The Second Annual Birthday Eve Letter to My Youngest Son

Dear son:

Last year, I wrote you a letter on the eve of your birthday, and if I am doing it again now, it must be tradition. In fact, besides one other post since your last birthday, I have completely neglected this blog. Never did I imagine what life would throw at our family after those posts, and that I would not make time to write again until now. Do some moms really blog every day? Who ARE these people?

This year of your life shall henceforth be referred to as the Year We Moved AGAIN. That’s right. Just after the start of the new year, we moved from Colorado to Tennessee. Your dad tried very hard to find another job in Denver so he would not have to accept the transfer with his company, but we simply ran out of time. Thank goodness the transfer was to a place we both call our hometown and is filled with people we care about.

One day, when you are older, remind me and we will have a deeper conversation about how sometimes the toughest decisions can be both heartbreaking and provide joy all at the same time.

We moved into a home that is only 2 minutes by car from your Mimi and Papa. You have aunts, an uncle, and cousins nearby. Aunt Tammy and Uncle Bill are now only a short day’s drive away. These facts are the uplifting part.

The heartbreaking part is that we left behind our home that was just starting to feel like our own after only 2 years. We all LOVED the winter, and yes, the snow. We loved the other seasons, too. Your dad and I felt like we had won the climate lottery. It was perfect. We had one of the country’s best trail systems just down the street. I ran past bighorn sheep and deer and probably some mountain lions (they are everywhere in Colorado, but it’s rare to see them). Your dad discovered a love for hiking. I had great colleagues. We yearned to be in the mountains every weekend, and tried to be there as often as possible. People came to visit us all the time. Life was good. And then we moved.

Life has proven to be good here too, but we are still working on getting into the new normal. We had found a new routine, but will break it once again when I start a new job tomorrow on your birthday. Because that’s how we roll. We must make everything complicated and have stacked milestones at every corner.

If I have learned anything about you from this year of transitions, it’s that you are flexible. The year included three cross-country road trips and a couple of months living with your aunt and uncle in Illinois along with me and your brother while your dad found us a home in TN. As long as you have your thumb and your blankie (a new attachment in the past month or so), you are happy. Really happy. Even though you have become a fierce defender of your own independence recently, you remain a sweet and happy child most of the time.

You love to say “Doo,” and you say it a million times a day, because that is how you say your brother’s name, and it is adorable. You follow your brother around and make him SO frustrated by always wanting whatever he has. You are winning at being a little brother.

You shower your loved ones with hugs and kisses. You blow goodbye kisses every day to all the teachers at your day care, each of whom would probably give their kidneys to you if you asked. And I don’t mean just one per teacher. They would all just hand over both kidneys, no questions asked. That’s how much they love you.

There is a pure joy about you that everyone feels when they are with you. You are kind. You try to kiss boo-boos on other people. You pat friends when they cry. Even your big brother who is supposed to be jealous of you just melts when you do something sweet. I don’t tell you this as a way to say that we spoil you, or to give you the false impression that WE would give you our kidneys. We won’t. Your dad and I love our kidneys, and we don’t want you to be spoiled. But we do want to note for the future that your disposition is one of a caring, empathetic person who should go into a profession where those traits are valued and rewarded. Like politics.

You are fearless on the playground, and have the balance of a mountain goat. If you could spend 24 hours a day outdoors, you would. I imagine our lifestyle in Colorado is partly responsible for that. I am sure that you have forgotten everything about Colorado by now, and it makes me a little sad.

What we have learned as a family this year is that wherever we are, we will always have time for snuggles, books, and exploring. I hope that this somewhat unstable year in our family life has been a year of fun and learning for you, and has also demonstrated that it is possible to hold on to some traditions and routines no matter where you are.

Next year, on your birthday eve, I can’t wait to report all the new things you are doing and saying. May it be a year of discovery and love for your new state, and I hope you are still willing to slow down in order to snuggle up to me and read book after book after book.

Love,

Mom

>>>Lest you think that I only write these types of things for my youngest, I should add that I have a journal I have been writing in for the eldest since before he was born. It’s something a first-born child gets. The last born just gets some lousy blog posts. That’s birth order realities, my friends.

 

 

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8 Truths About a Second Pregnancy

1. You have amnesia

Unless you just had a baby and you became pregnant a week later, you have amnesia. The memory of your discomfort during your first pregnancy has been replaced by millions of new memories as the baby grew into a complicated human that falls apart when a graham cracker doesn’t break on the dotted lines and inserts the word “poopie head” into all of his favorite songs.

I can’t remember anything before my son was a year old. I was genuinely surprised this week when I turned heads in Barnes & Noble. No, not because I was rocking my flattering ruched shirt seams, but because I spontaneously farted in line with the gusto of a 14-year-old boy in a competition. I won.

2. Your partner does not have amnesia

After surviving 9 months of complaining and decreased sex followed by another few months of no sex after the birth of #1, your partner is wary going into this well-charted territory. He or she will put on a brave face, but don’t expect the same level of care and attention. My husband is concerned about me and our baby of course, but the farts aren’t as cute, the wrestling of pillows throughout the night is annoying, and he quietly accepts it when sex becomes more awkward and less frequent.

The bright side? It is comforting when his memory fills in the gaps and reminds me that Braxton-Hicks contractions and leg cramps are normal. Your partner now knows how to care for babies, and you need someone with a fully functional brain during the first weeks at home. You have your expert at your side.

3. Nobody gives a hoot

Unlike the endless attention of a first pregnancy, anyone who has met the aforementioned poopiehead is only curious about the sex of the new baby, and when will it arrive. They assume you have everything you need, especially if the baby is the same sex as the first. They have seen your bump before, and acknowledge it with the same enthusiasm I reserve for greeting my dental hygienist.

