Developing a Tough Skin

Any mother who has brought home a new baby to brothers and sisters knows that there will be a transition period for all involved.  The mom learns how to juggle the responsibilities involved with caring for one more child while the older children learn how to share Mommy.  In my case, I also have had to learn how to deal with my plummeting popularity. During the first week after we brought home our daughter Chloe, I dealt with more than my fair share of insults and beatings, and by beatings, I am not being figurative.  I had tiny shoes thrown at me by both children and slaps from both of their little hands, which still hurt despite their sizes.  My self-esteem was bruised pretty badly, too, as my sweet 21-month old daughter Hannah Grace informed me that she didn’t love me, but she loved Chloe.  My all-time favorite attack of the week occurred after we all watched E.T. together when Caleb exclaimed, “If a spaceship comes, I’m gonna go!”

By the end of the week, I felt worn down and probably had a slight case of the baby blues, but I knew the kids I had that once loved me would return, and we would begin to fall into a routine again.  While their little rebellions hurt, I knew the pain was temporary and that I was dealing with a 3-year old and not quite 2-year old.  What I haven’t been as easily able to deal with is the physical problems I am having again.

After Hannah Grace was born, I had two postpartum hemorrhages, a D&C, and weeks of ultrasounds to confirm whether or not I was healed.  The period after my second child was born was marked by fear and depression.  I had hoped that this postpartum period would be different, and I left the hospital with high hopes after an uneventful (not including the actual birth of Chloe) stay.  One week later, however, the all too familiar pain appeared, and by the time Chloe was two weeks old, I was having a D&C.  My doctor felt positive that all was resolved–he successfully removed remains of placenta that had stayed in my body, but once again, I began cramping.  Another ultrasound confirmed my fears–I was not better.  I needed another D&C.

After talking to a new doctor (my doctor was on vacation), I learned that having this D&C so close to my previous D&C could produce scar tissue prohibiting me from getting pregnant or successfully carrying a baby in the future.  However, if I did not have this procedure and tried to let my body get rid of this foreign material on its own, I risked a possible hemorrhage, my worst fear.  I had already experienced bleeding at home with a new baby in my arms and a 17-month old running around while my husband was at work, and I did not want to risk that same scenario plus one more child this go-round.  Matt and I decided that I should have my second D&C in two weeks.  The risks, while there, are small, and we wanted no doubt that the problem was fixed.  The doctor felt confident that he could use a scope this time to see inside of me and ensure that he successfully removed anything that shouldn’t be there.

While I sat in the doctor’s office today, many questions ran around in my mind:  Did the first doctor miss something, or is there something wrong with my body?  Why have I had these problems with two pregnancies?  If I were to get pregnant again, would I have these same problems?  Do I want to get pregnant again if I could end up in the same place as I am today, even though Matt and I have discussed having four children?  Am I making the right decision? Not knowing these answers is the hardest part of this experience for me.

I guess it’s human nature to want to blame, and that is where I stand today.  I want to be able to say, “The doctor messed up,” or “I have a problem with my uterus,” but the fact of the matter is that I really don’t know for sure, and I hate it.  I hate living every day wondering if this medicine or this procedure fixed me once and for all.  I hate getting in a routine with my kids only to have to get someone to watch them as I head off to the doctor’s office for the fourth time. I hate seeing Caleb express his concern by making an angry face at me and refusing to talk.  I hate being afraid.

But I’m learning.  I’m learning that part of motherhood and part of life in general is learning how to take a deep breath and toughen up.  I am trying to not fall into the devil’s snare that captured me after Hannah Grace’s birth.  I was weighed down with fear, but this time I am trying to cling to 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”  The temptation to wallow in depression is definitely there, and I feel like I have a right to be upset.  I have a greater responsibility, though.  I have to put on my tough skin for my children.  If I’m hurting, I have to cover up my wince.  When I want to cry, I need to swallow the lump in my throat.  They are already dealing with the transition of having a new sister, and their little minds can’t understand everything that is happening to Mommy.

Yes, being told “When you go to the hospital, you can stay there!” hurts, and being told “You need another D&C” hurts, but I’ll get through this time.  God made women strong, and that strength is in me, too.  Some days it’s a little harder to find, but it’s in my skin, nonetheless.

