I am going to be an aunt again which is great news but for my kids, this is the first baby born in the family when they are old enough to know what is happening and they are *very* excited. Almost daily Kaylen will ask if the baby has come out yet and almost daily I explain that no, the baby won't come out to play until the end of July or beginning of August.
The baby shower for my sister-in-law is this weekend so the kids and I spent this afternoon carefully selecting gifts. I actually bought some things a couple weeks ago - practical stuff - so today was all about the fun stuff! The kids, after much back and forth between themselves, decided they wanted to pick out toys so that when their cousin was old enough, she would have something to play with. Genius thinking, if you ask me. I didn't receive toys beyond infant rattles as gifts so this was pretty exciting for me to help them with. Leave it to kids to bring about the important part....looking forward. It's true, 6 months goes by faster than you think.
All this baby shopping has me jones-ing for a baby. Well ...not *a* baby. Having my two as babies again though to be honest, I do have days when I think another baby wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. (No worries - I have a firm grip on reality. No more babies for me.) Walking the aisles, breathing in that "baby smell" that new baby gear gives off. The diaper row which smells like powder. The bath smells. The shiny car seats and strollers and highchairs. The unstained clothes. It brings me back......I get all dreamy and then...BAM!
Oh yes...it brings me back to a time when I thought I knew exactly how having a baby would go. I had it all planned. That advice that people offered? HA! Well of *course* I knew a baby would change my life....that was the point. And ummm...no...I wasn't going to sleep when the baby slept because there were household chores to get done. I would sleep at night because babies only wake up once and before more than a few weeks, they would be sleeping through the night. And co-sleeping? No freaking way! Wasn't happening. We had a crib and the baby had a room.
I remember clearly when I was about 6 months pregnant and I was sitting at my desk at work. I checked my personal email to find an email from a new-ish parent from one of my message boards. She was responding to a post I had placed about the crib being together and the nursery being almost ready and how perfect everything was and would be. Her email was full of advice which, at the time, I took as a personal affront. I wrote back and thanked her for her advice but in my little family we would be running things differently. After all, the baby was joining OUR lives, we weren't joining his.
Yes....all you parents may commence laughing now.
It didn't take too many months before I profoundly regretted the email I sent back. I was broken, as new mothers often are, because life with a newborn does not go as planned....or dreamed. Sleep? HA! What about the carefully designed weekly chore list I created for myself because I would be home with the baby and have tons of time on my hands? I'm not sure it ever surfaced after the first couple of weeks of being kicked around the house. Not only did chores not get done but I had gained so many more things that needed to be done that I was truly overwhelmed. Dakota would come home from work and I would pass off Kelton as I begged to do dishes, fold laundry or vacuum. ANYTHING that would help restore order to my wildly out of control existence.
The baby didn't sleep during the day. Ever. Well - let me rephrase that. Ever when not inside the circle of someones arms. Instead, he stayed attached to me either nursing, snuggled in the Baby Bjorn or just cuddled in my arms. I answered emails and read message boards around this lump of a child who became part of my outside being (which is no where near as easy as when he was inside my being). I walked the hall, I bounced, I sang and, at my wits end, I would cried with him. My dreams of the perfect existence with an infant? Shattered on the floor into pieces that I had to step over on my way to pump milk because I swear to you that if I had to nurse him one more time that hour I was going to lose my ever loving mind.
It wasn't all bad....not by a long, long shot. I had this amazing little baby in my arms - a long awaited dream come true. Proof that there are miracles. I could sit and stare into his beautiful eyes for hours and often did because he never slept. It was just so not what I expected. Not even close. I found my groove, in time. But it wasn't the dream I had in my head. The fantasy of life with a baby...with a child.....is nothing like reality. Reality is far better....and far worse....then anyone could ever tell you. It's something that if you have experienced, you know and if you have never, you just can't possibly understand. I thought I knew before I had children. I read everything, I was prepared...except nothing can prepare you. Not a single thing.
And then, with Kaylen, I went into the whole parenting thing (round two) more self-assured. I had nursing down (Kelton nursed for two years. I was very good at that part of mothering and in the beginning that is what you need to have down with a nursing infant.) and I knew having a baby would be tough and tougher still with a toddler to care for. I knew that the baby would end up in my bed after waking once or twice...you know, when I was too tired to think I could stand up and return her to her bed. So to cut to the chase, we set up her crib next to the bed. She didn't have a nursery because I knew she would spent no time in it. I was ready.
Or.....so I thought.
Baby #2 is not Baby #1. The crib? Yeah. Ummm...not. Kaylen had an incredibly high startle reflex so she spent her time wrapped tight in someones arms, sleeping on our chests as we tried to sleep on the couch or as we took turns bouncing her in our arms as we bounced on an exercise ball. Where Kelton was laid back, Kaylen was incredibly high needs. Kelton hated to be swaddled but Kaylen required it because of her reflex and, what I know now, was her sensory issues (she required swaddling for 15 long months which had me sewing receiving blankets together to create a bigger blanket to swaddle her). Kelton had been a content baby, Kaylen screamed 24/7 for MONTHS. Nursing? Yeah. That one was a hard slap of reality. While I knew what to do for my part, Kaylen couldn't get the hang of it and at 8 days old, she and I landed in a lactation specialists office for help and the pain and damage a terrible nurser creates? Well - it takes MONTHS to heal. But I was committed and we made it through. She was a long term nurser as well. But I will never tell anyone that nursing is easy...or natural. For some lucky few? Sure. But trust me when I say it isn't for the non-committed.
Remember that crib? She never slept in it. Maybe a few hours here and there but nope. It went unused.
I often think back over the real, honest advice given to me by both new and seasoned parents and I am humbled to realize how arrogant I was. I know that giving advice to other parents-to-be is received the same way I received it - not well. I made a promise though, I would tell my story with truth - the whole ugly and beautiful truth because the parents that sugar coated it, or the non-parents who fed my completely unrealistic dreams? Those are the ones I wish I could trip and watch fall flat on their face. Turn around is fair play and all. :)
I sincerely hope all new parents have an easy go. An angel baby. And some do...but most don't. Some people are completely unfazed by the upheaval a child brings into your life and some of us reel for years. Every baby is different and if there is one thing I would like to bring to the table it's this: it isn't the parents who determine the course, it's the baby. A teeny, tiny little person grabs hold of your heart at the same time they grab control of your life. And you are never, ever the same.
It's good. It's not. It's amazing. It's not. It's everything. And nothing. But above all else, nothing is ever, ever, ever the same.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
So here's to babies everywhere!