Adjusting to Life as a Mother to Two.

By: Jen Shoop

There is so much to process — too much to process? — since the birth of my son nearly three weeks (!) ago, and life feels blurry and full and unwieldy and happy and overwhelming in both the good and scary ways. I have it on good authority from several mom friends that the entire first year as a mother to two is a wild ride, and that it’s difficult to get your bearings or attain any semblance of order for a long while. I’m beginning to understand what they have meant. The other morning, I woke with a splitting headache but could not find a pocket of time to grab myself Advil for over an hour. This may seem like an incredible exaggeration or eye-roll-worthy example of self-martyring, but I can assure you it was neither of those things. It was the routine and yet somehow frenzied cycle of feeding, burping, changing micro while chatting and negotiating with mini and also shepherding a dog in and out of rooms, balancing poopy diapers with a squirmy baby and the miscellaneous stickers and dollbabies that wind up in my pockets, kicking laundry into a pile on the floor, attempting to eat a bite of banana while wiping grimy yogurt-covered fingers off of micro’s bassinet and ensuring mini doesn’t hang off the edge of it as she so often does, causing it to teeter precariously to one side…!

The old dance of motherhood, in other words.

I keep thinking about the many Magpie mothers whose babies have grown up and who now tell me that they look back on these snuggly but chaotic moments of newbornhood with nothing but fondness and heartache. I therefore know — know! — I will miss this mayhem one day when life is quieter and so I am attempting to look at the entire situation with perspective and acceptance, and though I often fall short (ahem, our bed!), it grounds me to continue to return to those voices urging me to drink it all up in big, thirsty gulps. Mr. Magpie tends to be better at this than I, but — such is the way with most things between us, and I draft off of his success anyhow.

I felt unmitigated joy — glee, really — in the hours and days immediately after Hill was born. I felt better prepared for the c-section this go around and so was able to focus more of my emotional energy on him rather than the scary and unanticipated details of a c-section that I grappled with when mini was born. Recovery is not fun, but it’s been far more manageable this time, and I’ve been more distracted besides.

Caring for a newborn feels like second nature. His squawks and grunts are less anxiety-inducing, and I feel far calmer and more confident. I am disappointed I have an undersupply of milk again this time, although this discovery has made me feel less guilty about my experiencing breastfeeding mini — I had always thought my ineptitude during the first few days of attempting to nurse her had led to my chronic undersupply. Now I know that this is just how my body is built, and that supplementing with formula is a biological necessity rather than the result of an error of some kind on my part. But more on that another day. The point is that I knew what to do and was less emotional about all of the breastfeeding travails this time — and I enjoy nursing him, truly, even though feeding him often takes well north of forty-five minutes because he always needs a bottle of formula after.

But truly. Hill is heaven. I have passed many stretches of time staring at him, preening him, swooning over his every squirm. I love the way he puckers his lips and occasionally open-mouth smiles while sleeping. I love his furrowed brow. I love to brush his hair and laugh at his “little finance bro” look. I love his awkward and uncoordinated movements, the brief windows during which he is alert and confused and engaged at the cacophony of sound and smell and sight that constitutes the 1,000 square feet we call his home. (Oh, Louise.)

