Today Holden is five weeks old. His first three weeks, he was a little angel. He slept well, ate on a schedule, and rarely cried. Even when he did cry, it was just a soft whimper. Damn, I thought he was the perfect baby.
But these past two weeks, they have been a different story altogether. He has become increasingly fussy, almost to the point of aggression. His cries have crescendoed into a shrill shriek. It all cumulated this weekend; every time he was awake, he was screaming. Steve and I were both on the verge of losing our shit altogether. We tried to fix it: we got new bottle nipples, switched his formula, gave him gas drops. Every remedy caused only a temporary relief. Very temporary.
I googled "colicky baby" yesterday and was convinced that we had a dud mean case of colic on our hands. After all, it doesn't usually start until 3-6 weeks of age. Holden has many of the signs - he still keeps his knees drawn to his stomach, he screams, he screams, he screams. Need I say more? So I was mentally preparing myself (if there is such a thing) for the next two months of pure torture. Because honestly, I don't think there is a worse sound to a mother than the crying of her baby. Two more months of this? My preparation might as well have been a straight jacket.
But then Steve said he remembered his old boss telling him that they thought their child had colic, but it turned out they just weren't feeding him enough. Holden has been drinking 4 ounces at a time every three hours for some weeks now. I haven't increased his amount yet, because he's drinking two and a half times his weight as they say kids are supposed to. But parenting can't be boiled down to following rules. It's really not that exact of a science. So last night we fed him his four ounce bottle. When he kept crying afterwards, we fed him a two ounce bottle. And then another two ounce bottle. And a miracle happened: he stopped crying. Not only that - he also slept for six straight hours. I kept waking up to make sure he was still breathing. It was my best night of sleep yet. And today - he isn't acting colicky at all. I'm hoping this is the return of my little angel.
Now that I don't work outside the home, I fear becoming just a mom. I am many things besides a mother: a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I'm a walker, a sometimes runner, a jigsaw puzzle enthusiast, a homeowner, a reader, a writer, and many other things.
But being a mother seems to overshadow everything else. If I can get all three of us bathed in a day, I feel like I've accomplished some sort of feat. I've hardly had time to focus on any of the other aspects that make me who I am. I am a mother, sure, but I was a person before being a mother with goals other than getting three people bathed.
I don't want to neglect that person. And being just a mom is enough to make anyone go apeshit. Trust me, I was feeling that way yesterday when one of them was shrieking and the other one was wailing. So today, I took Holden on a walk to the park. This was my first three-mile walk in months. A couple days ago I finished my first book since Holden was born. I am slowly returning to myself.
And it feels good to be someone else; me still, but not the unbathed, disheveled, stressed out version.
I remember when Brandon was a newborn and I was home with him for his first twelve weeks. I remember holding him and taking pictures of him and making sure he did his tummy time and played on his piano gym. I remember writing about his milestones and logging everything in his baby book. He was my world. He consumed me.
So with Holden, I can't help but feel a little guilty that I can't lavish him with the same attention I did Brandon. I hold him when I can, but many times I have to put him down to clean up or to play with Brandon. Holden is much calmer and more independent than Brandon was, but maybe that's only because he has no choice. Even if he was high-maintenance, I would still be only one person with two boys to care for, so he still wouldn't get as much attention as he wanted.
I also feel bad for Brandon - at times I feel like I'm neglecting him when I'm feeding Holden and Brandon
is playing unsupervised. Up until three weeks ago, he had all my
attention all the time. Now, he has to share. I want to give all of myself to everyone I love. I am realizing now that
that isn't possible. That there is only one of me and I can't be
everywhere at once. It's tough on me. I can't help but think I was a better parent to one child than I am being to two children.
It is an odd dynamic, if you think about it - having multiple kids. We all only have one spouse, and that's all we want or could handle. But with kids, you can have many. And we would never say we share our love, rather that we have a different love for each child, but you certainly share your time and attention. They don't each get all of you, they each get some of you. The people I love, I love furiously with all I have. And I want my sons to always know that, even though they share me.
