“When new babies come along your love doesn’t get divided…it multiplies!” ~A wise mama
We’ve spent the past five weeks settling into our new family of five. We have all fallen deeply and madly in love with this tiny little girl who has joined us. Already she makes us swoon with her smiles and coos, her adorable sleep giggles, and the curious way she will stare out a window or her favorite board book. Both boys are incredibly sweet with her and drown her in kisses and offerings of random toys to “play” with. Big Brother has especially stepped up his game and will sing, soothe, and shoosh her until she is calm and sometimes even put her to sleep. He is so nurturing it makes me melt.
In the days and weeks immediately following her birth, she and I spent hours just lying in bed: bonding, nursing, sleeping, and snuggling. Those sweet, fleeting moments just after the baby is born are some of the most memorable and cherishable for me. But maybe not so much for my husband and the rest of my family. In some ways it has been our most challenging transition as a family. Due to my daughter’s late arrival, the grandma help we had lined up immediately following her birth was gone. Trying to juggle two very active boys, a newborn, and a mama who can barely get out of bed was a bit of a shock to the system. By day three when my amazing new pediatrician visited us at home for Baby Girl’s first check up, she took one look at me and told me to hire help. Immediately. Fortunately, one of my midwife’s students was also a postpartum doula and she was more than happy to offer us her services. To be honest, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a postpartum doula, but it has proven to be a life saver. In those days to follow, she swooped in to do laundry, read and play with the older boys, hold the baby while I slept, and just about any other little task that helped us to breathe. Later, we did have other family members to step in and be our village, but when they had to return home, having a postpartum doula to act as our village has been the key to our survival.
Going from a two kid family to a three kid family changes the game. You go from man on man to zone defense. Most days, it looks like a game of girls vs boys because in these five weeks, my husband often runs after the boys while we girls are sitting, often nursing. In some ways, he’s got the harder job, but when you factor in the lack of sleep I have endured, I’d say it evens out. Speaking of sleep, I’m no stranger to sleep deprivation. It’s quite clear I don’t make sleeping babies as Big Brother didn’t properly sleep through the night until he was nearly two years old and Little One was only marginally better. So far, Baby Girl is following in her brothers’ footsteps in that I haven’t had more than 2 hours of consistent sleep with nearly hourly wake ups past 2am. But as most sleep deprived mothers do, I’m holding on to the hope that just around the corner there will be this magical unicorn of a baby that will sleep all night. It’s highly unlikely, but a mother can dream.
Honestly, the sleep deprivation doesn’t really upset me all that much this time around. I’m use to it, I know the drill, and based on evidence from my first sleepless child…one day, they figure it out. The challenging part for me in all of this new baby, family of five lifestyle is the bumpy road with my soon to be a threenager, middle child. I was unprepared for how rough this transition has been for Little One. His emotions are at an all time high and every little moment of the day is dramatic and full of tears. I know his world has been turned upside down with the arrival of his baby sister and he feels out of control. Plus…he’s a week away from turning three and in the throes of dropping his nap. I remember when Big Brother was three, I use to think to myself…Whoever coined the phrase “terrible twos” has clearly never met a three-year old! This age is so challenging! Little One attempts to regain control in every way possible. This is often seen by him resisting every step of the day from the moment he opens his eyes until the grudgingly closes them at night. If we say up, he says down. If we say stop, he says go. It doesn’t matter what we present to him, he wants the opposite..that is until he gets the opposite and then it’s the end of the world because what he really wants is what was originally offered. It’s mentally and physically exhausting to exists with him right now. My mama instinct tells me that if I could just carve out some time to give him my undivided attention and love on him, it would help soften the blow. Sadly, too often, he won’t let me. I try to hug him, he pushes me away. I tell him I love him, he disagrees and says, “You DON’T love me!” (and my heart smashes into a million pieces). I know this will one day end and it’s all just a phase/transition/tough time, but man is it hard. Many days I want to cry. And many days, due to my hormones and sleep deprivation, I do cry.
But as we are entering week five, I’ve noticed a small glimmer of hope of change in him. Even this morning, as he came into the bedroom with my husband to collect Baby Girl so I could catch a little more sleep, he jumped on the bed and said out of the blue, “Hey, I love you.” And last night, for the second night in a row, instead of screaming/crying/constant negotiation at bedtime, he happily listened to my new bedtime secret weapon and peacefully drifted off to sleep.
One day we will find our groove as a party of five. Baby steps…