Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Upon Waking

I will resist the urge to begin this with an apology. So, I am back at work after 12 weeks of bliss (and poop, spit-up, tantrums and cleaning). I sit in silence with not much to do, no baby to nurse or change, no preschooler to entertain, no messy house to clean and a paycheck on the way. You'd think I would be relieved to catch a break and make some money again but, as many of the mothers who have been in my shoes would understand, I feel no relief. In fact, I feel utterly EMPTY. Yes, yes I know - there are hundreds of people praying hard every night, desperately pleading with God that they may find work of any kind. Though I feel for them and recognize how fortunate I am, I cannot feel sorry. I live my own reality and not theirs. In this reality, I commute an hour to this place and, for much of it, the memory of my three month old's smell lingers in my mind. How I wish I could bottle it and preserve the indescribable comfort it makes me feel. Nothing smells more like home than my baby. And the eldest, my kind, beautiful, sunny child. My Dahlia, for whom the quickest way to get her to eat her vegetables (besides bribery) is to tell her how happy it would make us. How I MISS my girls! But I am reconciled to do what I know is best for my family at this point. I will try to appreciate my cushy, lax job and spend my abundant down time sitting at my desk, blogging, surfing the web, pumping and dreaming of a day when I can afford to be home, at least part-time.

Elise's birth went smoothly. Dahlia stayed overnight at the hospital with John and I for the duration of my stay, which I was a bit hesitant about at first but, in retrospect, I wouldn't of had it any other way. We had such an amazing time together. Through the haze of painkillers, lack of sleep and intense emotion, I can't remember for the life of me what it is we did other than marvel at our new addition, but I know it was the best time of my life. Even better, I dare say, than when my first was born. Because, for one, we knew what to expect and, secondly, we got to watch Dahlia meet her baby sister. Which brings me to yet another reason I love that kid more than life itself.

After I was reunited with Elise in the Mother and Baby suite, my husband went to pick up Dahlia from our sitter's. When they returned, Dahlia was wearing the "Big Sis" shirt my good friend Jenney made her. She walked right up to Elise and I and stared at her for no more than 3 seconds before reporting with a big smile, "Baby sista. That's Elli. That's my baby sista". I asked if she wanted to hop up on the hospital bed and hold her and she nodded. With my husband standing behind her, I put Elise in her arms and she smiled and kissed her. She did this with remarkable tenderness (for a three year old) and without prompting. After a while, I moved to take her and Dahlia refused! Then, any time a nurse would come to take Elli out of the room for a vitals check, Dahlia would look at me like I was crazy for letting them and say "Where's baby sista? Bring her BACK!". After we were discharged, she would follow me around the house and, still being quite the paci addict herself, insist that I give Elise a pacifier at the slightest hint of an impending cry. Since the moment she first saw her, as if she had known her in another life, Dahlia has accepted Elise as hers. Hers to protect, care for and love. There was no adjustment period for her. And, even when there came a hint of jealousy later, it NEVER manifested as resentment or anger and was never directed at the baby. Indeed, Dahlia is the BEST big sister anyone could ever hope for and if I had one dying wish, it would be that she continue to love and look out for her sister with the same intensity and that Elise grow up to return this love.

The hospital stay was not without issue (however minor in the end). As soon as I was stitched up (C/S), they wheeled me into recovery with the assurance that Elise would follow in about an hour, after some blood work. Ten minutes later, they informed me that, as is common with babies of the chunkier variety (birth weight: 9 lbs 7 oz), her blood sugar was a tad low and they would need to bring her to me to nurse right away. She nursed for about 2 seconds and fell asleep. Normal, I thought, and in about 15 minutes gave it another try. Again, after no more than a few seconds, she was out! She repeated this every time I tried to nurse her for the remainder of that day, feeding for 4 minutes at most before falling asleep. Luckily, and probably because I tried to nurse her at least twice every hour, she managed to get enough colostrum to raise her sugar to an acceptable level. Unfortunately, it was not enough to keep her from losing too high of a percentage of her birth weight (she lost 10%; max is expected to be 8%), so I was asked to stay an extra day. That, combined with the fact that my milk had not yet come in, made it necessary to supplement with some formula on the third night. Finally, she gained enough weight for them to release us with a few bottles of Goodstart. I am happy to say, however, that I did not need to use them. My milk came in the next day and, while she remained a sleepy baby until just recently, Elise soon became a nursing pro!

I am truly blessed that this is the biggest issue our family has had to face since our sweet Elise was born. She is a remarkably good and easy baby. As if she is aware that she is the younger sibling of a highly demanding and spoiled preschooler, she will basically stay where you put her without protest. She rarely ever cries and, when she does, it consist of one little roar and a long pause as if to say "I know you are busy, Mama. I'll just wait right here!". At her two month check-up, she was a healthy 13 lbs. Her latest feat is bringing her hands together, which makes her look like she is praying and compliments her angelic countenance.

Spending 3 glorious (and hectic, work-filled) months with my girls was made even more enjoyable when I met an amazing group of women who comprise a playgroup for preschoolers, organized via Facebook. A friend, who has been a SAHM for several years, knows all the best activities in town for kids and has an uncanny ability to be prepared for anything kid-related, introduced me to them and I couldn't be more grateful to her for doing so. The playgroup consists of women of every color, social status and stage in life. There are moms, grandmoms and nannies of every ethnicity. In fact, the only thing many of them have in common (at least outwardly) is friendship and the fact that they care for preschool aged children. Even through this diversity, they are incredibly open and accepting. And, in a small town (even one with a university in it) surrounded by miles and miles of even smaller, backwoods towns no one has ever heard of, this is a truly rare thing to find.

During the last 6 weeks of my leave, the girls and I had so much fun with our new friends that I asked that my husband, who is currently working from home until my mom arrives to help out with the kids, continue to take them on outings with the group as often as his work allows. And, while he is the only man there, he was met with the same acceptance as I. Knowing that Dahlia is having a blast and that Elise is safe with her papa is the only thing that makes being away from them bearable and, for this, I am grateful. Indeed, hats off to my dear John. After having the experience of caring for them both while working and still finding time to cook dinner every night, he is unlikely to make the all too common mistake of believing it is easy to stay home. Perhaps, one day soon, I will be able to test that. Until then, upon waking, before sleepily dressing and grabbing coffee-to-go, I will take a moment to smell my baby, kiss my big kid and remember to soak up every second I spend with them.