Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Big news

Well, it's Facebook-official now, so I may as well make it blog-official too.

The next baby is on the way, due around the end of August.

I have had very mixed feelings this whole time, so that's part of why I haven't told you yet, even though I'll be 20 weeks on Sunday.

Was it planned?  That's the sort of question people expect an answer to, but there isn't one.  Certainly we knew it was a possibility.  Certainly we didn't do anything to stop that possibility from happening.  I usually answer "It seemed like a good idea at the time," which is true.  I thought, with Michael 18 months old, it was time to stop being so scared of having another baby.  I hadn't really processed that just because I should stop being scared, didn't mean I was going to stop feeling scared, just like that.

For a long time I just panicked.  Michael is not weaned.  He is not potty-trained.  He is not sleeping through the night.  I see no chance of getting any of these achieved in the next four months, except maybe potty training.  And yet I can't nurse TWO!  I can't wake up at night with TWO!  So what am I going to do?

I tried denial for awhile.  That worked until I started feeling sick.  Then I tried whining, which didn't help.  I felt guilty for robbing Michael of the spot of youngest child when he doesn't seem ready to leave it.  I felt guilty for not wanting a baby that already existed.  I felt guilty because so many of my friends have suffered losses and I never have, and it seems ungracious of me not to be over the moon that I have what they want to have.  There was an existential phase.  It doesn't help that pregnancy, three times out of three so far, makes me depressed for no reason.  I told a few people, they would congratulate me, and I would cry because I didn't think it was good news, and I felt like I was supposed to.

I worried myself sick about John's job and travel and our lack of money, until he got a new job and then I started worrying about whether or not I should wean Michael.  I woke up at night to nurse Michael, which hurts now, couldn't go back to sleep because I needed to go to the bathroom, and after I'd gone I would just lie awake staring at the ceiling, wondering how many minutes of sleep I could get before Michael woke up again, wondering what the heck I was going to do.

I've pretty much made up my mind not to wean Michael, because I think the guilt of doing it would be worse than nursing two.  I still feel guilty sometimes about Marko, even though he had 19 good months of nursing and didn't fuss about weaning.  He just had so many awful tantrums after that, lasting for HOURS, and I couldn't soothe him.  I wonder how those months would have been better if I'd had the option to nurse him.  And then after that he had a long anxious phase, and I wonder if that's the fault of not being nursed long enough, or if it's just his personality.

Michael is so much more attached to nursing.  He rarely goes more than a couple hours without it.  Even though there can't possibly be much there -- and he's finally eating and drinking to make up for that -- he insists on it when he's hurt, when he's tired, or just when he sees me.  I don't like how needy he is about it.  On the other hand, he's not really needy about anything else.  He's pretty happy and independent so long as he never gets put off of nursing for five minutes.  And I know from experience that you can't cure a child of clinginess by taking away what they're clinging to -- they will just demand other things, or just be miserable.

So I am trying to read up on tandem nursing, trying to make my peace with it.  It's hard to imagine I won't be constantly nursing one or another child, or both.  It sounds kind of awful to me.  But then again, some people have told me it reduces jealousy and the difficulty of adjusting to a new sibling, so maybe it will be for the best.  I am working also on helping Michael be okay with a brief delay, with knowing he will get to nurse eventually, even if it's not the moment he asks.

Night is another animal.  I am not okay with night waking for two.  I did it with Marko and Michael, and it was terrible.  Each child needed one adult's total attention to get back to sleep, and the times there were only one of us there, no one got much sleep at all.  The one thing that made it possible most of the time was that Marko didn't need me at night, John could take care of him.  That .... is not the case with Michael.  He wants to nurse at night too.  And that is something we are working on.  Sometimes John will try to handle a waking, and after a few tears he sometimes does get Michael back to sleep, but then Michael wakes up again half an hour later and wants the nursing he didn't get before.  I'm working on switching him to a sippy cup if he's thirsty at night, which I think he must be, and working on not nursing him all the way to sleep, but just nursing a few minutes and then rubbing his back. 

It's going okay.  He still wakes up 2-4 times a night, every night.  If he had his own room, we'd let him fuss a little before getting him, but he's either in with Marko or in with us.  If he's in with Marko, he wakes Marko up.  If he's in with us, he climbs right in bed and starts pulling my shirt up.

What else is there to do to prepare?  After quite a lot of delaying and denial, I found a midwife who seems to be excellent.  Michael loves her.  Marko ignores her and then cries when she leaves.  He also threw a massive fit over the doppler machine because it makes noise.  I'm afraid he is going to find this whole thing more traumatic than Michael does!  In any event, Michael says we should have another baby, and Marko says we never ever should.  All I could say was, "Well, we won't just yet!"  But the time is sneaking up on us!

