3 LESSONS I LEARNED FROM HAVING MY SECOND CHILD
My first baby is 3.5. I’ve been parenting for almost 4 years now plus I was a nanny for 3 years before that. I can totally handle being a parent to two kids. I’m not worried at all. I know what to expect and how to do it.
*cue the dramatic record scratch* That’s what I told myself all the way up until about 8am on November 7, 2022. That was about the time that I got back to my recovery room after having my scheduled c-section to bring my second daughter, Sadie Drew, into the world. I was trying to breastfeed this poor, minutes old baby while having the postpartum shakes, and it hit me that I did not have a clue what I was doing.
Throughout these first 7 weeks of having a new baby, I’ve learned 3 major things that I never thought I needed to learn. I’m incredibly grateful for my baby and how much joy she brings to our family, but it was a very hard adjustment. This is going to be a very real and honest blog. I’m going to be talking about my struggle with my postpartum mental health, bedsharing, and some other things that might be considered “hot topics” or controversial. Consider this your trigger warning if you need it.
#1 I LEARNED A NEW RESPECT FOR CO-SLEEPING PARENTS
When Linda was born, we were dead set on our decision to not co-sleep. I had horrible anxiety about it, so we stuck to our guns of having her sleep independently from the get-go. In the end it paid off, but man were we tired. Obviously, that was the plan for bringing this new baby home.
Then came night one. I literally did not sleep at all because Sadie Drew wanted to be nursing constantly. It was miserable with a capital M. Even my nurse came in, took one look at me, and said “Oh girl. You look exhausted. Hang on just a minute.” A few minutes later, an angel delivered an ice cold coke and a warm chocolate chip cookie to my room. (Our hospital had 24 hour room service which was absolutely amazing.) It did not get much better when we got home. She nursed 24/7, and most of the time she screamed in-between sucks.
Overall was it worse than when my first baby, Linda, was born? No. The thing that made it so bad was that I had a whole second child to take care of during the day. When my first was a baby, I could nap when she napped, and I could take the time to rest. This was not the case now that I had a newborn and a 3 year old to take care of.
Around week 1.5, I decided that we were going to have to just bedshare. There was absolutely no way that any of us were going to get any sleep otherwise, and I HAD to get some sleep because I could not possibly be a good parent to my oldest child without some sleep. Thankfully I had the resources and education on how to do it the safest way possible. I also joined a Facebook group that gave me tons of great information on how to keep my baby safe while in my bed. I’ll link that group here for anyone interested in checking it out.
Honestly, up until reading the posts in this group, I had a certain view of bedsharing parents. It wasn’t necessarily that I judged them, thought less of them, or anything like that because I completely understand that not everyone shares the same opinions and that parents do what works for them. I just don’t think I completely understood them. I didn’t understand the concern for and understanding of sleep safety. It just wasn’t a community that I was ever a part of. Now that I’ve “been there done that”, I understand the reasoning of why parents choose to bedshare.
#2 I LEARNED THAT EVERY BREASTFEEDING JOURNEY IS DIFFERENT
When I had my first baby, I loved nursing her. Yes, I struggled with it. I struggled with feeling like I wasn’t making enough for her. It was hard to leave her because I either had to make sure I had enough pumped or was back in time to nurse her. But I loved it. I loved the bond. I thought that breastfeeding was the only way to strengthen and continue that bond. Around 8 months, I weaned and started using formula because my mental health got too bad.
When Sadie Drew was born, I was determined to breastfeed just like I did with Linda. The fear of formula was gone since we had used it with Linda, and it helped us so much once I weaned. I still wanted to exclusively breastfeed though. I quickly realized that I was not as enchanted by nursing as I was before. I had another child to take care of and things to do, so I couldn’t just sit and nurse all day long. I tried to pump so that we could give her bottles, but that took just as much if not more time. There was also the problem of her not getting enough in a feeding. We started supplementing a little bit here and there, and just that little bit of relief gave me life.
I had decided that once I could get Sadie Drew out of my bed, I would start weaning her. Well she started sleeping in her pack-n-play the night before Christmas Eve (Merry Christmas to me amirite?). I had already started nursing her less during the day, so when it came time for a night feed, I would make a bottle for my husband to give her while I pumped just enough for relief. I felt such a huge weight lift off my shoulders when we started doing this.
I’m able to have a little bit of my freedom again. In my mind, I was so miserable because I had gone through the whole breastfeeding journey with Linda, and I was on the other side of it. I was “tied down”, and then I was free. This time I just felt a huge weight on my shoulders like I was the only one that had the ability to care for her. It also put a weight on my husband, too, because he wanted so badly to help me but couldn’t because he obviously wasn’t going to lactate and nurse her at night.
She still nurses once a day for a few minutes. Yes, it’s emotional and sad because I know I’ll never breastfeed again. This is our last baby, so it’s bittersweet.
#3 I LEARNED THAT NOT EVERY POSTPARTUM JOURNEY IS THE SAME
When I had Linda, I struggled with postpartum anxiety really badly. That’s essentially why I eventually weaned to formula when she was 8 months old. Mainly my anxiety was based around feeling like I wasn’t an adequate mother and anxiety over her safety. Comparatively, I had a pretty decent postpartum experience my first time around.
After Sadie Drew was born, I struggled big time. I really struggled to bond with her and to, honestly, like her. I loved her immediately. I would fight to the death for her, but I didn’t like her. I was so used to our routine with one child, and I felt like she had ruined it. This was a big part of why I wanted to stop breastfeeding. I felt like I “had” to continue breastfeeding and I resented her for it. I couldn’t sleep because she barely slept and would hardly let me put her down. I was so angry because I wasn’t able to get the rest I needed in order to feel like a decent parent to my oldest daughter.
I had an appointment at my OB-GYN’s office around a week after she was born, and I had a total breakdown in the office. The entire trip was just one disaster after another. She spit up all over herself on the way, and of course I had no clothes to change her into. I had to try to buy her some clothes at the gift shop in the hospital, but I didn’t have my debit card with me. Then of course, my OB asked how I was feeling. Cue the tears. I lost it. Full breakdown.
All of the feelings that I have been having really threw me for a loop because I had never felt or experienced this before. During my pregnancy, I thought about how great it would be once she was born. I was so disappointed when I felt the way I did.
Now that we are 7 weeks in, I am feeling much better. I’m still struggling a bit, but I have a great support team behind me. My doctor has me on medication that is a life saver, and my family (especially my husband) has been wonderful and so supportive. This entire postpartum period so far has just really thrown me for a loop.
If you are reading this and you are struggling or experiencing anything like what I’ve talked about here, please know that you are not alone. Please reach out to someone. I am more than happy to talk to you. Shoot me an email or DM on social media. Talk to your doctor, a trusted friend, or a family member. What you are feeling is common, but it is not normal.
Please visit https://www.postpartum.net for more information on resources available to you during your postpartum period. They also have a hotline you can call whenever you need.
Now if you are like me and are sobbing by this point, (Maybe it’s just me because this was extremely hard to write) please enjoy this picture of my absolutely adorable family at our church’s Christmas Eve service for a serotonin boost.
My name is Ashlyn, and I am a certified sleep consultant. I work with clients across the country through virtual consultations, but I am physically located in Baton Rouge, LA with my husband, two daughters, and our golden doodle Piper. I have a passion for sleep education and working with parents who are struggling with postpartum anxiety over their child's sleep. To book a consult with me, please visit www.thebestrestsleepconsulting.com