It was bound to happen. I have 2 boys who have very little regard for personal safety. They both think that you are standing still if you are not running as fast as you can. And, as Luke is fairly new to this whole “walking” thing, he falls a lot.
Well, Wednesday morning last week, the day after an amazing Halloween night full of adventure and costumes and adorableness, I get the call. I had just pulled in to the parking lot at work. I hadn’t even taken my seatbelt off yet. My phone rings and the caller ID is Luke’s daycare. I always have a brief moment of anxiety when I see that name on the caller ID. I assume that most mother’s do. I always hope that it is something minor like ‘he ran out of diapers’ or ‘I need to update his immunization records.’ But deep down, I always assume it is something terrible.
When I answered, the voice on the other end said, with a rushed voice, “Luke is okay, but…”
My heart sank. Before she could get the next words out of her mouth a million tragedies are running through my mind. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and I truly don’t know if I can handle one more thing. I have had about 4 weeks of non-stop everything with barely any moment to catch my breath.
Between my husband going out of town for a week for work to my own work travel to school events, Halloween, sicknesses, and life in general, I haven’t had a single moment to recharge. I am someone who needs time to recharge. I know that about myself. As a result, the craziness of the last month has sent me into a funk… A funk in which any emergency might break me. This call from daycare did it.
“Luke is okay, but… He fell on a toy and the corner hit him in the face and split his lip. It looks pretty deep and it may need stitches.”
She sends me a picture of him (when I get it, I die a little inside) and I let her know I will be right there. I call Luke’s doctor. She tells me to take him to the pediatric emergency room. I didn’t even know our city had a pediatric emergency room. I call Matt. He does absolutely nothing to calm me down. He asks if he needs to go with me. I say no even though, inside, I am freaking out and begging him to be there because I truly don’t know if I can do this alone.
Just then, the light comes on in my car telling me I need gas. Fuck.
I stop at the gas station.
On the way to pick up Luke, I call my friend who is usually pretty good at calming me down. She doesn’t answer. After all, it’s not even 8am yet. She calls me back, sensing an emergency. I tell her about the situation and she, as hard as she tried, did little to comfort me. At this point, I just need my baby in my arms. I need to assess the situation myself.
I get to daycare. Luke looks pitiful. His face is swollen and bloody. His eyes are puffy from crying. I know he can tell that I am freaking out. I try not to show it. The cut does look pretty bad. I don’t think it needs stitches but, I am not a doctor. We head to the emergency room just to be safe.
I check in at the ER and I didn’t even have to sit down in the waiting room. A nurse was waiting for me at the door to take us back to our room. Luke perked up once she started taking his vitals. He seemed to forget about the gaping hole in his lip and was mostly excited to explore this new and exciting hospital room. The doctor took a little too long to get there because Luke pretty much destroyed the room. Between the latex gloves, hand sanitizer, and hospital gowns, there was very little floor showing by the time the doctor got there. He even unplugged something at one point that set off a little alarm.
He was acting like himself which brought my craziness down several notches. The doctor assessed him and determined that it didn’t go all the way through and it didn’t cross the “lip line” so no stitches were necessary. He prescribed an antibiotic ointment and sent us on our way.
He fell asleep in the car on the way to the pharmacy so I sat in the car in the parking lot and cried. Not a sad cry, but a cry of relief, of exhaustion, of release.
On a normal day, and on a grander scheme, this is not that big of a deal. Toddlers fall. It happens.
But, as I am sure many other mothers feel on a regular basis, I am just trying to make it through each day, one step at a time. This parenting thing is hard enough on a good day. But after a month of not being able to recharge, a month of zero self-care, a month of absolute crazy, I broke. And it sucks. And it makes me feel weak. And it makes me feel like a bad mother.
Ultimately, I know better. I’m freakin’ awesome. But in that moment, on that day, I hurt for my baby. And it is a hurt that doesn’t go away just because his lip is healing. It is a hurt that is screaming at me to take care of myself.
The first thing I need to tell anyone who is thinking about having a second child is that the transition from 1 kid to 2 is so much harder (and more complicated) than the transition from baby-free to 1 kid. It is still wonderful and rewarding (and a lot of other things too) but I was not prepared for the insane degree of difficulty that would be involved when trying to navigate a newborn/infant/baby and a young child all at the same time.
When Luke was brand new, he was what some people might call a “Velcro baby.” He had to be attached to me at all times. The moment I set him down, even for a second, he lost his freakin’ mind. He was the happiest baby imaginable as long as I was holding him. Add that on to the fact that Luke is hungry constantly, nurses to soothe himself, and nurses for his snacks between breastfeeding, and I didn’t get a lot done. And, it made it especially difficult to be even a halfway decent parent to our older son, Noah.
To deal with this, Matt and I just went with the “divide and conquer” method of parenting. Noah became his kid. Luke became mine.
Now that Luke is older, he likes to be put down some times so he can play and he doesn’t eat quite as much as he used to (sort of), so Matt and I are able to alternate kids a little more regularly. But it is still overwhelming.
I feel like I can only be a great parent to one kid at a time or a sorta-okay parent to both kids. And I miss my one-on-one time with Noah.
Matt is the one now that knows the kindergarten routine inside and out. He knows which shorts Noah likes to wear to bed and what his favorite TV shows are these days. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I don’t have to watch Odd Squad every night but I do miss the snuggles that come along with late night TV.
And while I am the main parent for Luke, that means Matt gets to swoop in when he’s being all cute and adorable and I get the late night feedings and the tearful daycare drop offs (my tears, not Luke’s).
