It's much different having a baby this time around. Last time I had a baby my oldest was 4. After that first hair-raising attempt, I never even took a shower without locking all three kids in the bathroom with me if I was home by myself with them. Home alone with three little ones while DH was at work, I couldn't nap if any of them were awake. I could never let my guard down for a moment.
I worried a lot as a young mom . . . worried about all the "shoulds" and "must nots"--worried that I would spoil my baby by holding her too much and picking her up when she cried; worried that I would somehow accidentally permanently damage my children by making some minor unknowing mistake in the way we did bedtime or meals or whatever; worried that my kids would never learn to sleep at night or learn socially appropriate behavior; worried that my 5-year-old stealing a toy would, if I didn't respond exactly right, grow up to be a shoplifter. I knew that gentle discipline was the right choice for our family, but I worried about whether it would really "work" to raise kids without spanking or other punitive punishments. I also worried way too much about what other people thought.
Now, my older three kids are 13, 12, and 9. And, while they're not perfect, of course; they are utterly awesome, amazing, wonderful young people. They're not spoiled brats. They're generally polite and respectful, happy, and relatively responsible. They have age-appropriate struggles and behaviors, but they also seem to have skipped a lot of the problematic issues that many kids their age seem to struggle with. We're constantly working on relationship and communication skills, but overall I think we have a great family with generally good relationships. We like each other, and we generally interact gently and respectfully with each other. We are usually able to talk through and solve problems while helping everyone to feel heard, and that's important. Oh, and they aren't picky eaters, can even cook a meal, and sleep through the night. ;)
Our kids are living proof that you don't have to do everything perfectly right as a parent to end up with really great kids that are a joy to be around. :)
With Baby Nae, in many ways I feel like I was given a "do-over" with parenting a baby. I'm so much more relaxed this time around. I no longer worry about spoiling my baby; I can just enjoy her.
There are several other differences this time around. All four kids are healthy and doing well, and our current school, extracurricular activities and lifestyle are generally a good fit for us. I have so much more help and support, between DH and the older kids who are usually glad to volunteer their help with the baby so I can shower, take a nap or just catch my breath for a few minutes. DH and I are in a better place in our marriage, and have better communication and relationship skills than we did 10 years ago. Both of us are physically and emotionally healthier than we have been in the past. That makes a big difference. Even seemingly small things like getting my milk supply regulated and discovering more comfortable and efficient babywearing methods make a big difference.
The clinical study I participated in early in 2009 was life-changing for me, and I'm still seeing a significant improvement in my health issues and neurological symptoms since removing excitotoxins from my diet. I still struggle, but it's much more manageable when I'm careful what I eat as well as doing my best to get enough rest and keep a reasonable pace to avoid adrenaline surges. Getting the EDS diagnosis has helped me to take caring for my body more seriously, knowing that any kind of physical overexertion can have permanent negative effects, since my connective tissues won't heal properly after being overextended.
I'm sure many of the above factors have contributed to the fact that I did not have postpartum depression this time around, as I did after my first two children were born. Having a healthy baby with no postpartum depression to cope with makes the whole experience of having a baby ever so much more enjoyable.
I still struggle a lot with health issues. What this means, basically, is that I have little to no time or energy for anything beyond the necessities of daily life. It takes all my reserves just to get through the day with things like meals, diaper changes, ferrying kids to and from activities, and resting between things. I do have a couple of regular social activities that I attend on a regular basis . . . a faith-based couple's home group, and a babywearing support group. Each meets every other week or twice a month; and that's about all I can handle. With that, I'm usually able to add in one or two other outings or social interactions in a week. Some weeks I can't even handle one extra activity, and other weeks I might sometimes be able to handle three or possibly (rarely) even more.
At this point in my life, though, I'm getting a little better at accepting and working within my limitations.
And all of that together means that in general I'm really, genuinely enjoying life. I'm loving this season and enjoying it for all I'm worth.