Month One: Settling In

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      Bright eyes, squeaky noises, and so many expressions.

E is out with Grandma and M is asleep in her swing. It’s hard to put her down but there’s more to get done these days than there was with her sister. I’m slowly accepting that second children spend a little more time on their own.

The attachment parenting voice in my head says I should hold her against me while I write, but the realist tells me to save the babywearing for when I need it, for when the dishes are piling up or I have to chase her sister. Besides, she’s peacefully asleep over there.

Everything has felt easier this time around, except for the division of attention. M receives a little less than her sister did, and E has to learn to share. A friend  reminded me E got to be the only child for almost three years. M will always have to share me. Somehow this makes me feel better when one of the girls has to wait.

There’s definitely more waiting happening around here. Thankfully E’s always happy to see her sister, even if she isn’t always happy to see me. I don’t mind, I’d rather receive the blame for the changes. Still, I’ve shed a few tears, alone in my room, remembering how we slept snuggled against each other until just a few days before her sister arrived. It doesn’t help that she still calls for me in the dark, sometimes screaming, others crying. She wants me to sleep next to her, but I can’t.

Instead, I spend my nights doing the newborn shuffle. Nursing and diapers and little blocks of sleep. M is still working on the difference between night and day. Sometimes she doesn’t settle in for a good stretch of sleep until the wee hours of the morning. The sleep deprivation is finally catching me, the cumulative affect of just four broken hours of sleep a night. Forget napping when the baby naps. I have a big girl running around this house.

That’s the thing, though. To someone who has never had children, it all sounds so challenging. I know because I used to be that person and hear these stories and think, “Oh, God, how will I ever survive that?” But you do, and with a smile on your face, most of the time.

I’m falling more in love with M each day. It wasn’t the same ripped open, crazy, knock you over feeling I had with E, but I’m certain that’s because this time I’d already transformed into a mom. With M, it’s a deep, familiar love, like it’s been there all along and each day I get the joy of rediscovering it a little more. I’d worried I couldn’t possibly love someone as much as E, but now I know you can’t compare the love for your children. It’s different, but no more or less than the other.

One month in, I still can’t believe I’m going on this adventure again. I’m doing my best to fill them both with enough love and attention. I know it’s enough, it’s just an adjustment.

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My heart is full, my eyes are tired, and it’s all worth it.

Birth & Making Time Stand Still

Second pregnancies are different. Time no longer stands still. Best intentions of maternity pictures and quiet meditation take a backseat to jobs, and housework, and taking care of big sissy.

I knew she’d come at 38 weeks, but still it caught me by surprise. I never got to all those things on my list. All that contemplation and connection. Instead, it was Friday night and we went to dinner at a friend’s house and I announced to everyone I was done. Wishful thinking, I thought.

But, sure enough, that night the cramps turned into contractions and I slept as well as I could between each one, hopeful when they were 6 minutes apart but remembering the nights of prodromal labor with her sister. And, just the same, daylight came and they tapered out. Another night, the same. Exhausted but excited. Another day spread out and then a third night, more intense. I could no longer sleep between. I howled into the night, “Bring me my baby,” a voice primal and haunting escaping from my lips.

Alex got up at 3AM to check on me. He must have sensed it was time or heard my wails. We called Grandma and when she arrived the contractions were 3 to 5 minutes apart, strong enough to make me believe maybe we wouldn’t have to wait another night. I cried in the triage room when they admitted me. This was real. Somehow it had all flown by and I was having a baby. A BABY. How was it not real, already?

Bright lights and 30 minutes of fetal monitoring left me twisting back in forth in the hospital bed. “Your baby will be here soon, Mama,” the nurse assured me, her Spanish accent so maternal I wanted to melt into her arms. I needed to get up and move around. I was ready.

As the light began to creep into the sky, I felt my contractions spreading back out. I was too late. I couldn’t do another day and night. I needed my old friend, Pitocin, but now the memory of induced contractions flooded back and I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do it again. I had told myself if this birth was like Eloise’s I would do it differently. Not because I regretted the way I’d done it before, but because I’d already done it.

