I’m feeling wistful and tenderhearted about our littlest one’s first year and all the growth our family has done along the way. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit this has been the most difficult year of my life. I’d also be lying if I didn’t say it’s been the best.
It started so perfectly, after all. Cora’s birth was a dream, and bringing her earthside as the light shone into our bedroom is a memory I will always hold close and dear. I felt invincible in that moment, and that feeling has sustained and served our family all year long.
When I held our little Cora for the first time, I realized she looked like no one else I had ever met before. It wasn’t even a minute after her birth and I was already starting to learn the lessons she has been teaching me over and over again ever since—love multiplies, different is different, and true love makes the hard shit hardly matter.
In some ways, mothering a second is so much easier.
Just the other day, I found Cora standing in her crib after her nap, her face covered in white paint chips after discovering the soothing delight of gnawing on her crib rails. I remember when this happened with Ali almost three years ago, and how I lost my chill in a dozen different directions. First, I couldn’t figure out what the white dust on her face was or where it had come from. When I realized it had come from the crib, I panicked about lead, or any other mysterious toxic substance, that might be in that paint. Once I had thoroughly googled and determined that she was likely not going to die from this experience, I got to work researching “crib rail guards,” tried to find a set that wasn’t hideous, determined that was not a possibility, and reluctantly ordered the least atrocious of the bunch.
With Cora, I just wiped the white dust off her face, grabbed the rail guards from the bin in the closet neatly labeled “Crib Accessories,” and tied those suckers on. The end.
But of course, mothering a second is not all quick fixes to simple problems.
Sometimes both girls need me at the same time, and I have to make a low stakes Sophie’s Choice about who gets my love and attention first.
Sometimes sleep is all too elusive thanks to two little girls ping-ponging sleep regressions and illnesses. (I’m so tired.)
Sometimes I’m pretty sure I’m fucking it all up royally, like when Cora steals toys from unsuspecting firstborns, holding her own firmly because that’s the only way she can have what she wants around her older sister. “Are we creating a bully?” I wonder while simultaneously admiring her tenacity.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I’m pretty sure it’s never going to get easier and I’m pretty sure I’m totally cool with that. It’s been a tough year. It’s been a wonderful year. It’s been a full year.
Here are a few memories (both roses and thorns) from the past year:
Her birth. Of course.
The first week. Trying to do everything myself (including Ali’s bath time and bedtime a mere five hours after giving birth). Crashing and burning from trying. Picking myself up and trying again… differently… learning slowly that doing everything myself would (and always was going to be) impossible.
Celebrating Shabbat at Ali’s preschool one week and a day postpartum. Everyone thought I was crazy for going, and I probably was. But ten out of ten times I’d do it again.
Our postpartum midwife appointments with Sue, where I learned some more about doing less. Slowly.
Tag teaming the girls’ bedtime with Michael. Then standing in the bathroom after both had fallen asleep to pump ten ounces of milk from my super engorged porn star boobs.
Washing my face at the end of the day. That 30-second moment of peace as the water ran over my face was the only thing that reset and sustained me those first few weeks.
Solly wrap naps. And newborn head sniffs.
The “closing of the bones” ceremony. Wrapped snuggly in rebozo scarves, my midwife, Sue, and her apprentice, Christalyn, sang to me, creating a sacred space for me to transition from one chapter (pregnancy, birth, early postpartum healing) into the next. It was mystical and magical and weird and wonderful all at once.
Making new mom friends who felt like instant kin. And going on lots and lots of walks with them and their babies then and now.
Couples therapy. Because we had some shit to work out in this new life as parents to two and we wanted to work it out together. (Shout out to couples therapy and all therapy in general, btw. The stigma around it all is lame and should die an unceremonious death.)
The first time Cora slept through the night (and I did too). I wish I could bottle that feeling.
The first week I spent alone with both girls while Michael was in Washington DC for school. We obviously survived, but it wasn’t pretty. My finest hour (not) was when I was 45 minutes late for preschool drop off, made an executive decision to squeeze into a rather full intersection after missing several light cycles, and getting angrily honked at, all while Cora screamed and Ali narrated the experience in detail. (“The bus is honking at you, mom.”) Oh, and I simultaneously realized I had forgotten Ali’s lovingly packed lunch.
Then the next day where I mom bossed so hard. Ali desperately needed a pit stop on the way to school, which she of course announced in desperation after we had passed the Whole Foods parking lot entrance, the only reasonable place to stop on the way. I street parked. I realized I had not brought a wrap or carrier for Cora. I sprint walked past a mentally ill homeless man, holding Ali on one hip and carrying Cora in her car seat with my free arm, the handle digging into the crook of my elbow. I cut the line and requested a bathroom pass (because of course this was the one Whole Foods where you needed a bathroom pass). Cora cried. I rocked Cora in her car seat with a foot while balancing Ali over the too-large toilet seat. Then we flushed and washed (and packed the whole circus up) and were on our way.
Salad picnic dinners on the living room floor. (Only when dad wasn’t home and only before Cora learned how to crawl and wreak havoc.)
Michael’s graduation. Listening to his classmates honor him with the “Question the Status Quo” award from the theater door (while Cora squirmed and would. not. nap.) Walking across the stage as a family to accept his diploma.
Hiring a nanny. And finding freedom in rediscovering a bit more time for myself.
My 31st birthday / MADAB. Short for Mothers Also Deserve a Break, a few mom friends and I went out for an evening of ballet (watching) and dancing. It was the first evening I spent away from both girls just for fun and a good reminder that I should probably do that more often.
My first Mother’s Day as a mother of two. We went for a hike in Tennessee Valley, and we got about halfway to the water before our plans were comically derailed. Snacks and milk were had, but then neither Ali nor Cora wanted to get back into their packs. To avoid a double meltdown, I ended up carrying Ali on my back, holding Cora in my arms, and we hiked back to the car without ever having reached much of a destination. I got lots of knowing glances from fellow moms that day.
The mom-mobile. The Rav 4 got totaled (wah wah), Michael threatened a minivan, and we settled on a red three-row Subaru Ascent. I feel like a total mom when I drive it, and I sing its praises to anyone who will listen.
Our first (much needed) weekend getaway as a family of four. Snowy Kirkwood for Memorial Day weekend. Snowmen. Snow angels. Cozy cabin snuggles.
Weathering a particularly intense series of storms. Identity shifts. Financial strain and belt tightening and midnight oil burning and startup implosions. Injuries and illnesses in the extended family. Stress there and stress here. The world came at us this year, and Michael and I were just like, “Is that all you’ve got?” (I also sometimes cried.)
And all the milestones and even the mundane life stuff. Cora’s first foods. Her army crawl. Toting her around as second children get toted around. Wearing her in the carrier as I cook dinner and clean the kitchen and do laundry and make life happen. Playdates. Swimming at Grammy and Papabear’s house. The girls playing together in the living room. Making pots and pans bands on the kitchen floor. Roughhousing. Tandem nursing. Family bath time. Morning cuddles. Juicy cheek kisses. Heart bursting love for this little family we’re building. That sort of stuff.
Happy birthday, littlest one. Our world is undeniably more beautiful with you in it.