Tuesday, May 24, 2016

On how we parent our second baby differently than our first

I use the word "parent" lightly to describe these early days with a newborn because the real parenting to me comes when you're working on teaching your little person how to be a little person- making good choices, speaking kindly, respecting others, loving Jesus- all the things that matter (in my opinion) a WHOLE lot more than how many hours they're sleeping at 12 weeks or how many ounces they're drinking before bed.

That being said, we've approached these early stages with Natalie much differently than we approached them with Ryan.

To break it down simply, I'd say there are three main reasons why we've parented each of them differently and three main things that we have done differently with each of them.

Why We've Approached Parenting Them Differently:
1- They have different personalities.
2- There was more time with one than there is with two.
3- The learning curve is entirely different with a second baby.

What We've Done Differently:
1- Scheduling
2- Staying Out of the Way
3- Looking at the big picture instead of the day-to-day

When Ryan was first born, Matt and I were completely over-the-moon that he was ours. Our journey to parenthood did not come without lots of prayer, patience, heartache, refining, and trusting in God's plan for our future family. So when Ryan was finally here and in our arms, all we wanted was to soak in the amazing blessing that he was. 

I read a number of different books before he was born, but ultimately went with my own approach (which I genuinely intend to sound less arrogant than it does) to mothering him in his first few months of life. I fed him when he seemed hungry, let him sleep when he seemed tired, let him nap anywhere and everywhere- including lots of naps snuggled up in my arms- and mostly just enjoyed that I got to be his mama. 

When people (my pediatrician included) told me that he could be sleeping longer, eating less often, and crying for longer stretches than I was comfortable allowing, I would sit back and evaluate whether what "worked" for everyone else was really what I was searching for in the first place for Ryan. And in those early days and months with him, my answer to myself whenever I asked that question was always "no."  I genuinely didn't mind feeding him when he felt like it or waking up with him at night or topping him off with pumped milk if he still seemed hungry after a feed.  

I distinctly remember admitting to myself one day that the reason why I wanted Ryan to sleep through the night was so that I could SAY he was... which, side note- can we stop for a minute and ask ourselves why that is the golden question for new moms?! I mean even our plumber asked me if Ryan was sleeping through the night when he came to fix our toilet. No lie.

Ryan was our first. The way I saw it, there was really no need for him to be on a schedule or for me to be dressed and ready to go places on a daily basis. I could stay in my pajamas, nap when he napped, and even get a thing or two done around the house while he played or slept. 

Those early days with just him were sweet ones. And even though they may not have felt this way at the time, they were simple too. One baby to feed, love, soothe and put to bed each night.

When Natalie joined our family in February of this year, I knew that she would need a stronger sense of routine in her little life. One, so that I knew how to plan our days around what was fair and best for her, and two, so I wouldn't forget to feed her. ;)

These three things rang true very early on after we were home with her:

1- She and Ryan have different personalities.
Ryan liked to be snuggled and swayed before naps. He was a cat-napper and a frequent eater, and he was sweet and happy baby.

Natalie is a long napper who is happy to spread out her feeds and content to stare at things around her before easing off into sleep. And she too is a sweet and happy baby. ;)

2- There was more time with one than there is with two.
When Ryan woke up, I was right there ready to feed him. When he cried, I was there right away to pick him up. When he was ready for a nap or needed to go down for the night, we spent as much time as he needed helping him fall asleep.

When Natalie wakes up, there is usually a small stretch of time before I can get to her. Sometimes she cries for a minute or two before I can pick her up or give her her paci back when it's fallen out. And when it's time for her to nap or go to bed, we're often putting Ryan down too, so the attention is split between the two of them.

3- The learning curve is entirely different with a second baby.
When Ryan cried, I felt an immediate pang in my heart and wanted to help him in any way I could. I felt like all crying meant that there was a need that needed to be met and it was my job to figure out what it was.

With Natalie, I've learned that some crying is just exercising her little lungs, or releasing some energy before bedtime, or getting herself comfortable to fall asleep. When she cries, I listen differently- is she hurting or just getting situated? Does she need me to intervene or would it be better for me to stay out of the way for a minute?

