Saturday, March 17, 2012

My greatest fear

At the moment, I have only one big worry as the birth comes up. (Especially because, out of the blue, thanks to the kindness of others, my two biggest "things to buy" are crossed off the list -- the carseat and a new bed for Marko!) I'm not worried about labor. I think it'll go great. I'm almost positive our nursing relationship will get off to a great start.

But I am SO worried about Marko. First, I worry about what he will do during the birth. We have a babysitter lined up, and we practiced by hiring her for two other things, and he did fine both times. (Well, one of those times he was asleep. Leaving him is such a big deal for me, we had to start really slow!)

But the longest he's been without either of us is still two hours. Two carefully-planned hours far from bedtime, wake-up time, or possible nap time. How will he manage for an unknown number of hours, at an unknown time of day? As far as separation anxiety goes, he's pretty average -- sometimes he freaks out when Daddy or I leave, and sometimes he's cool with it. How will he be this time? If he's totally melting down, what will I do?

I don't want him at the birth. Not when his way of showing affection is to pounce on me and climb all over me. It would drive me nuts. So I really do want him to be with the babysitter, either in the yard, at the park, or at her house. Maybe I could see him for short times if things are going smoothly. I just don't know how I'll feel, or how he'll feel, but I do know for sure that if I can't handle having him around, and he can't handle going, I will feel like the worst mom in the world as the babysitter drags him off, kicking and screaming, for what could be a whole day or more.

So I daydream of going into labor right after I've put him to bed, say at eight p.m., and having a brief labor so I can go to bed at midnight or so with my newborn. Marko wakes up in the morning, and surprise, he's a big brother. Hey, it could happen.

I think this anxiety is based on a bigger fear: the fear that I won't be able to be a good mom to two kids. I mean, I'm barely a good mom to one kid! What if I don't like the new baby, if I feel s/he is an imposition on my established relationship with Marko, if I resent not being able to do the things with Marko I used to? Conversely, what if I fall instantly in love with the new baby (as I didn't with Marko) and then just feel annoyed that Marko is intruding? Or what if I feel perfectly loving of both, but just can't do everything they both need? What if the new baby needs to nurse, Marko wants a snack, and I'm worn out from giving birth and don't even want to move? What if they BOTH wake multiple times at night? (Marko has been doing better with this, but it's still a work in progress. He sleeps through the night unless there's something that wakes him -- like a stuffy nose, or a cough, or a nightmare, or rolling off his bed, or something mysterious. And a few nights lately he's been up every three hours, for some time each time, because of this dang cold. I can't rock both of them all night!)

This fear is particularly increased because Marko's had a cold and been very needy lately. All he wants is to climb all over me, digging his feet into my belly (ow!), pulling my hair (ow ow!), and kicking. I don't let him do all this, obviously. I want him to learn to respect me and that some things hurt other people. But he just doesn't get empathy yet. He doesn't understand that it hurts me, no matter how much I tell him. He just sees me as a mean, unloving mother who won't comfort him the way he wants to be comforted. I can't even pick him up and walk him around the house, which is the other thing he loves when he's cranky, because my back can't handle it.

What the heck am I going to do when I'm getting pounced on like that and I have a baby in my lap? How will I be able to help being furious with my older child for being so rough with his baby sibling around? Won't I be ridiculously touched-out?

I try to remind myself that I've kind of been living a life of leisure with only one child. When he needs me, I'm there; when he doesn't, I've generally had plenty of time to do my own thing: blogging, facebook, gardening, housework. He doesn't even take up half my time, most days. But what about those days when he demands ALL of it? What about those inevitable days when the baby will demand ALL of it? What if they both have that kind of day at once?

It would help if I had more friends with multiple kids. This is the downside of being one of the first people I know to have a child, and one of the first people I know to have a second child. I really need to schedule another playdate with my only local friend with two kids, so I can see how someone else does it. Because I honestly don't see how it's done, not with an older kid like this one.

Please tell me it's possible to be a good mom to two kids. I need to hear that.


sarah in the woods said...

I think all your concerns are normal. And I think you will love both your kids immensely and you will figure it out. I think it's a great idea to get together with your friend who has two and learn from her.

Sally Thomas said...

For what it's worth, I think -- and friends of mine have also thought -- that the transition from one to two is the hardest. It's harder from zero to one, and harder than any subsequent transition. I'm not really sure why that is, but I found it to be true for me. It wasn't that hard for that long, but things like suddenly having to dress two children for church seemed like insurmountable challenges at first. Once you crack that, though, you're good to go.

