I wasn’t planning on blogging a week after having my second child, but I feel compelled to write when I learn something and I feel compelled to learn something when I have kids — especially my pair of firecrackers. Learn or drown.
Zoe, bless your little heart for being our Guinea pig. You were the first newborn anything I ever held. When the doctors handed you to me I was not overcome by an outpouring of love; I was exhausted, frightened, and doubting whether the tiny, translucent thing in my arms had indeed just been expelled out of my uterus. When I was discharged I wanted to shake the hospital nurses like snow globes and scream, “That’s it?? How am I supposed to keep her alive??” Just alive — the lowest bar that exists. Fastening a simple disposable diaper was more difficult than solving a Rubik’s cube. Breastfeeding required copious amounts of lanolin, a hospital grade pump, and witchcraft. Soothing you was beyond even the reach of witchcraft. So I’d lay my ear by your tiny belly at night and if it was still moving up and down with your tiny baby breaths of breast milk, I considered you alive and considered my work done. I aim a little higher now, try to teach you responsibility and happiness, but back then I would have settled for alive. Actually, I did settle.
People may tell you that these feelings are normal for new mothers, and in large part they are. But they shouldn’t be. Three years ago I wasn’t a member of any church. My parents had just moved to the west coast. My mom was in town to help, but that help would be short-lived. Your father was still finishing his undergraduate degree. We were kids with kids.
That is not how it should be when people have babies.
It should be like it is now: with your father and I both knowing what to expect. With our family smothered in food and love from the meals sent by your father’s coworkers and the women of the church Relief Society. With both of my parents visiting and fawning over you, Eve. With friends dropping by, offering to help with dishes, groceries, anything I could think of. With both of your parents relaxed, happy and fully present to want and cherish this baby. On top of that, Eve gets the added bonus of having an older sister already so committed to learning to love her.
Zoe, you certainly drew the short straw on this one. And yet you thrive. We’re lucky to have you. Thanks for being our first.
In spite of all the added support, knowledge, comfort and food that I have this time around, having a newborn still stresses me out. I don’t mean “stresses me out” in the sense of needing an extra scoop of ice cream or an afternoon nap. I mean that I still sometimes lock myself in the bathroom when Eve is crying, turn off all the lights and rock myself to sleep on the bathmat. I don’t do well with the crying. I read and reread every book there is on newborn care and telling the difference between the hunger cry and the overtired cry. I read about how to put newborns on a loose schedule, how to love them, how to relieve their stress and listen to what they’re really saying. All of this helps, but I still feel like tearing my skin off with my teeth after I’ve listened to crying for an hour.
Those feelings utterly swamped me when I was taking care of you as a baby, Zoe.
This time, they will not. This time no matter how frazzled and ragged I become, I will remember the enormity of the gift I’ve been given. In spite of how I treated you, Zoe, Heavenly Father has entrusted me with yet another of his daughters. It is such a privilege to raise both of you. My life is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined and it keeps unfolding in sweeter and more tender ways. And girls, I don’t know who in our family is growing faster: you two, me, or your father. Every day he comes home, looks me in the eye and asks me, “How can I help?” and means it. Usually I respond by snapping at him or staring morosely off into the distance while recounting every minute that Eve has spent crying that day. He then puts Zoe to bed, picks up dinner for us, soothes Eve to sleep, takes out the trash, and puts on a movie for us to watch together.
Our flaws notwithstanding, we are all lucky to be in this family together.
I spent an hour comforting you, Eve, while you cried this afternoon, trying to decipher your body language and decide if you were overtired or awake and bored. I gave up my hopes of a nap and found this quote from Mormon blogger Al Fox:
Today, right now, is the best place to be. Happiness, opportunities, and blessings DO await us in THIS day. Today comfort, answers, strength, happiness, a chance to change, and a chance to become better are available. So smile! And tomorrow smile, too. Because today, tomorrow, and every day after that we have all we need available to us because of Christ. Be patient, take a deep breath, and smile. Everything will be alright. We are in the best hands.
She’s right, ladies. I have two tiny humans to take care of and there is no greater joy. It may be four in the afternoon and I may be half-dressed and un-showered (a 50% improvement from three years ago, I’ll have you know) but we’re all here, all alive, and for the most part, all happy. Eve, you’re going to be a baby for such a short period of time and I’m going to enjoy this in a way I never could with Zoe, you soft, pink, cuddly fur ball. Even if I put you to sleep or keep you awake more than you want, we’ll all make it. You’ll stick around for me to make much bigger mistakes with you, as your big sister Zoe can attest. Thanks for being our second.
Photo credit: Dianne Sánchez Shumway