Friday, August 5, 2011

The Life Waiting for Us

I was working in Photoshop late last night, making this little quote for a dear friend of mine (one whose path to creating a family hasn't gone quite as she expected) because I want to print it, put it in a frame and mail it to her to let her know that I am thinking about her.

A train whistle blew loudly and I looked at the video monitor to see if Liam might stir. He usually sleeps through the train that passes behind our house once or twice a night and the train in the distance that blows its whistle a handful of times each day. But this time, he bolted awake and screamed at the top of his lungs. I rushed into his room, picked him up and rocked him gently as I shhh'd him. He snuggled against me (something he hasn't done in a long time), burying his face in my neck. He was calm and comforted and usually I would put him back down and leave the room, but last night I just held him. I inhaled the scent of his hair, watched his eyelids flutter, and kissed his fingers.

And then I cried.

It wasn't long before I was holding him, swaying, and sobbing. He had fallen asleep in my arms but I couldn't put him down. He usually doesn't want to be held for long periods of time (he wants to go! do! move!) and we've always put him down awake so that he can soothe himself to sleep. In that moment of holding him, realizing that the times that he would let me do this were becoming fewer & farther between, and realizing that come November, I'll have even fewer moments like this, my heart felt like it was breaking.

Friends, I've been struggling a bit, but not sharing.

Partially because I know that some members of our community may just not want to hear it and partially because I haven't been able to give words to my feelings. But, last night was like a flood and today, I'm going to hold my breath, write this post, and hope that people understand and have some empathy.

I'm a planner. Always have been.

You've seen Liam's birthday party plans, his room, and my to-do lists before he even arrived. While infertility challenged the way that I thought would start my family, I eagerly charted my temps, made my doctor's appointments, did the research, etc and every one of those things made me feel like I was one step closer to the baby I so desperately wanted to have. 

When I got pregnant with Liam, I was ready. It was like a huge reward for all of the stress of our journey TTC. For a year we had been waiting for the day it might finally happen and it felt so satisfying once it did.

I always wanted to have (at least) two children, and after our struggles conceiving Liam, it was my idea to forgo birth control to "just see what happens." I was confident that there were no surprise babies in our future, but welcomed the idea. After IF, getting pregnant easily is like winning the fertility lottery, right? And if that were to happen, I’d be overjoyed, right?

As it turns out…no.

I never expected to feel this way, but I'm almost 25 weeks into this pregnancy and I still feel completely unprepared and shocked by this child's existence...and not really in a good way. I'm not sure how much of what I'm feeling has to do with this pregnancy being unexpected vs. how much of it is the typical feelings of a woman carrying her second child.

To be clear, I want this baby. I understand what an unbelievable blessing it is to have a second child, and that we didn't struggle to get here. I fully expect to love him every bit as much as I love Liam--but right now, I just don't feel the same connection that I feel with Liam.

The best way I can describe it is that it feels like a stranger is coming to take me away from my son. I feel horribly guilty saying that, but that's what it feels like.

People have multiple children all of the time-- twins, triplets, quads! People have Irish twins and 2u2, and they're great parents! So, what gives?

I think it has to do with the planner and the worrier in me. I did not plan this. In my plan, my kids would be 2 years apart, not barely a year. In my plan, I had more time to devote to just Liam so that I wouldn’t miss anything. In my plan, Liam would be more independent so I didn’t miss anything in the life of my 2nd child. In my plan, I would feel ready to welcome another baby.

Life gave my plan the middle finger.

I worry that I will feel like I'm not able to give enough attention to Liam and that he'll feel abandoned by me. I worry that I won't be able to focus on his miraculous milestones, because I'll be tending to his brother. I worry that I'll miss out on nights like last night (*cue the tears again*) because of the new baby. I'm sending him to Mother's Day Out (Wed & Fri, 10am-2pm) before I feel like he's ready (ok, before  I feel ready) because I don't feel confident that I can handle the two of them all day every day. I feel like shit that I have to send him away to have someone else take care of him, even for a few hours a few times a week.

Less often, I think about what Jack might miss out on. (Add another heaping spoonful of guilt to my plate for that.) How unfair is it that he will likely not be breastfed as long as Liam? (I'm feeling like I really need to get back on my anxiety medicine-- if this entire post is not proof, I don't know what is-- and I'm unable to take it while pregnant or BFing. My goal is to make it to 6 weeks this time. At that point, I will weigh my emotional health and make a decision whether or not to continue. This is a far cry from the year goal I had with Liam, and the 6 months we actually made it. More guilt.) I think about his baby book that will likely stay largely empty. His milestones met with far less excitement than his brother's. His hand-me-downs when everything his brother has is new. And I think about all of the things we've shared with Liam that we will not share with Jack in the same way...simply because it's not the first time.

