: “Oh, that cry means she wants her blankie! or “By this time, Mom always puts her in the sling!” And even when Bug came along with her higher-needs personality, we had my parents nearby to help out when she was very tiny. After we moved further away, she had her own personal favorite nanny to provide loving care when she was a toddler. When T-Bird arrived and I had to return to work much sooner than I would have liked, we got creative and rearranged our work schedule to ensure that either Sir Hubby or I could always take care of her (and yes, that’s our picture on page 189 of Attached at the Heart!)

TBird and MommaBelly
Saying Goodbye to T-Bird before our class

Since moving away from my parents, our beloved nanny, and my flexible job, I have been a full-time homeschooler, stay-at-home-parent, and very tired pregnant lady! But being at home has also allowed me to forge many wonderful friendships in our new hometown. I adore that we share so many of the same parenting values with our new circle of friends. But, like me, they also have very full lives and busy families. We can get together and have playgroups, and homeschool groups, and ladies nights…but leaving T-Bird with someone other than Sir Hubby or Big Sister Ella has not been territory that I have delved into yet.
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Bad Sleepers

There was a time that I really thought I had kids that were bad sleepers. They needed me in order to fall asleep, they needed me in order to stay asleep, and they didn’t have regular nap routines. What else could they be but bad sleepers? Moms around me seemed to have kids that slept on their own, napped regularly and slept the amount of hours needed, per their parenting book’s guideline of baby sleep. It got to a point where I truly was stressing about how to get my kids to be “good sleepers.”

Then one day, a friend of mine gave me some advice that truly changed how I viewed the whole thing. She simply said, ” Stop expecting your kids to sleep how you or some parenting book thinks they should sleep.” She then pointed me an informative website on mother-baby sleep that really opened my eyes. I learned that what we often consider “bad sleep” is really quite normal sleep. Our society has fooled us to expect unrealistic sleep in our children and so in order to achieve that sleep, we find ourselves training our kids to sleep and when we don’t go that route, we still stress about their “bad sleep”. At least….I did.

Once I realized that my expectations for sleep were unrealistic and I changed my own patterns (i.e. went to bed early so that I could catch up on my own sleep and not be so tired myself, did some research and bought a quiet fan to run in the night to keep me from sweating all over the pillow), I was able to more than cope with how my kids slept. It’s amazing how just changing my expectations of sleep made it so much easier for me to parent my kids and even find ways to get rest myself.

Following The Principles: Ensure Safe Sleep

Part 5 of a series of 8: I did not expect the arrival of my first baby to create so much upheaval in my bedroom. There was no room for a “nursery” so by default we became co-sleepers.  The room would have never won any awards for decorating to begin with, but after the baby it became a minefield of clothes, blankets, stuffed animals, toys, wipes, baby nail clippers, bulb syringes, diapers, and little mismatched baby socks.

My Reality Bedroom: With Stowable Nests

After firstborn moved into his own room at about two and half years, we spent joyous hours creating HIS space with all of HIS favorite things. It was then that I made a vow to create a special place for me to relax and recharge. I fantasized about my ideal Bedroom Solutions…my haven. I knew one day I would have the resources to make that happen! Continue reading “Following The Principles: Ensure Safe Sleep”

Getting Out with a Baby

Having your first baby is a huge adjustment. In a very short time period you go from a young child-free working woman to being alone at home with only an infant for company. For many of us it’s the first time we’ve even held a baby this small, and now we’re solely responsible for keeping the wee bundle alive. It’s sort of mind-blowing if you think about it.

I spent most of my early days with my firstborn Hannah breastfeeding. She would sometimes nurse for 45 minutes or more, so I fed her on the couch while I watched TV. A high point of my day was visiting the bathroom by myself or having two free hands to eat. It was amazing to be totally at the mercy of my baby. I lived and died by her whims (or my best guess as to her whims) in spite of how completely defenseless she was.

I realized very early on in parenting that I had two choices. I could spend my days at home alone watching reruns and feeling sorry for myself. Or I could get out of the house and find someone, anyone, to talk to. Someone who could understand how my world had been totally upended and why I sometimes secretly wondered if was even cut out for motherhood. Given those two options, I chose to get out of the house.

Hannah and I at library babytime
Hannah and I at library babytime

I went online and searched out activities. Pretty soon I set up an informal routine that had me doing something almost every day of the week. We went to library baby time, mom and baby yoga, strollerobics, swimming lessons, church, La Leche League, and community mom-and-baby groups. We went on playdates with much older kids, and visited friends almost any time we were asked. I seized almost any reason to get out of the house and interact with others.

It saved my sanity, it really did. I was still sleep-deprived and unkempt, but I was no longer alone. It wasn’t always easy for me to get myself out the door, and it didn’t come all that naturally to cultivate new relationships. New moms are sort of like 13-year-olds at a school dance. We all want to get out on the floor, but no one really wants to make the first move, so we end up stuck on the sidelines looking at each other. Which is why I think playgroups help, because they provide a low-risk way to interact and meet people.

I still feel like playgroups are saving my sanity 4 1/2 years later. I’ve made some really great friends and cultivated a fabulous support network. I feel like I have more balance in my life – that I’m meeting my own needs along with my children’s needs. I believe we are all the happier for it.

Amber’s daughter Hannah is now 4 1/2 and joined by her 13-month-old brother, Jacob. You can read more of their adventures at Strocel.com.

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