Saturday, 23 April 2016

Easier doesn't mean easy

When I was pregnant with this Warner Brother, several of my friends told me how easy the second child was.  Less anxiety they said.  Less stress they said.  More knowledge, more tolerance, more confidence, they said.

All of that is true.

However: More or less of something does not equate to all or none of something.

Newborndom is certainly less anxious and less stressful this time around. I don't panic as easily regarding his well being.  I don't worry as much because I sorta have the hang of this.  I know when he's hungry, I can tell when his cries are gas, I have an idea how to teach him to nap, and I totally knew as soon as I saw his first real smile.   I don't have to learn as much, so I can enjoy more.

Although I feel tremendous empathy for the first-time parents in my life who have not yet caught up to my level of experience, I still want to be completely clear:

This is not easy.

I am not one of those parents who "forgot" how hard it was.  I remember the misery of newborndom. I remember walking her around the mall trying to get her to sleep.  I remember standing over her bassinet with my pinky finger in her mouth for endless minutes, maybe hours.  I remember the fear associated with her breastmilk intake - nipple shields, pricey consultants, painful boobs, and cold washcloths on her bare, sleepy back.  I remember late-night cluster feeds, kicky gas legs, and crying on the bathroom floor (me, not her).  I remember whisper-arguing with Hubby and assuming we'd be divorced by the end of the day.  (He would have called a lawyer if he didn't have a sleeping baby on his lap.  The survival of this marriage is attributed to a long nap and a rescue visit from @msfreshfish.)

After all of this, though, I also remember that IT GOT BETTER.  I remember drinking coffee while she peacefully napped, visiting with friends, playing in the sun, smiling above her on a yoga mat.

So, when we diligently weighed the benefits and risks of a second baby, I was not operating in a hormonal or sentimental illusion. I knew precisely what I was in for.  Disaster at first, and generally ongoing heartache and exhaustion in one form or another for the foreseeable future.

Until my friends confused me.  They somehow convinced me this would be effortless.  They claimed "It's so easy this time!" And sure, by comparison, it can be... easy - but only in relation to last time.  Not standing alone.

Standing alone, this experience is just a different kind of impossibly hard.  I still only get two hours of sleep at any given time, except I also have to entertain a toddler most of the day.  I still have a baby who won't allow me to set him down, but I also have a toddler asking for my help to reach the soap/put her socks on/play in her tent.  I still spray breastmilk all over the house, except I also spray it into my toddler's dinner.  I still have to whisper and tiptoe all day long while he attempts to sleep, but I also have to make a toddler whisper and tiptoe while she attempts to play live.

I still have the hard parts - albeit minus some of the anxiety - but with a whole other whack of shit to fill its place.

I still have to take off to the children's hospital when my infant seems to have a fever (with the same unnecessary panic attack). Except this time, I have to do it by myself while Hubby stays home with our other precious child who just wants me to tuck her in.

The constant competition between opposite emotions is staggering. Parenting is wonderful. It's bliss. It's joy. It's pride. It's a gift that we are ever-grateful for. It is an incredible satisfaction, a surprising sense of purpose, an indescribable love.  But it is never easy.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

You don't have to read this, either

Nearly three years ago I posted my Fraggle birth story on this blog. You didn't have to read it; it was for me. Same with this post, which is also for me - because if I don't write it down I may later doubt that it ever happened.


Monday morning. 5:00 am. Contractions start. But they've started and stopped several times in recent weeks, so I figure who am I kidding? This baby is never coming out. 

Ok 5:30 and they hurt. But they aren't exactly regular. I wait and see. 

Alright. 6:00. I wake Hubby. I'm in labour. Yes for real, maybe don't just ignore me and go back to sleep this time. 

We decide to take Fraggle to daycare early. I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth. He wakes the sleepy (but surprisingly happy) toddler. 

Oh. Ouch. That's a lot of contractions isn't it. Or is it just one big, long one? It's impossible to tell. That can't be a good sign. I take a tooth-brushing break, leaning over the counter like women on tv often do. 

6:30. I ask Hubby to please page the midwife. Yes, now. 

Hi, midwife? This fucking hurts. No, contractions don't really stop, there isn't a break. Yep it's starting again. Ok, I'll see you at the hospital. 

Hubby feeds Fraggle. I walk downstairs. One. Step. At. A. Time. 

We have to go. Yes, now. 

Oh look. I got my boots on. Who needs socks. 

Fraggle screams because she doesn't get to finish her breakfast. The beginning of several disappointments resulting from this baby, honey. I'm so sorry. 

I walk to the car by myself. Win. 

Wow the car is cold. Hubby starts it. I try to wash the frost off the windsheild but there's no washer fluid. Better than no gas, like last time

I look at the clock. 7:17. Contraction. Yelling isn't an option so I breathe. I chant. "It's ok... It's ok..."  I wait. 

7:18. Contraction. Uh oh. "It's ok... It's ok..."