I asked for an epidural knowing Pitocin was next.

When the doctor came in, he thought I was the surrogate for my dad and my husband, who were with me in the room. We laughed. Exactly the moment comedic relief was needed.

I was more afraid of an epidural than the pain, but I was also so very, very tired. I held my breath and trusted it was an experience I needed. I let myself be less than perfect because perfect in my mind was facing the pain head on. After all, I’d done it the other way before. I should be able to do it again, but maybe that’s exactly why I didn’t. I needed to make time stand still, the super power I’d always wanted as a child. A tiny break before the marathon of newborn parenting.

I may have cried a little as the epidural was administered, but soon my legs were fuzzy and I was able to relax. We’re too hard on ourselves as women, I’ve decided. The midwife who delivered Eloise came on duty and we chatted about my choice. She was so supportive, her curiosity about my experience comforting, as she wanted to hear the difference between an epidural birth and a natural one, having opted to go natural for her one and only childbirth. Knowing she would deliver Miriam was everything I needed. It was the natural balance to my choice.

For the next 7 hours, I rested and visited with family. It was somehow anti-climatic to lie and wait for the baby to arrive, unlike the hours of hard work I put in with Eloise. Still, there was comfort in the ability to let go and just let it happen. I imagined my body opening. I went crazy unable to move my legs. Finally, the epidural started to wear off just as I hit the wall of transition. I wailed and moaned and sent the anesthesiologist running down the hall with needles to fix things. Numb again, I stopped trying to harass my legs back to life and finally accepted my passive state.

When it was time to push, she was out in just three contractions. So much peace in her exit. The midwife had me hold my own legs and the muscle memory of pushing came back easily. No tearing, no pain. Just a baby. As her head emerged, they had me sit up to look. I pulled her onto my own chest. My little act of agency in such a passive state. A gift from my kind midwife, knowing I needed a little more.

A warm, wet baby on my chest. Wiggling and real. My baby. Born on a rainy afternoon in February without screams or profanity, just ease and grace. Tears again. Loving disbelief on my husband’s face. Eloise was the first besides us to meet her. I had thought we’d wait until we went upstairs to recover, but my husband marched her in and I pulled her into bed with me. Another moment I didn’t know I needed. Our little family of four finally complete.

Two girls, my girls. Miriam Grace, the missing piece of our puzzle, teaching me on day one to be present instead of “perfect,” to make time stand still, again, to let her enter the world in peace.

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One of my two favorite pictures in existence. The other, our first picture of Eloise.

37 weeks, again.

It’s 4AM. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to bed so early. The words are back and it’s time to write. I owe baby M at least one reflection on my pregnancy.

I tried in the beginning to write, but it was too hard. I felt so sick. Then there were all the uncertainties and school started again and time flew.

Now, 37 weeks, 3 days. The exact point where labor began with her big sister.

It’s not time yet, but things are getting real.

At this point with E, it was all about the future. I dreamed about our adventures to come. I was ready.

With M, it’s about the present. I haven’t had the luxury of so much time. I haven’t laid awake talking to her in the middle of the night. Instead, I’ve worked and taken care of her sister and tried to take care of myself. I’ve folded all her clothes and gotten all the gear ready. I’ve done my best to prepare E for what’s to come. But, still, I haven’t figured out how to slow down and be fully present.

There have been moments. Like when we got to see her face by surprise during a growth scan. Her lips and expressions somehow mirroring her big sister’s. I cried and she was real. Of course, I feel her all the time. Her little knees and feet and elbows skimming across the right side of my belly, her body head down but turned toward my right. The day we found out she was a girl was surreal. Sisters. Of course, I’d thought she was a boy because of how sick I’d felt all summer, different than with her big sister.

Everything has been different. At our first doctor’s appointment we learned her due date was way off and held our breath for two weeks until we could return again to find a heartbeat. Then we discovered a possible challenge with her placenta. So far everything has been alright, which has taught me to take a google search of any diagnosis with a grain of salt. Mix in an extra crazy world and wow, this baby is brave.

