A tale of two kiddies… See what I did there? 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… It was the age of peaceful newborn snuggles, it was the age of screeching toddler meltdowns, it was the epoch of sweet baby’s breath, it was the epoch of potty training power struggles, it was the season of never alone, it was the season of isolation, it was the spring of new life, it was the winter of adjusting to sibling-hood, we had riches beyond measure, we had all accounts showing red, we were all going direct to sleep, we were all going to lay awake crying the whole night through- in short, the period was either blissfully gorgeous, or dreadfully painful, and no one in the house would describe it the same.

My daughter was three and a half when I delivered my son.  I had these fears that I would not love him as much as I loved her.  I worried he would feel the distance and envy the bond his sister and I shared. I remember the night we were admitted, after my husband fell asleep on the hospital couch and for the brief moments no nurses were hustling through, I sat flipping through pictures of her on my phone, my heart aching to hold her.  I kept playing the perfect day we had just spend with her over in my mind: the park, her wild hair flying as she rolled down a grassy hill, sweaty kisses and “I love you, mommy.”

I knew what the morning would bring would change us all.  I had no idea how much.

Labor was as easy as they come.  He was born at 3:15pm on 3/16.  He was perfect.  He slipped into my arms as if they had been designed specifically for him all along and latched onto my body with ease, and I was engrossed in every twitch of his hand and flick of his cheeks.  Everything about him, about us, felt whole and perfect and familiar.  I was so relieved at how I felt: every piece of my being loved him so powerfully.  I could feel him coursing through my blood and I knew our bond was exactly as it should be.

It wasn’t until I saw her the next morning that I realized what had happened.  As she slept at Gramma and Grampa’s and I brought her brother into the world, something shifted.  I believe it to be a physiological phenomenon.  I’m not sure if science supports that, but that is the only way I can describe how it felt.  I was re-wired.

When I saw her walk timidly into the delivery room, her pink T-shirt emblazoned with “BIG SISTER” and her curls piled high on her head, I expected to feel excitement at introducing her to this new little person, but I didn’t.  I was anxious and fiercely protective of him.  She climbed into the bed with me and peaked over my shoulder at her sleeping brother.  I studied her eyes for intent to touch and readied myself to grab her hand if she tried.

“what is wrong with you? ” I thought to myself, “it’s Scout. Hug her and stop being weird.”

I wrapped my arm around her and pulled her in closer to myself and her brother, and that’s when I knew for sure something was wrong.  As I draped my arm around her and pulled her knees tight next to my body, I could feel the awkwardness.  I had held her like this a thousand times, each cuddle felt like the grooves of two perfectly carved puzzle pieces fitting together.  But now?  Now she felt enormous.  Her long arms and legs looked strange wrapped around my chest and tummy.  Her breath on my neck irritated my senses and the clamminess of her hands made my mind swim with worry of contamination.  Snuggling with Scout had been the highlight of all my days since becoming a mother, and now I was simply tolerating it.  And I hated that feeling.  Oh, how I hated it.  I wanted to be gushing with love and adoration for them both, but I wasn’t.  Finally, when she had tugged on the IV in my arm for the second time, I asked her dad to move her off the bed.  She cried for me.  She wailed.  I didn’t feel anything.  But the moment her brother grimaced and began to chew the back of his hand, all of my senses went wild with desire to comfort and nourish him.

The guilt was heavy.

I was so ashamed of myself.  What on earth was happening to me?  What were these feelings?  What happened to my bond with my daughter?  Will I ever get it back? Has this happened to anyone else before?

The following months were the hardest of my life.  I would spend evenings tucked away with the baby, nursing and rocking and soothing, as my husband struggled to get my screaming toddler in bed.  There were nights I sent her back to her bed after she had crawled in next to me for comfort.  There were days I sat watching her play alone as I nursed her brother in the corner of her bedroom.  There were afternoons I let her watch three hours of TV straight, just so I didn’t have to find ways to entertain her.  The guilt was an ever-present chasm in my heart.  But, I just could not function any other way.  I tried.  I really did.  But if I pressed it, if I turned off the TV and tried to sit and play with her, it would end in tears and shouting as I wouldn’t be able to give her the undivided attention she craved and she would inevitably act out to gain it, in doing so frying the last shred of patience I had in my body.  And she was so angry with me. I would kindly explain that I couldn’t play hide and seek, because I had to nurse baby, and she would just let out an ear-splitting scream at me.  Nothing I tried was working. We weren’t connecting. We weren’t communicating.  We were simply surviving.

I mourned out lost connection often. There would be moments it just hit me, and suddenly I would be flooded with emotions and heartbreak for my baby girl. I would tip toe into her room to watch her sleeping peacefully, it seemed like the only time she wasn’t spitting rage at me.

