Preparing a toddler for a new baby
I'm starting here because I think this is the easiest one. I did nothing to prepare Abigail when I brought Eleanor home! (I did nothing for the girls when Theodore came home either, because that strategy worked just fine the first time around.) In my experience, toddlers love babies and are more than happy to shower a new little infant with love. Sharing the normal new-baby preparations were enough to get my kids ready each time. As I set up the crib/bassinet/pack n' play, I told Abigail, then Abigail and Eleanor, "This is where the baby will sleep!" When I washed, folded, and put away the baby clothes, would hold up my favorite outfits, "Isn't this super cute?! The baby will wear this!" When I would buckle them in the car, I'd point to the empty space in the backseat, "Pretty soon there is going to be a baby here!" My best advice here is just that whenever you feel excited? Tell your toddler!
|Abigail helping me sort through things a few weeks before Eleanor was born.|
A friend of mine lets her kids pick out a gift for the baby and I think it's a super cute idea. Mine were not old/mature enough to understand a concept like that, but if your toddler is, I think it'd have benefits. Then you could remind them, "Look, the baby is wearing the jammies you got her! She loves them!"
Freezer meal recipes
I would recommend a three-prong approach when it comes to postpartum food:
The first step is to get a meal train! Ask your mom, sister-in-law, or friend to set one up for you - they are very easy and totally free. I used MealTrain.com when I set one up for my sister-in-law and would totally recommend it. Heck, I'll set one up for you! If you have a lot of family or friends who live far away, see if any nearby restaurants have e-gift cards that you can buy and send online. That's what I did with my pizza-loving sister-in-law. Her favorite place (Papa Johns) is right on her husband's way home from work and they have e-gift cards, so I included a link to them in the "comments" section of the meal train. The last part of my meal train recommendations: make sure the coordinator includes the two cardinal rules! Here is the verbiage I used: "Lastly, please remember the two rules of meal trains: #1 Make yourself scarce. This is the part where you drop off a delicious meal, tell [your name here] how radiant she looks, and hit the road. The part where you snuggle the baby and ask to hear the birth story comes later this summer. #2 Use disposable cookware. Don't hand over dinner in anything that [your name] will have to wash and return to you."
This way you get fresh, hot meals delivered right to you, and oftentimes, people throw in dessert, soda or juice, and a gift.
Second, the freezer meals. When I had Theodore, I bought a few disposable pans at the grocery store and cooked up some meals, wrote the cooking instructions on the lids, then tossed them in the freezer. I made these meals:
-Wild rice and beef casserole
-Turkey pot pie
-Shepherd's pie (I used a recipe from my cookbook, but this Martha Stewart one is very similar.)
Lasagna, mostaccioli, and taco casserole would also be delicious. Anything you would make for someone else having a baby you could make and freeze for yourself.
The third prong is the slow cooker prong. If you don't have a slow cooker, buy one. They are very inexpensive and you are about to have two kids - you will get so much use out of it! This is the exact one I have and it works great! You can buy a slow cooker cookbook or find recipes online. Then I used a tip I learned at a friend's Pampered Chef party: put all the ingredients in a gallon-sized zip lock bag, write the instructions on the side in a Sharpie, and toss it in the freezer. Then you can just dump the bag into the slow cooker and turn it on. You can Google "slow cooker freezer meals" and prep whatever sounds tasty. I think meatballs, taco soup, and chili all come out well. Slow cooker pot roast is really good too, but I've never done it freezer-style.
I plan a slow cooker meal once a week and I'm going to up it to two. Days when there is a doctor's appointment, laundry day, Sundays when you'd rather be doing family things are all good days to use the slow cooker when you have two kids.
Matt wants me to mention that he found the most difficult part of transitioning from one kid to two is the disruption in the routine. You're all established now with the morning routine and the naptime and the bedtime routine. I don't know how much space is between your kids, but Abigail turned 3 eight days after Eleanor was born. We had three long years to establish our way of doing things. Then when an adorable little newborn comes along with no schedule or predictability, it'll shake up your house. Just expecting things to be a bit crazy those first few weeks, maybe months, makes it easier to handle.