One thing I think you learn is that love is a paradox: you don't dilute yourself or your love the more children you have. Each one gets it all. Right now, with your baby still in utero, you're faced with the idea of loving a child and his sibling, the Abstraction. That changes pretty much the minute the new baby emerges. I remember weeping as I left my oldest daughter to go and have her brother, and saying to my husband, "This is the last time we'll see her as an only child." And then I saw that new baby face to face -- a whole, complete, new little person, who suddenly wasn't a mental addendum any more, but himself. He wasn't Her.2, but something utterly new. That part is really miraculous -- you thought the first child was a gift, but with the second you realize that you keep on getting them, and each one is like nothing else you've ever seen, nobody else you've ever met.

I think what you also are forced to learn for real with the second (and subsequent) is that there is no perfect mothering. First children get the brunt of our driving desire to do it right, and this is both a blessing and a burden to them, as I think my oldest would say ("Yeah, Mom, remember when you tried to . . . "). There's always some fallout when a second baby comes along, but ultimately I think it's kind of a relief to the first one for Mom's attention to be deflected a little, and good for everyone to begin to function as something other than a triad of two adults and one child. What you don't do perfectly for either child is more than made up for by the fact that now there are more people to interact with, and more dynamics to play out -- just more *relationship* to have, if that makes sense.

In the end, neither child is going to remember the times that he wanted you and had to wait while you did something crucial for the other, or that he might have cried about it, or anything like that. My daughter was almost four when her first brother was born, and she doesn't remember that she melted down every morning for two weeks over having her dad make oatmeal for breakfast, or that I was virtually unavailable to her because I'd had a rough delivery and could barely walk, let alone play with her. She's now 18 and at college, and she and that brother skype with each other pretty much nightly, so I'd say that whatever difficulties we had at the time of his birth have receded into everyone's subconscious, where they'll probably stay forever.

You'll be amazed at how big your toddler seems once your baby is here, too. That always blew me away -- my little child, suddenly ginormous. And while toddlers and preschoolers tend to regress in maturity at first when a new baby comes, they soon surge forward into that bigger kid role. It's always kind of bittersweet, letting go of an older child's babyhood, but every stage is so full of wonder. And as delightful as watching one child is, watching the interactions of two (and more) children is even more . . . well, usually it's delightful. It's certainly always interesting.

Hang in there. It will all be fine. You will be fine. You won't be everything to everyone at every moment, but that's God's job, anyway.

'Akaterina said...

I second what Sally said. It was hard going from one to two kids, especially since they were 17 months apart. As for this pregnancy, I am surprisingly more relaxed.

Miss E has slipped into the role of "big sister" quite well and is an amazing help, for her age. Since she is old enough to understand directions, it is easy to say "Keep an eye on B while mommy finishes cooking dinner." She dutifully plays with him and alerts me to any misbehaviors or problems on his part - for better or worse. ;-)

As for days when B wanted mommy's attention (and still does), I remind Miss E that she is a big girl and that we will have mommy time. I make sure that when B is napping or when daddy comes home that Miss E gets my undivided attention for a little bit. As she has gotten older, she has learned to anticipate this. She even gets "mommy dates" or "daddy dates" as a reward, especially when mommy or daddy hasn't been able to give her as much attention as she wanted recently.

In the end, you will be surprised how quickly you find a routine. It is not easy, make no mistake, and there will be rough patches, but you will get the hang of it. As Marko grows, he will enjoy his role as a leader in the household. It seems older kids generally do. :)

Sally Thomas said...

I don't mean to pile on the advice here, because advice can be obnoxious, but please try not to worry that how you seem to your son is *unloving.* Mean, maybe, sometimes. I get told I'm mean on a fairly regular basis . . . yeah, well. "Mean" means "You are not doing what I want you to do at this moment," which is a pretty subjective assessment, and also a pretty passing one which doesn't really seem, in the long haul, to interfere with a child's certain knowledge that you love him. Actually, even now you can begin to say, "I'm not going to let you behave this way, because it's not kind, and I love you too much to let you behave unkindly." He'll get that faster than you might think.

Really, you do what you have to do, which does mean engaging in the not-always-cushy process of teaching someone how to live with other people. They don't always, or ever, get it in the heat of the moment, but they will ultimately, and you can't worry about how someone feels about your teaching that lesson. It is true that you will feel, for the first time, that you're going to have to protect a smaller person against this small person whom you're used to protecting, and that that's kind of disturbing, though normal. Boys, especially, are physically demonstrative, and their sometimes-ambivalent feelings about a new baby can play out in ways that you just have to stop. My now-8yo daughter's first trip to the emergency room occurred when she was about 4 months old, and while she was sitting in her little seat at the table, her now-9yo brother came along and pulled her head straight back, to watch it sproing back up again. She was fine, but we were unnerved, to put it mildly. And those two children, like my older set, are inseparable, despite their still-constant squabbles.

