Eight weeks into my little girl's life, I can safely say that going from one kid to two has been far easier, at least in our experience, than zero kids to one. When Aaron was born, I felt like the sleeplessness combined with the total pouring out demanded of us shook up my life big time--for at least the first few weeks, I felt so suspended from time and honestly didn't notice or care much about the difference between night and day.
Don't get me wrong! Aaron shaped me in so many ways by making me a mother, and has brought such hilariously beautiful joy to our lives. His entry into the world, like his entry into our lives, was much rougher on his parents than his sister's, though! After two months tomorrow (say what) of having two babies, I'm more aware than ever that Andrew and I are still such beginners and such beggars, reliant entirely on grace, when it comes to parenthood. I'm thankful that we feel at least slightly more confident this time in being responsible for a newborn, and that every difficulty isn't a huge drama. When Aaron would cry as a tiny baby, we'd both freak out trying to pinpoint the exact cause and the perfect solution (spoiler to our past selves: nothing is a perfect solution!), but this time around, we're much more able to not let crying get to us and to be at peace as long as we feel like we're putting in our best efforts, whatever that looks like on a given day, to take care of our kids.
I've been amazed by Aaron's sweetness and general good behavior since bringing Lily home! Aside from a few incidents here and there (intentionally peeing on his booster seat much?), he's been remarkably non-jealous and consistent with his usual laid-back temperament. For the first two weeks or so after we brought Lily home, I think I had a way harder time than him! My heart felt so divided; here I was, falling in love with my new baby, yet I almost wanted my other, first baby to want and need me more than he seemed to! The day we came home from the hospital, Aaron spent a good 10 minutes leaping around, adorably yelling, "It's Lily! It's Lily!" and putting his toys in her car seat to show her. I just sat there and cried! Then he ran off laughing to play by himself. His growing independence is fascinating to me (I love hearing him talk and sing to himself as he pushes all his trucks around and pages through his books, some of which he's memorized), but also bittersweet as I realize how big he's getting. Honestly, I was expecting him to be a little needier and cuddlier when he became a big brother, and though I definitely appreciate him taking it easy on mama, it makes me a little sad to see how generally okay he is being on his own more at times where the baby requires more of me. The hormones, y'all. But truly, I praise God for my son's easygoing personality and for all the ways he adores his new sister. I hope so much that they'll always be close and will be good pals growing up! Now on to the gory birth deets.
If our children's births have a theme so far, it might be, "Yup, it really is labor. Get that belly to the hospital already." On Thursday, November 12, I was 38 weeks and 5 days along. I'd been having Braxton-Hicks contractions throughout the day for about a month, and though I was getting the feeling my baby girl would arrive early, I thought it'd be somewhere more along the 39ish mark. Anyway, I noticed what I thought might be some bloody show before bed on the night of the 12th, but didn't want to get too excited. Around 3:30 in the morning, I woke up to contractions that felt stronger and a little crampier than normal, but not painful. Being awake and bored at that point (during those last insomniatic months, I tried to spend my sleepless times in prayer and resisting the lure of my phone or Kindle, which made me feel too alert to go back to sleep), I tried to figure out if they were coming regularly, then pulled out my phone and determined the contractions were about 12 minutes apart. I mentioned this to Andrew, who neutrally said something like "Mmmph" and rolled over. Deep sleeper, that man. Belief I was in labor: 17%.
I dozed off again at some point, then woke again around dawn on the 13th. Since I figured I had about an hour before Aaron woke up for the day, I decided to get up for some coffee and reading; while I was at it, I dialed the midwife-on-call line for my practice and described what I thought were the non-events of the night. It was a little too early to tell, said the midwife, who said that even Braxton-Hicks contractions can have a rhythm in late pregnancy, but she said to keep an eye on things and call again if they got closer together. "Maybe I'll see you later today," she said before we hung up. Belief that I was in labor: 30%.
By about 8:00 that morning, my contractions were down to 6 or 7 minutes apart. I was a little concerned at how close together they were, but since they felt pretty tame, we decided Andrew should go in to school. He teaches two hour-long classes in the morning and spends the rest of the day in meetings or studying, and was determined to hack away at his dissertation some more before the baby. I told him to keep his phone out and on, and probably reminded him of this, oh, a dozen times before he left. "But it's probably nothing, and I'm only an hour away," he reminded me. I pondered this, mostly reassured but nervous about the unpredictability of the Metro around here and its ability to actually get my husband home in an hour. Belief I was in labor: 55%, mostly fostered by my worry about being alone, in labor, and responsible for a toddler.