It’s been a year now.  My daughter has turned four years old, my son just celebrated his first birthday, and things are still a little lop-sided.  Now that I don’t have a newborn attached to me, and he can toddle around the room as I dress Disney princesses in Play Dough dresses, our world has become far more peaceful.  Now that each sound he makes doesn’t send my body into a series of sound-deciphering reactions, I can focus more on silly games and favorite stories.  Now that I can hand him to his dad without him shrieking and gasping for me, I can hold her as she falls asleep.  And it feels right again.  It’s not the same, but we’ve found a new groove.  We’ve re-cut our pieces to fit one another and that fit is getting tighter and more connected everyday in this new puzzle that has room for both of my babies.

But I’m still a little bewildered, still wondering what on earth happened the last few months, and wondering if we did something wrong… if I did something wrong.  The guilt still rears it’s head sometimes, and I have a hard time combating it.

And then here they are playing together on the floor, and I start to feel that maybe we did it right and it’s just hard for everyone who walks the road for different reasons, but God, they’re beautiful aren’t they?



Anxiety in Italics

He’s breathing kind of fast. That’s weird. He seemed fine when I laid him down. Maybe he’s hot. I’ll take his blanket off. He’s shaking. Why the hell is he shaking?
He’s having a seizure.

Let me see you, buddy. Oh, man you’re burning up. Why are you shaking? You’re little heart is beating so fast. Shushushush it’s ok, bud, don’t cry. You’re not having a seizure, that’s for sure.

He’s very sick. Probably meningitis. Might be pneumonia. Remember that article we read about the baby who died from pneumonia? Same age.

Ok, buddy let’s check you out. Man, you are really hot and shaky and breathing super fast. Am I right or am I freaking out?

You’re freaking out. If you tell anyone you’re worried, they’re going to laugh at your stupidity. 

Im going to get Wynton. Crap. Wynton looks worried. This is real, he’s really not ok. We need to go to the Hospital.

You won’t make it to the hospital. 

Should we go to the Children’s hospital? It’s fifteen minutes further away.

He’ll be dead by then. Do you need a visual? Here, I can help with that.

Let’s go to the closest. I don’t want to risk the traffic and getting stuck.

It won’t matter. Even if you get him there, they can’t help him. 

Ok, finally we are here. It’s taking them forever to call us back. God, he’s so hot. I’ve never seen him this lethargic. He can barely open his eyes. 

The doctors aren’t coming, they didn’t get his chart. There was a mistake and his check-in got lost. 

Ok, the nurse just called us. 

The nurse thinks your stupid for bringing him in.  But, of course, if you didn’t he’d be dead. 

Damnit. I can’t think. Did they just say they need to give him an IV? Shit. I knew this was serious. He’s dehydrated. 

You’re a terrible mother. You let him get dehydrated? How could you let that happen? 

This is the worst thing I have ever put my baby through. I can’t. I can’t hold him against my chest one more second with him screaming like this. What are they doing to his arm?! Have they EVER put an IV in a baby? 

Probably not. They might dislocate his arm. That happens, you know.

Hey, asshole. Shut up.

Who me?

Yes. You. I’ve heard enough. *deep belly breathing* Ok. He’s ok. His color is improving so much and the blood pressure machine stopped beeping, so I’m assuming his heart rate is down. 

Listen, I’m really just here to help. I’m here to help you remember that there are so many things to be afraid of. I’m here to make you aware. Knowledge is power.

The doctor is back. He wants to give him an intravenous antibiotic. Is that really necessary? He just said there was no sign of bacterial infection and it looked like a virus. What are the side effects of this antibiotic?

Death in rare cases. You’re probably the rare case. I bet the parents of the last child that died didn’t think it would be them, but it was. It’s going to be you.

SHUT UP. I am trying to make a decision. No, I don’t want him to have the antibiotic. It’s not necessary. 

Well, of course he probably has some rare underlying infection that they didn’t test for and you just denied him the only thing that could save his life. Good job.

I’m losing it. I can feel myself spinning. This is not good. We need to go home. Is it already almost 1am?! I’m so so tired. My heart has been racing nonstop.

You know how his heart rate is still up? It’s  probably you’re fault since you’re so anxious. Can’t you relax? For him?

Thank God we’re going home. It’s going to be ok. Oh, wow it’s so nice to see my bed. Come here, buddy, let’s go to sleep. You’re gonna be ok.

I can see you’re having a hard time falling asleep. Maybe I can help by playing you this video of your son falling down the stairs of your home? I know you put up gates to protect him and guard them vigilantly, but it could happen anyway, you know. But go to sleep. In a few hours, I will wake you with a pounding headache and muscles sore from clenching. Sleep tight.

On Mornings and Madness

Mornings around here are hectic.  I commute about forty minutes to work, so to get there on time I have to be backing out of my driveway no later than 6:45am. Not only that, I have to be backing out with both children dressed, fed and emotionally stable enough to handle the drive and the next six hours without me. 

At some point Friday morning, after we had found everyone’s shoes and eaten something that resembled a breakfast, I loaded up the  last bag into the car and I shouted at Scout to “please just hurry up and get in your seat!”

