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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sometimes it's hard....

Yesterday I visited my friend Steffani, her brand new adorable baby girl, and her equally squeezable 2 year old.   I couldn't help while holding the baby and watching her sister but to think back 7 years ago when the same scenario was my life.  And boy was it hard.  Today I am blessed to know people who have had kids about a year apart, people who have had a toddler and then twins, I even know a family who has 4 kids under the age of 6, and in the moments when my children seem to be outrunning my parenting skills, those people give me pause and allow me to realize that it could be harder, crazier, and involve way more laundry.  When I was a mom with a baby and a toddler I didn't know those people, and I chose not to believe that anyone I did know could possibly feel as ill equipped to be a great parent as me. After I left Steff's I reminisced, some crazy stories came back, stories that made me laugh, tear up and cringe all at the same time.   Something I'd never connected before hit me.  It was in those first few months after Ellie was born that I became a (mostly) confident parent.  Please don't confuse a confident parent with a totally enlightened parent.  I just mean it was in those months that I began to see that I'd never really have it figured out, that there's always a curve ball waiting, and that being a great parent doesn't mean that I'll always do the right thing or even know what  to do.   Ok, truth check maybe it wasn't actually in those months that I gained this truth but more like after I'd made it through those months.  

January 2006....Kevin, who didn't start traveling until Emma was 6 months old was traveling like crazy, and my mom, who I relied on so much when Emma was a newborn, was very sick and in Atlanta receiving treatments.  Things felt so different this second time around.  I felt more alone and scared.  What the heck was I doing?    Ellie came out a beautiful, healthy 9lb. 2oz. ravenous baby girl.  When I wasn't nursing her she wanted to be held, not in a swing, not in a bouncy chair, in my arms.   I could barely put her down to go to the bathroom, much less to try to play with Emma .  Within a week I'd gotten a baby sling,  I wore her in that sling all day long and often into the night.  In the same week I purchased the sling, and right before she left for Atlanta, my mom took Emma to Target.  I still remember exactly what they came back with.  Along with all of the necessities that I needed, they bought a Barney Goes to the Zoo DVD, a Toddler songs CD, pop tarts, and a princess nightgown.  Best Target trip ever.  Emma wore the nightgown to shreds and that DVD bought me precious time to make dinner, fold laundry, and catch my breath.  We listened to the CD a million times and for my previously sugar starved toddler the pop tarts were the best incentive for much needed cooperation.  Armed with my sling, my Target goodies and my new mom hormones, things seemed to float along pretty well for a week or so.  However, Ellie followed in Emma's footsteps and was a terrible sleeper so quickly I wore down and became bone tired.  I developed mastitis, a bladder infection and my episotomy was not healing.  Late one afternoon, after the antibiotics weren't doing the trick my doctor sent me for blood work.  It was nearly 5pm and we just barely made it to the clinic before they closed.  Stressed and tired I shuffled in only to realize I'd forgotten my wallet with my insurance card inside.   While they did insist I have my insurance card before getting my blood drawn, they must have seen my despair because  they were wonderful and stayed open long enough for me to load the girls up, go home, get my wallet and return.  That night Emma and I ate McDonald's in my bed while I choked back tears.  I hurt, I was tired and I thought... what am I doing?  I did have a little ray of hope though,  I felt at least like I had a handle on Emma.  She was a sweetheart at home, never acting up, even helping a little by getting diapers and things for the baby.  She continued to go to daycare for half days which was such a help too.   One day when I was picking up Emma from daycare,  I read her daily notebook, which I'd not read for some time.  In it her teacher described Emma's aggressive behavior; throwing chairs, hitting.  She wrote that this would be expected in such a stressful time in a child's life.  I bawled, right there in the classroom.  What was I doing?  I thought things were going so well for my girl.  The teacher calmed me down and assured me that this was good, kids need to act out on their feelings, and this would pass.   I don't think I truly believed her though.  We got in the car and as was customary on any length of car trip, Ellie screamed at the top of her lungs.  I was tired, sad, distracted and probably shouldn't have been behind the wheel.  Traffic slowed on Hampton and me with my sleepy reflexes rear ended the car in front of us.  Not hard but enough.  Ellie added a new octave to her repertoire and Emma started screaming "You crash mommy!!!"   Now, a fender bender is never a good thing but when the car you rear end looks like it shouldn't really even be on the road that's a really bad thing.  This car didn't have a panel on it that wasn't damaged and its bumper was a mishmash of duct tape and twine.  When the driver opened his car door all you could see was metal.  And when he smiled all we saw was metal...all gold teeth.  Emma yelled out the car door "Are you our friend?"  I was fumbling around trying to find my insurance card and he said something like, looks like you've got a lot going on, I don't want your insurance to go up and my buddy can fix what you did to my car for $200.  Without hesitation I wrote him a check for $200.   About half way home my stupidity hit me.... seriously, what was I doing?  For weeks after that Emma would tell people that mommy crashed up the car and the police came to our house.  And they did,  I called them once we were home to tell them what I'd done.  They came over and took a report while stifling laughter.  The weeks progressed along in that same sort of foggy haze with me questioning myself around every bend.  At six weeks I was hitting rock bottom.   Kevin had a trip that required him to be gone not only during the week but through the weekend.  My Dad and Kyra, who came often on the weekends to help out, were going to come but the walls were closing in, I needed to get away.  I knew driving was out of the question with Ellie.  So, we took the train to see them.  It seemed a little crazy at the time but it turned out to be such a great thing.  Emma , being a typical 2 year old, loved trains and I could talk and play with her while holding Ellie all without fear of rear ending anyone.  As for the weekend, I remember sleeping a lot during the day but I have no idea what anyone else, including my own children did.  It was a blessing not to be home staring a laundry or dishes and noticing all the undone things.  Looking back, I see that as a pretty distinct turning point...maybe it was Ellie turning 6 weeks, or me finally sleeping, or me just giving in and realizing I don't how to do it all, but it seemed like things got so much easier.  There were still crazy times  (that has never stopped) but I didn't feel so foggy or inadequate.  And now, I think it might not just have been a turning point in that small period of our lives but more so in my life as a mom.  I quit worrying so much about being perfect, messing up, and doing it wrong.  I started to see things as more fluid, more like--today is this way but next week won't be.   I started to realize just how resilient kids and parents are and to honestly believe that there has never been nor will there ever be a perfect parent.  These are kids (people with thoughts and feelings of their very own ) that we're raising not widgets we're making.  Maybe it was because those first few weeks were so intense, and I felt pretty alone and we still came out ok. And maybe it was all just a coincidence.   But whatever the case, I wouldn't change a thing, not a single thing because the other side has been so worth it.

One of my favorite pictures ever.  It totally tells the story of our lives at that moment.  I'm sure I was behind the camera looking just abut the same way.


And here they are awake, nearly the same pose.   Look how proud Emma is!  They really were crazy about each other from the start.    

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