Saturday, August 2, 2014

Maybe it won't suck

Tomorrow I am officially "term," that is 37 weeks, and am considered okay to have the baby whenever.  Everyone is assuming I'll have this baby early like the other two, but it doesn't really matter to me.  I'm just glad I made it this far.  (Though what I really want is to finish my sock yarn first.  It is taking way longer than I thought and I fear if I don't finish it before the baby gets here, I'll never do it!)

Like I've been doing this whole pregnancy, I'm waging an endless battle with anxiety.  I think the main reason was just how traumatic Michael's infancy was.  Perhaps I didn't convey this at the time -- actually, I know I didn't, because I went back and read my blog posts and I can see I am putting a very bright face on it.  Maybe I thought that if I kept the written record upbeat, I'd remember it better than it was.  But no, I remember it very well.  And when I think of just how bad it was, I cannot imagine why I thought I could ever, ever go through it again.

But I'm trying to remind myself, there is no reason to assume it would be this bad again.  Sure, it might be.  (For some reason every time I try to be hopeful and not scared, someone has to say "oh but you don't know it's going to be any easier."  Shut up, okay?  I also don't know it's going to be horrifying, and it does me no good to imagine the worst.)  But it might, just maybe, just possibly, might not be horrible at all.  Right?

I mean, to start off with, this pregnancy has not been noted for extreme amounts of stress.  Last time, when we got pregnant, John was commuting four hours a day and somehow our money that was supposed to finally be breaking even, wasn't.  And we had a matter of months till John's contract at work expired and we were unemployed.  I felt pretty sure we'd find something else before then, but the pressure was intense.

Also, this time around John has not been suffering extreme anxiety and depression from the combination of life situation and his untreated gluten intolerance.  Now, he likes his job, has a tolerable commute, has his life more or less where he wants it -- and simply cutting out gluten has had truly amazing effects on his brain chemistry, however that works.  He's happy, and a happy husband is a husband who cheerfully does all the dishes and then offers a back rub.  A happy husband is also one you don't feel the least bit guilty asking for favors.

This time, I don't have a barely-two-year-old, I have a 27-month-old and a four-year-old.  I am not sure if it's the three months' difference or the fact that I have two, but it's a great deal easier.  They entertain each other.  Michael might not listen, but he does talk, and that means not really many tantrums.  Admittedly he does not sleep even a little bit better than Marko did at a similar age, but he isn't really sleeping any worse either.

Maybe, labor will be as easy as with Michael, only I'll feel better supported by my midwife and John will bond with the baby right away and the placenta will pop right out like a champagne cork.  It could happen.

Given the many, many conversations we've had on the topic and the kids' excitement, I think it's quite possible that maybe, when introduced to their younger sibling, they won't burst into shrieks.  The might even like him or her.

This time, I might not have a baby who needs to be nursed 24/7.  Maybe I'll even have one who doesn't spit up 75% of every feed.  And if I do, I actually will know this time that I have an oversupply and that good burping and block feeding will help.  I won't have to endure three solid months of basically doing nothing but nursing, hopefully.

And that might mean better sleep, or if it doesn't, I will use better tactics.  Last time I didn't want to overuse Netflix to entertain Marko while putting Michael down for naps.  This time, it seems clear that the long-term effects of a little too much TV on the kids are nothing compared to the long-term effects of a child who never ever naps because his brother keeps waking him.  Bring on the TV, we are teaching this child to sleep.  (Though who knows, maybe these two pals will entertain each other while I sneak away to put the baby down.  It wouldn't be unprecedented.)

The immediate postpartum time will be no better, unfortunately, because I get the exact same amount of help: one week of time off for John, and then I'm all on my own.  This scares me because I remember that one week postpartum is not a time when I am capable of anything.  But, BUT: I'll tell you what is not happening.  John is not moving to another state 10 days after I've given birth and leaving me utterly alone for four weeks (as he had to do when Marko was born) and he is not even going back to frequent business trips four weeks postpartum and leaving me taking care of two nonsleeping kids all night for a week at a time (as he had to do when Michael was born).  He is not going to be gone overnight for the foreseeable future.  Due to the campaign, he has quite a few evening and weekend events, but if worse comes to worst, we'll just all stay up waiting for him to help with bedtime.  But I think we can handle it.  Michael is insanely easy to put to sleep because he is still nursing, and Marko is big enough to put up with a change to his routine.  I think I can put three kids to bed for the night.  Or at least, I can put to bed the two who don't nap and need to go to bed at night.

