Now that we’re about 15 weeks into this whole ‘party of five’ thing, I thought I would share a little bit about how it’s going and how we’re all still alive and mostly smiling. If you follow me on instagram you know it hasn’t been easy — our newest member has had colic and pretty bad reflux. There was a lot of screaming and crying those first couple of weeks at home and since it has been a journey to figure out how to make him more comfortable and relieve his pain the best I can. I’ve had to change my diet (which is no easy feat when you are sleep deprived, early postpartum, breastfeeding, and have two other kids to care for.) I haven’t had dairy for over 3 months — you’d think I’d at least be losing the baby weight as a result but nope! I just replaced it with sugar and carbs to survive. UGH. But back to Quincy… It took a long time to figure out when he could be put down, in what, at what angle, how long after a feeding, etc. I’ve had to hold him and wear him a majority of the time and can count on two hands the number of times in almost 4 months that he has laid flat on his playmat. Night sleep is a struggle, as he’s still waking up 2-3 times a night due to discomfort and needing to nurse back to sleep. That means I’ve been struggling to get enough sleep. My sleep deprivation and early weeks of a screaming baby led to a bout of postpartum depression and anxiety, only made worse by the fact that his reflux made him too miserable to sit in his infant seat for very long, so anytime I tried to take him somewhere (either in the car or stroller) he would end up screaming. So I stopped trying to take him places and we became shut ins, which doesn’t help PPD one bit. But neither does the screaming.
These days, the reflux is mostly managed — although he seems to need tweaks with his medication as he grows and has little setbacks because of it — and his colic symptoms are mostly gone. He tolerates the car and stroller better but now isn’t used to being out and about and gets a little freaked out by noises or a lot of activity. So we’re easing him in with daily walks outside in the Ergo or Solly wrap. And since he isn’t sleeping through the night, we both need naps during the day. Luckily he seems to be a pretty good napper. Actually, he’s a great napper. He typically takes a 2-3 hour nap every morning, and a 2 hour nap in the afternoon. Not always, but most days. I’m not sure if this is because he’s tired from his night sleep not being as great as he needs it to be or if he’s just a good napper. I’m grateful for the naps, but that also tends to confine us to home. Add to that the fact that Calvin (the toddler) takes a 2-3 hour nap in the middle of the day, I’m basically homebound all day everyday as a slave to the naps. But I’d rather that than my kids not nap well at all.
A few things have definitely helped us all to survive these first weeks/months as a family of five, so I thought I would share those for anyone else adjusting or preparing for a new family member.
1. Keep your expectations low – be realistic.
Don’t think that you can do it all. You can’t. No one can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept help that is offered. And don’t think that you should be getting out as a family. Aside from getting to Charlie’s tee ball games and one time early on that was a total disaster, it took us three months for all five of us to successfully get out and do something together.
2. Saying no is ok – know your limits.
You can’t attend that birthday party with all of your kids in tow. You don’t want your in-laws staying in your home right after baby is born. You can’t bring the juice boxes to preschool for the class party, because you can’t even get to the grocery store for food for your own family. It is ok to say no to things. In fact, it should be expected. Don’t feel bad about it. My husband is taking our two oldest to visit family in a couple of weeks and Quincy and I are staying home. I just wasn’t mentally ready to tackle flying with three kids, or a baby with reflux that has barely left the house. So we aren’t going. And I think it is the best decision for all of us.
3. Wear the baby.
Whether you’re super into baby wearing or not (and I am and highly recommend it) or whether your wore your first child, baby wearing is a lifesaver when you have other children or if your baby is high maintenance like Quincy. Calvin lived in my Solly Baby Wrap for the first couple of months and then spent a ton of time in my Ergobaby 360. Both have been lifesavers again with Quincy, giving me hands-free time to cook, clean, hold my older sons’ hands, and so much more. Start early and do it often.
4. It’s ok to use the TV and iPad as a babysitter for a while.
Listen, unless you are lucky enough to have family nearby that you trust to help with your children (I don’t) or unless your older children are in school full-time (only one of mine is, and the other is a no-fear crazy toddler) there are times when you will have NO idea how you could possibly nurse a baby, feed an older child, put both down for naps, change a diaper, wipe a toddler butt, and maybe get to pee or brush your own teeth – all on your own. I’ll tell ya how you do it – you break out the iPad or put Mickey on the TV. At first Calvin wouldn’t watch anything and I discovered a 10 minute garbage truck show on YouTube Kids that he loves. If I have to nurse Quincy and Calvin is awake, he has to be restrained or he’s getting himself into dangerous situations. So I put on a show, put him in our 4moms Breeze playard, and nurse. The show distracts him from the fact that he is confined, which he HATES more than anything else. In the early days when Calvin was born and nursed 24/7 and Charlie wasn’t in school full time, we had to have some movie marathons. We all survived and our brains are all still working just fine (or theirs are, at least).
5. A helpful husband is KEY. But they still don’t “get it.”
It doesn’t matter how hands-on your husband is as a dad, how much he is around, how helpful he tries to be, and how much he does – he can never and will never understand what having one, two, or three children is like for you as the mother. It isn’t his fault. He’s just wired differently. He doesn’t have the hormones, the motherly instincts, the boobs, the uterus, the giving birth experience, the connection, or the brain that a mother has. He can go to the bathroom for 20 minutes and not feel guilty. He will probably get a shower everyday. He can somehow find time to exercise most days. It doesn’t cause him to physically hurt when the baby cries. He isn’t on a short invisible leash to the children like you are. He will tell you to relax and fully believe that saying that is not only possible, but helpful to you (when we know better). It will be hard not to resent him. And that’s not your fault. But just remember that the best dads and husbands often feel like a shitty husband for a while after you have a baby. He really isn’t a shitty husband – he just can’t understand what you are going through. And also, hormones are a bitch and make you crazy and not very understandable sometimes. Just remember that what you’re going through is normal, it will pass, and you will like each other again. And try to go out for a date night alone if you can, even for only an hour or two.