7:19. Shit. "IT'S OK..."

Hubby gets the kiddo in her snowsuit and into the car. Longest three minutes of all time. 

Hubby suggests maybe we drop Fraggle at daycare and then go to the hospital. Not gonna happen my dear. Drop me off first. Thanks for not asking if I'm sure. 

Hubby drives in the wrong direction. No, the hospital is *that* way. I wish yelling was an option. 

Fraggle's very quiet but asking where we're going. I'm answering through my breath. Hubby can't even hear her, he's too busy scraping the frost off the windshield with his credit card at the stoplight. I praise his ingenuity. He doesn't hear me. 

Oh good the hospital. Fraggle asks where we are. "At the midwife's office" seems like a good answer. I walk out of the car, wishing in retrospect that I'd had the capacity to remember to say goodbye to her - a fuck up for which I may never forgive myself. 

Hubby starts to walk in with me, but he can't leave her alone in the car. It's fine. I walk in on my own like a soldier in a trance. 

7:24. I pace into the main doors and request/demand a wheelchair and a ride to the birthing unit from the poor old hospital volunteer man wearing a blue vest. He wheels me upstairs, nice and slow. He asks if I think the baby is coming this morning. I tell him the baby is coming right *breath* now *breath*.  When can I yell?

He wheels me to the birthing unit triage. They know who I am thanks to my midwife who called ahead. It's a good thing because I couldn't tell them my name anyway. I thank the nice volunteer man (A simple "merci" is all I can manage in French at the moment), and I wait for a nurse to help me. No midwife in sight. 

I tell the nurse I'm scared and all alone and yes the baby is coming. I climb on the table and yell for her help. Yelling is finally an option. I vaguely remember arriving here last time and never getting checked by a nurse because six other poor women kept coming in ahead of me, yelling. As I've always said, yelling gets shit done. 

She returns and tells me I'm nine and half centimetres. I get wheeled to a room, leaving my coat and wallet and phone in triage. I don't know where my boots are. I might still be wearing them. 

I tell them that Hubby's coming. He's kinda tall, thin and blonde. His name is Hubby. 

Several nurses help me climb on a bed. I'm loud now, this fucking hurts and it's the worst and YOU HAVE TO HELP ME. Yes I want gas. One nurse asks another nurse where I came from. She answers that she doesn't really know, I've been here for four minutes. 

I tell every nurse to stop telling me I'm doing a great job and distract me with questions. Some of them ask questions and I nod or shake my head. Is this a boy? *Nods* Do I have another child? *Nods* Is Hubby tall? *Nods/shakes head* (Translation: Yes, compared to me but no, not really.) They eventually run out of questions and revert to telling me I'm doing a great job. I hate them. 

Midwife! Thank god. I very slowly and deliberately move my eyes to her eyes. She seems to want me to calm down. I don't, and I kinda start to hate her too. 

She asks a nurse to help her. She rushes around (much like the poor nurse last time but far more competently). She says we'll just need to break my waters but we'll wait for Hubby.  I - with gas mask locked firmly on my face - shake my head NO with fierce insistence that cannot be mistaken. 

Do I want more gas? Hmm. Is it helping? *Shakes head, shrugs shoulders, can't move muscles in face, shakes head again*

Ok. Not waiting for Hubby. Waters broken. I can start pushing if I want. Oh, ok. 

And then I scream bloody murder as I feel a human person's small-but-not-small-enough head move through my body and I can't seem to stop screaming even with three or five nurses trying to calm me the fuck down. THIS IS WHY I WANTED AN EPIDURAL YOU SHOULD NEVER DOUBT MY JUDGEMENT. 

I look up to the right and there is Hubby's glorious face through my scream. Relief like I've never felt. 

The baby falls out. 

Even more relief. 

One push, and a very long scream, and holy fuck what the fuck. 

It's 7:49. 

I whimper for a while. Do I want skin-to-skin? *Nods vehemently.

Hey look a baby. 

Now, god knows how long I endure body repairs by a midwife with very little patience for my complaining and even less interest in updating me on her progress - but a Hubby with remarkable patience (guilt? pity?) for my complaining and incredible tolerance for me squeezing his hand too hard. 

And yet there's a precious (although unnamed) 7lb 3oz baby boy on my chest which seems to make it all ok. 

A couple hours and some rushing by the midwives and we're home by 11:45 texting pictures to everyone we know. 

What is this life? 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Dear Fraggle, My favourite little girl

Dear Baby Fraggle,

Except you're not a baby anymore.

When I was pregnant with the Warner Brother, another mom told me that when she left for the hospital in labour with her second child she had a little toddler at home.  But when she returned home with a new infant she had a giant child waiting for her.  In those few hours her baby had become a life-sized person.

This is what you are, my darling.  A person, the size of life.

