Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Baby Bunny: The Many Ways My Second Child Has Made Me Realize I Was Crazy When I Had My First

Baby Alexandra was born on December 3rd.

I have to admit, I wasn't really looking forward to having a newborn again. I know that sounds terrible, but it's true. In part, I blame my sister, whose new baby boy was born at the end of October and whose Facebook feed after his birth was a train wreck of miserable-sounding updates about how whiny and difficult her new baby was.

It got me thinking about Caitlyn's first few months on this Earth. I would never say she was a bad baby, but I do remember feeling overwhelmed by her needs. She seemed to always need something- a bottle, a diaper change, a burp, non-specific comfort. Add to that sleep deprivation and the fact that she wouldn't latch so I was pumping my breastmilk every 2 hours, and it felt like a never-ending cycle where I didn't even have time to take a shower. And I had help back then. Rodolfo and I were living together, and he brought his parents to stay with us for the first month after Caitlyn was born.

So I was thinking of all of this. Of the neediness. Of not having someone always around to help. Of having to do all that newborn baby, needy meatloaf shit while simultaneously taking care of my 3 year old. And I was a little freaked out.

And then my new baby came and I realized all that freaking out was for nothing. She's totally sweet and easy and mellow. Also? I realized that I was kind of a paranoid fucking crazy person when I had my first daughter. Here are some other lessons I learned:

1. Taking a shower isn't negligent parenting. No newborn baby ever died/was ruined for life because they woke up during mommy's 10 minute shower and cried for a few minutes while she was busy washing crusted breastmilk off her nipples and making sure her c-section incision didn't end up infected because she hadn't showered in a week. Also? That hilarious nonsense where I'd put Caitlyn in her bouncy seat and bring it into the bathroom with me just to be sure she didn't smother herself in her crib while I showered? No thanks. She couldn't even fucking move. What did I really expect was going to happen? And another thing about that- if the baby starts crying while I shampoo my hair, I'm not going to stop shampooing my hair out of guilt (and you can only really hear them crying if you bring them in the bathroom with you anyway). Wait 5 minutes kid, I promise you'll survive.

2. Everyone thinks you are a moron when you have a newborn. And I'm not just talking about well-meaning old grannies on the street who want to tell you all the ways in which your baby isn't warm enough. I'm talking about the very first people you encounter after having the baby- the hospital staff. Man, do they ever think you're an idiot. And the first time, they are sorta right. As a first-time mom, I remember listening so intently to every ridiculously obvious piece of advice they gave me at the hospital. Sure, a lot of it seemed like common sense, but in the same way, a lot of it was stuff that never even occurred to me to think about. This time? Did I really need to attend the "mandatory" class the hospital expects you to take before you leave? Thanks, but I already knew that I shouldn't leave my newborn on a counter and walk away. I already knew that I should burp her halfway through a feeding. And, presumably everyone attending this class has been tending to a vagina on a regular basis for a minimum of 15-20 years, right? What grown ass woman needs it explained to her that she should be "wiping front to back" when changing diapers? Because really, that's just a delicate way of saying "you know you shouldn't smear shit into your infant daughter's vagina, right?". WE SHOULD ALL KNOW THIS ALREADY!