I Didn’t Know…

Even after having three children within three years, I am finding out that there is a lot about my children and myself that I didn’t know. Leading up to the birth of Chloe a few days ago, I tried to prepare myself mentally for how the addition of a third child would affect Caleb and Hannah Grace. I prayed for them at night, for God to help them through this transition–that there would be little jealousy, and that love would abound. I had my own suspicions of how each child would react, but apparently I just didn’t know…

…that the potty training regression I knew Hannah Grace would experience would occur instantaneously, that she would give up potty training the exact moment we left for the hospital! My sister and brother-in-law came to our home to watch the kids, and from that moment on, Hannah Grace decided all she needed was a diaper. Sure, I knew that she would regress when she saw Mommy changing the new baby’s diaper, but my goodness! She hadn’t even met the baby, yet, and she had decided that she was done, finished, never to sit on a little potty again! Now some may question how well she was doing before the baby was born, especially considering her young age. Let’s just say that the three days prior to her having a new sister, she may have had a total of one accident. She told the ladies in the toddler room at church that past Sunday that she needed to go pee pee; now when I ask her if she needs to go, she replies, “Nope. Hannah no pee pee in potty. Hannah pee pee in diaper!”

Okay, so I didn’t get it quite right with regards to Hannah Grace, but I was even further off with Caleb. I just didn’t know…

…that he would give up sleeping after the baby was born. Why would the birth of a baby cause a three-year old to think it is okay to stay up until one a.m.! I knew I would lack sleep for having to feed my new baby in the middle of the night; I did not know that I would not get to go to sleep at all because Caleb thought Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was a show not to be missed! I had not prepared mentally for this possibility, so on Chloe’s third day at her new home, Caleb had his first official day with “rest time” instead of “nap time.” We’ll see how tonight goes.

Apparently, I didn’t know my kids as well as I thought I did, but I still have a lot to learn about myself, too. I just didn’t know…

…the capacity for love that I have. If I am honest with myself, I was a little nervous about having a third baby, even though Matt and I wanted another child. ”We have a nice family now; will she upset the happy balance that we have?” ”How will I love her as much as I love Caleb and Hannah Grace? I don’t know if I’ll have enough love to give everyone.” I should have know better because these same thoughts invaded my mind when I was pregnant with Hannah Grace, and after holding her in my arms, the thoughts left. When I first saw Chloe and touched her as the midwife placed her on top of my belly, I fell in love again. Each time she snuggles in against my body or makes one of her little baby sounds while stretching, I know she was meant to be a part of this family, and my heart overflows with emotion. I can only thank God for the grace and love He has given me that I can then share with my children. He has blessed me with a beautiful family, and while there will always be much that I don’t know, there are no other people in this world from which I would rather learn.

The (In)Significance of Numbers

28 hours ago, baby Chloe wasn’t here.  I was at home, aggravated that both of my kids decided to forego their normal naps on a day when I really needed one.  38 weeks pregnant and grouchy, I was tired of the random contractions that I had had with each pregnancy that seemingly went nowhere, and I was more tired of the interesting new pains that this pregnancy had introduced to me.  All I wanted was to rest, and the cry of my daughter from her room 1 1/2 hours earlier than usual followed by the sound of her brother’s feet running down the hallway let me know that no one was going to nap, anymore.

Fast forward 2 hours, and I’m still having sporadic contractions, except this one really hurt…a lot. I guessed I needed to toughen up because the previous contraction was 15 minutes earlier, hardly the pattern of true labor.  15 minutes later, I went up the stairs after another contraction to tell my husband that we were not waiting until these things were 5 minutes apart–we were heading to the hospital when they got below 10.  4 1/2 minutes later, another contraction, and Matt began loading the car.  Another 4 1/2 minutes, and I was “Ah-Hee-ing”, trying to relax as my belly clenched tightly inwards.  We made it to the car, and off we went.

The whole ride to the hospital and in-processing couldn’t have taken more than 30 minutes, and I was not surprised when the mid-wife confirmed what I already knew–I was dilated to 10 and could push when my husband made it to the room.  I was minutes away from meeting my baby girl. 1 hour ago, and I didn’t even know I was in labor.

A little more than 5 minutes later, I was holding my beautiful daughter with 0 ideas of what to call her besides “Baby Girl.”  As I stared into her eyes and saw her brother Caleb and sister Hannah Grace (and of course, none of me), I felt as if she had always been in my arms, yet I had everything to learn about her.  I thought about all the precise timing that brought us to that delivery room instead of the hallway in my home, and I didn’t care.  Yes, my head was spinning, but my baby had me anchored to the ground.  My new love was here, and I would learn 19 hours later that her name is Chloe Elizabeth.