our story and my one piece of advice for new moms

Hi friends. We just made it through a big milestone - year one with our second baby - and I wanted to share a little of our story and a few thoughts for moms. The little guy in these photos is our second baby, our second boy. He arrived last year, and immediately I knew the second baby was different. He was just easier, and looking back, it was because I was easier going, more relaxed, more confident about the whole thing, even though it wasn't particularly easy at the beginning.

Owen in the hospital - day one / Hanging with an unshaven (and probably unshowered) Dad.

Owen in the hospital - day one / Hanging with an unshaven (and probably unshowered) Dad.

When Owen was eight days old, I ran a high fever. When it reached 104 degrees around midnight, we called an ambulance. I thought perhaps I was run down, but after multiple tests in the ER, the doctor told me at 5:00 am that I'd be admitted. They didn't know what was wrong with me. Four days later, I went home, and a week later, I was back in the hospital. After two months on antibiotics, I finally regained my strength, kicked the multiple infections my body was fighting, and got on with it.

Holding Owen after my sister snuck him in to see me in the hospital / Heading home after three nights!

Holding Owen after my sister snuck him in to see me in the hospital / Heading home after three nights!

In the midst of this, we had to see multiple doctors, including a pediatric ear nose and throat specialist, because Owen had a persistent rattling sound when he breathed. It turns out he has a relatively benign condition characterized by loose soft tissue around his voice box. It was collapsing in on itself every time he took a breath. Um... that didn't sound good. But the docs reassured us that he was getting enough oxygen, so we accepted that and kept an eye on him. He should grow out of it by the time he's two. In the meantime, we live with a very noisy breather.

I tell you all this not to elicit sympathy (believe me, I know many people endure far worse stuff than this in the early months of parenting), but to set up the punchline. We dealt with things for which we were totally unprepared this year. And yet, the crazy thing to me is that when Nick and I look back on it, we think "wow, that wasn't so bad."

Watching him fall asleep - week one.

Watching him fall asleep - week one.

Why? Because once we got through our first year with our first baby, we knew there was an end in sight. We knew we'd get through it. We had confidence that we'd sleep again. We'd feel normal again. I'd feel like myself again. I didn't have that with my first. I had no idea if or when our lives would normalize. This time around, even given the health struggles and the craziness of those initial months, I knew that barring anything catastrophic, we'd get through it. We'd figure it out. We'd get the medical and emotional help we needed, lean on friends for meals and babysitting, and move forward. Everyone's different, but for me that perspective didn't come with the first baby - it came with the second.

Just snuggling - week one. This part really doesn't last long.

Just snuggling - week one. This part really doesn't last long.

So my advice to new moms is always "hang in there." Because sometimes, when you're holding a baby who's crying so hard because his skin hurts (our first) or you're so sick that you have to be hospitalized multiple times (me with our second) or nursing is incredibly difficult (our first) or your baby has a scary medical condition (our second), the advice to "sleep when the baby sleeps!" or "it goes so fast, just enjoy it!" isn't particularly helpful. Babies are such unique little creatures. They need help for everything - sleeping, eating, being. And their caregivers have to do all of that for them! It's hard work, and it's really hard to have perspective when you're in the middle of it.

All dressed up for my best friend's nursing school graduation. Starting to feel human again. 8 weeks.

All dressed up for my best friend's nursing school graduation. Starting to feel human again. 8 weeks.

So if you're a mom on your own, or you're married but your husband is deployed, or you're home on maternity leave, or you're caring for an adoptive newborn - welcome to motherhood. It is all of the things they say it is: rewarding, fun, full of love and dynamism. But those early weeks and months? They're hard and exhausting. They're filled with uncertainty and, for some of us, anxiety. Yes, there are incredibly exciting and sweet moments, tenderness and joy. But if you feel like doing the dishes instead of napping when the baby naps, then by all means do it - just don't overdo it.

Give yourself a break and hang in there. Your house will eventually look like it once did and your friends don't care if there's clean laundry in piles all over your living room (congrats on doing any laundry at all). You will be able to sleep again. You will figure out the laundry situation. And the reason moms say "just enjoy it!" is because it really does go as fast as they say it will. You just may not know it in the moment (I didn't). So try to hang in there - if it's hard now, it will change. It will get easier.

If you've been through this yourself, I'd love to know what your advice is to new moms. For my part, I'll just leave it at hang in there.

xo, Catherine