The more challenging part of this transition has been adapting to splitting my attention between two children. I have been more composed during these postpartum weeks than I was during the ones immediately after mini’s birth, a discovery I attribute largely to the fact that I did not take any intense painkillers after this c-section (motrin and tylenol — no narcotics) and that I was better prepared in general for this birth — but the handful of weeping sessions I’ve had have entirely centered upon my difficulty accepting the changes in my relationship with mini. Oh, my heart breaks and my eyes well up as I type this. I hear her wailing “Mamaaa” from her crib in the morning and cannot go to her because I am often mid-nursing micro, and cannot lift her from her crib anyway owing to the c-section incision anyhow. She often patters into the bedroom to say hello in the mornings, asking what I’m doing and reporting in on whatever activity she’s undertaking with Mr. Magpie. I sometimes find myself brushing tears away as she totters off, remembering how just a few weeks ago, I would stroll into her room with a cheerful “Good morning, angel!” to draw her blinds and pass her a sippy cup of milk, and we’d engage in the same handful of conversations, about the color of her sippy cup, about the Maileg mouse that had fallen on the floor overnight, or about the bee or butterfly she thought she saw in her room. (There was a stretch of two weeks where she talked incessantly about bees and butterflies in her room — she was scared of them, and we’d constantly reassure her they wouldn’t hurt her and that there weren’t any in there besides.) Now I often do not see her until she’s midway through breakfast and — as irrational as all of this sounds — it pains me, deeply, not to be caring for her in those small and motherly ways every morning. I selfishly want myself to be the first face she sees, the first hug she gets, the first conversation she has. It has been too abrupt a shift to being her part-time caretaker. She doesn’t understand why I can’t lift her to change her diaper, or place her in her crib, despite my best attempts to explain the cut on my stomach. She doesn’t get why I can’t immediately grab her hand to investigate the Lego tower she’s built because I am in the midst of soothing micro or changing his diaper or trying to shovel a bite of oatmeal in my mouth during an odd moment of calm. I find myself in a position of self-reproach when I decide to take the time to shower or make the bed instead of sitting down beside her to read to her or to compliment her drawing skills. I know that caring for myself is a part of maintaining a sense of perspective and calm, but my heart aches every night as I undertake a cruel kind of self-accounting, tallying up all the minutes I could have spent with her but chose to pass tidying or taking a minute to scroll through my emails or what have you. It has been tough. For two years, I was her world and she was mine, and now things have changed forever.

I re-read this and the rational part of me says: “Tsk, tsk. This is a brief season of life. You are doing the best you can. Millions of people have multiple children and everyone survives. You are being overly fussy, irrational. All is fine.”


Meanwhile, the emotive part of me weeps.

I trust that things will get easier, or more balanced, in this regard, especially once I am able to lift her again, and am a bit further out of the newborn haze and can afford to spend more one-on-one time with her. I have been able to find a few evenings where micro has been sleeping for a solid hour or two so I can just sit and read with her, or play with her Mailegs. Those stretches of time have been beautiful and reassuring.

But until the dust settles (will it settle?), I am here, both radiant with joy to have my Hill in my arms and aching with longing for my girl.

Post Scripts.

+I have been using and loving the Baby Bjorn mini. I feel like most carriers try to do too much — you can carry your child in 34 ways! and it doubles as a backpack! A car! A shopping cart! — but this one is designed straight-forwardly to enable you to carry your newborn baby. The front completely unsnaps, making it easy to get him in out, and I feel like all the clasps and straps are easy to use/adjust with one hand. Genius.

+J. Crew now carries Minnow swim. Mini already has several suits for this summer, but I want to buy her this one and coordinate with this bow.

+I still think the Bravado nursing bra is the best on the market. I know there are a lot of Coobie fans, and I do think it’s exceptionally comfortable, but I find the cups are hard to unfasten with one hand, which bothers me. I’m intrigued by these nursing bralettes from Lively. Super pretty and the neckline seems like a welcome departure from the higher neckline styles on all my other nursing bras.

+Mini just outgrew all of her shoes — and now I am finding myself needing to restock her footwear. I started by ordering her this pair of washed canvas Cientas in the pink. I like that they involve no laces or velcro! Maisonette has a few colors on sale, too. I may also buy her the t-strap style in navy (on sale!) — we had these in red last summer and they were so cute. A perfect style to wear with easy cotton dresses so she can run around easily but still look put-together. Also swooning over these for mini!

+This dress looks like the only thing I want to wear right now. Unclear whether it would work with nursing. It might? But, the bra situation is a puzzle…maybe would have been better as a maternity find.

+Speaking of dresses — I get dressed (often in many of the pieces I mentioned here) every day from head to toe, accessories included, and it makes me feel like a human. But by around 3 PM, I cannot wait to be wearing just a robe. It’s exhausting unbuttoning and rebuttoning and rearranging layers and negotiating with a nursing cover or swaddle or burp cloth. UGH. I just started pumping after daytime feeds to help with supply and it’s adding a whole extra layer of logistical complexity when it comes to dressing. I feel like I’m just constantly dressing, undressing, buttoning, unbuttoning, clasping, unclasping. AH. If it didn’t make me feel like such a schlub, I’d love to wear my uber-soft Eberjey robe 24-7 (I own it in the pink, but the black is on sale and far more practical anyway — I’ve already kind of destroyed my Eberjey one with nipple cream stains, which I did not know would happen!) Also eyeing this open-front robe, which seems like an easy solution when paired with a nursing tank and leggings for days spent at home.

