Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Confessions from a mother of two

In a matter of days, Finnegan will be three months old. That is so crazy for me to even imagine. In some ways it feels like he has been a part of our family for years, like his place is with me and Daniel and his sister. Like there was always this place carved out for him with us and he is exactly where he is supposed to be. And sometimes I look at him and how much he has grown and how interactive he has become and I ask him how this is even possible because we just brought him home! He is supposed to be little and delicate, but he isn't. He is my big, strong, three month old with a killer smile, flirty eyes, quick temper and lively personality.

Things weren't easy at first. For the first few weeks that Finnegan was home, I cried every single day. I cried when Zoe cried and when Finnegan cried. I cried when I was away from Zoe. I cried when I needed a break. I cried because of television shows and movies. I cried because we had ants in the house. I cried because I was exhausted and felt weak from the surgery. I cried because my hormones were completely out of whack and I had this overwhelming sense of sadness and inadequacy at least once a day. It hurt my heart to feel that sadness when I have such an amazing husband and two beautiful children who I wanted with all my heart and whom I adore with every sense of my being.

And I was ashamed. Ashamed that I was feeling so down and sorry for myself when I had everything I had ever wanted and more. Ashamed that I wasn't stronger. Ashamed that I was not the perfect housewife and partner for Daniel. Ashamed that I was never going to be that mom who had everything in control and did everything right. Ashamed that I was failing to live up to my over the top expectations. Ashamed that I only really shared any of this with Daniel, so I was a phony to all my friends who thought everything was perfect and that I was just not around because I was tired, not secretly avoiding contact with everyone. Ashamed that I would burst into tears out of the blue and couldn't pinpoint what exactly I was crying about. I thought I was going crazy.

And as those days passed, each day would get better and then all of a sudden I would feel fabulous, and then I might slip into a feeling of hopelessness the next day. A few things would snap me out of my funk -

Daniel - When he'd come home from work and he'd give me these long, strong hugs that made me feel so supported and he assured me that everything would be OK.
Zoe - When she would come sit next to me and Finnegan and put her little arm around me and reach to pat her brother's head.
Finnegan - When he would settle in my arms and just look at me with this peace like he was so secure with where he was, with me.

And each day I felt sad less. And things got easier.

That's not to say that things are easy now. It was silly of me to think that adding a second child to our family would be easier than the first. I thought I knew it all. I mean, not really... but sort of. I knew how to hold, change, feed and bathe a newborn. I knew how to rock a baby to sleep, how to burp them and to ALWAYS be prepared with a burp cloth or accept the consequences. I knew that I loved Finn from the moment I learned he even existed. I could not ever have imagined that after he would arrive I would feel so out of sorts.

At first I felt guilty - like I'd let Zoe down and that she was never going to feel as loved as she had before Finnegan was born. That first time she came to the hospital to meet Finn she had been so timid and curious about the baby I was holding in my arms. She got closer for a look and he wailed like newborns do. She burst into sobs and reached out for me to hold her, but I couldn't because I had Finn and an IV and I was weak. And that look on her face when I couldn't take her broke my heart and I cried with her. Even though she had completely forgotten that drama five minutes after it had passed, I carried that sadness with me for weeks. At that moment I realized how hard this was all going to be - having a toddler who was so independent, but still very much my little baby, and a newborn who depended on me to give him everything he needed. I felt sad that as much as I wanted to give them each 110% of myself, I didn't have that much to offer and I had no idea how I would divide my time. When you have two little ones crying how do you choose which one to comfort?!

The answer is, you choose both - just maybe not at the same time. In the last few months I've had to learn that sometimes, one of them is going to have to cry while the other is seen to. I've learned to assess their cries. Is one just crying because the other is? Is one in danger or pain? If both are just crying because they are cranky, tired, or hungry, which can be comforted the quickest so I can get to the other? I'm learning that while these little ones share some similarities, they are very much their own little person's. They have different personalities and temperament. They have their own ways of wanting to be held and soothed. Finn is not Zoe 2.0, he is Finnegan 1.0 and I'm learning that as in sync as I am with him, I don't know him as well as I know Zoe - yet.

But every day I know him even better than the last. Every day I feel stronger and more confident than I felt in those first weeks. Every day I am further from that sadness and able to enjoy every crazy, beautiful, hilarious, exhausting, and enriching moment more. I am a happy mother and wife... so happy that anything - even more children WAAAY down the road, seems possible and exciting. Maybe.

This afternoon, Finnegan was having one of his fussy moments. He was bursting into tears every time I walked away from him because he wanted me in his line of sight; wanted me to hold him every second. After going back and forth for almost an hour, I went to him and gently put my hand on his heaving chest. "I am here for you, Finnegan. Even when I am five feet away, in the next room, or whatever, I am here. Be calm." And I swear to you, he looked at me with such concentration and consideration the entire time I spoke, then he sighed quite seriously, and flashed me the biggest grin I'd ever seen him give.

Every day we are learning and understanding each other more.

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