I'm not planning on buying anything; we have all the stuff we need.  Most days I don't think about it a whole lot at all.  I've been pregnant enough before that it isn't that exciting, it's just something going on in the background of everything else.  I struggle not to be crabby with the kids, not to yell at them for behavior that is age-appropriate but just worries me because I don't know how I would handle three of them.

I remind myself that I didn't think I could ever handle two, and now it's a great deal easier than one was because they play with each other all day.  I remind myself that the two I have are getting older all the time.  I reassure myself that John isn't traveling anymore and will be here to help.  And I remember that even if the transition is every bit as hellish as it was when Michael was born, it won't last forever.

Meanwhile the pregnancy is going fine.  I was about as sick the first trimester as last time, certainly no worse.  I have been the most depressed of any pregnancy, despite trying all the cures people will tell me about, but I am beginning to feel better.  I guess the winter was making it worse, and it is so nice to be able to get out in the sun again.  And the really good news is that my back hasn't been bothering me at all.   I can still lift Michael, take walks, push the stroller.  The one thing that makes it flare up is kneeling down to garden; I don't know why.  But I can work around that.  Ditto for kneeling down to pick up toys or clean -- I can always squat instead.

So, there you have it, a heads-up to my loyal blog readers of what's coming up.  I won't be offended if you congratulate me, but I'll be happier if you send a story about how going from one child to two was sooooo hard but going from two to three was sooooo easy.  Everyone tells me the opposite and it makes me want to hide under a rock.  Or send prayers, hugs, good wishes, boxes of chocolate.  Whatever.  It's all good.


Tiffany said...

Oh Shelia! I'm sending you a hug. :) It's going to be ok. I'm so happy for you, this is indeed blessed news, but I totally understand your feelings. I have several friends who have large families. All have told me that the toughest is going from 1-2 children, or even 0-1. Getting adjusted to being a new parent (super stressful, especially if you're going through postpartum depression), or getting adjusted to juggling multiple children. After that, they tell me it is cake to add another child. :) And one of these friend has 7 children, 2 of whom are identical twins! She's pretty much my hero.

Hang in there, girlfriend. I remember getting up at night with Anne when I was still struggling with the early baby blues. It wasn't nearly as bad with her as the depression I had after I delivered Henry, but it was still there, and it helped even to acknowledge the truth of that and remind myself that it wouldn't last forever. I'd get up in the middle of the night, desperately just want to go back to sleep, but have to get up, and feel that blackness creeping in. I would tell myself "It isn't going to always be like this. This is one more night down of getting up, one night closer to sleeping better again." It always helped me to repeat that to myself.

My sister has twins and was up with 2 for over a year. She said the nights were tough, but if you work together (and thankfully your husband will be there to help you) and tackle it one night at a time, it's manageable.

Keep us posted on how you're doing. :)

Allison said...

I don't have multiple child experience, since we still just have one, but I do feel you on the night wakings. Annamarie is 2.5 and still sometimes wakes at night, and will ONLY let me put her back to sleep. It gets so old. She stopped nursing at 11 months, so I don't have the nursing issue, but I definitely feel you on lack of sleep and the fear of waking up with two. That was one major issue I had with the thought of another, and scared me. Lack of sleep definitely is not a joke. Perhaps when the new one is there your husband can help put him back to sleep because you will no longer be an option. I've found sometimes when trying new things it's hard for a few nights, but eventually if you stick with it they realize that's just how it is now.

Sheila said...

Lack of sleep is no joke, and next time maybe I'll remember that when thinking about spacing before having another. :P Lack of sleep while also being pregnant is another level altogether. I've slept badly since Michael was born, but dealing with pregnancy exhaustion and insomnia at the same time has really had me beat down. For awhile there I took a long nap every weekend day, which I desperately needed. Now that Michael's molars are in, I'm getting some good four-hour chunks of sleep, and so I'm functional again. And I can go to bed fairly early.

The lucky thing -- at least if you can trust prior experience -- is that I have always had more energy and a better mood as soon as the baby is born. That's how I managed to survive when Michael was a newborn and waking every 45 minutes or so! I was unbelievably overwhelmed, and heartbroken from always having to say no to one child or the other, but I didn't feel depressed. I'm hoping for a repeat of that; I expect it to be challenging, but if this fog over my head lifts, I will probably manage it better than I think.

And who knows? I could get a good sleeper next time! It could happen .... theoretically.

Enbrethiliel said...