Strangers are the exception to this truth. They will fawn over you…right up until the point when they ask the dreaded question, “is this your first?” “No,” you say, “This is my second.” Their eyes will glaze over, and they will begin scanning your groceries more efficiently, regretful for the wasted attention given to your repeat performance. Just be grateful nobody wants to touch a previously used abdomen.

4. Delivery is still daunting

The mantra of my saint-like OB/GYN is worthy of note: every pregnancy is different. My water broke 3.5 weeks early the first time, and I was not contracting or dilated. I had wanted a natural birth, and ended up with Pitocin followed by an epidural after 11 hours of artificially induced labor. I don’t know what it is like to labor at home for hours before deciding that perfect moment to head to the hospital. I could end up having a cesarean this time. They may have to pull it out of my belly button as my son predicts. Amnesia mixed with ambiguity is unnerving, but again, nobody gives a hoot because you are a baby-having expert after one go of it. So get used to fretting alone. Or hire a doula.

5. You will vow to do things better this time

As I contemplate the coming group of firsts of my second child, I know for us this will be our last shot to get it right. I vow to properly document, organize and celebrate every milestone as well as the everyday things like his sweet voice speaking his first sentences. I will back up those pictures and videos (don’t ask). I will shush the inner worrier and enjoy those first weeks, savoring the feeling of his tiny sleeping body on my chest after nursing.

6. You are going to leak

My OB/GYN suggests diplomatically that our bodies are often “compromised” after a first pregnancy. Skip this one if you are one of the dedicated few who really kept up the Kegels after #1. Otherwise, march yourself into a drug store and buy a pack of Poise. If you haven’t yet, you will. There will come a day when you either tire of washing the extra laundry after sneezing/laughing, or you will pee yourself while in the grocery store like I did.

7. You are breaking a heart

Yours or theirs, it doesn’t matter. From the moment you discover your first child will become a sibling, you will obsess over this for the next 9 months. First, you wonder when to tell him or her about the impending intruder. Then you worry about how to help this transition occur with minimal psychological scarring. You can’t imagine loving another child as much as the one you have, and you wonder how you will split your time, affection and energy between two complicated little humans with different needs. You know that no amount of advice from books, forums, or friends will prepare you or the child for this change in the household. It’s the other ambiguous situation lurking just behind the birth event.

My own three-year old reacted to the news with excitement until his processing center registered that he would have to share his toys with his baby brother. This furrowed his brow. Several days later, while snuggling before story time, he looks up at me with big eyes and tells me, “I don’t want to share you with my baby brother.” He followed it up with a possessive hug, and I felt our hearts splitting apart in unison as we silently contemplated the future.

8. It will all be okay

The most important truth is that by now you have had enough parenting under your belt to know there is no manual, that no two pregnancies or children will be the same, and that you have the strength of heart and character to do this. Laugh at your farts, revel in knowing what you really need in the hospital bag, and take comfort that your heart will know exactly what to do when your family grows yet again.

I’m Pregnant and Grieving. Again.

During my last pregnancy 3 years ago, I kept Kleenex stuffed up all my sleeves like my grandmother used to do because I was always on the brink of tears. I once sang Christmas carols during my entire hour-long commute because everything on the radio made me cry too much to see the road.

You see, my mother had passed away in 1988, my father in 2008; I lost two uncles, in 2002 and 2008; in the past year, I lost my two remaining grandparents. Losses have a way of compounding, and when pregnancy hormones are in the equation the pain can be exponential. Powerful enough to make Guns ‘N Roses songs tear-jerkers.

I have walked around today in 2015 with my face unnaturally bunched, trying not to cry when I am in public. Now there are no grandparents or parents to call upon for help in the hierarchy of my family tree, and my own little family just moved over a thousand miles to a new city during my first trimester. This pregnancy, the grief promptly set up shop on the left side of our bed where I spend increasing amounts of time

When I look inward to self-diagnose the endless tears, I am reminded of a question posed by an insensitive former friend 6 months after losing my father, “Why are you still grieving?”

Here’s what I’d love to tell him:

Because when I found out the news of my pregnancy, my hand lingered over the phone after I called my siblings. Who do I tell now? There are no phones anymore on the other end of my instincts.

Because when other people have parents fawning all over them during their pregnancy, taking them out for pedicures and buying “My Grandma Rocks” and “Grandpa’s Little Slugger” onesies for the baby, I drive solo to Babies R’ Us to buy what I know we need: tiny fingernail clippers and those awful nose bulb snot remover thingies.

Because watching so many loved ones face death and miss out on the lives of their children makes me terrified it will happen to me. I worry that my beautiful 3-year-old and the one I haven’t met yet will have to grow up knowing too early what real grief is, and I that will miss out on the multitude of milestones that will lead them into and through adulthood. I worry that my husband will be left to try to do it on his own like my Dad had to.

Because my kids will never know these beautiful souls and will only be able to dutifully point to their photos and recite their names and associations.

Because when your loved ones were not lost recently, nobody anticipates your struggle, so nobody asks. It can be lonely.

 

[This is where my chin raises defiantly]

 

So how do I know it will fade (again)?

Because I know to ask for help. I have incredible siblings, friends, and in-laws who answer my calls when I need them.

Because my husband will sit and keep the tissues flowing for as long as I need him to do so.

Because when I held my first son for the first time, that little life became the most important thing to me, overshadowing my losses. I can only hope that in 9 more weeks, the immediate love of welcoming a second child into the world will again replace the pain I feel right now.

Mostly, because every once in a while, my son gets my grandfather’s glint in his eye, or my mother’s focused expression, and I know that they are all right there for me to silently appreciate and it’s my turn to be that person to another human being.

I’ve got this.