Wednesday, March 21, 2012

With Love, Worry

We were sitting in the pediatrician's office after my daughter's one-year well baby check.  She was in her diaper sitting in her daddy's lap, playing with a magazine, completely oblivious to what was about to happen.  I sat across from them, biting my lip and tapping my feet as the familiar pool of anxiety started to bubble in my stomach.

She has no idea, I thought to myself, looking at my beautiful daughter with her big, innocent grin.  She has no idea that the worst has yet to come.  

A light tapping on the door preceded the entrance of the resident who was going to give our daughter her vaccinations, followed closely by a flamboyant and talkative nurse who was there to guide him through it.  We agreed to let the young man give our daughter the injections as part of his training, though we shouldn't have.  The nurses who normally give the vaccinations get it over with within seconds:  Stab, stab, stab done.  The young man in the clean white coat took his time, and it seemed that just when the shock of one needle wore off and her crying wavered for even a second, another needle poked through her tender skin and the whole painful, scary process was repeated.  

Seeing the tears streaming down her cheeks as she sniffled and choked on her own misery was too much to bear, and I broke down with her.  We looked into each other's eyes, a baby in pain and her empathetic mother.  I held her close, apologizing and covering her in kisses, wet tears salty on my lips.  She eventually regained her composure but it took me a little more time.    

Then I wondered to myself, How can I go through this kind of stuff all over again? as I rubbed my belly, bulging with a son ready to be born within the next three weeks.  We packed ourselves up and took our daughter, now giggling and waving at strangers, to the lab to have her blood drawn as the bitter cherry on top of a horrible day.  How?

The Love, and the Worry, Grow On

We're curled up in bed together, happy to bid good-night to a long day.  The fan blowing gently, my fingers tapping on the keys, the occasional car driving by are the only sounds that permeate the silence as we lay here, Evie's back pressed against my stomach, both of my children sleeping motionless.  I know that these nights of perfect peace are soon coming to a close as my son's entrance into this world draws nearer, and I want to breathe in every second that I can, as if I could store them in my lungs so that with every frustrated sigh that will soon come with sleeplessness, I can release these memories and know that peace will be restored with time.

I never doubt that I am blessed; I never doubt that these people created brand-new in the dark stillness of my womb have been gifted to me for a reason.  With each child that I carry, I learn that love isn't a commodity of which we have only a set amount to mete out into the world, that it isn't decimated by each additional object of affection.  It is a living thing, like a tree that continuously grows and bears more fruit to feed those who hunger.  I never doubt that I will have enough love to nurture my children.

Still, I get scared.  If love is a tree, its bitter cousin, worry, is a locust.  One hungry insect can't take down something mighty and strong, but it can feast and grow and reproduce and flourish right alongside its food source.  I'm learning this, too, that worry is a parasite that grows in the shadow of love.  We worry the most for those we love.

Pain Like None Other

When Evelyn is scared, when she's hurting, when she's confused, it is a pain like none I have ever experienced in my life.  It isn't my personal pain, shallow and fleeting, not a pain that I understand and can calm on my own.  It is a pain that eats through my heart, a primal emotion that doesn't thrive in a place that my reason can access - I can't think my way through it, I can't remove the sting.  I am powerless against it, and in its face I crumble.

I know that I'll be weaponless in the battle with my son's fear, too.  I know that I'll feel his misery and helpless watch him suffer through eyes clouded with tears like I did with Evie today; that somewhere inside, I'll be crushed.  I'll never know from where parents hemorrhage, and I'll never know where to apply the pressure to stop it, but I think if you don't bleed with your children, figuratively if not literally, then you live with a barren plot where otherwise empathy would grow.  

I don't know if I'm completely ready to face this.  I don't know what the future holds:  If I'll suffer through postpartum depression again despite my preemptive attack with medication; if my son will keep me up all night as he cries with colick; if my daughter will feel anything negative as my attention is diverted to care for her brother; if, if, if.

All I know is that I have a love whose roots run deep and wide, and though there may be some holes chewed into the leaves of that tree, it will feed us for a long time.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Don't Have a Problem

Warning:  I have more testosterone in my body than I've ever had before, and it makes me angrier than usual.  Which is a tough accomplishment, given my propensity toward anger.  If you have no sense of humor, if you can't detect sarcasm, and if you take yourself way too seriously and are guilty of having said anything to me that you might find in this blog, you may want to skip this one.

I feel sorry for the next person who tries to give me unsolicited parenting advice.