Re the birth itself: again, what you do is what you have to do. You really will have no choice other than to let your son go with the babysitter, regardless of how he's feeling about it at the moment, and trust that he will be fine. It would help, I think, to practice leaving him with her some more, and for longer periods, so that he can begin to build more of a trusting bond with her -- that will make the transition on the day of the birth not necessarily tearless, but much easier. The more you're okay with his being with her, the more he'll intuit that it really is okay, even if he initially, on the day, doesn't want to go (which if you go into labor in the wee hours and he has to be awakened to go with her, might well be the case).

Leaving him for a longer period -- even a whole day, if you can -- would give you some time to rest and regroup, which is important. Leaving him for a longer evening, maybe giving her a chance to put him to bed, would give you and your husband some valuable time together before the baby comes and you're harried and less available, as well as continuing to communicate to Marko that it's okay for him to be with the sitter.

Some time to nurture your marriage before you're consumed with two children is important -- I only realized with very long hindsight just how hard those postpartum periods had been on my husband and how easily he felt excluded from the mother-children circle. That, too, is a gift you can give to even a very young child: to communicate the priority of his father and your marriage in your life as a family. He may not like it at the moment -- very few children cruise smilingly through every leavetaking. In fact, I think I'd be really worried about a child who didn't mind my leaving, ever, at all. A tearful reaction is a function of a child's deep bond with you, but it doesn't mean that he's going to be miserable the entire time you're away. It's normal and good for him to miss you, but your absence doesn't have to be scary, or something that you apologize to him for.

Anyway, again, you'll be fine. Try not to worry.

The Sojourner said...

No advice, but *HUGS*

(I'm currently having to explain to a 5-year-old every time I see her that just because I moved away doesn't mean I don't love her anymore. Her logic was actually pretty good. "Why did you have to marry Scott?" "Because I love him." "So you don't love ME?" "Um...back up a minute here." *sigh*)

Sheila said...

Sally, thank you. You do make me feel much better. Oddly enough, I'm a lot more worried about how I will FEEL about my relationship with Marko than the relationship itself. I know he'll be fine. In fact, I know he'll be better off. He gets bored with just me, and he's happiest when I'm doing something else that includes him -- whether it's housework, gardening, or whatever. He doesn't really flourish when I focus exclusively on him too much. And in a year or two, how much fun two kids will have together! It's just .... will I feel guilty, or resentful, because there isn't as much of me to go around? I've always given to him out of my surplus; I hardly ever resent him. (Well, I did when he woke up six times last night. What's with that?!!)

I've never really prided myself on my kid's behavior. He's far from perfect. But I do pride myself on my own serenity. I like to think of myself as a mother who doesn't let anything get to her, who always has the serenity that her son needs of her. And it is quite possible that I'm never going to be that (insofar as I ever WAS that, which I'm not a lot of the time anyway) again. I just don't know how to be the relaxed, go-with-the-flow mom that I am when it's more complicated than just "love the baby" ... when I actually have to choose between caring for one of my babies and another.

We do have a date planned. We can't afford more than that even if we chose to -- a whole day with the babysitter would run to over fifty bucks! And that's not counting whatever we paid for going somewhere.

'Akaterina, it's obvious from what you've said here and elsewhere that E is much better at understanding that kind of thing than Marko is. Perhaps that's a milestone we'll reach soon. At the moment, he has NO concept of delayed gratification whatsoever. We've made the mistake in the past of telling him about something good that was coming up in an hour, and having him cry and cry because the good thing didn't instantly appear! I'm praying that when he turns two some magic "understanding fairy" shows up and gives him the gift of comprehending that "in half an hour" doesn't mean "never" ... and while we're at it, that pinching hurts. For such a bright kid, there's so much he doesn't get, no matter how many ways I try to break it down for him. >sigh<

Tiffany said...

Hi Shelia! It's going to be ok. :) There's 5 years between my kids, so my experience may be a bit different due to that larger spacing, but I had always worried about being a good mom to 2 as well. It's just one of those things - you can't picture it when you're not going through it, and then when you're going through it, you just do it because you have no choice. All instinct. And it turns out just fine. There will be bumps in the road, but you'll adjust things accordingly.

I'm so excited for you! I really think you're going to have an awesome birth experience and a smoother postpartum experience. :)

Mama Up! said...

If you figure out the answers to any of these questions, please let me know. But my guess is that answers won't come - life will. It will all unfold naturally and you'll be and your family will be just fine!

Maggie said...

You will be amazing. You'll look at your toddler and think, "I thought I couldn't love anymore" and then look at your newborn and think, "But then you came along."

Your oldest will learn by necessity that he needs to share you. He might cry or be mad, but he'll still know you love him. And he'll grow independent and adventurous.

Your baby may find more time on the ground than your firstborn did, but this might be necessary for you to give your oldest that extra attention he needs right then.

Having two kids IS a lot of work, but I've learned to be more laidback and work on what matters most: just doing my best and not trying to win some competition with other moms.

I was worried too. But I think I'm a good mom. You learn as you go, so try not to worry too much.

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