After Andrew left, the contractions kept picking up, not horribly painful, but to the point that I had to crouch down on my hands and knees, swaying through them, every 5 minutes or so while I made Aaron's breakfast and played with him. I had been really anxious about worrying him if he saw me in pain, and tried to explain to him that Mommy's tummy was hurting a little because the baby was ready to be born. I tried to offer each contraction for a safe, uncomplicated birth, for Lily to have a long, fulfilling, holy life, and for both of my babies' easy adjustment to our new life as a family of four. I was finally convinced this was legit labor by now. I texted Andrew to come home after class. He told me later that when he looked at the message, his students kept telling him to cut class short and leave right away!
This was around the time the waterworks started. I had tears in my eyes all morning long as I watched my sweet Aaron bringing books over to read, coloring with me, pushing his trucks around and talking to himself, and, sweetest of all, patting me on the back, saying "Mommy's okay," every time I dropped to the floor. The thought of being away from him for 2 days and coming back to a completely different dynamic felt like too much to take. I have such an abiding love for him and for all our little rituals and routines, and even in my happy anticipation to meet Lily, I felt a sort of mourning for my time with Aaron, who made me a mother, as my only baby. By some miracle, he didn't seem to notice my tears or the catch in my voice. It was such a privilege, soaking up the morning with him, and I'll always remember it.
Our taking-care-of-Aaron plan was for my friend Jenn to pick him up and take him to her house when I left for the hospital. I was certain now that I'd be having a baby sometime that day (please God, a short labor--not the next day!), but wasn't sure when I should ask her to come get him. It was close to his naptime, so I figured I'd put him down, keep going through what felt like fairly light labor for a while, and then ask Jenn to come stay until he woke up. I called her and she pointed out that it'd probably be easier for him, and more relaxing for me, if she came to get him right then, before his nap, so he could sleep at her house.
Hold the phone. What she was saying did make sense, but mentally I hadn't been prepared to say goodbye to Aaron just then; I thought I'd have at least a few hours and time to put him to sleep for his nap, at least, and suddenly I only had 20 minutes. I burst into tears and called my sister in law, Natalie, who has three babies. I told her that I was sure I was in labor, but was so unsure of whether it was the right decision to send Aaron packing, since it seemed so early in the game. I was nervous that since this labor felt like such a slow burn, I was adding unnecessary time to the hours we'd spend apart, or that things would slow back down and he'd have to come home, and then do everything all over again in a few days. I could barely handle one separation, let alone two. Natalie tried to talk me down through all the hysterics; she kept saying what good hands Aaron was in and how he'd be fine without us. She also said how much she wished she'd left for the hospital earlier with her third baby (the only one who hadn't been induced); her labor had felt similar to mine, with a manageable level of pain, she said, but suddenly, on a dime, it became unbearable and she was still at home, 45 minutes from the hospital! I remembered how rough the mere 10-minute car ride to the hospital had been for me last time, and not being eager to relive it, I felt more at peace with having Aaron leave early, but was still struggling to accept it. I'd packed clothes and his overnight stuff and sent it over to Jenn's a few weeks prior, so I had time to just hang out with him a little longer while she was on her way over. When she arrived, I was surprised how easily and quickly Aaron let himself be whisked out the door. I gave him a last hug, told him I loved him so, so much, and tried not to completely lose it.
I puttered around contracting and tidying our apartment while I waited for Andrew to get home. I tried reading, tried working on a few blog things, and tried playing my uke, but I felt so restless. I finally settled on putting on The Office and eating the leftover chicken piccatta we'd made the night before. It made me laugh when I realized that without planning on it beforehand, deciding to eat all that pasta was a carbo-load for the labor ahead of me.
Andrew arrived home around 1:30, and around then was when I remembered my weekly prenatal appointment was scheduled for that afternoon. Since, at that point in the game, I knew all they'd be checking was Lily's heart rate and making sure she was head down, and since I was pretty sure those two things were fine, it didn't make sense to me to drive in the opposite direction from the hospital to the office and possibly have a long wait time during which things might pick up. I called to say I wasn't coming, and that I'd probably go to the hospital by the evening. A nurse I knew picked up the phone. "How far apart are your contractions?" she asked. "Four or five minutes, but they don't hurt much," I said. "Honey, go to the hospital," she told me.
Because this labor was less painful, to that point, than I remembered it being with Aaron, I still didn't think we needed to leave right away! I wasn't sure whether pain or frequency of contractions should be the bigger marker of how far along I was, and since my contractions still felt manageable, I decided I wanted us to stay at home a little longer. With each contraction, dropping down on all fours still helped, and so did bracing my elbows on a table or the sofa arm and swaying my hips. The four to five minute interval had been the same for about 8 hours at that point, and I started feeling stronger and stronger twinges. Around 4:45, we decided to head out the door. I remember looking around the room with the thought that it would look the same next time I saw it, yet everything would be completely different.
This novel has gotten long enough for one post. Read Part 2 here!