And, lo, it came to pass that what was in is now out.
Given how traumatic the Diva’s birth was – to sum up, forceps were involved – this one was a piece of cake. Painful cake, with lots of lingering pains and aches and bruises, certainly. But, for a birth, it went well.
As it turns out, all of my OB’s prognostications about this one arriving early were completely and utterly unfounded. By the time we decided to just give up and induce (more on that in a moment), I was dilated to 5-6 centimeters and still able to walk around without worrying about keeping the catcher’s mitt close by. While I would have random, real contractions, after the first 15 minutes they’d simply drift away, like their attention had been caught by something shiny. As for the induction, all it took was a little action with the big, sterile crochet hook. Once my water was broken, it was game on. A mere six hours later, the baby was on my belly rather than in it.
And once on my belly, I got to have that moment, the one that carries you through all of the new baby angst. His eyes locked on to mine, mere seconds after birth. And I suddenly knew something about the universe and life and everything. But mostly I knew that I would fling my body in front of charging elephants without even stopping to ask why I was in their company.
It was a moment I never got to have with the Diva. Her difficult birth left me nearly unconscious by the time she was out. All I could do was raise one eyelid to check her out. She was never placed on my belly, so that we could have that moment. She went from birth canal to isolet to X-ray machine. There was little whooping in celebration, only worry that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong. It hadn’t, by the way, but the concern was well-founded.
What I can’t quite wrap my head around is how different it has been this time around. I expected the baby himself to be different, certainly, but didn’t realize how global these differences would be. The Hub and I as parents are so much more mellow this time around that it’s a wonder we can manage to get off of the couch to pee. The endurance race of these first few weeks, while tedious at times, isn’t nearly as encompassing and soul-sucking as it was the first time around, mostly because we can look at the Diva and know that this, too, shall pass. And that thought makes a huge difference. Each screaming, gassy fit brings us one step closer to getting past this stage and on to the more pleasant ones.
Oh, and this time I appear to have not gone crazy. For the first week, I would have set even odds that another breakdown was right around the bend. Hormones are funny things. They make it possible to create a life, but they make it impossible to get through the slightest emotional challenge without leaking like Dick Cheney. Ten days ago, I wanted nothing more than to go back to the hospital, where it was safe to fall apart and where there was an entire staff whose job it was to care about my health. Sure, there are downsides to the hospital – with the beds and the food the first on the list – but there is also something to be said for knowing there are competent newborn professionals to hand off to when it all becomes a bit too much. Here, the Diva visited in small doses and doted on her new brother, who she treated like one of her dolls. I didn’t have much to worry about, which didn’t stop me from waking up at 3 a.m. in a mind-numbing panic about how I’d manage this time around. Even now, I miss those few days of quiet care and gentle encouragement by some amazing nurses.
(continued at right)
Our first night back sucked, frankly. We were up almost the whole time, shuttling from the Diva’s room to the couch, each of us trading off whiney kids every couple of hours. After that, I couldn’t sleep, even when an opportunity presented itself, and spent some quiet hours in the dark sobbing on the pillow, convinced that this whole second baby thing was a bad idea. The second and third nights sucked less, but still weren’t exponentially better. By day four, after a hysterical call to my OB, I tossed back a few Tylenol PM and closed my eyes. They opened hours later, if not completely refreshed, slightly less bloodshot and bleary. Since then, my sleepless cycle has had a flat. That alone has made a huge difference this time around. Sleep just can’t be over-rated.
All of this was to be expected, given my past history. The plans we’d made in advance proved useful and, also, proved that our friends and family rock. What was unexpected, however, has been my response to the Diva’s needs. In short, I feel like the world’s crappiest mother because I can’t make this transition any easier for her. She has been a trooper, but, still, it’s been hard. Her tears have come more easily, too. She is no longer the solo star of our family show. It’s a lesson that had to come but just because something is eventual, that doesn’t mean it’s also painless.
I still well up when I think about our first real outing as a foursome.
We decided to wander down to the annual Italian-American festival,
which is sponsored by the Catholic church and is full of food and beer
and bingo. It also had a bouncy house for the kids. The Diva, who has
never met a bouncy house she didn’t adore, had a big time jumping
around. It was the first time she’d been truly, blissfully happy that
first week, when everything in her life was upside-down. When her time
was up, it was a like a punch in the nose. She deflated, sobbing and
undone. It was like someone had ripped my still-beating heart from my
chest and stomped the crap out of it. A cliché, certainly, but no less
true. I’m weeping like a soap star even now when I stop to remember it.
Time has passed, however, and has done wonders. The Diva no longer
claps her hands over her ears and screams when her brother starts
wailing. She has finally let us put him in her lap and “helps” feed
him. She is cozying up to the idea that she now has a sibling and is
buying our assurances that it will get better and that he will be more
fun. She is more resilient than I am. Parts of me want to clutch her to
my chest and apologize for everything – for her first few chaotic
weeks, for not being fully there for most of her infanthood, for being
a more chilled-out parent to her brother than to her. All of it. I
resist as best I can. We are all adapting, and that is all anyone can
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