Dear Little One:
I am amazed that you are already three and with how you much you are growing and changing. You have an expanded vocabulary, are getting extra sassy, and more independent. You are so funny and creative. You are observant and repeat things back to us. You are cautiously curious and while you sometimes take awhile to warm up, once you decide you like someone, they are showered with affection that includes hugs, kisses, and dance performances. Over the last month, we all have been adjusting to the arrival of the new mister. Being a big sister is tough and figuring out how we all work together in the new normal is a work in progress.
As I think about what I want to share with you and for all of us to hold on to, a few images come to mind. When my water broke and we were leaving for the hospital, you were so excited to go to our neighbor's house. As we were leaving and I gave you a big hug I remembered telling you that we were going to the hospital to bring home the baby. You immediately clung to me and said that you wanted to come too. I almost started crying because I felt the change that was coming very deeply. I wanted the little mister so much and, yet, I felt really badly leaving you so that I could bring him into the world.
I was excited and nervous for you to meet him. I was sitting on the hospital bed. Daddy was standing near the door and the little mister was in his crib. We heard you in the hallway showing people your clips and declaring that you were going to meet your baby brother. We both started laughing. You came to the door, smiled and then ran to my arms. I felt so bad that I could not pick you up without assistance. As I held you close, it felt like a lifetime had passed. As I held you and I looked at your brother, I realized that you really are a big girl. All of a sudden, you were no longer a baby. That realization, more than any other to date, brought home to me how quickly time passes and how much you have transformed from when I first met you. When I introduced you to your brother and you gave him a gentle touch, I thought that my heart would melt with happiness.
I foolishly thought that the tenderness would be the constant theme of your relationship. Since he has arrived home, I have learned that your relationship with him is complex. I should not be surprised since almost all significant human relationships are complicated. You are sweet and loving to him, but also scream and get upset when he has too much attention. You ask to hold him, but push him away the moment he makes any noise that sounds like distress. I love seeing your sweet interactions and feel helpless when you are frustrated. You also yell, kick, and hit when I am not able to spend time with you because he needs something. I have never wished for more energy, stamina, and the ability to be in two places at once than I have since the little mister was born. I have watched you experiencing jealousy that you do not know how to express when family members and friends pay a lot of attention to the little mister. Every night since the little mister has come home, we watch you have a meltdown that includes loud yelling and screaming. I wish that I could tell you it gets better, that things will even out, and you will be on equal footing with the little mister. Many things will get better and be different. Hopefully, as he gets older, you and your brother will play together and become friends. Daddy and I will be better at figuring out how to show both of you how much will love you. In spite of all of this, there will be times (inside and outside our family) when it feels like you are loved less than someone else, when another person is getting all of the attention, and no matter what people tell you, you just feel angry. As hard as this transition is, I hope that the skills we develop together will help us function better in the larger world better.
Most of this entry has been about how many tender and tough moments transition brings. Sometimes, I feel like I have lost you in my desire to give you a sibling. Some days most of the words I say to you are disciplinary-- trying to make sure you do not hurt the little mister or reprimand you for hitting, biting or throwing things. I worry that there is a big space between us that I will never be able to cross. I am thankful for the grandparents who have been with us and have taken you out on special outings or played with you. Still, I miss seeing you and hanging out as much as before. When I hear you screaming for me, I sometimes cry and can hardly see the little mister's face as I am feeding him. I want to help you understand how much I love you and how hard we are all trying and that I understand how hard it is to welcome a new person to the family.
My favorite moments continue to remain the time just before you go to sleep. When we are both exhausted and worn out from the day's events. I am in the bed next to you and through the hallway light I can make out the details of your face. I can see both my baby girl and the woman you are slowly becoming. Then, you smile at me and we both start laughing. I feel like we are having the best time. We take turns holding each other tight and I hope that however our memories of this time are shaped that we both remember these moments of holding each other close, laughing, and marveling at the wonder in each other.
Everything I heard about the challenges of having two kids has come true with great force. We are much more exhausted. It is stressful to make sure everyone's basic needs are taken care of-- eating, sleeping, pooping, etc. Our older child is struggling to adjust and our patience is diminished. Every night since the Mister has come home, the Little One has had a meltdown that includes screaming and hitting. The good news is that we are much more relaxed with our newborn than before. Our hearts have truly expanded more than we thought possible. Even though she is having a hard time, my heart melts each time the Little One gives hugs and kisses to her brother. I also love that she tracks his location and wants to say hello to him a lot. I am excited with the hope of the two of them being good playmates and friends as they get older.
Physically, I feel like I am taking longer to recover than before and not being able to lift a lot or bend over is making establishing a new normal challenge. I am glad that family has been around to help. It has been so good to have my mom around, not only to help with caring for little people, but for doing stuff around the house. She is good at making sure Partner and I are both hydrated and nourished. My dad joined us last weekend and that has shifted the dynamic a little bit, but I think it is good preparation for the hard transition that will come when she leaves. My father-in-law is arriving on Sunday and I am nervous about having him around as there were many painful encounters before. I like to think that I am more relaxed and patient this time around, but there is still fatigue and sensitivity. In theory, having people around to help is wonderful, but if you constantly feel tense and defensive, then the reality is not very good.
