Separation Anxiety

I have been meaning to write this post for a few weeks, and definitely felt like I had to do it after yesterday’s admittedly baby braggy post. In case you think we are abundant in sleep, patience, laughs, and love (well, we’re abundant in some of those things)… read on.

About a month before Teddy arrived Henry began to show some signs of separation anxiety. He loves school, but he started to cry and did not want Allen and I to leave at drop off. His teachers always said that once we were gone he quickly calmed and went about his day like the happy little guy he usually is. Once Teddy arrived, this behavior stopped. It didn’t seem like Teddy’s joining the family had much of an impact on Henry at all. He cooed over Teddy, wanted to tickle him, wanted to hold his hand, wanted to hold him, and wanted to be near him. It was adorable.

Then about two weeks in Henry became a bit more defiant. He was always inclined to tell us no, whine to get his way, etc. Typical two year old stuff. But it increased. And we didn’t know if it was Teddy related or two-year old related. About three weeks ago our little system seemed to break down completely. So many changes in Henry’s life (molars – the worst, new baby, it is light later and earlier, time with mom is different, Henry has to wait for some things, etc.) has lead to separation anxiety and a related sleep regression.

The first night it happened it was just me and the two boys. Normally, we have a strict bedtime routine of getting wiggles out, brushing teeth, pajamas, books, one song, bed. This night when I told Henry to pick out the last book he looked at me with those big blue eyes, all sad, and softly whimpered, “Mommy.” Odd. But we carried on. Then as soon as I started singing our usual bedtime song he climbed up my neck, holding in for dear life, while repeatedly whimpering “Mommy.” My heart was shattering. I spent extra time talking to him, but he lost it as soon as we got up from the rocking chair and started heading for the crib.

I have never heard that child cry the way he did that night. It was a desperate wailing. A pleading. It was awful. Pure soul torture. I could not bear it. Allen and I subscribe to cry it out, so I let him be for 15 minutes. 15 long terrible awful minutes. Normally Henry’s regular cries and whines have zero impact on my cold mama heart. I could listen to those sounds forever and go about my business unaffected. This cry pierced my soul. I needed it to stop. I needed him to not feel the way that he felt that was causing that cry. I went in. As soon as I picked him up the crying ended. As soon as I motioned to put him back it began. We did that dance for 90 minutes. And 90 minutes the next night. 3 out of 5 nights were like that. The two nights he didn’t cry? Daddy put him to bed. Drop offs at daycare became bad again at this time. Desperate pleas not to leave him. Worse if I took him to daycare. I took him to see his pediatrician, hoping that he had an ear infection. No such luck – healthy boy. She agreed that it sounded like separation anxiety that could be triggered by any number or combination of things. Especially since he was no longer sleeping through the night, getting up 2-3 times sometimes to call for us.

So, here we are… almost three weeks in to this change in our previously amazing sleeper. You may have found yourself wondering what I do with all my well-rested time. Ha! See! We are not well rested at all. But the reason is not the newborn. It is the two-year-old. Things are getting better. We went from 90 minutes of shrieking to 30 minutes of shrieking to 30 minutes of regular cry/whining to 15 minutes to 10 minutes and the past two nights it has been just a couple of minutes. I think we’re on the right path, but nothing has made me question all of my parenting skills the way this kid has in the past few weeks.

His general two-year-oldness combined with not sleeping well means that on any given day we might get our amazing, hilarious, smart boy or the little asshole that sometimes occupies our two-year-olds body. On those days, I find myself standing in the living room listening to him whine because mommy brought him goldfish crackers and he wanted daddy to do it thinking, “When did I lose the joy? When did this go from being fun to being a chore?” And I get so mad at myself for feeling this way, for feeling like being a parent is anything less than amazing. But, it isn’t. Sometimes it is totally awful. For long stretches. And I’d like to put him in a closet and leave him there until he is willing to be a rational little person. Those times I try to remember that his brain is more caveman than modern day human. The best thing I can do is help to guide him to sanity. And it isn’t all fun. And that’s okay. Toddlers are hard. So hard that I’ve asked Teddy to never become one. We’ll see if he listens.

But then Henry says and does amazing things and it makes it worth it (I think). Like… he’s started to call Allen “seetsee” because I call Allen sweetsie. And nothing gets us laughing like when Henry yells “Seetsee! I need help!” or “Seetsee! Come here please!” Or songs he’s starting to make up. Or his dance moves. Or the general ridiculousness that comes out of his mouth as he’s trying to understand a world that is new to him every day.

I’m trying to keep it together. But hooooly, babies are WAY easier than toddlers. They don’t talk or move. That is a gift from God.

Now excuse me while I prop my eyes open with toothpicks. Maybe tonight the toddler will go to bed easy and sleep through the night. I have to believe that will happen again for us one day. Let it be soon.

 

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The Difference Is…

Teddy is only two months old and already the differences between the two boys are innumerable. I did not think it could be possible for two people from the same two people to be so different, but more than that, for the differences to be so noticeable already. I suppose I even knew when Teddy was in utero. Henry was incredibly active. It seemed like I was always aware of his presence because of his incessant movements. I first felt him at 19 weeks. He hasn’t stopped moving from the day I could feel him inside. It took until 24 weeks  before I was certain I was feeling Teddy and not some rogue gas bubble. 5 weeks later! And they say you feel second babies more quickly because you know what to expect. Then Teddy just kept to himself most of the time, with an occasional jarring kick to remind me he was in there.

