A couple of weeks ago I received an unexpected phone call from my high school clarinet teacher. Once upon a time I watched her children everyday after school while she taught piano and clarinet. Although that was four years ago, she was in need for an adult babysitter to come spend the night with her kids this week while she went to visit her husband far away on a military assignment. I said yes. . .
Because I'm a masochist.
Had I not been a nursing mom perhaps watching all those children wouldn't have been so difficult.
My clarinet teacher has five children. The oldest was at girls camp, but I was still completely overwhelmed by the other four and Andrea. If I sat my daughter down she instantly burst into tears because she was in a strange and very noisy place, but I struggled wrangling the eighteen month old with only one hand. Those two had to just take turns crying. Paul worked late most days and arrived just thirty minutes before bedtime to provide me with some relief. By then Andrea was hysterical with hunger and exhaustion. Paul would take her from me so I could bathe the other baby and put her in bed. Then I would set him in charge of the other children while I found a private place to nurse.
Nursing wasn't the only challenge. The eighteen month old has had some health problems since birth and is a terrible sleeper. Having one of those myself I anticipated long nights. My clarinet teacher had been giving her baby melatonin, a natural sleep hormone, to help her stay asleep all night. She gave me the instructions on how and when to administer the melatonin, but our first night at the house I was unable to find the bottle. I searched and searched while the two babies screamed and Harry Potter blazed in the background. Unable to locate it she had to go to sleep without. Andrea was put to bed next and I didn't expect a very smooth night from her either. She barely makes it through the night at home in her familiar bed.
Much to my surprise, everyone slept great which I can only attribute to divine intervention and a faulty baby monitor. . . he he. Discovered that the last night there. Poor Andrea.
The reason I've regaled you with this amazing story was to not put you to sleep but to declare to you my intentions to never reproduce EVER AGAIN.
Just kidding. . . though I'd be lying if I denied saying that at least seventy-eight times in the last week.
Paul reminded me that women typically have children one at a time, not four, and can make adjustments at the arrival of each new baby. Still, what I really want to say is this-- to my dear mother, who never had just one baby and in a two year span found herself a mother of three: My hat is off to you. It's harder than it looks.
Overall my clarinet teacher has great kids and as hard as it was juggling the two babies, the other three were saints. For that, I'm so thankful, so I shouldn't complain.
Still, I don't plan on house/babysitting again for a good long while.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
After Andrea’s birth and the whirlwind of holidays Paul returned to school for his final semester. He also returned to work, and I practically became a single mom. Being a new mom is hard on anyone. I was actually embarrassed that it was so hard on me. However, it wasn't the sleepless nights and the hours of holding a screaming child that wore me out most (although that was incredibly exhausting). My real challenge was doing it alone.
Ironic that having a person constantly attached to me launched me into the loneliest time of my life (thus far).
To add insult to injury, when I was around people I was irritable and emotional. I desperately craved adult conversation and the companionship of a friend yet could not seem to offer those things in return. Andrea was draining everything from me and the voids in my brain that once housed compassion, hope, and sanity were filling with fluids that seemed to seep from my eyes at every inconvenient moment. Gross, ya?
Then, on a chilly April afternoon, Paul came home from his last class and was mine again. And he began a relief effort. He began taking Andrea so I could attempt naps. He held and played with her while I decompressed over a warm sink of dishes. He even cleaned the toilet. Twice. In June we took our daughter to the doctor, figured out why she hadn’t been sleeping and four days later she finally slept through the night.
And so did I.
Then, my journey to recover the broken pieces of my spirit began along with my attempts to salvage my once steady image. Requiring lots of prayer, meditation, and naps, Paul continued to be my co-captain, my sous chef. . . my saving grace.
But yesterday he said something horrible. So horrible I wanted to cover my ears and yell, "I can't hear you! I can't hear you!" like was in first grade again. He said, with sadness in his tone, "Twenty-seven days." The number of days until he begins his Master’s program. . . and it lingered in the silent air for a moment before slowly falling to my feet. Had it been tangible I would have stomped on it. What an ugly number. His Master's program schedule is not going to be very fun. It will entail leaving the house at five every morning and returning home at eleven in the evening.
Sorry, that was me gagging.
For him this means very little sleep, very little food, and very little time at home. For me it means becoming a single mom again. It means being so alone again. I remind myself this is only for two semesters, and knowing exactly when this trial ends is a luxury seldom given. For that, I am thankful.
Sigh. . . drool. . .
P.S. How cute are these boots? They finally fit her little feet and I love them.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Two weeks ago the Mormon Tabernacle Choir went on tour up into Canada to share their musical gifts and spirit. Paul's parents are both in the choir and so we and his sisters decided to plan a little surprise for their return. The basement of their house was pretty much one very large office and we wanted to make a sitting area down there for people to gather, watch TV, and where little baby feet could run around in a relatively contained and safe space.
Before when you walked down the stairs, covering some beautiful brick work was a row of file cabinets.
Wedged between the wall and these cabinets was a lighthouse painting. We decided to use this painting as our inspiration for the room. I like to call it the cigarette lighthouse. You can probably guess why.
Standing beside the file cabinets and looking down the room there were tables of computers and some additional file cabinets against the wall.
Moving the filing cabinets to the center of the room we used them as a partition to define the space. Next we found some couches and couch covers on craigslist.
Exibit A: couches after finished pillows.
Here you can see the brick where we placed an entertainment center to cover the hole once used by an wood burning stove. I don't have a picture of that. Sorry. But you can see the picture which we hung on the wall opposite the window.
At the dollar store I bumped into a lighthouse similar to the one in the painting except the top was red. I painted it gold to match the color scheme of the room.
I scoured the house for other golden trinkets to adorn the mantle. It's still a little bit of a work is progress down there but we got the space off to a good start.
We've also had a lot of family come and visit lately. My aunt traveled from Illinois at the beginning of June and my grandmother came shortly after she left. Andrea got to read books and play with her. My other grandmother is also visiting so Andrea is getting to meet a lot of my relatives.
Cousin Jax also came to visit with his parents and he's been teaching Andrea new tricks like growling and clapping. She thinks he's the coolest person and always watches him when he's in the room.
I think these two will be good friends some day.
Monday (the 4th of July) we began the day with a patriotic breakfast (which turned out hideous). Red, white, and blue waffles.
While I picked out a blue bow for Andrea, she saw the flower and would not let go of it. Paul insisted she wear it too.
Andrea's finally able to sit up on her own and her balance gets better every day.
Andrea's finally sleeping through the night now that I'm supplementing her, and I feel six trillion times better thanks to some full nights of sleep. She's already gained 3/4 of a pound so she'll hopefully return to a healthy percentile soon.