I've perfected my response to strangers' acknowledgement of my pregnancy. I beam and say, "We're so excited!" and "They'll be so close!" And when people look at my precious son and my growing belly and say, "Wow. You're going to have your hands full,” I'm quick to smile and say, "I'd rather they were full than empty." Now if I could just actually feel that way. And logically, I do feel that way--emotionally, it's a bit more complicated.

I’m the second child in my family and I’ve never felt less loved than my brother. My mom (and everyone else I know who has more than one child) has assured me that the second I see this baby, I will immediately fall in love with him the exact same way I did with Liam. I believe them. I really do— my mom said that she had all of the same fears that I have now while she was pregnant with me. I just worry— What if I’m the one woman that doesn’t happen to… simply because I can’t get past the way it was “supposed” to be?

I'm not feeling like this every day. I have my good days and I have my bad days. The bad ones are largely fueled by the hormones of pregnancy, I'm certain. I'm just struggling with how to cope with this new life, this new child, this new plan.

I've stared at that quote all day today & I've realized that maybe I need to hear it just as much as my friend does.


  1. Oh sweetie, I am bawling for you as I read this post. Your honestly and vulnerability are amazing; thank you for sharing what is in your heart.

    You are an amazing mom to Liam, and I know you will be to Jack too. Although I am not in your position, I can understand all your worries, guilt and anxiety and know I would feel the exact same way if I were in your position.

    Hugs and prayers to you and your precious family!

  2. I know you were a little worried about putting this up because some of us might not want to hear it. I have to admit, while I have been feeling twinges of jealousy that you are pregnant with your second child (okay, sometimes more than twinges ;) I really loved reading this post. It put a lot of things in perspective for me (and made me realize that I'm not jealous of you already being pregnant so much as I'm envious that you know it has happened for you and that you haven't struggled to get here (the 2nd time) or had losses along the way). And I also have to admit, there are times when I'm chasing after Isa when I think, I cannot imagine having another baby right now, when Isa is just 14 months. I mean she's not even walking yet! So I can imagine it must be very scary. In fact, I can't imagine how scary it must be.

    I think that a lot of what you're experiencing are the general feelings of women about to have a second child. I can't tell you how many post have gone up on my mothers group message board by women who were trying for a while for #2 and are now pregnant and totally freaking out. They always need someone to talk them down from a ledge and these are women, at least some of them, who struggled a long time to get there. They are also women with children who are 2 and 3 and 4 years old. So I think what you're worried about is normal, but I think it's absolutely compounded by the fact that you're having your second child so close to your first. I think you're experiencing what they experience times 10 and you're handling it much better.

    You're right, sometimes life does not go the way we plan. Sometimes life does give us the finger, as you so eloquently put it. Losing my first pregnancy after 8 months of trying felt like a big fuck you from life. And having it take a year to achieve a viable pregnancy was really difficult for me. Heck, having to wait until I was 29 to try to start having kids was not in my original plans. Life has it's own plan.

    I think when you feel overwhelmed you should just focus on all that you have. Remember that you're getting what you've always wanting, it's just coming in a different way than you expected. And while it will have it's challenges, so would the way you always envisioned. Just because you might not know what they are, they still would have been there. My point is the other way wasn't perfect, even though it was what you planned. Maybe remembering that will make it feel a little better when the way things are seem overwhelming. Having another baby when Liam was turning two would probably feel pretty overwhelming too.

  3. continued from above...

    And while you're sad you have to put Liam in a day care for part of the day, at least it's to be with another child and not to go work somewhere you don't want to work. I have to be away from my child and I don't even get to be spending that time with another one of my children. And while being away from Liam is hard, he will be learning to be with other kids and getting to play with new toys and having a lot of fun. And you will be getting to have that wonderful one on one time with Jack. I bet in the end it will be really wonderful, even if it's not perfect.

    Life is not always what we'd hoped it would be. I didn't want to work. I wanted to have my children two years apart too but now it will probably three or four, if I'm lucky. I'm trying not to linger on those aspects so much and instead am focusing on how lucky I am and how much I have.

    I'm not trying to belittle what you're going through. This was supposed to be kind of a pep talk and I fear it sounds like I'm telling you to suck it up and be happy for what you have. And I am telling you to be happy for what you have, but not in a suck it up kind of way, in a don't worry, it's all going to be okay kind of way.

    And I also don't know how to say, "I would be terrified if I were you," without sounding like a jackass. I'm saying that to validate your feelings but I worry I'm compounding your panic. My point is that I understand why you feel the way you do, even though I'm somewhat envious of what you have. I think your feelings are completely valid.

