1 + 1 = 2.
This ... the most basic of equations, it has never meant so much. It was just over a year ago that I stood, pregnancy test in trembling hand, gripped by fear knowing that we would be adding a second child to our little family of three. I felt paralyzed by the mystery, the unknown, wondering what exactly this little "plus 1" was going to do to us ... parenthood: round one didn't go quite as effortlessly as I had hoped it would and I wasn't so sure that this time around would be any different.
The second one will be easier, they say. You will be more prepared, more wise, your love will grow, it will multiply, your instincts ... they will find their place.
I can say now with some certainty that, yes, they, whoever they are, are speaking with some tone of truth. However, the way that this has all actually unfolded, at least for me, has been just a little bit different than what I originally expected:
Being more prepared.
Ummm... can I say, kind of ...? I mean, in some ways, yes. There were parts of me that knew what to expect. And by this, I mean in an "I've been through this before" kind of way. But, for me, with three years between my first and my second - alot of what happened the first time around seemed to have melted away into some form of mama brain mushy, slow-cooked soup. The sleepy, anxiety-filled fog that I lived in back then seemed to have taken with it many of the memories surrounding exactly how it all went down.
So, even though, yes, I felt kind of, sort of prepared, I still couldn't actually fully be ready for what was to come. Certain things, like changing diapers, came back in a flash, whereas other details, like, how many ounces of formula does this child need? ...or, when can she start eating solids? ...or, could she really already be teething?... they were just, like a newly purchased pack of bobby pins, gone. My preparedness had been unfortunately, grossly underestimated. Back then, I didn't know what it was going to be like to have one, and let's be clear, this time ...? This time, I also had not the foggiest when it came to knowing what it was actually going to be like to have two.
However, upon further analysis, what I have humbly come to realize is this: all of those little, miniature details that I forgot, the tiny ones: like ounces and weeks and pounds, being an expert at the facts, the details behind what make your baby tick, all of these things ... they are just that - DETAILS. They are related to logic and survival, and of course are always a given, but they are also the kinds of things that can hold you hostage late into the night and into the early hours of the morning. I could not let go of them with my first. I clung to them so hard that I ended up missing out on what I've learned this second time around is actually so much more important:
The moments, the things that are happening in real time, as your heart beats, and your lungs open for a new breath of air. Because, I promise you, these things, they will pass. Quicker than you could ever imagine. They are gorgeous, they are precious, and they are fleeting.
The truth I have found in the statement "...it will be easier the second time around" comes from this realization. If I can let as much of the little stuff go and just live within it, instead of outside of it, I will be that much better off. It is not lost on me that I am so very fortunate to be blessed with a second time around .. I know all too well that not everyone is so lucky. So, as I hold Willow to feed her, and hear Sav call from the bathroom, "I'm DOOOONNNNNE!!", and I have to somehow juggle a hungry baby and a preschooler who needs some assistance on the loo, in the moments when it actually shouldn't be easier, I realize, yes, you know what, because I have the wisdom to understand why, this time around, it actually is.
... wisdom ...
Every little giggle, every little cry, even the ones that cause a knot to form in the depths of your tummy because you cannot figure out how to stop them - I know this time that they are only here for a mere moment. They will change, transform, and they will become something entirely different soon enough. One day they have their arms around your neck begging you to never leave, and the next they won't even stop to look back.
... your love will grow ...
This time around, we have been blessed with a baby who sleeps, coos, has a cry that is rare, and when it appears has the volume of the tiniest of calls from a baby lamb. She is, as a random woman at the grocery store told me after I told her how "easy" she is, along with all the other babies who do not fuss - heaven sent. I had heard about this breed of babies before, but had never believed in them. Unicorns, I swore. So, with some luck, along with the wisdom I had mentioned, this time it has been easier. She is, oh so easy to love.
I feel blessed to have had the children we've had in the order we have had them. Feisty followed by fawn - the other way around, I think would have been much more shocking.