If I were still on Facebook, I'd "Like" your announcement, mean it, and that would be that . . . but because I'm on Blogger, I get to be my annoyingly verbose self.

Alas, I have no stories about making the transition you will be making soon. But it seems to be that the majority of pregnancy announcements I've read recently were as conflicted as yours--so you're definitely not alone. Well, they're mostly from older women who had thought they were finally done with the diaper-changing stage, only to learn they'd have at least one more go. The common theme seems to be that children are gifts from God, but that they're also dang hard work and incredibly overwhelming!

There's also another mother who thought she was pregnant less than a year after giving birth to her fifth, found out to her great relief that she wasn't, and then spent the rest of the month feeling guilty that if she had been pregnant, the child wouldn't have been as welcome as the ones she already had. But she had an infant, two toddlers, and two little girls: her first reaction was perfectly understandable!

Sheila, you've always struck me as practical and capable. If anyone will figure out a way to make a family with two toddlers and a new baby work out, it's you!

Sheila said...

I've read a lot of those ambivalent posts lately myself. One was horrible -- a LifeSite article by a dad who didn't want his eighth child, and then his wife had a miscarriage after all, and he suggested that God had "taken back" the gift because he wasn't sufficiently grateful. I was livid, because I was in the exact same emotional state as he had been, but I didn't think it was sinful ingratitude, just natural angst .... and I certainly didn't think God was going to punish me for feeling that way by killing my baby! What a horrid thought. God doesn't punish people with miscarriages! All the other posts I read were much kinder .... of COURSE you are going to have mixed feelings when facing down a new, enormous challenge!

I think we're just trying to cope with the reality of being a Catholic married woman, which is that while everyone around us *chooses* when to have kids, it's chosen for us. Those of us who want them might not have them; those of us who feel we have enough for the moment, often get pregnant shockingly fast. In fact I feel rather ashamed of myself for all the complaining, because 18 months between pregnancies is quite a long time compared to what many have, and we have enough money, and my health is in no way threatened. There are pregnancies that are disasters, and this isn't one. More just scary. I'm scared of doing a bad job, of depriving the kids I already have of something they need, of completely burning myself out in the attempt (which I won't be able to help doing) to split myself more ways without reducing anyone's portion.

Your vote of confidence is very helpful, though. With every week that passes, I feel better about it. I mean, it's going to be hard, but as I feel closer to actually having a real baby, I am reminded of course that I do LIKE babies, and I did plan to have another sometime, and if it's a little sooner than I feel quite ready for, well .... that is small stuff in the grand scheme of things, because two years from now they will just be comfortably close siblings and I won't be drowning in them. (I might be drowning in *more* babies, though. Trying not to think about that for now, because that is not today's decision or fear.)

entropy said...

Oh, Sheila.

I've been writing and re-writing words of encouragement and thinking about what helped to hear when I'm overwhelmed and scared but I keep erasing it.

You are a good mom. Going from 2 to 3 isn't so bad! 0 to 1 was my biggest adjustment.

It's unlikely you'll just quit worrying but try to give yourself permission to do what you need to to stay sane. If that means not nursing Michael at night, he will be ok. I'll say it again, he will be ok.

Can I ask about the night wakings? Are they crying and just can't stop and that's why they need total attention?
This is what works for us: My kids wake up at night and our policy is to let them crawl in bed with us so long as they're quiet. They are usually just scared and want to snuggle. It makes for less restful sleep for us because they squirm so much but more restful that waking all the way up.

You're doing a great job and this next one will fold right in and you'll hardly be able to imagine life without him/her. You know that, but sometimes it helps to hear it.

Sheila said...

Oh, *he* will be okay! It's just making the transition from a child who will cry and cry at night until he gets to nurse .... and not just nurse but also be snuggled exactly still and be allowed to pinch my belly for some reason ..... to a child who would be content just lying next to me, or being held by Daddy, or anything else that could be done at the same time as I am nursing a newborn. It's hard to know where to start, because he protests so loudly at every attempted change that he wakes his brother! I've noticed gradual improvement, though -- he will nurse awhile and then consent to lie on his mattress (next to our bed) and go to sleep on his own, most of the time.

Thanks for your kind words. The panic is beginning to be replaced by grim determination, and perhaps that will be replaced at some point by actually *looking forward to it.*

The Sojourner said...

*HUGS* Obviously I only have one baby so far, but I just wanted to say that it's okay to feel whatever you want to feel about it. I wanted a baby desperately, and I still had a million complicated emotions when I was pregnant and adjusting to the new baby. Hormones are not good to me, let me tell you.

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