Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brain Dump/Catch Up/Transitioning to a Family of Four

I've operated on very little sleep before. I've pulled all-nighters in trial offices, changed into a suit, and gone straight to court for trial. But, I've never been as tired as I am right now. I've had a draft post going for a few days now, but no time to finish it (while I HAVE had computer time, it has been with a baby in my arms, and I just didn't think I could manage a one-handed blog post). But, tonight, I'm determined to just finish and hit "publish." The result will likely be a bit of a brain dump, but hopefully coherent nonetheless. It'll also likely be long since there's been so much going on (hello, new baby!) so I totally understand if the only people that read it are those that are related to us ;o) I will try to sprinkle in some pictures with my incoherent ramblings. (Of course, we haven't taken many pictures -- and I feel TERRIBLE for my Mia, and now totally 100% understand why my mom has 8 million baby pictures of my older brother and so few of me . . . there's NO TIME for snapping pictures when you are playing one-on-one defense!).

I mentioned that Sammie B had the flu last week. It was AWFUL. She was actually sick for two weeks. She was out of school for a week, went back for two days, and then, the flu hit. She's generally such a healthy kid. I can count the number of times she's had colds on one hand, so this was sort of new territory to us. We've done specialists and seen our share of "ologists," but seeing her just plain SICK was new territory, and I hated every second of it. She got quite the high fever and was so very, very tired and just inconsolable. Refusing food, crying if we tried to wake her, pushing us away when we gave her medicine. Wanting to just lay on my chest and sleep and cry and whine. Heartbreaking. B and I were so worried that we had her sleep in our bed for several nights (that's right - four of us, one bed - very little sleeping for THREE straight nights), and during the days, her nanny and I just took turns laying with her while the other had Mia. It may sound silly, but she was SO not herself and so so sad, that I kept worrying that it was something bigger. I think part of the problem of being entrenched in this special needs world is that we know too much. We know kids whose simple fevers and simple flu have been much more. I hate that. I hate that my mind goes to dark places, I hate that it was all so scary. (And, I thank my stars for my mom, who patiently sat on the phone and let me cry and let me be scared and just supported and encouraged me like only a mother can).
But for us, this was JUST THE FLU, and we are so, so glad. After two days of not a single smile or laugh, Sammie B popped her head up Friday morning (in our bed) while I was getting dressed, and looked at me, and said, "boobies!" and giggled. We knew then that our girl was on the mend. She kept recuperating over the weekend - we took things slow and had a games/movie day in bed Saturday, but by Sunday night, she was HERSELF. Her magical little, giggly, amazing little self. And, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

My sad sick girl:

The return of her smile:

So, that was that. The flu. It sucked.

What else in our world?

Well, here's the good stuff. In no particular order . . .

- Sam is still madly in love with her "Baby Mia." She wants to hold her all the time, which of course, is not practical. We try to find a good balance of letting her tickle Mia's feet, rub her head, etc. without always giving in and putting Mia on Sam's lap, since Sam's commitment to helping support Mia's head is spotty at best ;o)

- After Sam was feeling better we took her to the Disney Store to pick out a new stuffed animal (she picked Simba). On her own, she insisted we get Mia an animal too, and she picked Donald Duck for Mia. We are thrilled that Sam is so very in love with her sister, but of course, this transition period HAS brought its challenges (more on those in a second).

- So that we can close Sammie B's bedroom door at night (in hopes that Mia Monster doesn't wake her when she SCREAMS in the middle of the night) we bought one of those cameras/video monitors to have in Sam's room. Sam's had a rough time with bedtime lately (and even woke up crying for me a lot in the night right after I got home from the hospital, which is so out of her norm) so I told her about the camera. I showed it to her and showed her the monitor and explained that I could watch her sleep so that I'd know she was okay. That night, I put her to bed, and walked out and went to my room to feed Mia, and I looked over at the monitor, and saw my little Sammie B flashing that camera the best smiles ever. I thought "is she posing for the camera?" HILARIOUS. The next night, we had the same conversation about the camera and me checking on her during the night. That night, the little stinker looked right at the camera, smiled and said, "CHEESE!"

