I thought I was a rock star parent, and then I had another kid
When my first child was born five years ago, I had few expectations other than to take her home, love her, and figure out how to take care of her. I figured parenthood was the ultimate on-the-job training. I had no idea how true that would be.
I had planned on trying to nurse her, but if it didn’t work out, I told myself that I would be fine with that, as long as I tried my best. She latched right on in the hospital, and despite some initial soreness, it was smooth sailing. Once we got past the first few weeks, we settled into a routine. She slept through the night at six weeks. She nursed pretty exclusively until she was about a year old. My husband and I thought we had this whole parenting thing totally in the bag.
Nearly three years later, our son was born. I was not concerned with how I would take care of a newborn; after all, I had it all figured out from the first child. I planned on nursing him for a year, just like my daughter.
Of course, my son did not read the same baby books as my daughter did. The first week, I nursed him, despite cracked and bleeding nipples. He would nurse for hours at a time, only to continue to act starved. We returned to the pediatrician, and for the second week in a row, he was losing weight. I felt like a failure; after all, things had gone smoothly the first time, so surely I had done something wrong? Through my exhaustion and tears, I explained this to the pediatrician. She handed me a tissue and a bottle of formula and sent me to the lactation consultant. A kind woman spent an hour forcing my nipple into my son’s mouth, over and over, tears running down my cheeks the entire session. Although I was making enough milk, he was not efficient at extracting the milk from my body. At the end, she suggested giving him a bottle of pumped milk.
Once he had the bottle, I could see him relax. I could see that feeding him through the bottle was the right choice for both of us. I had no idea how important to me the nursing relationship I had with my daughter had been until I could not nurse my son.
Many of my friends with more than one child had told me that adding a second child to the family was so much easier than adding a first child. For me, it was the complete opposite. I had no idea that I had expectations about how my second child would act, based on my first, until he was born.
As children do, my son taught me a lesson from early on. As the saying goes, "We plan and G-d laughs." My children are two very different individuals and to take on their differences as my own personal failures is not fair to myself or to them. What is best for one child is not necessarily best for the other. My son is now an active, healthy two-year-old, and I am a stronger parent, understanding that I don’t have to know all the answers-- sometimes my children will lead me to them.