But, Matt can’t parent Noah by himself. It makes it extra difficult because Noah is a high energy kid. And not in a “oh my kid likes to run around a lot” kind of way. Noah has to run around a lot ALL THE TIME. He only has 2 speeds- 90 mph and asleep. There is no middle, no range of energy levels. When we go to trampoline parks or bounce houses, he doesn’t fall asleep on the way home. These kinds of activities just add fuel to his already high-intensity fire.
But, like all things parenting, we are learning as we go. Matt and I have never strived for perfection. Our mantra has always been “do what works” and so far, what we are doing is working. I am sure we will continue to struggle. And we may have a few successes here and there.
In the meantime, we will continue to try to manage on 5 hours of sleep and minimal conversation.
When a kid starts at daycare, one of the things you can most definitely expect to happen almost immediately is that they are going to get sick. The extent to the illness varies but, inevitably, temperatures will rise and someone is going to get puked on.
As I have mentioned, my new baby Luke started daycare about 3 weeks ago. He loves it, I’m still struggling with it- I don’t see that changing any time soon.
[Side note: I can make it all the way to my car now before I start to cry. And sometimes, I don’t cry until I get to work. Winning!]
Well, after the first week, Luke started sneezing more than usual and started sounding like a little pig when he slept. That eventually turned into a drippy nose and runny eyes. He didn’t have a fever and he was acting just as happy as always so, no big deal.
Saturday rolls around, we go through our normal sleep routine of nursing before bed. I swaddle him super tight, kiss him goodnight, and place him in the cosleeper. Matt was down the hall putting Noah to bed and reading bedtime stories.
Luke started to shift a little bit but, nothing out of the ordinary.
Then, out of nowhere, a geyser of spit-up shoots into the air. This giant spit-up fountain is spewing about 18 inches skyward and plummeting back down onto my sweet baby’s face and all over the bed.
A wave of shock and fear falls over me and all I can think to do is shout “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” over and over again as I try to clean spit-up out of Luke’s eyes and ears while also trying not to drown myself in this milky, smelly mess.
Seriously. I have never seen this much spit-up ever. There is no way he drank this much. He had to have been storing this in some secret spit-up compartment for days in order to produce this much. He didn’t even seem all that upset about it. If anything, he had a look of pride in his eyes as I grabbed blankets and burp cloths and rags from everywhere I could think to grab them to clean this mess up. He looked almost as though he did it on purpose to make sure I was paying attention.
After what seemed like forever (probably only a minute or 2), Matt heard my panic and came running down the hall. He, too, was astonished at the volume of spit-up. He also seemed to be more upset that I had just changed the sheets on our bed that morning and the other sheets were still dirty on the laundry room floor (oops!).
This week, it happened. Twelve short weeks flew by and my maternity leave was over. I started struggling with the idea of sending my precious new baby to daycare at about 10 weeks in. Before that, it seemed so far away. Either that, or I was just too tired to really think too far into the future.
Maternity leave is interesting. You really spend the first month trying to recover from delivery. Regardless of the kind of delivery you had, recovery takes some time and some adjusting. Not only is your body recovering, but your family is too.
The second month of maternity leave is when it starts to get so much better. By then, you and your family have figured out how to get things done and the baby has developed some routine. This time around, I really soaked all of it in. I didn’t get much done around the house because I spent all of my spare time staring at him while he slept, rocking him while he nursed, and making silly faces at him when he looked at me. We really became an awesome team.
And then that last month is when the baby can respond to you and that amazing bond gets even stronger. You know what makes him laugh. You know what cries and sounds mean what. He starts to make the “poop face” and the “I’m about to lose my shit” face. But he also stares at you as if you are the most beautiful and magnificent person in the whole entire world. It feels wonderful.
And then the real world rips it away from you because you have to go back to work.
This transition has been absolutely heartbreaking. Because I knew this would be a struggle for me, Matt and I chose a very highly rated daycare which means it is freakishly expensive (and we totally can’t afford it but we’ll figure out a way to make it work). I guess I thought that would make this easier. It hasn’t.
Day 1 I cried all morning. Fortunately, Matt went with me for drop off. I sobbed the entire time and Matt pretty much had to drag me out of the door. They were super nice but it was terrible.
When I picked him up that day, they told me that he struggled taking the bottle and he barely napped all day. This made me start sobbing again. What kind of awful mother am I??!!
When we got home, the baby was ravenous and nursed like he hadn’t eaten in days. Then I stared at him for about 20 minutes and then he fell asleep for the rest of the night. On this terrible day when I was separated from my beautiful baby all day and cried all day and all I wanted was to stare into his big blue eyes, he was awake for 20 minutes. This sucks!
The second day, I was able to soak in the morning a little more. I stared at him and snuggled him a little too long before getting him ready. I drove a little slower on the way to daycare and watched him in the rearview as he giggled to himself. I made it into the classroom, calm and collected. I handed the baby to his teacher and l immediately lost it. I sobbed and sobbed and had to kiss him about 14 times before I was able to walk out the door. He did sleep and eat better at daycare that day so my evening was a little more pleasant.
The third day, today, was a little bit better (so far). I managed to get him all the way into his classroom, talk with the teacher a bit, hand him off, and I only turned around 3 times to kiss him “just one more time” before I left. I made it all the way out the door and into the parking lot before bursting into tears.
I am not sure who on earth invented this horrible ritual and who in their right mind thought that 12 weeks was long enough for maternity leave (unpaid by the way) but, as I said before, this sucks.