I won’t lie. I’ve been terrified for four years about the thought of having a second child. Anybody who hasn’t read about Heather’s bout of postpartum depression and her stay in a psychiatric hospital to be treated should do so now (there is a good ending here and here). Are there people who read personal websites who haven’t heard Heather’s story?
I was a part of that story and it was harrowing. More harrowing than I shared or wanted to share at the time for a number of reasons. We all survived, but I didn’t want Heather to experience those horrible feelings of dread and anxiety ever again, especially around something so beautiful as bringing a new life into our family. I wasn’t sure I had the emotional and psychological reserves to get through something like that again. I still have a lot of residual painful memories, mostly of how hurt and sick Heather was and wondering during that summer of 2004 if she was going to make it or do something to both herself and Leta.
I also was thinking about Leta. Leta is a beautiful, intelligent and sweet kid. She’s also intense. More intense than any of my 30+ neices and nephews. More intense than any child I’ve ever known. Not intense in a spoiled, horrible way, but in a constantly questioning, emotionally deep way. Leta is extraordinarily sensitive to her world. Perceptive like no one’s business and a quick study. She’s sensitive, but can speak frankly and firmly when she wants, barking orders and taking no prisoners. Leta is very much a product of her parents and because of that, I felt like I owed it to her to give her every bit of attention, love, care, tutelage and wisdom I could muster. I need to help her build the armor she’s going to need to get through this world. Part of that is the need to teach her about boundaries, that life isn’t fair and that through hard work, she can achieve whatever she desires. That kind of commitment isn’t different than what other parents give their children. I know this. But for us, adding a second child would mean that our attention would be split. I assume most parents likely have this thought about adding children to their families. At least the neurotic parents. Of which, I am certainly one. I’ll wait a few moments for you to finish rolling your eyes.
My therapist told me a couple of years ago that she thought I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) around pregnancy because of what we went through as a couple in 2004. I tend to believe her. This time around, Heather assured me that she was not going to stop her meds cold turkey and would only reduce them, eliminating only those meds from her cocktail that are untested in terms of fetal development. That meant she’d still be on an anti-depressant. In 2007 we tried and were successful in getting Heather pregnant. She miscarried at 10 weeks and suffered some postpartum depression, which was totally understandable, but made me question if I had the reserves to handle severe postpartum depression again. I wanted to gear up for when we tried again. Once Heather’s system regulated and we decided we wanted a summer baby we went for it again and now we have our beautiful, sweet Marlo. Who deserves all the love and generosity we’ve shared with Leta.
I’ve been as helpful as I know how. I think I’ve done a better job this time being a supportive husband and father. Heather created the birth experience she wanted; no meds, no epidural and no episiotomy. I couldn’t have been more proud of Heather the night we drove like maniacs to the hospital with Heather writhing and Leta upset that mommy is screaming, why is mommy screaming? No mommy’s ok even though she’s super wired and kind of freaking out but is putting on the most calm happy voice she can while a baby is getting ready to come out of her. See?
Still, with all my reservations around bringing a second child into our family, I knew that I’d be home with Heather and the baby. I’d be able to be with her during the days and long nights. I’d be able to take the baby with me into the nursery while Heather slept soundly. And for the first while, that definitely was wonderful and things looked great. After a few days home, I began to see similar patterns in Heather and began to see that she was sinking fast. She wrote about how she responded and steps she’s taken here. Things are looking better and Heather’s handling all the bumps of infancy and motherhood very well. And I’m glad that we have the medical help we do, with a cocktail that works extremely well. One of the side benefits of Heather’s meds is that even though there aren’t sleeping pills as part of the mix, once she lets herself sleep, she’s out and gets solid sleep. Solid blocks of sleep go a long way to making one not go crazy. Being able to watch Marlo during the day while Heather naps helps after the rough nights, of which last night was one.
This time around, I’m definitely less worried about Heather. The baby sleeps with us and she’s doing great. Sure, Marlo can be a very noisy sleeper, like her sister, but it’s usually just gas related.
So far, the experience has been familiar, but so much better, even with the crazy sleep (to be fair to Heather, we try to spell each other during the day so naps can be taken, it’s not just me watching Marlo). I’m loving being home to help change diapers, get the baby to settle down and sleep. We have a king size bed this time around and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Heather, Marlo and me have more than enough room to sleep. When Leta joins us in the mornings we can all fit and even allow the dogs aboard. I have more than six inches of mattress to sleep on and don’t ever fear crushing the baby. I’m sure she’ll be in the bassinet soon enough so I want to savor, as insane as that sounds, the co-sleeping.
So far, I get two to three blocks of sleep a night and get by with two or three diaper changes. I’m sure that’s going to change as the baby grows, but I’m just rolling with whatever happens. I’m astonished to even write that sentence. This time around it’s so much less about How Is Heather and more about structuring the sleeping so we are both sane. A marked jump away from walking on eggshells and getting hung up on a dozen times a day at the office.
Things That I’m Adjusting To
The shock of waking up and changing a diaper at varying times in the sleep cycle and then trying to get back to sleep. Not a whine, just an observation that wow, it can be challenging and I forgot how paralyzed by the need for sleep one can be after not sleeping normally for weeks at at time.
I’m trying to give Leta as much attention as I can, while transitioning her into big sisterhood. As I don’t produce breastmilk, Leta and I do a lot of stuff together and I tried to start the transition back when Heather first got pregnant that Leta and I would spend more time together playing, eating meals, getting ready for school, getting ready for bed, having stories, etc. Leta misses Heather greatly and we try to trade off some of the time, but I think given the recent mastitis scare, there’s only so much I’m willing to let Heather do before I turn into exactly what she does with me when I need to rest; a stern disciplinarian.
Getting up and out on time for Leta’s school run is brutal. We’ve got to make some adjustments. I don’t want to be (but already are/am) the parent who shows up late wearing a 3 day old t-shirt and bleary eyes to drop off his kid. Some work in this regard is needed.
It’s been nice to have Chuck back. He’s spent actual nights on the bed with us! This is going to sound absolutely insane, but I think Heather’s meds help Chuck stop worrying about Heather. He senses that she’s ok, that I’m not worried and the energy is really good for him so he sticks around. Coco loves her kennel. After Leta was born, Chuck wanted nothing to do with the kennel. Coco LOVES it. Puts herself to bed at night, even with the new early sleeping hours. However, I have to work with Coco about the notion of “infant” and “calm-your-shit-out-dog-we’ve-played-catch-for-45-minutes-and-your-tongue-is-scraping-the-ground-just-give-it-up-and-stop-leaping-around-like-there-isn’t-a-precious-eight-pound-baby-right-here-you-dozy-bollocksed-dog.” Coco’s getting there. Chuck has an innate ability to sense that Marlo is new and he needs to be very soft with her. One of the nights he left our room after we had fallen asleep and Marlo was really fussy (gas-related) Chuck came back in for moral support and stayed the rest of the night in bed with us. He’s a good little helper.
Thanks to all of you for your kind thoughts and wishes. I think we’re going to make it this time.