You have big finger-paint handprints and a big grownup head that you squeeze through a 3T shirt hole all by yourself. You tell jokes. "I am going to... put DoDo Cat in the toilet! Nooo!"  You play. "Ine just tryin to be funny!" You run away from a Mama Monster. You hide and seek (mostly hide and then reveal yourself shortly thereafter.)

You elaborate. "When, when, when it's Friday? When it's Friday, I stay home and watch *whispers* Peppa Pig and I can have branna cake and when it gets womma out we can, we can play with my water table. You remember my water table Mama? And we can put bubbles wit soap in dare."

You sing full songs with perfect pitch.  "Down by the bay.  Where the watermelons grow.  Back to my home. I dare not go. For if I do. My Fraggle would say.  Have you ever seen a ducky, driving a fucky? Down by the bay!"

You help.  With everything.  "Can I HELP?" Laundry, dishes, dinner, washing the cupboards, washing the table, and now bathing and changing the Baby Brother.  You totally understand his existence. You know that he was in my belly, but now he came out ("You push him out yike dis uhhhh and now you can bend over and put my boots on.") You know Baby Brother is crying because he can't talk.  And he sleeps a lot.  And baby brothers will poop, and baby brothers will cry, "and you better watch out or he pee in your eye!" And he loves you; you know he loves you.  

And my darling, when I was in labour - major active labour - waiting in the car to drive you to daycare, you were so patient and calm.  You were quiet, but not too scared.  You just wanted to finish your breakfast, but there wasn't time.  You knew what was happening.  You are so smart my dear, so clever, so understanding.

You are such a lovely person.  I am so proud of who you are.  I sincerely adore spending time with you.  You are a joy.  You are my joy.

I miss you so much right now, two weeks into newborndom.  I am pulled toward two little beings for whom I have unimaginable, aching, heartbreaking, all-powerful, knee-weakening love.  Two beings that I want to be with, want to be for, every single moment of every single day.  But life doesn't work that way, does it? As I'm always telling you, sometimes we can't have what we want.  And that fact makes me want to scream like you do when things don't go the right way.

I wanted you both so much. I wanted this big, full family that I didn't have when I was small.  Now I have you, but I can't quite have enough. I sit here with tears down my face because I am in so much love and there just isn't enough of me.

Wait for me, my lovely.  I will come back.  I will always, always, do everything I can to be there for you, even when it isn't enough.  Ultimately, we will all be here, all four of us, together in this life.  I love you my baby.  My favourite little girl.

Dear Warner Brother

Dear Warner Brother,

Welcome to our family, my darling boy.  I am so happy you are finally here.  After just over 40 weeks of pregnancy, just over an hour of labour, and just under two years beforehand wondering if we'd ever be ready, you have completed our family - a family that was previously miraculous, but not quite done. 

Now we're done.

You've joined our family with unexpected seamlessness and fulfilled a gap that we knew was there but didn't know if we had the strength to fill.

Before you arrived, I couldn't quite imagine what you would be like.  To begin with, we could not for the life of us find a name that suited you.  We had 35 names that may have been acceptable but none that were exactly right.

Although this time I was able to picture what having a child would be like, I wasn't exactly able to picture you.  In my mind you were maybe a girl (even after we knew you weren't) and you didn't have a face, let alone a personality.  You were a mirage, sitting on the floor in my mind's eye, playing with blocks - but you weren't yet a real person.  I think I knew you would be completely different from Fraggle, but I didn't know in which ways.  Honestly, my darling, you felt a little like a stranger coming to live with us.

Until the day you were born.

On the day you were born, I truly loved you.  I began to feel that well of emotion that is "supposed" to come with a new baby (which I don't think the panic of newborndom permitted the first time).  You had a face, you had a voice, you had a tiny little hand that waved at me.  You were ours, and I was so... grateful to have you.

Within one day, we got to know you.  You had a name and a definitive personality. You became real.

Like your dad, you furrow your brow.  And like your mama, you cry when something isn't right - but I can usually tell what the un-right thing is.  You don't scream, not anymore (although you do have a strong dislike for cold diaper wipes).  You can always be calmed when we hum near the top of your head. You don't crunch up your hands or grasp our fingers with that normal newborn grip, you prefer to stretch and wave. You already love your big sister - you never cringe at her toddler screams and you always let her hug and kiss you. You have a very strong head and neck that leads us to believe you'll actually like tummy time and that you'll crawl before you walk. You don't like to be bounced, you'd rather lay still, dangling weightless in our arms. You want to be nestled, you want to be hugged. If you could choose, you'd breastfeed all the time.  You would stay cuddled there for hours if I let you, and you're growing like a prized pumpkin because of it. You make contented wimper sounds when you're feeding that make me believe I can keep you warm and safe in my arms forever.

I can't wait to nestle you for the rest of my life; to protect you from anything that makes you unhappy; to support you, wrap you up, calm you, and keep you tucked in my arms for as long as you'll let me.  I love you my baby boy. Welcome home.