You Won’t Find This in Potty Training Guides

I’m all for parenting books and their advice. I don’t agree with all of them, but I respect the need for so many people to seek advice. The sheer number of those available should meet the needs of most people, especially those like myself without parents to turn to in times of crisis or chaos. I get it.

What I need most are blogs. All the mom blogs in all the world offer a level of reality and comfort that no published guide can offer. You tell your stories without filters, you don’t worry about what an agent says, and you deliver the message in a way that exudes strength, determination, and a can-do spirit despite wanting to run screaming from your homes. It’s why I decided to throw my hat in the ring. Maybe someone will connect with my stories and find solace in their moments of despair.

Like the one I had last night.

My husband was out-of-town for business, and I was leisurely talking to my friend on the phone as both kids were fast asleep in their beds. She was sharing the contents of her day with me that included a lice infestation on her youngest daughter’s head. It turns out helmet shopping is a dangerous undertaking. As all moms who have gone through the lice crisis before, she was exhausted, embarrassed, and subconsciously scratching.

I had to interrupt her horror when my eldest opened my door with a suspicious smile on his face and said, “Mommy, I just wanted to tell you I love you. And I have poop on my hand.” The referenced hand moved from my doorknob to the edge of my baby’s bassinet.

From there, things moved fast. I told my friend I had to go. I followed him to the bathroom to make sure proper hand washing was observed and to grab the disinfectant.

The bathroom looked like a crime scene. I took in the towels crumpled on the floor near a puddle of what I hoped was water. I noted the light brown streaks on the counter, the edge of the bathtub, and on the toilet itself.

As he was washing his hands, I realized I should check to make sure he wiped. He had not. I put my hand on the toilet paper to grab a length of it, and my hand found the hidden part in the back where he had wiped his bottom with his hand and then wiped his hand off directly on the roll because it was a new one and he couldn’t get it started. Note to self: put on rubber gloves before this type of investigation.

I lurched back in disgust and surprise, only to step (with bare feet) into poop previously camouflaged on the brown bathroom mat. It took this mom only a half beat to assess that particular piece of evidence. He always sits on the floor to put on his undies.

My friend on the phone (the one with the lice infestation) once warned a more naïve version of myself, “Kids are gross.” I was giddy with my first pregnancy and needed a dose of reality. That is why we moms stick together. We have all earned the badge of courage for facing our worst nightmares. What is your latest war story?

 

8 Truths About a Second Pregnancy

1. You have amnesia

Unless you just had a baby and you became pregnant a week later, you have amnesia. The memory of your discomfort during your first pregnancy has been replaced by millions of new memories as the baby grew into a complicated human that falls apart when a graham cracker doesn’t break on the dotted lines and inserts the word “poopie head” into all of his favorite songs.

I can’t remember anything before my son was a year old. I was genuinely surprised this week when I turned heads in Barnes & Noble. No, not because I was rocking my flattering ruched shirt seams, but because I spontaneously farted in line with the gusto of a 14-year-old boy in a competition. I won.

2. Your partner does not have amnesia

After surviving 9 months of complaining and decreased sex followed by another few months of no sex after the birth of #1, your partner is wary going into this well-charted territory. He or she will put on a brave face, but don’t expect the same level of care and attention. My husband is concerned about me and our baby of course, but the farts aren’t as cute, the wrestling of pillows throughout the night is annoying, and he quietly accepts it when sex becomes more awkward and less frequent.

The bright side? It is comforting when his memory fills in the gaps and reminds me that Braxton-Hicks contractions and leg cramps are normal. Your partner now knows how to care for babies, and you need someone with a fully functional brain during the first weeks at home. You have your expert at your side.

3. Nobody gives a hoot

Unlike the endless attention of a first pregnancy, anyone who has met the aforementioned poopiehead is only curious about the sex of the new baby, and when will it arrive. They assume you have everything you need, especially if the baby is the same sex as the first. They have seen your bump before, and acknowledge it with the same enthusiasm I reserve for greeting my dental hygienist.

Strangers are the exception to this truth. They will fawn over you…right up until the point when they ask the dreaded question, “is this your first?” “No,” you say, “This is my second.” Their eyes will glaze over, and they will begin scanning your groceries more efficiently, regretful for the wasted attention given to your repeat performance. Just be grateful nobody wants to touch a previously used abdomen.

4. Delivery is still daunting

The mantra of my saint-like OB/GYN is worthy of note: every pregnancy is different. My water broke 3.5 weeks early the first time, and I was not contracting or dilated. I had wanted a natural birth, and ended up with Pitocin followed by an epidural after 11 hours of artificially induced labor. I don’t know what it is like to labor at home for hours before deciding that perfect moment to head to the hospital. I could end up having a cesarean this time. They may have to pull it out of my belly button as my son predicts. Amnesia mixed with ambiguity is unnerving, but again, nobody gives a hoot because you are a baby-having expert after one go of it. So get used to fretting alone. Or hire a doula.

5. You will vow to do things better this time

As I contemplate the coming group of firsts of my second child, I know for us this will be our last shot to get it right. I vow to properly document, organize and celebrate every milestone as well as the everyday things like his sweet voice speaking his first sentences. I will back up those pictures and videos (don’t ask). I will shush the inner worrier and enjoy those first weeks, savoring the feeling of his tiny sleeping body on my chest after nursing.

6. You are going to leak

My OB/GYN suggests diplomatically that our bodies are often “compromised” after a first pregnancy. Skip this one if you are one of the dedicated few who really kept up the Kegels after #1. Otherwise, march yourself into a drug store and buy a pack of Poise. If you haven’t yet, you will. There will come a day when you either tire of washing the extra laundry after sneezing/laughing, or you will pee yourself while in the grocery store like I did.

7. You are breaking a heart

Yours or theirs, it doesn’t matter. From the moment you discover your first child will become a sibling, you will obsess over this for the next 9 months. First, you wonder when to tell him or her about the impending intruder. Then you worry about how to help this transition occur with minimal psychological scarring. You can’t imagine loving another child as much as the one you have, and you wonder how you will split your time, affection and energy between two complicated little humans with different needs. You know that no amount of advice from books, forums, or friends will prepare you or the child for this change in the household. It’s the other ambiguous situation lurking just behind the birth event.

My own three-year old reacted to the news with excitement until his processing center registered that he would have to share his toys with his baby brother. This furrowed his brow. Several days later, while snuggling before story time, he looks up at me with big eyes and tells me, “I don’t want to share you with my baby brother.” He followed it up with a possessive hug, and I felt our hearts splitting apart in unison as we silently contemplated the future.

8. It will all be okay

The most important truth is that by now you have had enough parenting under your belt to know there is no manual, that no two pregnancies or children will be the same, and that you have the strength of heart and character to do this. Laugh at your farts, revel in knowing what you really need in the hospital bag, and take comfort that your heart will know exactly what to do when your family grows yet again.