- The girls had their first bath together, which was comical at best. Sam enjoyed it immensely. She kept looking at Mia and just screaming with delight. But, Mia screamed with pure fury, and I had a hard time holding onto the slippery, angry little Mia Monster, so it might be the last bath together until Mia's a little bigger. But, still, a moment to remember.

- B's parents (aka Nana and Papa) came for a visit which was fantastic. B's mom stayed up with Mia until midnightish most nights and then brought her to me to feed her, so I got to go to bed early and get some sleep. Sam totally totally enjoyed her time with her grandparents too (even if she was unfortunately sick for part of it) so it was just a great visit. Caring for two small children is much easier with four adults than two (though B and I are managing to tag team it fairly effectively on our own too!). My mom comes next week, and I'm super excited to have her here (and to eat her Thanksgiving food!). I'm eager for Sammie B to get more special time with her Gigi, and for Gigi to take over some Mia duties so I can devote some special one-on-one time to Sammie B (and maybe get through the pile of mail that's accumulated since B's parents left!) Living far from our families is not easy, so we try to cherish the visits!

- One quick, cute Sammie B story. The other day when I put her down for a nap and covered her up, she said "Thank you mama." I said, "did you thank me for covering you?" and she said, "yeah." The sweetest. And that night, when I washed her hair in the bathtub, she thanked me again. Melt.

Okay, so those are some of the highlights of the good and the funny. I'm leaving a ton out, because certainly, every day has had some magic, share-worthy moments, but those are a few of my favorites.

But, as I mentioned, some of this transition stuff IS HARD. It's also probably just unfortunate timing that our girl started a new preschool, got a new sister, and got the flu all in three weeks time . . . a lot of change and drama for a three-year-old little girl. So, Sammie B has not totally been herself, and it has been hard for me. I've felt guilty, like I turned my girl's world upside down. Worrying about how to help her in this transition has kept me up at night, and thinking of ways to help her understand that even though she now has to share mama with another little creature (not to mention a very demanding one!) she's still my Sammie B and there's only one of her. I'm going to try to explain some of the difficult parts of the transition, but the overall theme is that I feel pulled. Torn. I feel like I've turned my first-born's world upside down and I've (we've) struggled with how to best help HER through the transition from a family of three to one of four. She's been the center of our universe for so very long. And, I guess more than anything, I've struggled with how best to show her that she STILL is, even if another tiny(demanding) person is in our universe too. I just can't stop thinking about what a heavy little burden this transition is for a three-year old.

We are trying to emphasize that Sammie is our "big girl" and make that a positive thing (e.g., only big girls get chocolate milk - Sam's favorite thing, etc.) But, at the same time, I don't want to overdo the "big girl" talk to the point that she thinks, "I don't want to be a big girl, being a big girl sucks, and Mia doesn't have to be a big girl." Sam has been doing things to indicate she'd like to be a baby again too (wanting to sit in Mia's car seat, asking for bottles when we give Mia bottles, etc.). In most of those moments, my gut tells me just let her pretend, and don't make a big deal out of it, and it'll pass.

I think it has made things harder that I was HOME and on bed rest for so long before Mia came. Sam got used to seeing me all day and me being around, even if she was with her nanny or in and out for therapy appointments. She really did grow into quite the "mama's girl" during that time, which I love. But, part of me wonders if that's making this harder for her. Because there are times when she wants me and ONLY me, and no one else will do. She had a hard time with me being in the hospital, and woke up SOBBING for a couple of nights after I came home asking for me. Each time, it was while I was feeding Mia, so B went to her and ended up sleeping with her. But, she was crying and saying "NO dada! Mama!!" I could hear her while I was feeding Mia, and I laid in my own bed and cried and worried that I'd broken my first born's heart. But, that passed, and within a few nights of me being home, Sammie B was back to sleeping through the night. (And the positive spin on all of this is that Sammie B got some great dada-time during all this, and I love watching their relationship evolve. Once she got sick, all bets were sort of off though, I couldn't NOT be there for her during that . . . but we managed. Mia had some bottles so that I could focus on Sam, and we got through it. Now that everyone's healthy again, we are figuring it out as we go. I've decided to pump for Mia and bottle feed her breast milk for now -- a hard decision but the best one for us -- and that is making the 'tag-teaming' aspect of parenting two little ones a little more manageable for me and B, and allowing me some good quality time with Sammie B in the evenings after spending my days focusing on Mia).

