I overheard the only dad in Sweet Pea’s swim lesson mention something about a baby at home in between blowing bubbles and practicing reaching and pulling.
“We have a baby at home too.” I offered.
“How old?” he asked.
“Four months. What about you?”
I smiled and offered congratulations.
“Does it get easier?” I could sense desperation in the way he asked. I would have embraced him in a hug if we weren’t in the pool with our toddlers. And maybe if I knew his name.
“Um… eventually. A little. No. Sort of, yes. Yes, it definitely does. Gradually. I’d recommend keeping a flask full of whiskey in your swim trunks pocket.” I didn’t really say the part about the whiskey.
Everyone tells you to sleep while you can, have sex while you can, go out to dinner while you can, enjoy wearing something other than spit up stained yoga pants before you have your first baby.
As far as advice on having a toddler and a new baby… I only remember my mom quietly telling me “It’s going to be a hard year.” I don’t remember if that was before or after I collapsed in a pile of tears just before she and my dad left for the airport when the baby was two weeks old.
Now that Lady Bug is four months old, life is becoming marginally easier. Maybe it’s only because after an entire summer and part of the fall, we are that many more days away from the time when we were a family of three. With every day that passes, being a family of four is gradually becoming our new normal. It doesn’t hurt that my face is 95% healed. If you’ve been hanging out here regularly, then you know I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy when Lady Bug was ten days old. Talk about a shitty post-partum.
I hate to sound like an ungrateful little shit. I really try -even when both kids are crowded onto my lap, Lady Bug screaming for a boob, and Sweet Pea crying because she’s two and a half and it could be anything- how lucky I am to have two healthy kids, a roof over our heads, and a husband who is truly a partner. At least once a day, usually around 5pm when everyone is cranky and hungry and I’m trying to make dinner, I take a deep breath and remember that everything I have is everything I ever wanted.
But still. It really sucked to discover that half of my face was drooping like I’d had a stroke. And I’m not trying to minimize the experience of having a stroke. I’m just saying I looked that bad. Worse, there was no way to know how long it would take my face to get better, or if it would ever get back to normal. For weeks, it was an effort to talk, to chew, to drink. Forget about smiling. One half of my face smiled and the other half didn’t. It was 100% creepy looking. On the upside, being so self-conscious about my smile made me acutely aware of who in my life really makes me smile.
I had just given birth, my belly was like an overflowing bowl of Jello, Sweet Pea was running, jumping, screaming, and stomping in the house (all new behaviors), my limited free time was suddenly slashed in half, breastfeeding was a disaster (that experience deserves its own blog post), I went from the exhaustion of pregnancy to the exhaustion of waking up multiple times a night with a newborn, and then my face decided not to work. Every time I felt sad, I remembered how grateful I was supposed to feel and then I hated myself even more for still being sad and became sadder still.
Things got noticeably better around the six week mark. That was when I was allowed to exercise. Obviously exercise gives you endorphins (ie the good mood hormones). Exercise is also a special time when I get to be alone, either breathing fresh air outside, or zoning out on the treadmill while indulging in something useless on Netflix.
Since then, there have been flashes of better that come at random…
When Sweet Pea gave Lady Bug her doll.
When both kids were supposed to be napping, but instead they were crying, and Dan told me to take an hour and go to go to the nearest coffee shop with my my laptop.
When Lady Bug slept four hours in a row.
When I ran a seven miler with some hill repeats mixed in.
When I hit “send” on my first home birth book newsletter.
When I discovered Sweet Pea “reading” to Lady Bug…
Yeah, it does get easier.