    You are in a difficult situation. Heck, I'm terrified of having another baby and I don't even get to start trying yet. Having two kids is something I can't fathom but then again, having one was something I couldn't fathom either. You figured out how to be a wonderful mother to one little boy (and most of the time you were pregnant!) You'll figure out being just as wonderful a mother to two little boys. You're going to be fantastic!

    That doesn't mean it won't be hard and that you won't reach you're almost-breaking point now and again. I'm sure you will. But you won't break. You'll get through it. You are strong and resourceful and patient and kind and so loving. You will do a tremendous job.

    I think you already have the right idea: Better hands full than empty. And even if you don't believe it completely, or fear makes you second guess that, trust in yourself that it's true. Because I know you know, deep down, that it is.

  4. oh sweetie. I can imagine how difficult it would be to adjust to all of this. My thoughts are the same - just see what happens with number two, no planning, nothing. and while i would be thrilled to have it happen the reality of it to happen so soon would be so scary for me to adjust to ~ how can I be a good mother to two when I don't even know if I'm doing ok for one?

    My thoughts while reading this is though you may not be able to devote as much of you to Liam as you want to when you bring your new son into the world, remember the great gift you're giving him ~ a brother. A playmate for life. and so many lessons that I think come with having a sibling ~ learning how to share, learning to care for his brother. His first and closest friend. Imagine that they could be closer than you planned, even better than you could have planned it. It's going to be hard, but you are an amazing mom to Liam and you will be to your second child too. You have more love and patience than you know and are stronger than you know ~ and you have a great support network.

    All of that isn't to minimize your fears or anxiety about #2, all of your feelings are so understandable and valid. In the beginning it might be difficult, but you and your husband can do this and your boys will love their mama and each other so much.

    Always feel free to be open and honest on your blog, it is so good and important to write about this. I hope you feel supported by the comments and at peace with yourself. xo

  5. I can only imagine how you feel. Those are many of the reasons I wanted to wait and not join the 2 under 2 club. I really think that God has a plan and he is not going to give you something you cannot handle! You will be a wonderful mother to both and just as it took time to learn how to mother Liam it will take time to learn how the best way is to mother Jack and Liam at the same time. You can do it...and you will do it well!

  6. Dearest Stef, tank you for your openness and honesty. I admire you so much.

    Change is scary. You're a lot like me, I think (must be something to do with sharing a birthday!). When life is going along smoothly in a nice little routine I hate the idea of changing it. We too will be having major upheavals in our life next year (I will post about it, eventually), and I'm down-right terrified. At the moment, like you, I just can't see how it's going to work. Everything seems so wonderful at the moment that the idea of change is horrid. But you know what? Change is inevitable. I just keep reminding myself that once the change has happened my life will find a new equilibrium and I'll be back in my comfort zone - it will just be a different comfort zone!

    The same will be true for you Stef. In a year's time you'll be rockin' your role as Mom to 2u2. It's the unknown that is scary, but nothing stays unknown for long!

    Yes, you have genuine concerns that can't just be written off. It's true that you won't have as much time to spend with either boy individually as you currently do with L. BUT: The fact that they will have less one-on-one attention from you doesn't mean that they won't get enough attention. The distinction is important. Neither Liam nor Jack will be less loved or less cared for just because he has a sibling. Your job will be harder, but their lives will be richer.

    EVERY second child gets hand-me-downs; every second child meets milestones that their older sibling/s have already met; and they don't feel less loved because of it.

    It's ok to be scared, Stef. It will be hard. But you'll figure it out and find your new comfort zone.

  7. All unexpected life changes require time to get used to. Don't worry, all your feelings are natural. I have always known I wanted children, and when I did get pregnant I was filled with doubts, reservations and fears instead of the excitement I had expected. All of which were replaced with a love I was previously unaware I could feel.

    And I can assure you (as the third and final child in my family), though there are fewer pictures of me and an empty baby book with my name on it, it is the caring actions and support of my parents that let me know I am loved.

  8. I relate to this post so much. I have "Irish" twins as my children are 7 months apart (That's an interesting story) and I had so many of the same concerns and worries you had. I also blog, and I'm so glad I do, because now I look back and read some of those posts I wrote, and I realize that all of my worrying for nothing. Because here I am, with my two babes and I couldn't love either one any more. And the best thing is that my kiddos are truly best friends, and I bet yours will be too. I just want you to know that it's very normal to have your worries, so don't beat yourself up about them. Change is always hard. . . especially when it's a change that we didn't have full control over.
    Thinking of you.

  9. Great post that I can totally relate to. I saw in linked the the bump today and I can totally relate. You are a great writer and thanks for sharing.