Some of my favorite things about the Little Mister so far:
- When he is feeding, he makes grunting noises to let me know that he is content. I like to imagine it is his version of, "This is so yummy!" "Keeping it coming Mommy"
- Sometimes when he sleeps, he likes to tuck his hand under his chin as if he is posing.
- He has started to give us smiles which are a true treasure.
- When his eyes are open, he looks like a little old man who is taking everything in and marveling at the wonder of the world.
- When he sleeps, he often has his arm raised with his hand in a fist. I wonder if he is setting the groundwork to fight the power.
- When he gets uncomfortable either because he is hungry, needs to burp, has a dirty diaper, or is sleepy, he will start off with a smile whimper and then it will increase in volume and intensity until we are in full on meltdown mode. Immediately after the need is met, he will stop making noise and get a look on his face that seems to say, "Was that so hard?"
- One of his favorite things to observe is his sister, Partner and I love watching them stare at each other. The Little One is quite animated and the Mister, we think, is trying to figure her out.
A few hours after I wrote the last post in which I expected to have a c-section, Bud decided to change things up. I started having contractions and we decided to try to labor. The night was pretty intense and there were some tender and tough moments. By morning, I was pretty discouraged as I felt like I had worked really hard, but was not dilated very much. I was glad that the next doctor to take call was the person I had been seeing for prenatal care. We had a good discussion about options and the key phrase I remember was that I needed to commit fully to whatever path we chose because, in her experience, the patients who do the worse are those who waffle and feel bad about their choices. After hearing that, I realized that as much as I had wanted to have the experience of a vaginal birth, I was done with the process. I was exhausted and worn out. I was ready to be finished and meet our child. Partner and I talked things over; we were on the same page. The doctor came back and we shared our decision. We had one condition which was that Partner would announce whether Bud was a boy or girl to which they all agreed. I noticed that I did not feel afraid or ashamed or pressured into any decision. I felt supported, excited, and calm. The procedure went well and when I heard the baby cry, I felt relief and joy. The baby was held up for Partner and I to view. Partner smiled and said, "It's a boy!" He went to be with our son. I got reports from Partner across the room and found out that the new mister looks like his sister, was pretty affectionate as he held on to Partner's finger and refused to let go. Partner also laughed that the new mister took care of business right away by pooping and peeing as he was getting checked. His cry was not as ferocious as his sister's. When he came into my arms and we had skin to skin contact, I felt like I was holding my daughter again. The resemblance was strong, but the mister was asleep on me and did not seem to be too concerned with all of the noise and chaos around him. I was overwhelmed with love (again) and felt so lucky to be able to start the parenthood journey again.
The first day I do not remember much except that I was exhausted. In the recovery room, I kept going in and out of sleep. When Partner and the mister returned, I smiled at both of them and noticed that the baby was sleeping a lot as well. The staff told us that both the baby and I would be drowsy and more awake the next day. We tried to practice latching and skin to skin contact. I was really glad that all of the nurses seemed to be on board with supporting breast feeding.
In contrast to my previous experience, I was alone with the mister for most of my hospital stay. In those quiet hours, I felt like we got to know each other better. I wonder if my parenthood experience with him will be calmer and more peaceful, like these first days. My parents arrived into town a few hours after we were at the hospital and were taking care of the Little One. She was having a hard time without us, so Partner spent the nights at home with her. I missed the Little One a lot and was so excited to see her and introduce her to her brother. She came the day after he was born with my parents. When she came into the room, she gave me a big hug and saw the baby. We took some cute pictures. Then, she was excited to see what else was in the room. In those first moments of seeing both kids together, I realized that my baby girl is not a baby anymore and was surprised that I felt really emotional about the change.
Two things stick out that indicate I am more confident in my role as mister's mommy. On my last night at the hospital, I had sent the mister to the nursery after feeding, so that I could sleep for a few hours. Since I had a c-section, I was not able to get out of bed easily and had trouble lifting him without help. A nurse brought him back and told me in a very snotty tone that they could not keep him because he was crying too much and needed to eat. Our interaction really upset me. I fed again and waited until I was sure that mister was in a deep sleep, then sent him back. A few hours later two nurses returned and told me that he was crying and that they could give him formula to calm him. They then tried to convince me that it would not impact my breast feeding for him to have a bottle. I felt angry and upset; I said that I would keep him in the room and feed him. The night was hard as he kept eating, but we got through and both slept eventually. The next day, I spoke to the lactation consultant who came to visit and when I told her what happened, she said that was not what the staff was supposed to do and she was glad that I decided to try keeping him on the breast. Even though the encounters were upsetting, I felt like it was a good test of my confidence as a mom to a new baby.
When it was time to go home, I listened carefully to the instructions and felt excited. When we left the hospital with the Little One, both Partner and I felt scared and nervous. We both cried and worried about our ability to take care of her. Partner came to pick me up and was talking with the mister. He said that he was also happy to bring him home. When we left the hospital room and said goodbye to the staff, we held hands and smiled as we waited for the elevator. We laughed as we loaded him into the car and I felt the familiar nervousness of driving with a new baby. As pulled into the driveway, we both smiled and said to our new addition, "Welcome home. We are so happy that you are here."