+I’ve always been a fan of traditional swaddles — I tried a few of the velcro and zippered contraptions with mini and found that the velcro often woke her and that they were more complicated than helpful — but I am very intrigued by the Ollie swaddle after a few of you have recommended it. (And the reviews…!)

+Stopped into the Monica + Andy store on the UWS the other day — the CUTEST prints. Sometimes they’re a little too twee (?) or hipster (??) for my taste, but they’ve got lots of darling styles in right now. Love this.

+Unrelated to children: I love this skirt. I want to wear it with a gauzy white blouse or a simple white tank and my Hermes sandals.

+I had a lot of questions about a onesie/footie that micro was wearing the other day on Instastories — it’s Roller Rabbit’s heart print. I have several pairs by this brand for him and mini, too — the softest cotton and the cutest prints! I kind of want to buy this print for the fourth of july. A last minute splurge.

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16 thoughts on “Adjusting to Life as a Mother to Two.

  1. Read this recently and thought of this post, “Maybe you can handle working, a newborn, a toddler, and managing a household. But my main takeaway from the transition to two children is that it is a flying saucer of ping-pong balls hurtling toward your face, and all you can really do is try to catch the important ones and let the others smash into pieces on the ground”

    Two of everything definitely threw me for a loop when we had our second. Two sleep schedules, two eating schedules, two developmental schedules…it was a lot! In the beginning there are so many stark differences between a newborn and a toddler. But now that my girls are four years old and two and a half, it’s wonderful. They play and are able to have conversations together. They give each other hugs and kisses and they melt my heart each day. But, it was a lot in the beginning, and then it got easier, and then it was a lot again when my younger daughter started walking. It has been a bit of a roller coaster but a wonderful one. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we scream, and sometimes we just gotta let go and throw our hands up. Enjoy the ride 🙂

    1. What a great quote! Completely relate even though it’s very hard to let anything smash to the ground…! AHH.


  2. Beautiful post!!! I only have one, I can’t imagine the emotions you’re going through. I absolutely LOVE the Ollie, we had a babe who would break out of the traditional blankets no matter how well we wrapped. The Ollie was a life saver, and not too tough on the eyes!

    1. Thank you, Kate! The postpartum mood swings are BRUTAL! Ha. I am already feeling a bit sturdier now that we’re into week 3 of this new routine together. But man did it throw me for a loop.

      Thanks for the upvote on the Ollie. It’s in my cart!


  3. Loved your blog post today! It broke my heart – I recall feeling exactly the same after my second daughter was born. Trust me – this will pass! I don’t recall exactly when – maybe at a month or 6 weeks or a few weeks longer, when Hill settles into a predictable napping schedule and is more efficient at feeding, Mini will resume her role on center stage. She really will. We are three years into having two children. And it’s wonderful. One thing I did that helped too was have our nanny watch the baby while I took my older daughter on a one-on-one outing at least once a week. I made sure we did something she would love, like play on the playground together or read books at the library. It did help her. Hang in there!

    1. Ahh I love this idea — I actually turned to Mr. Magpie just now and we decided to use one of his final paternity leave days by taking mini to see Toy Story 4 and out for lunch, just the three of us. Going to also try to carve out time for quick little mom-Emory dates, even if just around the corner for a cookie. Thanks for the idea.

      And also — for the encouragement! I am now closing in on a month (!!!! how can that be?!) and feeling a bit more emotionally stable about all of these changes and my relationship with mini. There was a moment last week where I sort of had to pull up with myself and say: “Your job right now is feeding and nurturing and bonding with your son. Emory is in good hands with her nanny and Mr. Magpie. This will all pass. So just breathe and keep moving.” (As I wept.) It’s been a bumpy emotional road but I am beginning to come around…THANK YOU though for writing about this and reminding me to keep on swimming.