Also, ask him for help. Be specific (and try to be nice about it) because they really aren’t mind readers and they really don’t just see what needs to be done like we do. I am SO lucky that this time around my husband is home with us. He works in the entertainment industry here in LA and is between projects (although he’ll be back to work this summer and I’ll have all of the kiddos to manage by my lonesome and I have NO idea how I’m going to manage it!) so he has been home to help with so much. He gets up with the two older kids in the morning, feeds them breakfast, makes Charlie’s lunch, packs his backpack, gets him ready for school, and takes Calvin with him to drop Charlie off. Then he and Calvin usually go on some sort of adventure for the morning, leaving Quincy and I home to sleep, nurse, and do whatever else we need to do. Given Quincy’s challenges, this has been a lifesaver for me mentally. Not only is my husband a tremendous help, but he’s completely capable of taking care of what needs done without my help. I don’t have to worry about it. He’s probably the better parent and doing the harder job these days, to be honest. I’m pretty lucky.
6. Laugh and dance as often as possible.
Honestly, I have literally cried over spilled milk. It’s so much easier said than done, but if you try to take a breath and just laugh when things get crazy or frustrating, it makes things so much better. It isn’t that you won’t have anxiety, or want to cry — those things might happen too. But laughter really helps. Sometimes when things get rough and we’re all at each other’s throats, one of us will put on a song and we break into a family dance party instead. Because how can you have a bad day when you’re having a dance party? When Charlie gets home from school and we’re exhausted and the boys are all rev’d up and full of energy, we put on music and dance. It makes them happy, burns off energy, perks us up, and brings joy to a hard part of the day. Charlie’s favorite dance party songs currently are: Windows Down, Thriller, Uptown Funk, and Poker Face 🙂
7. Get support. Build a village.
If you don’t already have support from the first time around, adding a second or third kid will definitely have you needing a support system for you and your partner. For me, that is a group of women that I met in Mom’s Club when Charlie was under a year old. We have become such great friends over the last few years and many of us have had our second babies together (I’m the only crazy one with three so far). We talk about nursing issues, annoying husband habits, and our “fournagers”; we have girls’ nights out, celebrate each other’s small victories, deliver food and coffee on rough days, and compare notes on naps and non-naps. We’ve gotten each other through moves, cancer treatment of one of the kids, miscarriages, infertility, as well as celebrated pregnancies and babies, new jobs, birthdays, milestones, beating childhood cancer, and so much more. This group of friends have saved my life as a mom. Whatever village you have — friends, family, nanny, neighbors — use it and support it in return when you can.
Also, if you are feeling overwhelmed, extremely anxious, or depressed, you need to have someone to talk to. Whether it is a friend or a professional, having a supportive outlet will make all of the difference and can be a good sounding board as to whether you might need additional assistance with something you are going through. Texting or calling a long-distance mom friend is great, and I have a couple of besties I do that with. But having some local mom friends that you can grab coffee with, have playdates with, and share tips on local classes, preschools, cleaning ladies, babysitters, etc. makes a world of difference. If you don’t have local mom friend support, I highly recommend joining your local Mom’s Club! That’s where I met my local mom crew and it’s the best thing I ever did.
8. Self Care
I put this one last, because that is what we moms so often do, but self-care is SO important. I never realized that you could and should give yourself permission to take a break, get out on your own, pamper yourself, or just rest until after Calvin was born. It’s been hard to do this one for me this third time around (showers and naps are my only self-care on the regular and even those aren’t as often as they should be) but if you don’t take time to nurture the nurturer, you aren’t any good to anyone else. It’s like putting on your oxygen mask first, but on a daily basis. Just do the best you can at taking care of yourself and making that a priority whenever possible. You are worth it and are a person in need of care too.
I’m starting a feature soon getting real about the battles of motherhood that I have dealt with and plan to have other mommas share their experiences and tips as well. You can also follow and share your battles (and victories!) on instagram in the #battlefieldmotherhood feed. If there is a particular topic you’d like covered or momma you’d like featured, let me know in the comments below. Oh, and I’m on Snapchat now and I share lots of tips, products, and BTS realness there. It’s fun – come find me at chandrafredrick over there!
Also, I’m linking to a few products that I’ve found tremendously helpful below. And if you have any products, tips, or advice for this momma of three, leave that below too. I’m always happy to get more help and hear what works for other mommas.
Baby & Multiple Kiddo Lifesaving products:
4Moms Breeze (we use this more as a safe play space for baby or a good place to confine a toddler when necessary, and we have used it every single day for the last 18 months!)
UPPAbaby Vista with rumbleseat & piggyback board (carries all three kids!)
UPPAbaby G-Link double umbrella stroller
Ergobaby carrier (they have a new “Adapt” that works from birth but I haven’t tried it yet)
Solly Baby Wrap
Baby Bjorn Bouncer (this has been great for Quincy’s reflux)
Fisher Price Rock-n-Play (what Quincy sleeps in due to his reflux)
Oh, and a minivan 😉
(family photo on bed by Jennifer Roper from our family newborn session; all photos from my instagram feed)