One night last week, Isla woke up crying at 3 AM. This is completely out of the ordinary for us at this point. Isla has been sleeping through the night reliably for close to 3 years. Still, when I peeked in at her on the monitor, she had the saddest little expression on her face, and I decided to go check on her.
At bedtime we leave a full water bottle with her in case she gets thirsty in the night. On this particular night, she’d run out and was crying because she was thirsty. I refilled her water bottle and when I tried to settle her back in, she hugged on to me and asked me not to leave.
Most nights, I would stick to my guns, tuck her back in, and with a kiss and a hug, go back to my own bed. Instead, I looked at her sad, sweet face and thought, “This might be the last time I get to lay down next to her in the middle of the night and snuggle her to sleep.” So I promised her I’d stay and crawled under the covers next to her.
When we were waiting for Isla to be born, I remember hoping the last few weeks would fly by and that my baby would soon be in my arms. While I had some worries about how a baby might change my relationship with Kellen, I didn’t give much thought to how much a baby was going to change everything else about my life.
With a second baby, you have the advantage in some ways of knowing the magnitude of what’s coming. You have a much better sense of how much the baby is going to change your schedule and routine, your sleep patterns (RIP sleep, cue Taps), your family relationships, your very identity. You’re not as eager to rush through the last few weeks. You want to meet your new baby more than anything…but you also want to savor the stability and familiarity of your life before you have to start all over again with setting new routines and establishing new relationships.
Like most moms, I’ve worried a lot about introducing a new baby into the family. Part of it is just thinking about how hard it is going to be to reset to the newborn phase when our oldest is a big almost-4-year-old. We’ve long since said goodbye to sleepless nights, breastfeeding, diapers, and tiny people who can’t be left unsupervised for more than a minute for fear they might accidentally kill themselves. A big part of it, though, is knowing that just like my relationship with my husband changed after our daughter was born, my relationship with my daughter is going to change when our son is born.
I try to imagine what life will be like with another baby, and I really can’t. But I do know that for the first few months, while I’m recovering from birth and trying to breastfeed and establish new routines and not sleeping much, Isla will probably spend a lot of her time with people who aren’t me: Kellen, her grandparents, friends. A lot of the things I have the ability to do right now, like sacrifice half a night’s sleep to cuddling with my first baby who doesn’t really need me to stay with her in the middle of the night but who certainly loves when I do, I won’t be able to do for a long, long time after the baby is born.
For now, I’m trying to maximize the time I have with her. This probably means I’m being a little more lenient than I should, a little softer about the rules, and a little more intentional in the time I spend with her. Mostly, I’m just trying to soak up as much of her as I can.
As much as we’ve longed for another baby, as much as we went through to get where we are now, a huge part of me is going to miss being a family of 3 and will cherish the time we had, just the 3 of us. I didn’t realize how solid we were as a family, how easy our lives have become with each other, how well we all know each other and how reliable our routines until I started thinking about how the heck we’re going to accommodate one more who has no sense of time and no ability to be patient.
So I’ll snuggle my first tight, even if it means I don’t get as much sleep as I’d like. There aren’t many opportunities like this one left.