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.
+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.
+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.