What We've Done Differently:

1- Scheduling
Natalie follows a pretty consistent routine everyday (I wrote about her current routine on her 3 month post- here). I wake her up to feed her at 3-3.5hr increments during the day, and I put her down for naps and bedtime around the same times each day.

2- Staying Out of the Way
As I mentioned above, I let her cry a little before I rush in to save the day. ;) Sometimes even a few minutes of crying lets her release a little energy and ease into sleep all on her own. 

3- Looking at the big picture instead of the day-to-day
I remember analyzing every little change in Ryan's daily routine or behavior. With Natalie, I understand that some days she may sleep more soundly or eat more easily or enjoy her wake time more or less than the day before. I look at her behavior on a marathon scale rather than a sprint and don't adjust what I'm doing the minute I see a change in her.

I don't believe that there is a "right" way to parent our babies, and really dislike it when people, doctors or authors try to make little humans seem like robots when they aren't. Not every baby is going to sleep through the night at 10lbs or 12 weeks- Ryan officially slept through the night at 11.5 months... and was over 10lbs at one month ;) -, nor is every baby going to transition from one stage to the next in exactly 72 hours. 

Rather than making other mamas feel like we're failing if our babies aren't keeping up with the "norm" of infancy, I think our job as moms is to encourage and support each other in any way we can- whether that's offering asked-for advice or just gifting a Starbucks card or bottle of wine to say, "You will survive, and your baby will not go to Kindergarten attached to your boob, sleeping in his carrier, eating every 2 hours at night, crying for hours on end... (insert scenario here)..."

When our babies are grown, I want us to look back on these early days and know that we made the most of our time with them and didn't let ourselves get too wrapped up in things that truthfully have no impact on what college they'll attend or what kind of character they'll have as an adult.

I'm just thankful that we've been entrusted with these little lives and hope we can savor the great moments and give ourselves grace and maybe a little extra coffee on the days that feel less savorable.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Life Lately

This has been the first morning I've been able to wake up before the kiddos this week. I love these early morning hours when the house in still and even the pup is asleep, but the bed has been calling my name! This morning, I just woke up feeling refreshed and jumped at the opportunity to be up to get a few things done before the day begins.

...Hahha, oh boy- it just turned 5:02 and I hear Ryan. Maybe I shouldn't have typed that last paragraph?!...

...okay, thank you Jesus, I was able to rock him back to sleep. Poor guy was confused and thinking it was time to get up. It is in fact not time to get up. :)

A fitting transition I guess to today's Life Lately post. Life Lately is a whole lot of early mornings, walking to playgrounds, making up games, tummy time, smiles and coos, building with blocks, fixing with tools, meeting friends for play dates, talking about when daddy will be home from work, and learning how to be kind, even when you're tired and hungry- a lesson I'm still working on myself.

These days are full- the best kind of full- but why sometimes I need these hours before the kids are awake and why a 5:00 start to the day ain't gonna fly unless you're sick. :)

Mowing the lawn with daddy- love how Matt includes him in everything he can. Ryan feels so cool helping daddy take care of the house!

Baking this blueberry banana bread recipe with mommy

Play mat fun for this little one

Not working on his push-ups like it looks, but stopping to check out an ant on our walk back from the park. This is one of my favorite things about Ryan right now- if he sees an ant, he drops to the ground immediately to check it out from a close-up view. :)

Visiting some animals on our strawberry picking day

Piggy back rides and teeth-together smiles. ;)

Left: Can you smile for a picture with your cousin?!
Right: Can you try to do it with your teeth together?!

Hold me when this boy starts kindergarten. He went for his first Mother's Morning Out while I went to a meeting for next year's MOPs, and he was so excited about bringing his backpack and water bottle with him. He looks so big in these pictures!

A Nelsen Family shot from Mother's Day!

playing the harmonica for his sister- "it's monica, sista- see?"

Stopping in to visit Great Muggie and Great Papa on our way to Nonna and Papa's house!

Swinging on the porch one last time before Nonna and Papa move

And visiting their new house as it's being built!
Dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Monroe- not pictured: Natalie and my step-brother Brian who's behind the camera :)

Corn on the cob and frozen grapes for breakfast. Because sometimes you just say "yes" when random requests are made.

We have an almost-daily routine of visiting a church playground near our house while we wait for daddy to get home. It's a gated little area with all sorts of toys for Ryan's age, and we're usually the only ones there, so even Tal gets to be off leash.