This time, I am absolutely not flying solo across the country with a three-month-old and a toddler.  And I'm not dealing with them for a week without their dad whom they're so attached to.  We might go somewhere for Christmas, but if so it will be all together.

I suspect there will be some jealousy.  I am pretty positive that Michael will get into scads of trouble when I'm not looking, because he currently gets into scads of trouble when I am looking.  Probably I'll yell about that some.  There may be tears from various individuals, and one of those individuals might be me.  But, you know, I'm used to that by now.  I'm used to knowing I'm not Perfect Mom, as I didn't really know when I only had one kid.

It upsets me knowing that I really did meet my own standards when I had one kid, and now I don't.  I filled every one of Marko's needs that I determined was a true need, back when he was the only one, and now I very often don't.  I don't feel like a very good mom nearly as often as I did then.  But on the other hand .... he is happier now than he was then.  He loves having a brother.  It makes up for my deficiencies, apparently.  I have two thriving kids, if at the price of getting to take all the credit for it.

I am terrified that if going from one kid to two downgraded me from "ideal mother" to "adequate mother," going from two to three will turn me from "adequate" to "wicked witch of the west."  But who knows if that will happen?  Maybe I'll be turned into "slowly becoming more relaxed and humble mother."  Or maybe I'll find that going from two to three really doesn't change that much.

Maybe one thing will be the same.  Maybe, years from now, I'll look back and my heart will hurt at the very thought that I ever managed life without this baby, that I ever thought our family was whole without them.

I certainly hope so.


Julia said...

You will be fine. Even if it doesn't feel fine.

Mother guilt. How I wish it didn't exist. I don't have it, but I'm not a mother. My mother has it, and when she feels guilty I tell her, truthfully, that she is a great mother with no reason to feel deficient. Your kids are little and they can't reassure you the way I reassure my mother, but they will when they grow up. And my mother, mother of four, had two first babies who were bad sleepers, and then the third and fourth babies were fine.

Enbrethiliel said...


I believe very strongly that the some of the greatest gifts that parents can give their children are full siblings who are close to them in age. What you can't do yourself for Marko and Michael is more than balanced by what they (and only they) can do for each other. And now you're giving them someone new for them to love, who can love them back! We call every Catholic family a "domestic church" because the principle of one body and many members also applies: when one member is weak, the others bear the load out of love. You already know this as a wife and mother, and I'm sure the boys are learning it themselves every day.

Sally Thomas said...

Well, things always suck to one degree or another, no matter what, whenever there's a major life transition. But for what it's worth, even though my third child was a fairly difficult baby, I remember that newborn period as relatively easy. Labor and birth were far easier, recovery was faster, and I was just a lot less anxious about a lot of things. All of that made a huge difference, even though he was pretty sleepless and intense. Not stressing about it all too much didn't make me less tired, but it did make me, I hope, less a monster than I might have been. To the extent that I remember that period at all (I was very quickly pregnant again and had a newborn right on his heels, so the amnesia is pretty severe), I remember it as a happy one.

And really, though I still sometimes stress about not giving my younger children the same kind of childhood my older children had, overall I think that a tribe of siblings is to be preferred to that first-child model of having to be the whole tribe for your child. My first was an only child for almost four years, and in some ways there were benefits that were impossible to replicate for the others. Sometimes I find myself weighing that against the "we are an exclusive tribe of two" groove that my youngest two have been in their whole lives . . . the younger ones, especially when they were little, sometimes reminded me of a pair of parakeets we had once, who were totally bonded to each other and would have nothing to do with humans.

