Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mother of Two

Ever since I wrote my posts about Andrew's birth (Pt. 1 and Pt. 2) I've been wanting to follow up with a post about what it was like after he was born, suddenly being a mother of two.

We spent two nights in the hospital after Andrew was born, just he and I. Tom spent those nights at home so Valerie could sleep next to him. It was the first time Valerie and I had ever spent the night apart since her birth, the first time we hadn't slept in the same bed, even. Andrew fussed in his plexiglass bassinet, and only wanted to be cuddled up with me. Babies know what's good. So, into the wee hours of the morning, I nursed Andrew, cradled him in the crook of my arm and stayed awake for fear he might slip off the bed if I let my guard down. And I thought of Valerie. I missed her so much it made me ache.

The next day she came in with my parents in the new clothes Grandma had brought for her. She looked all grown up. I was so happy to see her, I felt full again. She held her baby brother for the first time, smiled for pictures, then was up on the bed with me ready to eat my breakfast. Luckily, I had misunderstood the instructions for ordering food in the hospital. I had checked all the the things on the breakfast menu that I liked, not just what I wanted to eat that morning. So, they brought me a lot of food.

I've famously told anyone who's asked (and more) that "I cried every day for 6 weeks" after Andrew was born. And that really is not an exaggeration. It was so overwhelming for me to suddenly have to meet the needs of Andrew, my newborn son, and Valerie my 3 year, 10 month old daughter. My emotions ranged from joyful love as I quickly learned how your heart just grows bigger when you have another child, to happiness when I saw moments of sweet affection between the two of them, to sadness when it seemed nothing was working out right for any of us.

For the past nearly 4 years, Valerie had become very accustomed to having me all to herself. The sense of guilt I felt at having totally disrupted her way of life tore me up inside. And when she would act out and I would have to be stern with her, it just killed me. The frustration would surge up inside of me and the tears would roll down my cheeks. It seemed to go on and on. She would want to cuddle with me while I was nursing Andrew. She wanted my whole lap. It hurt to have to refuse her. And she just didn't understand.

No matter how many times I explained to Valerie that while Andrew napped she and I would get to play together, just us, she would, purposefully or not, wake Andrew from his nap. And the issue would be compounded as I tried to get him back to sleep and entice her to be quiet. There were many times it didn't work. Those were tough days when it seemed nobody got the attention or rest they needed.

When Andrew was just 3 weeks old, Valerie brought home a cold from preschool, and passed it on to him. I'm not blaming her. And goodness knows I drove us all crazy trying in vain to keep her from close contact when all she wanted was to hug and kiss him. I was so worried of how sick he might get, being a newborn. He caught the cold, and only a mild fever. Looking back, I should have just rolled with it. I could say that about a lot of things.

Having a newborn around was an adjustment for all of us. Mommy was tired. Andrew needed to nurse and nap. Valerie needed to play. And she needed attention. Poor Daddy, who was tired, too, had to pick up the slack (and the pieces) on several occasions. But we all made it through, as families do.

Then, I remember a day 2 or 3 months later as we were heading into spring, looking around and feeling quite peaceful, quite content, quite complete. Part of my work was done. I'd given birth to 2 wonderful, adorable, healthy children. A girl and a boy. And here we were, Andrew, Valerie, Tom, and I. The family we had hoped for, with our whole lives ahead of us.

1 comment:

  1. Your writing is so moving. I'm a little bit neverous thinking about the days after the 2nd baby is born this coming January. I feel that how my boy will adjust having a baby brother depends on my actions a lot.