I told Ryan one of his friends was coming over to play and he immediately started hoarding his toys, hah. We're working on sharing and thinking about others. ;)

Last night I was with Ryan before he went to bed and when I came out looking for Matt, I found him in Natalie's room just holding her before he put her down. And I teared up and then snuck a picture- so it's grainy and zoomed in, but she's holding his finger and in and out of sleep. These are the moments that make me stop and soak in this stage of life- I know it's going to fly by faster than we want it to!

Tonight we're hosting our neighbors and their kids for dinner- I'm making brisket and veggie tacos for the main course. This brisket taco recipe is my favorite (and also the only one I've tried) ;) and doing peppers, onions, black beans, corn, shredded cheese & salsa for the veggie version. We're looking forward to a fun night and weekend!

Happy Friday, friends!


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Natalie Grace- 3 Months

Three months?! 
I tell you, months seem to go by faster and faster these days.

We are loving this sweet girl more and more every minute and are so thankful for her happy, go-with-flow personality.

In the past month, she has worked herself into a little sleeping and eating routine that looks like this most days:
7:00 wake up and eat
8:30-10:30 nap
10:30 eat
12:00-2:00 nap
2:00 eat
3:30-5:00 nap
5:00 eat
short nap or sometimes stays awake until bath around 7:30
8:00 eat and goes to bed

If we're on the go (which most days we are), one or two of her naps are interrupted, but she seems to be okay with making up her sleep during a different nap time stretch.

The girl is an efficient nurser and is done 10-15 minutes after she starts. So far, she seems to like spreading out her feeds between 3-3.5 hours. So much so that I wake her up to feed her if she's still sleeping!

At night, she wakes up once and occasionally sleeps all the way 'til morning. This month I'll start slipping her the paci to see if she'll hold off with the nighttime feed and start making it to morning on a consistent basis. But for now, I think she's done a pretty great job sleeping long stretches at night.

The other big change for her this month is sleeping without her swaddle. Ryan was a tummy sleeper pretty early on, so I was so nervous about how breaking a swaddle would work for her since I never had to experience it with Ryan. I was so relieved when she took to sleeping swaddle-free without a problem!

I plan to write a separate post about adjusting to life with two, and how parenting a second baby has differed from how we parented our first (our approaches have been completely different!) but for now, suffice it to say we are so thankful for how smooth the transition has been so far.

Here is a recap of her last month:

Her big brother loves her so much!

2 month checkup!

Smiling at her big brother

Snuggles with her daddy and brother! (There's a lot of skin in this picture- Matt included, hah- so sorry about that) ;)

Her one-arm-out nap that transitioned her to sleeping without a swaddle. She was 9.5 weeks in this picture and went to sleeping swaddle-free without a problem that night. Sweet girl is a little dream!

Her first visit to the school where I used to teach- love her little smirk in this picture!

This look- the "I think my mom might be crazy" look. :)

Before she started her little sleeping/naptime routine, she napped just about everywhere. In this picture her tummy time turned into nap time while Ryan and I played with blocks right beside her. It's amazing what a difference a couple of weeks makes at this age though, as now she needs her quiet space in her room to take a good nap.

Love this little look before she feel asleep... and the way she holds her hands together. :)

Post nap smiles! And a spit-up stain on the couch. #reallife ;)

Sweet Tal- I laid Natalie down for some tummy time and he came and rested his head on her legs less than a minute after she was down. Love that pup!

First day in Waumba Land at our church... and from what we were told, she did this the whole time.

Natalie meets Aunt Mea!

Her sporty look on one of our chilly May days :)

Either the pollen was getting to her or she caught her first little cold after going into the church nursery for the first time, but her little eyes watered and she sneezed and had a little cough for a couple of days- but the sweet thing was still as happy as could be!

Napping at Nonna and Papa's while we cleaned

Ryan was eating his dinner and stopped and said, "Sister right there. Give her kiss real quick." I mean you can't say no to that. So onto the table he went. ;)

I love her scrunchy-nose smile!

She has definitely mastered the furrowed-brow look. ;)
Meeting Muggie- her great grandma- for the first time!

Can't wait to see what changes come in the next month with this sweet girl!