3. Neediness of the baby variety is significantly less impressive to me this time around. As I said, with Caitlyn, it was a big transition going from doing whatever the fuck I wanted to constantly putting the needs of another person ahead of my own. It was overwhelming. Now? Well, I have to say, the needs of my 3 year old greatly outnumber the needs of my newborn. The baby? Food, sleep, fresh diapers. That is literally it. Sometimes she wants to be held and sometimes she's got a fart stuck in her belly that she's trying to get out, but other than that, she needs very little from me. Caitlyn, on the other hand, needs more than just basic life necessities. So in addition to having to make sure she is fed, clothed, and bathed, there are about a million other needs she has: Every single toy she sees on a commercial, for example (or Bulova watch on a billboard, for that matter. She's in an I-want-literally-everything-I-see phase). A glass of water the exact moment my head hits the pillow to go to sleep. Chocolate milk in her Happy Meal, even though I explicitly asked her multiple times and she insisted she wanted apple juice. And those are just some physical needs. Her emotional needs are endless and I'm expected to solve every existential crisis of her 3 year old life- why is the sky blue, what is that dog doing to that other dog, why can't I have a lollipop before dinner, why do I even have to eat dinner, why can't I look at my vagina in a public place, why does his mommy let him do stuff that my mommy doesn't let me do- WHY ARE YOU SUCH A MEAN MOMMY?? In the end, I'll do anything for my girls. That's what I signed up for when I signed up for being a mom. It's just funny in retrospect to think about how overwhelmed I was by providing only the most basic of needs for a cute, smooshy little meatball that couldn't even move (let alone throw a temper tantrum, or actively disobey me) when I put her down somewhere.

4. Sleep deprivation is another thing that was utterly jarring the first time around. Now? Well kid, I haven't had an uninterrupted night of sleep in 4 years, and you're out cold 20 hours a day. Come at me. I can handle it just fine.

5. They aren't as breakable as you think they are at first. Caitlyn's first few months were smooth sailing. At worst, I think she had a bad rash once or twice. I remember when she was about 6 or 7 months old. I had been clipping her fingernails, but I couldn't find the baby nail clipper, and so I made the poor choice to use a grown up one. You know where this is going. I clipped the tip of one of her fingers. Not like I clipped it off, but I cut it enough that it was bleeding pretty steadily for a solid 10 minutes. I spent those 10 minutes in absolute hysterics, begging Rodolfo to take us to the emergency room. And because I was clutching onto her, sobbing like a lunatic and cursing myself for being the cause of the first real pain she had ever felt- the "worst thing that had ever happened to her" by my own assessment- she was hysterical too. When I called my mom and asked her to please convey the seriousness of the situation to Rodolfo, she told me "maybe you need to calm down and listen to your husband. Because based on what you are telling me, I really doubt that you have to worry about her bleeding to death from the tip of her finger.".

I think back to that, to how laughable her "injury" was and how terrified I was that she wouldn't survive it without medical intervention, and I realize how far I've come. I was never really the hysterical type, and once Caitlyn started walking and injuring herself every 12 seconds or so, I really developed a "shake it off" mentality. In fact, Caitlyn will tell me she's shaking it off now if she gets a little bump or bruise.

I bring this last one up because of what we are going through right now. I don't think I could have handled it if it had happened to Caitlyn. I would have been writing checks to Jesus that my base faith level simply couldn't cash. Baby Alexandra, at 26 days old, got admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. She had some nasal congestion and was sneezing for a couple of days leading up to it, and I had brought her to the pediatrician, who gave me a nebulizer and saline solution to try to break up her congestion. And then a day or so later she spiked a fever and came down with a horrible cough. I followed up with a second visit 2 days after I took her initially, and got sent immediately to the ER. After a chest x-ray, some bloodwork, and a lumbar puncture, it was determined that Alex has RSV- a common respiratory infection that still would have sucked had she been a little older when she got it, but it probably wouldn't have ended up turning into pneumonia over the course of a day or two. So we've been in the hospital, and she was admitted to the pediatric ICU a few days ago, when her breathing got considerably worse and she wasn't able to breathe well enough to even eat. But we've made a lot of progress since then and we hope to be going home in a day or two. She's a tough little cookie, just like her sister, and she's fighting this with everything she's got.

So that's my update. I had that baby I was telling you guys about. What's that? Pictures you say? Why, of course there are pictures.


Gia said...

CONGRATULATIONS! (And boy, have I missed a lot!) Glad she's doing better, I"m sure she'll be home again in no time. Great pics!

Janene said...

Love hearing about your approach to 'new' motherhood. The photos are adorable. Caitlyn is a beauty, just like her Mommy. :-)

Janene said...

I meant to add... so is baby Alexandra... but you knew that, too!

Jaclyn said...

Thanks you guys. My girls are both cute and pretty awesome. :)