My sister-in-law and nephew came to visit the night we came home from the hospital, and my daughter was in high spirits. She was eager to show them her baby brother and proceeded to put on a show of her own, dancing, singing, laughing, pulling out every single toy and demanding her cousin play with her. I was feeling so happy. Everything was working out fine, after many tears and apprehension from her at the hospital the night before.
But then bedtime came. We went through her nightly routine, tucked her in tight, turned out the lights, and blew her a kiss on the way out the door. That’s when I heard it – she started breathing hard, a whine that turned into a cry, and then sobbing. I rushed back in to see what was wrong. Was she missing a beloved stuffy? Did I forget to turn on the nightlight? Or was it just one more goodnight kiss she needed?
Her sobbing seemed to turn to hyperventilating, and she couldn’t articulate to me what was wrong. I kept asking but no words were coming out of her mouth, just moans and long drawn-out cries of desperation. So, I started asking her, “Are you sad? Are you mad? Is it hard to have a baby brother?” No response. I finally asked, “Are you just feeling a lot of big emotions?” And she replied, “Yea, big emotions.” My heart shattered into a million pieces at that moment. How did my baby girl even comprehend the idea of “big emotions,” when she’s not even three yet? Well, she definitely knew what they were because she was feeling them with her big heart. All I knew to do was hug her and tell her I loved her. I couldn’t pick her up and cuddle her right then like I wanted to because I was told upon discharge not to lift anything heavier than my baby (6 lbs.). When she realized I couldn’t even soothe her like I used to, it made everything worse.
I don’t even remember how I finally got her to settle down, and I’m sure she was extremely overtired too, but she managed to sleep through the night. After I walked out of her room for the last time that night, I collapsed into my husband’s arms sobbing and hyperventilating myself. All I could think of in my head was, what have I done? Have I forced her to literally grow up overnight? Have I ruined her? Will her light still shine as bright now?
My husband and I came up with a plan to make a special bed for her in our room, in hopes that would make her feel closer to us and prevent jealousy of the baby sleeping next to me every night. She was super excited about it and slept like a champ the first night, even through the baby’s night wakings. But on nights two and three, the aching cries from her came back. She would pop her head up, peering over my husband at me nursing the baby and cry, “Mommy, hold me…” I had to explain to her that she would have to be patient and wait to be held because her brother needed to finish drinking his milk first. She wouldn’t entertain the idea of me holding her with one arm while nursing with the other.
When I was finally able to hold her, it’s like she couldn’t get close enough to me. Her efforts to squeeze me tightly and smash her face against my cheek was like an attempt to become one with me again, that somehow if she could just hold tight enough, maybe things would transport back to the way they used to be for her. It took everything I had not to break down, holding back my own tears.
Having her sleep in our room quickly became impractical, as she got more comfortable with the situation and began to find it fun to wake up in the middle of the night, jump on the bed, ask for snacks, beg to watch TV, etc. She also had no concept of please whisper so you don’t wake up your brother (who mommy just spent 45 minutes trying to get to sleep). So, with a little creative bribery, she was back to bed in her own room for the rest of the week.
…Until she got sick. Did I mention that I not only brought home my beautiful baby boy from the hospital but also a nasty virus? What joy! So, through all of this emotional turmoil and trying my best to rest and heal my tender lady bits, I’ve had the privilege of battling the worst cold/flu/bronchitis of the year on top of it all. How do you possibly keep your germs from spreading to your toddler when they’re all over you at any chance they can get? You can’t possibly make them understand that not only do they now have to split your time and attention with the new house guest but they must also stay completely away from you because you’re sick and don’t want to get them sick. Yea, it doesn’t work.
Right on time for week two, she caught what I had.