Overall, though, despite the fact that life is often not total harmony, peace, and love, I think the best thing I've done as a parent is to step back some and let the tribe be a tribe. One day I'll be gone, and -- God willing -- they'll be the ones who are there for each other. Really, they already are. I love to see my oldest nurturing the younger ones, which nowadays mostly means taking them out for milkshakes when she's home. I love to see how much the three younger ones all love and look up to her. I love to see my boys pounding each other . . . oh, wait. Maybe I don't love that. But my husband swears it's a form of affection . . .

sarah e. said...

Whoa, 37 weeks already! I'm another Catholic mother who loves your blog and is only just today trying to "unlock my word hoard" (LOVE that blurb!) If you want my internet stranger two cents, I think you're going to rock with 3 kids! I've been wanting to comment on that fact ever since I saw your pregnancy announcement. I have 4 right now and will admit to struggling with "4 littles + a host of life situations". However, three kids was so different from two, and now four is so different from three. I found that with three I was already used to juggling more than one child (relatively speaking) and that the first two kids (both boys like yours, also 2 years apart) could sort of keep each other company while I nursed my third (rather than just be in near-constant agony like my first was while I nursed the second). Now throw in the fact that my third, my first girl, was very different from her brothers! She was way less attached to nursing (loved sucking her thumb and still does). She also became super attached to my husband at a very, very early age compared to the boys, so he was able to do a lot more of the soothing when needed. (This came in very handy as our fourth was conceived when our third was only 7 mos old-- surprise! Thumb-sucking DOES affect lactational amenorrhea!) Anyway, my apologies for jumping in with the rambling comment, but please know that I will be praying for you and that I truly enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing your writing!

Sheila said...

Recently John took Marko to work and left Michael with me. It was the first time they'd ever been apart that long. Michael was distressed all day long, and so hard to keep entertained. Certainly made me think of just how much difference it makes that these two have each other. I sure hope they like their new siblings as much.

Sheila said...

Thanks for all the encouraging comments, everyone. Sally, it's funny, but I always see being the first child as a great disadvantage. Sure, he's had a lot of attention, but there were so many things I couldn't teach him! Case in point: the way he couldn't keep "I" and "you" straight till two and a half. Michael never had an issue with that. He also has just seemed more adaptable and empathetic from the beginning, because he never was the center of the world in the same way.

Sarah, thanks for coming and rambling here! Please don't apologize -- if I ramble at you, it's completely correct to ramble back at me!

The Sojourner said...

Man, if I could drive to Virginia, I would. My little guy crawls like greased lightning; he could totally keep up with your boys.

Alas, my husband would probably starve to death if I left him for more than a day.

(I am still a little traumatized by having a newborn and it makes me want to Help ALL The Mamas. Wah.)

Sheila said...

I have the same feeling, Sojourner! I've had a few older ladies dote on me when I've just had a baby, and now I get it .... when my own kids are grown, I will happily go and wait on every new mother I know. Everyone needs and deserves a little help when they've just had a baby!

The Sojourner said...

Lately I've been thinking that when I have my "midlife crisis" I'll go back to school for some kind of healthcare degree so I can become an IBCLC. Which would certainly involve helping lots of moms with newborns.

I haven't looked into it very seriously, though, partly due to the whole "young baby" thing and partly because I haven't paid off my *first* unprofitable-but-fun degree. :p

Sheila said...

I actually think all mothers should have a second career in mind. It gives us a direction, and perhaps something to study in our spare time. Of course I keep changing my mind about mine ....

The Sojourner said...

Well, we have plenty of time to change our minds!

Sometimes I think, "But by the time I don't have little kids I might be like FIFTY." And then I realize fifty-year-olds probably don't think of themselves as being practically dead of old age. :)

(My parents are 48 and 51, so I really have no excuse.)

Sheila said...

Well, my mother-in-law is about that age and just started college! She never got to finish her degree before, and she's decided she wants to earn a doctorate. More power to her! She gives me hope that there is, indeed, life after toddlers. (She has TEN kids too.)

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