Just Put Down the Baby.

+Image via the Sacred Bundle Instagram account — check out their sweet collection of bassinets and cribs! Stunning.

I have amassed a weighty collection of learnings and observations on adapting to life with two children, but there is one I have returned to many times, and it arrived early, just days after micro was born, when I was living off fumes — riddled with joy, pain, exhaustion, nerves, and relief — and closing in on 48 hours of sleeplessness. I had the first of many meltdowns induced by pain and fatigue, and after sobbing about nothing and everything, Mr. Magpie quietly suggested I “just put down the baby,” pointing out that I had scarcely let him out of my arms since he had been born two days prior. This was an exaggeration, but it was not far from the truth. And so we sent micro off to the nursery, and instead of the feeling of bereftness I anticipated, I slept soundly for two hours, until a nurse returned micro, urgently, to my room to be fed.

I have revisited this seemingly simple sagacity many times in the weeks since.

Of course, newborns are meant to be held and snuggled. I have long subscribed to the belief that newborns can’t be spoiled, and I love the feeling of a snoozing babe nestled in the crook of my arm. I spend many mornings in bed with him like so. And sometimes, if I am not too bleary during the nighttime feeds, I will linger with him in my arms, taking in the precious outline of his features, the squirms and grunts he makes, his perfect scent, before retiring him to his bassinet — and I think Oh, I will be so glad I stole these moments with him when I could. Because that’s just what it feels like: stolen time.

But there have been countless times where I have found myself attempting to parent or entertain mini with micro in my arms and things get hairy real quick. I’m partly immobilized, unable to follow through on threatened time-outs in real time, or perilously balancing a newborn with a stack of play plates filled with food mini has “prepared” for me, or attempting to juggle a cup of water with a baby and a fistful of crayons. I will catch myself and say: “Just put the baby down.” The truth is that when I have successfully quieted micro, and he is either snoozing or happily blinking his sweet eyes or even sporadically fussing, he should be in his bassinet or his boppy or any other baby holding device as both a matter of practicality and good mothering. My mother has reminded me of this many times: “Babies don’t need to be entertained all day long.” The truth is, micro is fine on his own, and I am beginning to see that teaching him to sleep in his bassinet alone rather than in my arms is a prophylactic against bad habits in months to come. I was thrilled, for example, that he slept peacefully in the full-sized crib we had in our vacation home, and I attribute this accomplishment to the many afternoons he has spent in our bedroom while I attend to mini who, meanwhile, needs — where possible — pockets of my undivided attention.

And my body needs a break, too, even though this is the lowest priority on the totem pole at the moment. (I write this as aching exhaustion burns through my shoulders and upper spine.)

I have no idea why this has been occasionally difficult for me to remember. It seems obvious. And if I am honest, after he wakes and is fed, I often find myself trying every trick in the book until I can get him nestled back in his bassinet, asleep, to give my arms and patience a break, as I jockey between the needs of my two children. And yet I have no doubt that if you were able to peer into my apartment on any given Tuesday, you will find me awkwardly juggling a quiet baby in one arm and a feisty toddler in the other and would want to tell me: “Um, Jen. Just put down the baby.”

When he is sleeping, it’s a no-brainer, and I chastise myself when I realize he’s in my arms and snoozing. Let a sleeping baby be. (And he’s far more likely to be woken early when mini is peering into his face, letting her hair brush into his eyes, screeching: “LOOK, MAMA — HE’S AWAAAAKE,” when he is most definitely not.) But there is a part of me that flushes with the faintest sensation of guilt when I put him down and he is alert. I want him close to me in these moments. I feel compelled to introduce him to sights and sounds, to narrate what is happening in our world just as I did for mini. And — I don’t want to miss a moment. What if he smiles or coos and I don’t see it?

And yet I know, logically, that these are absurd considerations. Of course he needs my attention and love, but at some point, practicality and balance eclipse wonderment. Or such has been the case for me, where sometimes I need to take those moments where mini is preoccupied with coloring and micro is happily gazing at the ceiling to sit down and take a deep breath.

These are the fleeting, mottled musings of motherhood, my friends. The very fabric of what it means to care for children: the ache and joy and exhaustion and bewilderment of motherhood, where nothing is as simple as a directive from your husband to “just put the baby down,” but sometimes, maybe, you just need to hear it.

Post Scripts.

+I received this portable soothing sound machine as a gift and I love it! It’s much smaller than the Sleep Sheep I’ve raved about elsewhere and can be easily repositioned wherever it needs to be. I learned while on vacation that micro sleeps best in a dark, cool, white-noise-shrouded room. (No duh. Who wouldn’t?) But seriously — I think I was a bit cavalier about the adaptability of mini when it came to ambient noises while sleeping. We used to have her sleeping in her swing while we’d enjoy cocktails and pop music beneath kitchen lights and would brag about how she’d sleep right through it. Micro is a bit more sensitive. This little soothing machine has already accompanied us on many walks.