Since the beginning, I’ve told her it’s by the grace of God she joins us. We hadn’t planned so soon, but still she’s a wished-for child. Two sentiments reflected perfectly in her name, or at least in the name we hold for her until our eyes meet and we know for sure.

Miriam Grace.

Two.

12842543_10104252860195903_1581912007_oLittle feet hit hard against my knees.

When did she get so long?

She screams as I press her tight against me. Memories of colic flooding back. Now she’s bigger and I know it will stop within minutes instead of hours. Still, night terrors bring all the same feelings back. Please. Make. It. Stop. Please.

Two years, today.

I’ve revisited each moment of anticipation for the past week. Going into the hospital to get checked. Sleeping every afternoon to build strength for the nightly contractions. Returning to the hospital again. An entire family anxious in the waiting room. And, finally, at 8:27 this morning, the moment when she was handed to me and everything changed.

Two years.

Everything is Thomas the Train now, even the little boy undies she’d prefer to wear outside. Obligatory morning hugs for her “grumpy” dogs. “I missed you” breaking and healing my heart simultaneously. Embraces worthy of a luchador, making me a little sorry for those maybe not-so-grumpy dogs. Wash everything, hands and blankies, but never teeth. “Mine” for all things she wants and “yours” for all things she doesn’t. The sweetest sleeping face I’ve ever seen, legs that seem to reach for the far end of the bed, or more often her dad’s face.

My growing girl. My little love. Sometimes I still can’t believe you’re real.

 

Two.

Letting Go for the Sake of Balance

I realized I was so focused on trying to find a way to work from home that I wasn't actually focusing on what matters most when I'm at home.
I realized I was so focused on trying to find a way to work from home that I wasn’t actually focusing on what matters most when I’m at home. My family.

Something happened last summer. I was suddenly in turbo drive. After nearly a year and a half of being in total mommy mode, all my other curiosities flooded back. I wanted to do EVERYTHING. Teach, write, start a business, work for my husband, take care of my family…

I felt like supermom. I could do it all. And, I did, for about six months and then it became too much. I found myself less present with my family. I wasn’t exercising as much as I needed. I couldn’t keep up around the house. I forgot what it felt like to sit on the couch. Still, I couldn’t decide what to let go. I liked it ALL so how could I make a choice?

Thankfully, I had this nagging feeling time would tell. Oh, patience, a lesson I must need again and again. And, just like that, a new (part-time!) teaching opportunity I’ve been lusting after presented itself. Suddenly everything else made sense. Teaching, writing, family were non-negotiable.

It all feels a little obvious as I write this now. After all, I taught and wrote before my daughter was born, but I had been so focused on keeping myself at home as much as possible that I’d lost track of why I wanted to be home in the first place, to be with my family. By letting go and being out of the house a bit more, I’m actually able to be more present in all aspects of my life.

Even so, I had fun experimenting with my previously dormant entrepreneurial spirit. I learned a lot. Especially about margins and what my time is worth. I let myself be a hummingbird and I have renewed faith it will prove useful somewhere down the road.

For now, Wandertots is mostly on hold. At first I thought it would require a lot of humility to share this but instead it feels empowering. We should have the right to experiment and put ourselves out there without worrying about how it makes us look. I have no trouble taking ownership over the fact that I have a lot of interests and love learning through experimentation.

I’m still fulfilling orders and have oddly become the queen of selling kid’s headphones, so if you want any busy items, get in touch. I’ll give you a good discount for being a loyal reader. That’s the irony. Wandertots received a ton of interest and still receives regular orders, it’s just not the best home-based model, or at least not the way I’m doing it.

Whew.

Sharing all that feels like the load is getting lighter and I can focus again. If you’ve been in my shoes of doing more than you can handle, I wish you the patience and awareness to let what matters most float to the top. It’s not easy letting anything go, but the last few weeks have felt so much better for me. I’m even writing again, something that had fallen to the bottom because it seemed the least profitable. But I guess that’s just it. You never know, you just have to keep working at what calls you, even when sometimes you’re called multiple places at once.