There are plenty of moments here that are frenzied. Like when both the kids are crying - tired and hungry and I'm the only one around. I can only be one place at a time and it isn't enough to take care of everything. It's enough to make a person go insane, I swear.
But then there are plenty of good moments, too. When Steve gets home from work and I sit on our patio couch with Holden while Steve and Brandon play on the playground or in the sandbox. We put The Head and the Heart on and enjoy the last sun rays of the day before the boys go down to bed for the night.
Today Steve let me sleep until 9a and run out to grab some summer clothes for Brandon on my own - sans kids. Then Steve went out golfing. I can do this, with two of us. By myself, there is no way. But we are settling into our routine and enjoying our little family and the peaceful and happy moments that come along with it.
I figured I should have some pictures of Holden's earliest days that I didn't take on my iPhone. So I pulled out my Nikon I bought myself nearly ten years ago now when I graduated from college.
No one takes film pictures anymore. The guy at the camera store couldn't even find the film and told me that he hasn't used film in a decade. But even still, he works at a camera store. He should know where the film is.
I didn't know if Walgreen's even still developed regular film - all their promotions were for digital prints. Well, they do and it's a lot more expensive than the last time I developed film. And of course I had to get it all on a CD because we all need digital prints, any way. Film, what a hassle.
Although there is something nostalgic and exciting about ripping open an envelope to see your pictures. I remember saving pictures on my film roll for something special.
Now we can take 25 pictures back to back and delete 24 of them so it looks like we have the perfect picture. Not with film. Not unless you're a millionaire at these outrageous prices. Film is more honest.
Brandon is learning to tolerate Holden. He says, "baby brother!" and
gives him his pacifier and toys when he's crying. Brandon is still
possessive at times and says, "no baby!" when he wants my attention and
I'm holding Holden, but we're making progress.
If you have been reading my blog for a few years, you might remember me bragging about still not acting like a Midwesterner in this November 2010 post. Three and a half more years have passed, and let me tell you, the Midwest is a part of me now. I don't know if anyone will ever recognize me as being from a coast at this point. I have gone full out Nebraska. Here's what's changed from my list:
1. I still haven't worn tennis shoes with jeans Correction: I am wearing Chuck Taylors with jeans right now. 2. I've managed to remain under 180 lbs Correction: Just three weeks ago I tipped the scale at 203 lbs. 11. I still can't cook No correction needed here, I can't cook - but I am attempting now that I stay at home. 12. I've never ordered from Omaha Steaks Correction: I have, but it was for work, so I don't know if it counts. 13. My outdoor grill is tiny Correction: we got a new grill and it is Midwest large. I have not used it, though. 14. I don't have a quilt on my bed Correction: I don't, but I bought one for my son. I think they are so quaint and homey. 15. All my silverware matches Correction: I have not one, not two, but three different partial sets of silverware in my top kitchen drawer. 17. My hair is not brown Correction: it is not now, but it was last year for a short stint. It's just easier than constantly highlighting this shit. Midwesterners recognize and gravitate towards convenience and ease.
So out of 20, I have rescinded 8 of my earlier statements. That makes me 40% Nebraska and 60% West coast, right?
Sure, if you only take into account this list and don't include what didn't make it on the original list - like I love going to Cracker Barrel and haven't worn heels in a long time and will go days in a row now without putting on makeup and I never even think to call the interstate the freeway anymore.
I might be full out Nebraskan now. Someone go buy me a Huskers shirt. Why even fight it at this point?
Do you ever wonder what happens to your thoughts that you never release? I think they stay inside of you and become a part of your psyche - affecting your actions and decisions and emotions and attitude.
For me, writing is my release - I write and set free those thoughts that were captive in my mind. My mind is freed of those thoughts, but I can always reference them again if I ever want to remember what I was feeling or thinking at any given time.
I write both to remember and to forget.
Perhaps that is why therapy works for people - because by saying their thoughts out loud to someone, they are setting their minds free of what they were harboring before.
I am a somewhat private person in real life, but on paper, I am an open book. I found something I wrote in 2005 that I will share a part of with you here:
You don't need to know... That sometimes I cry at night because I feel inadequate. I feel like I've failed my parents for having a daughter, and I feel like I've failed my daughter for not being her parent. That I write what I can't say out loud. That I am different versions of me depending on my audience. That I sometimes say things hoping to convince myself it's true.