+Just ordered this puff-sleeved blouse in crisp white. Love love love. Especially the slightly longer length.

+How cute is this kiddie pool?

+Dying over H+M’s “Taste of Summer” collection, which is replete with designer-inspired pieces, like this Johanna Ortiz-esque getup. Love this balloon-sleeved blouse and this breezy maxi in particular.

+I’m all about the shirtdress these days. I love how the defined waist makes me feel more tucked in and slender than I probably am, and the button-down front makes nursing a breeze. This white one and this black one are on my wishlist.

+In love with this chic and sleek one-piece in the most sophisticated colors.

+A good basic for $15.

+Want to live in this beach tunic. Love both colorways and especially the demure length.

+SO CUTE. Love this with huge black shades and oversized earrings.

+Over 3,500 strong reviews for this $22 cotton tee dress. Yes pls. I like it in white, paired with a Lele Sadoughi headband.

+This pretty peplum blouse reminds me of the Steele blouse I have been eyeing forever — but costs about half the price!

15 Comments

  1. You’re doing a great job! Love all of the supportive comments from seasoned moms, too. And that Steele blouse: gorgeous! xx

  2. Hey there – great post! I live in Australia (from Europe) and have no family here so much of my mothering was done by instinct / blind ignorance!

    However, my mum came to visit when my little one was 2 weeks old and all I can remember is us having lots of flat whites and her saying “put her down, put her down!, Let her self settle”etc. My mum raised 4 children in the 70’s / 80’s with all that entailed – hand washing reusable nappies, no disposable income etc and she is eminently practical. She advised the greatest gift you can give yourself and your child is the ability for them to self settle and thus sleep. A sleeping baby = happy baby = happy and rested Mum….and we all know how amazing some sleep can be! I have some friends who never knew to do this and now, with toddlers who are 2years+ struggle to have their kids sleep for naps and through the night.

    So in a nutshell, I would keep doing what you are doing……it sounds like you are a very mindful and thoughtful mother, yet practical! Which is the best mix in my opinion.
    Take care, gill xx

    1. Love this practical advice. Tenured, toughened moms from a generation above us tend to have just the right amount of perspective — just check out the comments below, right?! So helpful. Thanks for the encouragement and perspective, friend!

      xx

  3. I love this! Also good on you for living in the moment as often as you can. It really does go so fast.
    I bought one of these for my boys, one for my room, and one for our guest room. I always feel guilty about guests waking early just because my kids do. Super portable and also a speaker if need be.
    https://www.amazon.com/LectroFan-Wireless-Sound-Machine-Bluetooth/dp/B01LBVLAFK/ref=sr_1_53?crid=5PY1GL0H4VZG&keywords=noise+machine&qid=1562805298&s=gateway&sprefix=Noise%2Caps%2C134&sr=8-53

  4. Ever since I learned that eating with two hands is a mother’s greatest luxury, I always try to coax the baby out of the arms of my friends when it’s food time, even if they try to brush me off. Like you so beautifully illustrated here, they often don’t realize it’s just the thing they needed.

    1. Oh man, Anna — you are so right! My husband keeps repeating that line from “A Christmas Story”: “My mother had not had a hot meal for herself in 15 years.” HA! It does always seem like the minute I sit down to eat, micro is fussing / needs to be fed, or mini asks for more milk, etc. Going to keep this in mind when in the presence of fellow moms!

      xx

  5. As a mother of 3 and grandmother of one, my experience has been that the value of letting a baby be self-contained cannot be overlooked — those small stretches of time where they are simply observing, taking in the stimuli around them, and even learning to drift off to sleep on their own are growth opportunities for both of you. I also found them to be good for my children as siblings — understanding from an early age that as treasured as they are they are “one of”, not “THE one”, and part of the team that is family. Don’t worry — you are clearly very much in tune with your babies and you won’t miss a thing. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hang in there!

    1. Thank you, Heidi! I did need to hear this / do need to hear these reassurances. You are right that they are great growth opportunities for BOTH of us ๐Ÿ™‚

      xx

    2. Thank you for sharing this response, Heidi (and for your reflections, Jen!)! So encouraging to hear from more experienced mothers. Iโ€™m going to try to remember thinking of the baby as โ€œone ofโ€ and not โ€œthe oneโ€ when we welcome our third in a few months. I want my daughters to continue to feel special and not to feel completely overshadowed by the baby. Easier said than done of course, but a good challenge to work on.

    3. Agreed — this was such thoughtful and helpful advice, Heidi. And Shannon — WOW, congrats on #3!

      xx

  6. Another fabulous post.

    I feel like I am nodding along with virtually everything that you have written recently. From having a newborn, traveling with kids, adjusting to life with two – I relate to all of it so much (and love all of the fashion picks of course!)

    So impressed that you are able to produce such great content with two littles – well done mama!

    1. Aww – thank you so much, Katie! Glad to hear other mothers are in my same headspace ๐Ÿ™‚ xxx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *