We took our first road trip as a family of four to arrive in MD for a massive Thanksgiving celebration. At various moments, the travel felt like it was going to last forever. There were accidents, traffic delays, meltdown, and tantrums. I had a lot of opportunities to rise to the occasion and be the parent I admire. Unfortunately, I also fell short a lot. I feel stuck in this place of knowing better, but not being able to do better. I often wonder what it would be like to parent with many nights of full sleep instead of scraping together rest during kid naps.
While Thanksgiving is often a good reminder of the many wonderful things in my life, this year Thanksgiving made me think of transitions. During our blessing before the meal, my mom started crying when she talked about people who had died over the past year. I was initially so confused because I could not remember who had died this year and then I realized that October and November are the death anniversaries of my grandparents. When the little mister arrived, I felt a huge pang that he would not meet my grandparents; I was thinking a lot about my grandfather because I was hoping to name little mister after him. We chose a different name, but the sounds are similar. My cousin's wife also lost her father this year; her brother and his family came into town. Their son is autistic and kept hugging my mom because she reminded him of his grandmother who died a few years ago. I felt a big ache when I realized that there was going to be a Thanksgiving when I would cry because I miss my parents terribly.
Even with all the morbid thoughts, I laughed and smiled so much. We welcomed the Little Mister to the family. Partner presented him in Lion King fashion. The Little One got applause and props for being a good big sister. Because the Little Mister is breast feeding, I even got a time out from the crowd which was a good chance to connect with him and recharge. During our drive down, we listed to a CD that Partner made me for our wedding anniversary. Since both kids were asleep, it was fun to reflect on our wedding and travels. The soundtrack is the same in many ways, but the reality is so different.
Dear Little Mister:
We started doing baby yoga together about two weeks ago and it is some of my favorite time with you. I have learned some exercises and activities to do with you that are calming, fun, and help me fill time when I am not sure exactly how to "entertain" you. In a group setting, parts of your personality are starting to emerge. You love to look around and see what is going on. You are generous with smiles and grunts of approval. You seem open to trying new things which have mostly been new yoga poses :)
You are starting to have longer sleep stretches at night. HOORAY! HOORAY! HOORAY! Daddy finally convinced me to try the noise machine and I am amazed at how much the "wind noise" improves your sleep. One unexpected downside to the long sleep stretches is that I feel incredibly sore in the morning and our first feed of the day is pretty messy. The pump has returned to my life as I try to manage the milk supply while making sure we all get enough sleep. It is another chance for us to practice establishing a new normal that works for both of us.
I must confess that I am struggling a lot with parenthood. As I mentioned before, I love being your mom and I love being your sister's mom. The challenge is being a good mom to both of you at the same time. One day last week, you both started crying after bath. You were hungry and wanted to be fed. Your sister wanted me to hold her and put her to bed. I tried everything I knew to reason with your sister and even laughed a little bit, then I saw both of your faces and I started crying really hard. I felt like a failure. You both stopped and just watched me. I was broken. After a few minutes, we worked out a decent solution which was that I would feed you in our bed and your sister would sit next to us. She decided she wanted to sleep in our bed and she feel asleep while I was feeding you. As soon as you started eating, your whole body relaxed and you went into a meditative state.
The transformation from the distressed crying to peaceful bliss in a matter of minutes captures the parenting experience. In a span of ten minutes, I feel so happy and then like complete shit because everything is falling apart. I want so badly to do right by you, for us to have a bond and connection that runs deep. I am glad you feel safe around me and want to be near me when you are upset. I also want those things with your sister. I want you to have those connections with your dad and with your sister. The question I struggle with the most is how to create strong bonds with each individual in my nuclear family without making the others feel left out or upset.
In the midst of all the anxiety, there are some good anchoring moments. Almost every morning you wake up happy. You look around to make sure we are all accounted for: Daddy, Didi (elder sister), and me. You and your sister spend time together in the crib. She gives you toys, tells you stories, shares blankets, and sings songs. Daddy and I watch you both together. In the midst of all the chaos, these quiet moments of togetherness are the best part of my day. Thank you for anchoring us in joy.
Dear Little Mister:
I cannot quite believe that you are almost seven weeks old. The days (and especially the nights) seem to go so slowly and yet the weeks are zooming past. So far, we have two important things in common: we both love sleep and eating. You (knock on wood) enjoy sleeping and are starting to get the hang of sleeping for long stretches of time. Your enthusiasm for eating is wonderful. As you are taking milk, you often grunt in appreciation or pat me with your hand. The experience of breastfeeding is new to me and while I sometimes wish for a break, I really enjoy the chance to snuggle with you and watch you go from being upset to blissed out.
Ever since you came home from the hospital, we have been lucky to have grandparents around. I am glad that all three of your grandparents had a chance to be charmed by you. Since you arrived, I am also aware that we are quite a loud family. The first few days you were home, you would get startled with loud voices, laughter, and screaming. Then, we noticed that you started to sleep through things, including your sister's very loud melt downs. We are in the middle of our first full week alone as a family of four. During the day, it is the two of us and you are starting to have trouble sleeping. I wonder if you miss the bustle of family; I do miss having folks around, but I am also excited for a little space in which to establish our own routines and rituals.
You have started smiling and making a noise that could sound like laughter. We all love trying to make you smile and the people who have the most success are your dad and sister. When your sister is in the room, you are often completely mesmerized by her. I love seeing you smile at each other and when she gives you a hug and a kiss, I often want to cry with joy. You are already so strong. You have been lifting your neck a bit and moving a bit like a turtle. When you are unhappy, you have figured out how to launch yourself a bit by doing a quasi-kicking motion. You are so affectionate. I think your favorite sleeping position is when you are nestled into someone's arm or snug in a lap.
In so many ways, the chance to be your mom is a dream come true. I feel less scared and nervous than I did before. I know a bit more about what to expect and that all of these phases feel like they last forever, but go by so quickly. I am glad that I have another chance to savor these moments instead of feeling so afraid of messing up or worried about not being qualified. On the other hand, I am so exhausted and needing to split my time and energy between you and your sister that I already know that there are things I did with her which I will not do with you. When you both look back at documentation of your childhood, there is more stuff from your sister's first year than yours. Please know that this is not a reflection of the amount of love I have for you. The specifics may not be detailed or documented, but know that I am so glad you are part of our family and I look forward to more adventures with you.