Friday, July 07, 2006

Prenatal Pep Talk

We spent the 4th of July at a lovely afternoon barbecue with some new friends, other young families with toddlers Julia's age and, until just recently, all of us moms due with our second babies soon. I say "until recently," because one of the women had her baby a month ago, the first of us to enter secondtime motherhood. It was wonderful to see this brand-new kitten, 4 weeks old to the day, looking impossibly adorable and tiny with gigantic blue eyes and miniscule pink feet the size of strawberries. But it was her mom the rest of us pregnant mamas circled around compulsively, grilling for information while the other guests raided the food table. She was on the other side now, in the world of parenting a newborn as well as an older baby, and we were hungry for the truth: How's the all-night nursing going? Are you getting any sleep, EVER? Is Lucy heartbroken with jealousy and sibling rivalry? Is anything easier this time around?

I'm telling you, people, this friend looked admirably pulled-together---showered, dressed, enviably slim only a month after the birth---but, it was clear, she was also very, very tired and overwhelmed. The circles under her eyes rivaled any I sported after Julia's birth (and those were truly scary). She spoke of calling her husband home from work after lunch the other day, because the baby, the toddler and she herself were all crying uncontrollably and she just couldn't cope alone for one more second. She spoke of the desperation of nursing all night and then NOT being able to nap with the baby the next day, because her firstborn was there, needing care.

With your first pregnancy, you don't panic too much beforehand about what the new-parenting stuff is going to be like. You don't know enough to panic, and it's a good thing, too. You panic about the labor; you have no idea that the labor is the least of it.

I remember it all from the first time around. After a multi-day labor, I was 100% physically depleted BEFORE bringing Julia home, and that's when the truly hard stuff began. Julia was an unusually difficult infant, with colic and an inability to self-soothe and a yen for nursing for an hour at a time, then starting up again 45 minutes after she ended. I know what how hard it can be with one; I can only imagine how hard it is with two.

Already, though, after talking to this new mom of two, I can feel myself bracing for my own next go-around. Driving home from the party, I felt, rather than panic, a familiar steely resolve beginning to stir. A little voice saying, "No matter how hard this is, I can do it."

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