  4. Oh boy, you describe sentiments so similar to those I had while transitioning from one to two. The baby was especially fussy and required so much hands-on soothing, I felt like I had abandoned my older daughter (who was not quite 2 at the time). It is such an intense emotion to feel, and the guilt can make you feel sick. Like Amy said above though, you will get through this time, and they will always have each other, which is an incredible gift. (Even though they are 2 and 4, I still have to remind myself of this when I so intensely miss the one-on-one time I had with my older daughter.) Praying for you!

    1. Ahh thank you, Shannon! I am actually relieved that several of you have reported in to share similar emotions — it’s helped me realize that I can and will get through this, and without too much collateral damage (she says hopefully). I do already love their budding relationship and am trying to focus on that and the gift of having extra hands/support. I don’t know what moms do if their husbands have more limited (or no!) paternity leave, or if they don’t have someone to help with the older child a few days a week. It is A LOT. I was just talking to my mom about this — she didn’t have a sitter until her third child was born, and my father frequently traveled for extensive parts of the year. How. HOW. Hero. And so are you!


  5. Although it may not feel like it right now, just wait because her world is now you AND her brother and yes, her world has changed — but for the better. There is no greater gift in my opinion than a lifelong playmate and best friend.

    Even though my fourth baby will be here in just 10 short weeks, I still don’t consider myself any kind of expert (and am leery of parents who do because honestly, do any of us know if we’re doing this parenting this “perfectly”?) but I would agree the shift from one child to two (or more) takes some real adjusting. Be patient with yourself.

    1. Ha – completely agree on the fact that there’s no such thing as an expert parent. With the exception of my mother, who is literally #momgoals forever and seems to have an elegant answer for everything. But even though things feel far more intuitive and calm this go around with micro, I still find myself puzzling over his patterns and habits and wants and needs and even passed the better part of a thirty minute phone call troubleshooting with my mom, trying to figure out why he was being particularly fussy for a stretch of time. Anyway, I digress, but you are so right.

      And thanks for the words of encouragement (and promise!) about bringing siblings into mini’s life 🙂

      FOURTH BABY, I still can’t get over it. You are incredible!

  6. I love how you capture this stage of life. I don’t profess to know anything about these early, hazy days of motherhood, but the way you write makes the feelings come alive for me, if that makes sense.

    You’re doing a great job. xx

  7. I love how you’ve captured your feelings here, seems spot on!

    Actually, this post is incredibly fitting for me this morning, even though we do not have (human) children… We have an-almost-one year old puppy and a 9 week old puppy and it is A LOT. The older puppy is obsessed with the younger and won’t leave her alone (at least she likes her!?), which leads to us getting frustrated at the older puppy, which leads to us feeling bad about getting frustrated because she just doesn’t understand and she’s not getting as much attention as before. Then repeat. It’s a vicious cycle and I’m super overwhelmed!

    Not comparing children to puppies, just saying that the sentiment here resonates in more ways than one 🙂

    1. Hi JC! No caveat needed — raising puppies is hard work and in fact I occasionally felt it was more difficult than caring for a newborn, minus the sleeplessness that comes with a baby that nurses every three hours. I completely relate to how you feel here and have gone through similar emotions as we’ve expanded our family with regards to our dog. She has to be lowest on the totem pole and I often feel so badly in the evenings when all she wants to do is play tug of war with her grimy snake toy and I’m brushing her off. Poor thing! I’ve shed a tear or two over her, too. All this to say: I relate to you, dog mama! And I think some of the same emotions come into play with furbabies 🙂


  8. Thank you for this, Jen, and congratulations on the safe and happy arrival of Hill! I am ten weeks along with our second and posts like this help to alleviate some of the attendant anxiety.

    Your anecdote about the Advil rang so true – and I’ve just got one toddler right now! What’s motherhood, if not having to pee for an hour by the time you finally steal 90 seconds?

    1. HAHA — “What’s motherhood, if not having to pee for an hour by the time you finally steal 90 seconds?” 🙂 I hear you, friend.

      Glad these posts are assuaging fears, or at least giving a little insight into some things I’ve been grappling with. We got this!! xoxo

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