On June 7th my son, Oliver Blake, was born. He arrived via scheduled c-section, and though I can’t say that being cut open to have a baby removed from my body was pleasant, the overall experience was very much preferable to what I went through two years ago when Emmalee came into the world. Now, a little over a month later, I am essentially recovered from childbirth and I find myself attempting to navigate the tumultuous mother-of-two waters.
This will probably seem like an obvious statement, but having two children is quite a bit more challenging than having just one. My biggest difficulty with this entire situation is that I am outnumbered. Emma and Ollie seem to sense this and inevitably start screaming with conflicting needs at the exact same moment. Ollie needs a bottle and Emma needs a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Emma needs a diaper change and Ollie decides sitting in his bouncer for one more moment would be torture. Ollie needs a diaper change and Emma wants to be fed cereal and milk. Emma wants me to help her build a castle and Ollie insists on being held. I spend all day being pulled in opposite directions and trying to find a way to balance the chaos. Luckily I am an expert in patience.
This leads to the next biggest issue I am dealing with, which is the constant, overwhelming guilt I feel. Prior to having two babies I never realized how multidimensional guilt could be. I feel guilty for holding Oliver too much and not playing with Emma enough, but then I feel guilty for how much time he spends in his bouncer while I play with and take care of her. I feel guilty about how much television Emma has been watching. I feel guilty about how much time we spend at home. Last summer Emma and I were constantly on the go, but Oliver’s presence has put a damper on our adventure schedule this year. And though Emma has adjusted to our new baby better than I would have expected, I know it is still difficult for her to suddenly have to share me and my attention with someone else. So I feel guilty for wanting and loving Oliver so much when it causes Emma such strife, and then I feel guilty for feeling guilty because that isn’t fair to him. I find myself in another constant balancing act, attempting to love them both enough but not too much so that neither child is favored or slighted.
Compiling these challenges exponentially is the barely manageable sleep deprivation. Oliver needs to eat every 3-4 hours, but will usually go at least one 5-6 hour stretch in the night. That means, theoretically, I get to sleep 4-5 hours, get up for an hour to feed him, and then sleep 2-3 more hours. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly workable. The problem, of course, is that I’m not dealing with just Oliver. At some point in the previously described situation Emma wakes up, often sometime during that 4-5 hour stretch of sleep that is necessary to maintain my sanity, and I am up with her anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour finding pacis, getting her some water, trekking from her room to my room with the necessary stuffed animals before she will finally settle in my bed and go back to sleep. So each night I find myself attempting to balance meeting the nocturnal needs of my children and attempting to get enough fragments of sleep in for myself so that I can function the next day without having a mental breakdown.
My dad asked me if I enjoy having two children and I answered honestly that I think I will one day. I love both of my children and I enjoy them so much separately. Emma is so much fun to play with and she always makes me laugh. Oliver is so tiny and cute and fun to cuddle. But put them together and mostly it’s just hard. I know a lot of it has to do with how young they both are and that with time things will get better. I will eventually be able to get them on a manageable schedule, Oliver won’t need nighttime feedings forever, and at some point they will be able to play together. The potential for enjoyment is certainly there. For now I will continue to be patient and will make an effort to enjoy the moments between the chaos, because I know they are fleeting. I will try to remember at 3:00 in the morning, when Emma has just finally fallen asleep beside me an hour before and Oliver is now ready to be fed, that there will come a day when I will miss how little and needy my children are now. Instead of giving in to the urge to beat my head against a wall and sob, I will look at Emma’s peaceful face and memorize the innocent, trusting look in Oliver’s eyes because when I am old and gray (assuming, of course, that I survive until then) that is what I will want to remember; not the exhaustion or the screaming or the tears, but the reasons I wanted these babies in the first place.