I read this the other day and was grateful that I had written this down so I could free my mind of what it had been holding onto. Writing is my therapy. It allows me to release and reset. I am going to start journaling at night again to allow myself to release what I didn't even know I had been harboring; to make myself a happier and gentler person.
I am so thankful for all of you who have helped me with these two kids. Whether it's watching one of them or buying us dinner or giving us baby and toddler stuff or visiting in the hospital; our friends and family have been really great.
Before, when people offered to help me, I brushed it off as a social nicety that people said but didn't really mean so I never took them up on it. But now - geez, with two kids and a broken abdomen, I can use all the help I can get. Fair warning: don't offer to help me - I will take you up on it. Perhaps immediately.
Yesterday was beautiful and Brandon was dying to go outside. I went out there for a few minutes with him, but Holden didn't like the breeze and it was too bright for his little eyes, so after 10 minutes, I told Brandon we were going inside. Brandon ran after me and tripped in a small hole left from when we had a tree removed. When he tried to get up, he immediately collapsed back to the ground.
I was afraid he had sprained his ankle. Four hours later, when he still wasn't walking or bearing weight on his foot, I called the doctor. They could get him in immediately. So I was all set to load the two kids into the car and drive to the doctor's office, until I stopped for a second and tried to picture hauling an infant and a two-year-old in simultaneously. My mind couldn't fathom saddlebagging the two of them with my broken abdomen, so I dialed up my friend Melinda who lives only a mile away. I could drop off Holden at their house on my way to the doctor.
Brandon's sprain is very minor and he doesn't need a cast and is already walking around with just a slight limp. But damn, yesterday was tough. It gets easier. My friend who has three boys and is pregnant with her forth child texted me, "I remember going from 1 to 2 and it's not easy but just remember every day is one day closer to what will be 'easy'!!" I remind myself of that every day. One day at a time. Fuck, I need a long nap and two bottles of wine just from these last three days on my own. But three of the hard days are down, many easier days are yet to come.
Thanks to all of you who are helping make the hard days a little easier on me. I am truly grateful.
I never thought Holden's birth would be a C-section. After all, I've had two children vaginally already. But we can't control everything in life (much to my chagrin). Although the delivery itself is easier since you're knocked out and don't feel anything, the recovery is so much worse. This is the time when your hormones are all out of whack and you're trying to feel normal again after finally not being pregnant, but with a C-section, your body needs to recover after going through a major abdominal surgery.
And that fucking sucks.
I'm a go-go-go kind of person. I don't sit around and watch movie or TV marathons. I always have a to do list, I'm always in the middle of a book, a project. Sitting around idly isn't for me. I feel lazy. So "taking it easy" has never entered my vernacular before.
Do you know what it is you're not supposed to do after a C-section? Basically everything. You're not supposed to exercise or do housework or lift anything over 10 pounds. I might be able to stick to that if Holden was my only child, but I also have a 27-pound two-year-old. Up until yesterday afternoon, I got by fine without lifting Brandon. My mom was here and she could lift him in and out of his crib and high chair for me. But today was my first day on my own with these two kids.
It was tough. Physically and emotionally exhausting. On top of my recovery, we're working on disciplining Brandon and forcing him to grow up. That means no more pacifier during the day, transitioning him out of his crib and into his big boy bed, and teaching him to go to bed without me rocking him to sleep. The poor kid has a lot going on on top of a new brother he has to share my attention with.
So today when I wouldn't give him his pacifier, he wailed like a fucking banshee non-stop for 30 minutes. This caused Holden to start crying, too. Here I am, in the middle of cooking dinner, counting down the minutes until Steve gets home and trying not to break into a tantrum of my own. And now, I'm sitting here with a glass of wine, listening to him cry hysterically because I'm not rocking him to sleep, and wondering how women do this. How do moms raise two young children while recovering from a C-section correctly? Because I can tell you with certainty that I'm doing it wrong.