Once external to my body, Henry was exceptionally gifted at making sure we knew he was there. He demanded specific schedules at a very early stage. “BUT MOM! I NEED IT LIKE THIS!” the tiny baby would wail until we figured out – sometimes days or weeks later – what he was so fussy about. By the time Henry was three months he had a specific bedtime, but he really needed it several weeks earlier – we just missed the queues. Henry was not afraid to use his lungs. There was a lot of crying, as babies do. Crying over taking a bottle, crying after eating (still the most traumatizing part about baby Henry), crying just because, crying because he’s tired. Fairly typical baby stuff. And when he was awake, oh boy, did that kid wiggle. So much kicking and wiggling. His pediatrician remarked on how very wiggly he was at his two month well visit. Henry was a very expressive little dude. He had a million faces and he laughed and giggled often, definitely regularly by two months. That part was so delightful. He was hilarious right from the get go. Demanding to be watched, a ham, even then.

Now Teddy is a completely different story. As I’ve mentioned, he is the world’s most chill baby. But that also comes with Resting Bitch Face on an infant mug. Teddy is more stoic, not so expressive. I joke that he has three faces: sleeping, serious, and pooping (which is just a more severe serious face). He smiles, but it is seldom. He hoards those smiles. He spends all his energy focusing on being zen. This kid does not cry. My mom just spent three days with us and did not hear him cry once. When he gets really irritated, irritated enough to feel like he must say something, it comes out in a single goat bleat. And then he looks around as if to say, “I’m so sorry. I know I’m bothering you, but I could use you for a moment when you have some time. No rush. Again, sorry for bothering you.” When I put him on the ground he does wiggle, but it isn’t a frantic wiggling like Henry. More like relaxed kicks, like he is enjoying a tube ride on a lazy river. And the last few days I have been putting him down in his crib sleepy, but awake – you know, just to see what would happen. He looks around for awhile and then falls asleep as if he might as well because he does not have anything better to do. Come on, two month old babies do not put themselves to sleep! Henry was a good sleeper from about 6 weeks on, consistently sleeping in 6-8 hour stretches, then sleeping through the night (12 hours) around four months. Teddy has been sleeping in 6-7 hour stretches since… oh, I don’t know. Day 5? BUT! Not all is peachy on the Teddy front. The little man really does enjoy staying up late and then being up and creepily staring at me for two hours in the wee hours of the morning. He’s recently (like, in the last few days) started to get better when I gave up and started putting him in his crib awake, but it isn’t perfect or predictable.

I don’t think anyone would dispute that Henry is a carbon copy of Allen. Teddy, however, looks like me (poor boy). There’s a lot of time for him to change. When I look back at baby pictures of Henry, it takes until 5-6 months before I can really see present day Henry in those eyes and cheeks. But I think it would be prettttty cool if Allen got a carbon copy and I got one, too. Fingers crossed!

I can’t wait for the shenanigans these two brothers pull together. But I’m predicting now Henry is going to be the ring leader with poor innocent Teddy being dragged along against his will. “But Teddy, we’ll only get in trouble if we get caught…”

Or, more likely, Teddy already has me fooled which means that kid is going to be able to get away with anything.

 

Experience is Everything

As the days and weeks go by and I get to know Teddy more and more, I realize that the single most significant factor in why this maternity leave is SO MUCH MORE AMAZING than the last one is that experience is everything. Being a second time parent is fantastic. I am not worried about Teddy’s eating schedule, how many times he pooped in a given day, how long he slept, feeling guilty about him sleeping on me, feeling guilty about him not sleeping on me, leaving the house by myself, managing a baby in public, breastfeeding with people around, etc. I feel free. Well, as free as one can feel while still certainly being tied to a little creature that relies on me for food every few hours.

I cried so much with Henry. I cried quite a bit the first week we brought Teddy home because the first week is always going to be hard with hormones rushing out and adjusting to little sleep. But since then, I have been really quite well.

I remember with Henry that the silliest things would send me on a google frenzy to try and discern if what was happening was normal or not. There are still things with Teddy that are mysterious to me, but I have a much more laissez faire attitude about it. “Eh, he is more likely fine than not fine. I’ll worry in a day or two if this keeps up.” I still try to micro-manage other people when they are taking care of Teddy, but I think it is better than last time.

Teddy is also the world’s most easy baby (so far, anyway). What I have trouble figuring out is if he really is that easy or if we’re second time parents and are bothered by less. I think a lot of the former and certainly a dash of the latter. Teddy does not cry. He sometimes makes meepy, whiny sounds to indicate he’s not currently as pleased as he could be, but he’s easily comforted and quiets. Even when he’s hungry it is more of a “Hey, so, I am hungry, but… you know, I see you’ve got a couple of things to do before you get to me and I get that so I’ll hang here because I noticed that you noticed I need something. No worries, mama, I’ll chill.” I’ve told a couple of people that if Teddy were a cartoon character he would be Crush from Finding Nemo. He’s a little chill surfer dude sea turtle. We’ve gotten several 5 hour stretches of sleep, a couple 6 hour stretches, and one 7.5 hour stretch last night. I think somehow this is Allen’s doing to get me to see that a 3rd child is emotionally feasible. I say we’re destined for a dud on the next try so we should stop while we’re ahead.

As I enjoy maternity leave (like, honestly… I’m enjoying it!), it makes me realize that more than anything else, the thing I wish I could give all the first-time moms in my life who are struggling, second-guessing, feeling guilty, judging, and feeling imprisoned is the feeling of being a second-time mom. The calm, the security, the confidence. I want that for you. I want to bottle it up so you can spray it on like perfume when things get rough.

Until I figure out how to do that, the next best thing is to say: this hard, sometimes awful, sometimes tearful, sometimes angry experience is everything. Should you choose to do this again, I can promise you it will be so much easier. Not because the child will be easier or harder, but because YOU will have the experience to help you through. The struggle is real, but the experience is worth it.

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