But, with all of this said, what is for certain is that this, our second run at it has not been free of bruises. For, with every victory won with Willow, our baby number two - and every flippant comment made - 'gosh, she sleeps so well.", "who is this patient baby?", or "she is so quiet!", I feel a silent pang of guilt for all of the victories I feel that we lost with Sav. I feel regret for using her story as the bitter pill in our "yes, it's easier this time around," fairy tale.
I feel the need to emphasize that, in fact, no, she was not the difficult one. She had no choice but to feed off of every bit of volatile energy that spewed from our struggling souls. The embers from the fire would have burned her fair and precious skin as we turn, turn, turned in the vicious circle we lived within. She couldn't sleep because her tummy grumbled in hunger, and I couldn't feed her enough because I would not allow my body to relax for long enough to produce what it needed to, and, so, in turn, I didn't sleep, we didn't sleep, our minds, they became toxic ... a natural progression that was at the fault of none of the involved. So, for every wonderful thought I have about Willow, a little piece of me sobs inside for not being able to have had the same thoughts, back then, with Sav ...
... your love will grow, it will multiply ...
But, then, I step away from the fixation I sometimes feel towards our past, and I remember how very often it is these days that my thoughts surrounding her are filled with infatuation and pride. Like, the minute Willow came home, as I watched her embrace it with everything she had - sisterhood. I joke that it seems as though she loves her new sister a little too much. Smothering her with kisses, right up in her face - her little buggy, her little chubkid, as she calls her. She continues to show us her big, beautiful personality in the way that her face lights up whenever she catches her sister's eye, the way she dotes on her, makes sure she has a toy nearby and immediately starts to sing the minute Willow starts to cry. She will look at me intently, "Mama, why did she stop crying?" - she knows it, I know it, Willow knows it. She stopped crying because she has a big sister who is already, 4 months in, her ride or die.
And speaking of her being the BIG sister - I could not write this blog without addressing the other thing that happened when we brought new baby home. Suddenly, Miss. Sav, she seemed enormous. Both in physical presence and in energy... as if overnight she had become a new person entirely. As if she had aged a number of years. A random observation, I know, but a telling one, compared to her fresh and tiny little nugget of a sister, she was suddenly ... full blown.
And just as she grew in size as if overnight, so did my infinite love for her ... a further side effect of having baby number two, I suppose. Willow was, as babies do, constantly needing me, wrapped in my arms to feed, to be comforted, to be rocked to sleep, and I found myself with less time to give to Sav. Suddenly, the moments alone with her, they became more rare and as a result began to mean so much more. They started to feel nostalgic, like a slowly fading memory, a flickering light that will knowingly, eventually fade to dark.
Willow fell asleep during dinner time the other night, Danny had to work late, so Sav and I sat alone at the table eating our meals. It was an instant flashback to the many meals we used to share, just me and her. I used to think that they felt lonely. And at times I would struggle through them. Now, I am angry at myself for that. Because I realize now how precious those moments actually were. Even when she'd look me in the eye and say with full conviction, "I hate this!", when I only hoped she would say "thank you Mama," and for the times that she'd eat at the speed of a snail and throw her fork across the room, splattering food debris everywhere. The happy dinners, the sad dinners, the mad dinners, they were OURS, and very rarely will we have them again ... her cutey little face looking at mine. taking our time, putting our feet up after a long day, breaking bread, just her and me.
I relish in every moment I get alone with her now, it all means so much more.
So, as I walk the aisles of the grocery store and I get looks of sympathy from women walking by, some of them turning to say "my, you have your hands full?!!" ( ... side note, I swear these are the same women whom not so long ago, when I only had one would comment "well, looks like it's time for another."...?!), I want to respond, yes, yes my hands, they are full, but, truly, I wouldn't have it any other way. And you know what, even though they are more full, they are full of the things that really matter - the moments, the time I have with my girls. They prove to me everyday that yes, in fact, even when I cannot see the light through the storm, having them, has, in fact, made my life easier, because without them I am sure it would be tragically, endlessly hard to bear.