It took a solid year and a half, but it felt like I was finally hitting my groove as a mama. I could recognize my son's limitations, knew my abilities and felt generally confident about braving the world together. Most of all, we were having a lot of fun together.
Then I had another baby.
And, for all the wonderful, amazing elements that came along with that, there was an unexpected side-effect: Suddenly I was more intimidated than ever before by the thought of getting out of the house together.
Honestly, I allowed myself to retreat.
In many ways, this was good for my soul. Unlike when my first was born and I mistakenly thought I needed to prove myself by "getting back out there," hitting the slow-motion button allowed me to appreciate the little things that I whizzed past when my first child was a newborn. (For example, did you know you don't have to change the baby into a fancy outfit every morning?! If only we could all get away with 24/7 nighties like a baby.)
The problem was, the farther away from that place of "bravery" I experienced with my first child, the idea of getting back out there became increasingly daunting to me. Now, not only did I have a baby to care for, but I also had a toddler who could run off in the playground. Or the grocery store. Or the parking lot. (Lots of running off was involved in my mental worst-case scenarios.)
With only a few places where I still felt capable of taking my children, our world seemed to shrink for a few solid months.
Out went hikes and trips to the indoor gym and even the store.
I either enlisted grandparents to take my toddler out to play or I scanned Pinterest for the hundredth time to find some craft to do at home that was bound to get rejected after about two minutes.
I clung tightly to excuses about my baby's nap time or the threat of the flu when coming up with reasons in my own head about why we couldn't do something.
And while these were meaningful, foundational months, I felt like I was losing the sense of just how fun parenting can be.
So I had to do one of the scariest things of my life: Picture the worst-case scenario and then still feel brave enough to try.
As I look back on the big, memorable moments from parenthood, this first outing as a trio is among them, not because it was amazing or horrible. Rather, I'll remember it because it was our first step, together, into our new normal.
With the baby in her carrier and my toddler on foot, we visited our local nature center—and my son didn't run away. I bounced, shushed and swayed—and the baby didn't have a meltdown. My son threw rocks into the creek—and didn't fall in.
We did, however, laugh and explore and have fun. By going outside of my comfort zone, I was accepting that I couldn't control all of the factors, but it also meant I wasn't putting a limit on the possibilities—which reminded me that "unexpected" doesn't just apply to bad scenarios, but surprisingly happy ones, too.
And it's only gotten easier since then. Yes, it helps that I have more trust that my 2-year-old isn't going to run away and I know my now-7-month-old's schedule. But even more than that, it's gotten easier because I remembered what it's like to believe in myself—and how much fun we all have when I do.