I think having a double stroller and an Ergo makes navigating life with two young kids so much easier. The double stroller lets you go to doctors' appointments or stores or out for walks. Kids move directly from car seat to stroller. The less freedom small children have in public, the less stress you'll have, especially at all those doctors' appointments in the first two months.
|July 2014 - I was two months postpartum and I felt like a skinny bad ass.|
Then there's the Ergo. Any carrier that allows you to carry a newborn (if you get an Ergo, be sure to get a newborn insert) and to carry a baby on your back will work. A friend of mine swears by her Kozy, and there are a few other options out there. I've started buying my carriers from CarryMeAway.com - be sure to check out the Promotions Page under the Sales tab, I got a rearview mirror with my ring sling that I use constantly. I wore Eleanor almost every single day from when she could hold her head up until I got pregnant with Theodore. I started wearing Theodore after Matt went back to work (about two weeks) and I wear him about 4 days a week now. When you can wear the baby on your back, your arms are free to cook dinner, do dishes, do laundry, change you toddler's diaper, keep an eye on her at the park, etc. This is especially helpful if you have a very clingy, fussy baby who DOES NOT like to nap alone, which was totally Eleanor. Plus if you're working outside of the home, wearing your baby will let you bond and get crap done during precious evening hours.
Finally, make a basket of special toys. Buy a few new toys, books, box of fruit snacks, and put them in a basket that the toddler only gets when you need a few bleepity bleeping minutes! This basket will let you shower while the baby naps and nurse the baby in peace. The basket goes back up to the highest shelf when you are back so the fun-ness of it doesn't wear off. This is really just a trick when going from one to two kids. Once you have Baby #3, Kids #1 & 2 can entertain one another while you pee.
Having a carrier is a good strategy, you can just strap one on and then focus on the other one and both kids will feel like they have you. I find that most of the time, whatever you are doing with one kid, you can do with two, especially when there's a toddler involved and distractions are the best way to resolve dilemmas. You can redirect the toddler meltdowns by reading a book to two kids, snuggling up in bed for a mid-afternoon movie with two kids, stashing everyone in their cribs/pack n plays and hiding in the bathroom with a pan of brownies from two kids.
I find that I'm usually trying to divide my attention between the kids and what I want to do. Whether it's doing the dishes or blogging or making a phone call (or playing this ridiculously addicting game on my cell phone that I just discovered) or making dinner, it's exactly the moment when Mommy needs a few minutes that everyone needs Mommy. Once the baby is about six months or so, having a schedule can reduce the stress quite a bit. Note for a few days when your kids seem to be the neediest and never try to get something done during this time frame. For me, that time has always come between the afternoon nap and dinnertime. Also note when your kids are happiest to play independently and plan to get as much done then as you can.
In fact, writing that just now made me realize that I've been slacking in the mornings and trying to make up for it in the afternoon and that's why the past two weeks have sucked twice as much as it normally does when the whole family is sick. Theodore goes down around 9am for a nap and the girls head downstairs or to Eleanor's room to play and I'm lazing on the couch playing that addicting game or surfing the web. Then after Abigail gets home from school and Eleanor wakes up, I'm like, "Crap! An hour and a half until I need to start dinner and I need to do the dishes, get the diapers in the wash, bring the trash cans back in, and figure out where in the heck Abigail put that cup of milk because I don't want to let that sit for a few days."
Congratulations!!! A very wise friend of mine is always saying, "The love in your home multiplies as your hearts expand" (*Cough* TB, I'm talking about you. *Cough*) and it is SO TRUE. Two kids doesn't double your love, it, like, quintuples it, or something. It goes up a ton. You get to see your toddler in a whole new light - a doting sibling - and you'll get to watch your baby fall in love with your toddler. Kids love babies. They love to kiss them and bring them toys and make them laugh. And babies love big kids. I very often just prop the baby up with the bigger kid(s) (Eleanor with Abigail, then Theodore with the girls) when the baby is fussy but isn't hungry or wet and I don't want to wear a carrier. The best, best, best thing you can ever do for your kids' future is to give them siblings and nurture their relationship. God willing, your kids will outlive you and money is easily lost. But a sibling? A brother or sister with an eternal soul? They can wrap their arms around each other and laugh and cry onto one another's shoulders and love each other's kids long after you are gone.
I am so proud of you for being open to having another baby and for doing your darnedest to give your little family everything you can, even before they are all in your arms.