I've been doing this for a year now, and through most of that year, I've been pregnant on top of it.  I'm getting a pretty good idea of what works for my family and what doesn't.  I'm beginning to resent the random implications that I can't possibly know what's good for us simply because it doesn't fit the blueprint of someone else's life.

Most of the judgment I receive falls into the sleep category.  Because we co-sleep, some people automatically see it as a "problem."  It might surprise them to know that we, in fact, don't have a problem, despite everyone trying to convince me we do.

"She needs a space of her own."  She has one.  She doesn't like it.  Most kids don't actually like sleeping alone; just because they learned to shut up and deal with their discomfort alone in the dark doesn't mean that they enjoy it.  Why do you think they call the cry-it-out method "sleep training"?  If sleeping alone was something that came naturally to children, you wouldn't have to "train" them to do it.

"Don't you want space to yourself?"  Nope, not really.  I don't move at all in my sleep, so I don't need a lot of room, and since I'm unconscious, I'm completely unaware of "all that space to myself" that I'm not using, and not missing, anyway.  I gave birth to my daughter; she's more important to me than my "self" anyway.  I don't consider her as taking up valuable real estate on my bed.

"What about when your son is born?"  We have a co-sleeper that attaches to the bed and he'll sleep in that just like his sister did til she was big enough to sit up on her own.  From that point on, he'll be treated the same as his sister:  He'll be given opportunities to sleep in his crib, and if it doesn't work, we'll make room for him.  If there's anyone who knows how to deal with sudden changes and come up with solutions on the fly, it's a Gemini woman.  We're adaptable - where other people apparently see these huge brick walls blocking their way, we see an opportunity to practice our ladder-building skills.  Set them up around me, and I will tear them down every time.

"What about your husband?"  Well, let's see.  He has a queen-size bed to himself on which he can sprawl, watch TV til all hours of the night while staying up late to work on some computer program, and he gets sleep without being interrupted by a crying baby who hates being in her crib.  I'm not going into detail about anything else.  Trust me, he's fine with it.

"You're going to be sorry you didn't get her into a crib sooner."  What is there to be sorry for?  That what we do works for us?  That we both sleep soundly through the night?  That I didn't put my needs before hers, that I didn't let her cry herself to sleep in a dark lonely room in what essentially amounts to a wooden cage?  I'm supposed to be sorry that you're uncomfortable with our nighttime routine?  Nope, not going to happen.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

What gets me is that people act like we have some kind of problem.  Sleep experts would say that we have the opposite of a problem:  My daughter gets a full night's sleep completely uninterrupted (except on those gassier nights where she has to wake me up before she farts herself back to sleep) - 11.5 hours of healthy sleep cycling that leads to better physical, intellectual and emotional development during the day, as well as a healthier appetite and a more even temperament.  That's the only important part:  The quality of sleep.  Not how you get there.

If your kid falls asleep at midnight and gets up at noon, and you're both sleeping on the couch, you don't have a problem.  If your kid falls asleep in his crib at 7:00 p.m. and doesn't get up until 6:30 a.m., you don't have a problem.  If my kid falls asleep in bed with me and we both get a full night's sleep (except me, but that's my own fault for staying up way too late sometimes), we don't have a problem.

The other thing I'm incredibly sick of hearing is about how close my children will be in age.  Here's every single thing anyone has ever said to me on the subject summed up in one sentence:

That's awesome they'll be so close, but that's going to be so hard!

Yeah, it is pretty awesome that they'll be so close in age.  Thanks for finally saying something positive to me about it.  That makes you a bigger person than the socially-awkward pediatrician with the open schedule that my daughter has to see when her normal doctor is too booked up.

Do you think if Evelyn was five, you'd be saying, "That's awesome she'll have a little brother!  This is going to be so easy!"  No, you wouldn't.  Being the parent of a young child is never easy, and I don't expect it to be.  Yes, I know it's going to be a challenge and I knew that before you told me.  I mean, I'm having a newborn all over again - it wasn't easy the first time, and it certainly won't be easy the second time.  I'm armed with knowledge that I didn't have before (acquired by actually parenting, not listening to people's crappy advice - imagine that) but I also have a small daughter to chase.  I expect a challenge, and since I love my family and my babies, I'm looking forward to it.

I appreciate and respect my friends, I really do.  But that can only go so far when the same basic courtesies aren't extended to me.  In short, don't talk to me about how co-sleeping must be some kind of horrible hassle, and don't tell me that my children are going to make my life miserable.  I'm at the end of my already-short patience with people acting like assholes.