My littlest son is two weeks old today. He is a great kid. He sleeps well, eats great, and barely fusses for me.
His umbilical cord stump fell off last week at his one week doctor's appointment, so he can take real baths now. He hates them. That's why he hasn't bathed in a few days. I have to get the gumption up to listen to that shrieking again. Maybe today will be the day...
On Friday, Brandon turned two. So yesterday we had his birthday party. Am I seriously going to have to throw two birthday parties within two weeks every year? I think it's time to start spacing out these parties. Like each kid gets one every three years or so.
Last year, my sister helped me with Brandon's Little Man party.
This year, my sister isn't here to help, but luckily my friend Anni
volunteered to help out. I'm not a good party planner or domesticated
woman in any sense of the word. Here are our decorating efforts:
Brandon got a lot of presents. This kid has much more than any one kid
would ever need. Steve and I bought him this train table. It is a big
hit. I've barely seen Brandon the last 24 hours - he's been at this
train table as much as he possibly can.
Brandon is very photogenic. He says "cheese!" now whenever there is a camera around. He has actually discovered how to use my camera. I have enough of his first selfies for their own blog post.
My brother read this parable while at Jimmy John's the other day and it is a great reminder of work/life balance. I don't work anymore, so rather than feeling useless because of it, this story is a good reminder that I'm doing what people work so hard to do - spending time with the ones I love. And while they still live in my home and are growing and learning each day. I'm a lucky woman.
The Mexican Fisherman and the Investment Banker
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican
village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the
small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented
the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to
The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”
The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?
The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with
my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the
village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I
have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and can help you,”
he said. “You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds,
buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could
buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing
boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle-man, you could sell
directly to the processor, eventually opening up your own cannery. You
could control the product, processing, and distribution,” he said. “Of
course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and
move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City,
where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.” “But what then?” asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time
was right, you would announce an IPO, and sell your company stock to the
public and become very rich. You would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you could retire. Move to a small coastal
fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with
your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the
evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”
We got a new pediatrician. We like him so much better. We went to Holden's one week appointment and our new doctor remembered Holden from the hospital and called him "Superman."
Brandon put on Holden's hospital hat.
He also saw Holden in his chair and scooted his own chair right up next to him. He has been reading, "I'm a Big Brother" over and over again. Adjusting to sharing his mama has been a struggle for Brandon. I'm hoping this phase is short-lived. My mom won't be here to help out forever, so next week I'm on my own.
Love is lovelier, the second time around
Just as wonderful, with both feet on the ground
It's that second time you hear your love song sung
Makes you think perhaps that love, like youth, is wasted on the young
Loves more comfortable the second time you fall
Like a friendly home the second time you call
Who can say, what brought us to this miracle we've found
There are those who'd bet
Love comes but once - and yet
I'm oh so glad we met
The second time around
The Second Time Around - sung by Frank Sinatra
This song has been in my head. It reminds me of raising an infant for the second time. I'm more prepared and a little bit wiser than the first time. Our night time routine is down pat a week in. Thanks so much to my friend Melinda who is also raising two young boys - she lent me her bassinet and I'm actually using it this time. It's a god send. If you're about to have an infant, get a bassinet or something where you can sleep right near your baby. Not running up and down the hall and rocking back to sleep has given me many more minutes of precious sleep.
Awhile ago I convinced Steve to buy a mini fridge and a second bottle warmer to keep upstairs. With Brandon, I ran downstairs to the kitchen for each bottle feeding. Never again. Best $100 I ever spent. And I've spent a lot of money. Holden is a good sleeper. He is really making this much easier for his mama than he has to. And I'm so thankful, because after having a C-section, I realize that recovery is much longer than with a vaginal birth. Sleep is even more crucial. Every moment counts. And this is going OK so far.
Being a parent is wonderful and great with just one. But with this second one, you get to see the whole process from a new perspective. Knowing that Holden is my last baby, I will cherish every second of his infanthood. After all, I know what is yet to come - tantrums and shrieking and picking out his own clothes and that fucking "no" word. Kids are wonderful at every age, but damn, the not talking back stage is blissful in comparison.