“Mom,” she said in a false-calm-grown- up tone, “I need to get Weston his toy.”

“Ok, great, grab his dog and let’s go.”

“Cat,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Fine, then get the cat and let’s go.”

She stared at me at the door with her hands on her hips, but didn’t budge. It was 6:43.

“Girl, let’s go,” I warned.

“Not until I get Weston’s toy!”

“Then get the cat and get in the car!”

“It’s not a cat, it’s a dog!” She held the poor creature by the scruff of its neck as its body dangled helplessly, reminding me of my own feeling of powerlessness in this current situation. 

“I don’t care what it is. Get. In. The. Car.” I said, clapping with each word for added emphasis, which Weston understood as an invitation to a party and began clapping and yelling “yah yah” from his seat.  

“Mom,” she closed her eyes and shook her head condescendingly, “this is a dog. It’s NAME is Cat.”

I stared at her in mild horror at what I had created, but then remembered she comes from a long lineage of puns and word play on her father’s side, so this is probably his fault. 

“I just–ok,” I stammered and handed the animal to Weston, which he promptly threw on the floor of the car. 

We were about twenty minutes into our commute when she stated, “Um, mom? I have to go potty.”

“What? You were supposed to do that before we left!”

“Well, I didn’t and so I have to go now.”

“Listen, I can’t stop anywhere.  You’re gonna have to hold it.”

“I don’t think I can.”

“You have to.”

“I’ll just pee here.”

“NO! Just hold it until I can pull into Walgreens.

“Oh, ok,” she chimmed with no sense of urgency.

I pulled in, parked, and hustled to get both kids unbuckled and inside the store.  I rushed to the end of the cosmetic aisle, baby on hip, and was almost to the public restroom when her voice rang out farther away than I had anticipated. I whirled around to see her standing in front of a make up display close to the door, studying intently.

“Mom? Why does her lips look wet?”

“What?” I said as I doubled back toward her.”

“The girl on the poster… Her lips are all wet.”

I glanced at the make up model, her lips dripping with gloss. 

“I don’t know. I thought you had to pee.”

“Oh yeah,” she said nonchalantly and sauntered toward the restroom doors. 

I followed her in, but she immediately shouted me out of the stahl because, “I need some privacy!” 

We made it to school a modest ten minutes late and we poured out of the car and grabbed bags and lunches. I heard her mutter to her imaginary sister, “Oh, sorry. My lips are all wet because I was swimming and I didn’t have a towel for them,” so, naturally, I was stifling a laugh as I hoisted a forty pound bag onto one shoulder and balanced a twenty five pound toddler on the opposite hip. 

My coworker smiled at me in the parking lot, “you guys having a good morning?”

“Yup! It’s been pretty smooth so far,” I replied without the slightest hint of sarcasm. Because, really, this was butter compared to Monday. 

From Frog to Swan

It’s my son’s first day at day care.

This shouldn’t be nearly as nerve-wracking as it is, considering I WORK AT HIS DAYCARE. No, seriously, I share a window with his classroom. I can literally see him at any point in the day. Nonetheless, I’m anxious as I load him into his car seat and he gnaws his Sophie the Giaraffe unknowingly.  

His sister is in a mood.  As we drive past the turn that would take us to gramma’s house, she sounds off in the backseat.

“Um. Where are we going?” She lisps through her lose front tooth.

“We’re going to school.”

“But baby Weston is still here. You forgot to take him to gramma’s.”

“No, Scout, remember? We talked about it last night. He’s going to school today too.”

It should give you a clue into her personality that I felt the need to talk the baby’s schedule over with her the night before.

“Oh. Right.” *paused for thought and possibly dramatic effect* “Well, I don’t think he should go to school.”

“Huh. Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, but gramma is out of town so he has to go to school. There’s no where else for him to go while I’m at work.”

“You could keep him home.”

It may sound like a suggestion, but let me be clear, it is not.

“Nope, I can’t. I have to go to work.”

“But he’s going to need you! He’s just a baby!”

This is not helping my anxiety.

“He’s going to be so well taken care of,” I assure her. “He won’t miss me at all. He will be so busy playing!”

“If you don’t take him home, I’m going to turn you into a frog!”

That escalated quickly. 

“I don’t think that will solve your problem.”

“Well, I’ll wait until you’re done driving me to school and then I’ll turn you into a frog so I don’t get killed!”

That’s some solid forward thinking right there. 

“I’m sorry you’re upset with me. He’s really going to be fine.”

What followed was ten minutes of the silent treatment, which was GLORIOUS. When we got to school, I had her come into the room with her brother and greet the teachers. She inspected the toys and threw some serious shade toward another toddler who made a move like he might take the toy West was holding, but after a few minutes walked out with me while her brother played.

“See? Not so bad?” I said, smiling and nudging her a bit.

“It’s fine. I’ll turn you into a swan instead.” 

That’s all I needed. Just a little upgrade from frog to swan. Today’s gonna be great.