Caring for a newborn baby is tough; lack of sleep, lots of diapers, nursing on demand, and still healing from childbirth. Caring for a newborn baby while you’re wearing a medical mask because you’re sick with a cough and congestion is even tougher. Caring for a newborn baby when you’re sick and your toddler is also sick, layered with emotional turmoil coming at you from all angles, is literally the icing on the cake…better yet, the perfect storm…or really, your own personal World War III.
In the first weeks of your new baby’s life, you’re supposed to show up as a mother. You’re supposed to endure, make do, try your best, and cling to the fact that you know this stage will pass and it’ll get easier with time. On paper, all of that seems easy enough as a second-time mom who has been in the trenches before. But fighting a war when your immune system is down and taking care of your other child feels like battling twice as many opponents, with a blindfold and heavy backpack on! Thank God my husband managed to avoid the family virus, so I’ve had a healthy ally with me on the front lines, but it has still been so hard. I think about single moms all the time when I’m having a bad mom day, and I literally DO NOT KNOW how they do it. I bow down to them.
All sicknesses aside, the hardest part about this transition has been trying to be there for my daughter. I didn’t want to share my germs with her before she fell ill, but she wanted mommy close. I didn't want her to share her germs with her new brother, but I also wanted to give her every opportunity to take interest in him as she desired. As a mother, it's so hard to know what the "right" thing to do is – constantly finding the balance. My husband has tried his best to be the equalizer but there's only so much he can do because my daughter refuses him and only wants me when she's needing comfort, and my husband, unfortunately, does not produce milk for our son. If only!!
I’ve received a lot of encouragement and words of support from other mothers and those in my inner circle, but it’s still so impossible not to have major mom guilt when you feel like you’re not enough for your own child. My daughter has been crying every day at some point and saying, “I’m sad. I’m sad, mom.” I assure her that it’s okay to feel sad and that sometimes when big changes happen, feeling sad is normal. I tell her she can cry as much as she wants to and offer her big hugs. When I ask her why she's sad she says, "I want mommy." Even though at that moment I'm right in front of her with my arms around her, I know what she means. She wants mommy back, back to how she used to have mommy, on demand and all to herself. I think I created the very monster I’m now struggling with because I selfishly gave her all of me – all the cuddles, all the kisses, all the deep breathing exercises, all the love, all the snuggles in my bed, all the attention, EVERYTHING. How was I so foolish to think I would be able to keep that up after adding another child into the mix? I can’t believe I didn’t prepare her better; I’m usually so good at planning ahead.
As my daughter has begun to get over the peak of her cold, there have been bright spots and glimmers of hope on the horizon. She has started to show her baby brother toys, she has helped me get things for him when my hands are full, and her ears are always on high alert for his cry, in case she needs to tell me “He needs milk, mom!” I asked her once if she wanted us to “give him back,” and she said yes, but I know she didn’t really mean it. If he was gone for the day, she’d have all kinds of questions about where he went and why. She also tells me she loves him and includes him as part of our family when she’s serving up pretend ice cream; she never leaves him out.
As I’ve recovered from my cold, I’ve felt better as well. I’ve had more energy to think positively, carve out just a little personal time, and start digging my way out of the Baby Blues. I know that emotions will ebb and flow over the next several weeks (months), and I’m doing my best to give myself grace. Time heals all things but it also takes with it precious memories of moments you can’t get back, so I’m soaking up each day as it comes, good and bad.