When I first became a mom, I think I was a lot like other first-time moms, dumbstruck in love. Like, heart torn in two and half gone. And it wasn’t just the love-at-first-sight thing, everyone describes. When I first set eyes on that red and wide-eyed little bundle, yes, I loved her, but I wasn’t expecting that feeling to grow so exponentially, so quickly. As the days passed, I found I could look at her, just stare, for way longer than considered polite and kiss her more in one day than I’d kissed in my entire lifetime. I would wake up in the wee hours to nurse and rock my squishy, little red-head half-awake, but fully in love. She would wake up early, and we would side-lie nurse, falling asleep, more as one body than two. In the hours while she slept during the day, I would lie outside and journal and write her letters and reflect on how full of purpose and happy I felt. Elated really. And the surprise at that feeling was sweet as the buds just starting to blossom.
Then, when she was about three months old, my husband became very ill. It started as a migraine that would not go away. Not a drink-a-coke-and-take-an-Advil-migraine, but a throw up, lay in a dark room for days, can’t eat or sleep migraine. From there, he had intense waves of pain and pressure in his head that would often cause him to lose his balance and fall down or not be able to speak. I called 9-11 on multiple occasions and witnessed my larger-than-life partner fall like a toddler learning to walk. Doctors, even brain surgeons, couldn’t figure it out. Test after test came back negative. We began to wonder if trips between hospitals was our new normal. Finally, about two months later, he was diagnosed by an eye-doctor of all people, with hemorrhaging behind his eyes caused by excessive spinal fluid in his brain. To correct it, he’d need a spinal tap. Just as we had answers, it seemed, miraculously, symptoms were beginning to subside naturally. It was bizarre.
After missing out on nearly three months of his daughter’s life, he was back in it, and we were back to our normal groove. But the whole thing shook me pretty hard, and I found myself struggling with residual anxiety and illegitimate fears. I longed for those days basking in the sun and enjoying my newborn baby. I can’t say it was this longing that caused us to try for number two or our general understanding that multiple kiddos was always the ‘plan’, but I was getting those little itches to have a wee one in my arms again.
A few months after my daughter turned one, I found out I was pregnant. As we began to spread the news, we were met with a whole different set of reactions. This time around, instead of excitement and pleasant trips down memory lane, people seemed to smile knowingly and say things like “get ready” or “two is a game-changer.” I began to have flashbacks of older friends and acquaintances with multiple children who walked around like the half-dead, pale skin, dark under-eyes. It freaked me a little. On top of it all, I was still dealing with residual anxiety and learning how to cope with and conquer unwelcome thoughts.
When our son was born, a huge, cheesy babe, I was just as excited to meet my new baby as I had been the first time. But new feelings and thoughts were present too. I was concerned about my first-born, how she would feel, what she would think. Would I put too much pressure on her, would she still feel loved? How could I love this new baby with the same attention and fervor as I’d loved my first? It was like my heart, already half gone, was parceled out again and my brain scrambled with a fork.
And boy oh boy, was the second time around different. No more sleeping-in with a newborn snuggled against my breast. No lying in the sun reflecting and journaling during day naps. No leisurely strolls through the market for groceries. With a rambunctious toddler and less-than-ideal little sleeper, we were the undead. We were the zombies walking around crabbily with coffee in one hand, daydreaming of a night-cap to (hopefully) usher us into a full sleep cycle before the first siren-like cry. I remember looking at my Fitbit several times in the morning and seeing only minutes of “deep sleep” recorded. With our first born now blossoming into a willful human being, we were also trying our hand at the art of actual parenting. It was bumpy and uncertain and confusing and maddening (and still is!) And with the little sleep and irregular nutrition, my entire personality evolved into a survivalist. I would eat and sleep whenever I had the chance. I would lock all the doors and set the alarm while my child watched television so I could sleep when the baby did. I would shower…when I could. I would work out almost never and lived for the nights when relatives or babysitters took my children, and I didn’t have to think about anyone else for an hour or two. I look back at that time now with hardly any memories of my son’s first three months of life.
But we got through. Yes. We all did. My children were nourished and grew in life skills and abilities. They even began to play together. I learned to tackle Target, go on walks (with the dog), cook dinner, road trip to my parents’ and back, and do so much more with only myself and my multiple young children. Though not yet the ‘mini-van- mom’ I channeled her inner calm and learned to do life with screaming and food smears in every scene. Though my son is not yet two, the months between his arrival in the world and where we’ve landed today are as different as Earth is from Jupiter. And I’m proud. Not just of myself, but of all the mamas (and dadas) who have made it through too.
As I tell this story, I know some dear friends getting ready to embark on the journey into multiples. I myself am about to add another little babe to our clan (which has really ushered in the interesting comments!) And I want to leave some sort of encouraging note. But instead of advice, I’ll just share what I know. I know there will be the dark months—the ones I won’t remember, and maybe shouldn’t, — there will be the curveballs and power struggles. The who’s turn battles, the reorganizing of vehicles and schedules and priorities. There will be the moments when prayer is the only way I stay sane. But I also know that in this dark and freaky tube-slide there’s little pinpricks of light and laughter along the way. Just like I was surprised at first, I am still surprised to feel flooded with love without warning, as my daughter muddies her entire outfit and my son runs awkwardly through the lawn, white hair bouncing like a halo above his head. I’m so thankful for my children and this wild and terrifying journey. And from what I’ve heard, these years go fast (but the days sure are long!!)