I think the hardest thing we've been dealing with on the Sam-front is whining. A LOT of it. Which is NOT her norm. And, with all that's been going on, it is so hard to disentangle what's due to her not feeling 100% versus her just having a hard time dealing with all the changes in her life versus just normal three-year-old stuff. Again, we are trying to just talk our way through things with her, and talk about not whining (I told her that her whining made me feel crazy (it does!) and we decided the next day's rule would be "no whining" and then I asked her how I feel when she whines and she gave me the most mischievous smile EVER and said, "HAPPY!" STINKER.) The good news is, talking about things with Sam always seems to help. The next day, we "reviewed" our talk about whining a few times, but it was a better day.

Another new thing is that for the FIRST time EVER Sam is crying when her nanny comes to get her in the mornings for school. She's fine the second they are out the door, and fine at school, so we know its not a school thing - it seems to be a leaving me thing. And, when she and her nanny are home, she doesn't want to go play with her nanny but just wants to be with me, which is hard. We really, really, really have tried in all of this to keep Sam's routine as consistent as possible, but I realized that me being here makes it harder for Sam. The thing is -- I was here for months on bed rest, and Sam was fine playing with her nanny in another room while I worked from bed or rested, or coming and going with her nanny, but now . . . I think it is hard because I'm with Mia. She's jealous. So, this week, I've tried something new . . . I'm getting up and getting OUT with Mia so that Sam and her nanny can have the house to themselves for a good part of the day. So that Sam's routine is a little more "her normal" and less disrupted by the arrival of her sister. And, this too seems to be helping. It's nice to come home and get to hear about Sam's day and her be excited to see me, rather than feeling all day like she's heartbroken that I can't play with her because I'm feeding Mia. It's also just been good for me - I'm getting out and doing things and still getting to spend one-on-one time with our newest lady during the day, and then coming home to my Sammie B and hearing about her day, doing dinner as a family/baths, etc.

This is, indeed, a learning process. We are feeling our way through it. Sammie B has had a WHOLE lot of change, and she's a little clingier, and a little whinier than normal, but we are talking our way through it and loving her through it, and I know we'll all come out okay. I know we aren't the first to go through this. But, knowing that doesn't necessarily make the mama guilt go away. I've gotten fantastic advice from my friends with 2+ kids (like giving Sam ways to help, having special "mama and Sammie B time and communicating that to her, etc.) and we have been putting all that advice into action - I know none of that is going to make it easier for her overnight, but I think it IS helping her. And, now, we just keep on loving her like crazy (that's the easy part!!) and hope that as time passes, we all adjust to this new chapter.

Finally, I miss work. I really, really miss work. I've been gone a long time. I know its a good thing that I miss it. I really do. I also realize that for ALL the guilt I feel as a working mother, my children are no worse for the wear because of it. Sammie B has an amazing nanny that works with her, that does her therapies with her, that takes her to her therapy appointments, etc., and having THAT allows me to be "mama" a little more and therapist a little less. I'm looking forward to the rest of my maternity leave, but at the same time, I think I too am looking forward to getting back to work, and back to MY routine. And, I know that when I do, that separation from me isn't a detriment to my kiddos -- seeing my independent, brave Sammie B get a little clingier during my time home has shown me that the separation CAN be a healthy thing for them too.

I know I'm not being as articulate as I'd like to be, but I'm (1) tired (I mentioned that, right?) and (2) sitting next to a very cute little baby that may very well wake up SCREAMING as if she's never eaten in her life any second now, so I feel like I'm racing against the clock to get this typed and posted.

Life is good. Life is exhausting. We are transitioning. We will make it. For every hard moment, there have been many, many more joyful ones. B and I are figuring out this "parenting two" thing together, one moment at a time, and we are doing okay. Better than okay.

1 comment:

Maggie said...

Oh wow! I can't wait until our baby #2 arrives in April! Eleanor already gets jealous when we spend too much time with her baby cousin! We'll see how she does when the baby lives with us!

You and B are great parents! I know you'll make it through this tough transition and end up with two happy little girls who are the best of friends!