Saturday, July 05, 2008

snips and snails

Friday night I dreamed that I had two more boys in such quick succession that I couldn't even blog about them. I was so guilt-ridden that my life had exploded and I hadn't even notified the blog. A few nights before I dreamed someone else I knew was pregnant with three boys.

Yesterday morning at the Farmer's Market, I met a man with two kids. He asked how old Swee'pea was, and I told him, then asked how old his two were. He thought for a moment, then started rhyming off ages: 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, and almost 4 (or something like that. I might have stuck an extra kid in there). He only had his oldest and his youngest with him.

"Wow," I said. "That must have been a BUSY five years."

"It was."

"It makes me shiver just to think about it... I found that infant year so hard, I can't imagine doing it over and over."

I think this may have been the wrong thing to say. I meant it is as praise and admiration, but I think I offended him.

"Oh really? We didn't find it bad. We had a lot of fun."

The conversation died.

I think I'm getting more and more PTSD about the whole infancy thing as time passes. And this is fucked up but I've drifted away from the friends who had their first baby when I had Swee'pea and who have since had a second child. I feel a little betrayed, to tell the truth, like they've gone to the Dark Side. And I don't know how to relate to the enormity of having a baby AND a toddler. It's stupid I know, but I think my memory of that first year might be getting worse as times goes on. My comment to the man at the market said nothing at all about the joy and love and miraculous expansion of my world.

Swee'pea woke up several times last night, upset and calling for me. The first time I'd just discovered Punk Rock Mommy's blog for the first time (too late) and my eyes were red and sore from crying. So I laid down next to Swee'pea, full of sadness for children who have lost their mothers far too soon, and for mothers not getting to see their children grow. And I did as she said and cuddled Swee'pea. I wrapped myself up in the simple beauty of his eyelashes resting on his soft pale cheek.

I ended up spending the night in his bed, and returned to my bed in daylight. Moments later he was crying for me again, and he came into our bed, where he continued to cry and kick and demand access to my belly. After the whole night at his service, I felt grumpy and claustrophobic and didn't do a very good job of "explaining" to him that I needed a break from his scrabbling hands. I always feel like a lousy mother in these moments, but I rationalize that it's important to learn to respect other people's boundaries.

I fell back to sleep after Sugar D got up with Swee'pea. My dreams were anxious and restless, full of wild dogs snarling and snapping to get at two young children who weren't mine but who I had to protect, burning cars, and angry and alienated people like a Mad Max movie, all in another country that looked remarkably like the landscape of my childhood. I'd become separated from Sugar D and there was no way we'd be able to catch the flight that would take us away from the chaos. I woke up with the realization that I was on my own and unable to get home.

* * *

This morning when I arrived at the Drop-In Centre, a boy was sleeping with his head on the table. The back of the centre with its computers and couches was closed because someone stuck playdough to the ceiling and didn't clean it up. The boy was all elbows and angles and the table couldn't have made a nice pillow. I'm quite certain he was well and truly asleep, not just dozing. I assumed he was sleeping off some excesses of last night. I try not to make assumptions about people here but I can't help my curiosity and eye for details, and some things are just a reality.

When he came up to the counter after he woke up his eyes looked kind of vacant, and occasionally his slow words slurred. It took him a long time to answer my "Do you want sugar in your coffee?" He had scrapes and scars on the backs of his hands and forearms that made me wonder if perhaps he used heroin. Once upon a time I would have thought that was impossible in this small quiet town, but not anymore.

Later, M came in. Last time I saw M he told me that he'd once been very close with the young woman whose dead body police found in a park a month or two ago. Her story had been in the paper: 29 years old, history of psychiatric problems and a conviction for possession of crack. When I read it, I figured at least a few people at the Drop-In Centre must have known her, but I wouldn't have thought it was M.

When he laid eyes on the formerly sleeping boy, M exclaimed and hugged him hard. "I'm just so glad you're still alive!"

Later still, the boy was sleeping at the table again. As I watched his eyelashes flutter lightly on his cheek, it struck me that he was someone's son. He was so young, it couldn't have been that long ago that someone had gazed at his eyelashes resting on chubby, unmarked cheeks like Swee'pea's. Or maybe it was. Maybe nobody's ever done that before... who knows.

I'm glad the boy has someone who's glad he's still alive.


Beck said...

Nothing in the world was harder than my first child. Not anything. I thought we would die, all three of us, just drop dead from exhaustion. But we made it.

The second kid was EASY - I knew how to breastfeed! I didn't take as many things seriously! - and something about the routines of life with a toddler kept us from focusing so much on how tiring a baby was.

Our third kid was kind of a pain in the butt. Her health problems made everything SUPER SCARY... but friends who've gone on to have a fourth child say that you barely NOTICE, at that point.

My husband puts his foot down at 11 months - no more babies in our bed. (unless they're sick) Having that as a family boundary makes everyone get much more rest and makes parenting as a whole feel easier.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, PTSD about the baby years is very accurate analogy. I don't know if I'll ever get nostalgic about those months.

My girlfriend has four kids and she keeps reassuring me that her hyper-fertility is not catchy. Phew.

ewe are here said...

It's the first three months that were the hardest for me, with both our boys. Sleep deprivation really is a b*tch and a half. But they were sooo worth it, so I forgave them. ;-)

cinnamon gurl said...

Ewe, that sounds like your boys were fairly average sleepers. Swee'pea didn't sleep through the night until he was like 17 months old, and even now it's only a once a month kind of event (and it's been a few months at that - I'm hoping it will get better when he gets his molars in).

But yeah, of course it's worth it.

Aliki2006 said...

We swore we were done with L., #1. We bought our first house (stupidly) telling ourselves it was okay if it was tiny, we were only going to have one child. I never understood those moms who could give birth and then declare themselves ready for another...and another. But with T. I felt that way--it was easy and hard in many ways, but so doable.

nomotherearth said...

You know what? The first year with the Boy was so hard for so many reasons that I thought I couldn't go back. Just couldn't. Finally, I had to close my eyes and jump in because I knew, down the line, I wanted to end up with two kids.

And yeah, a lot of stuff still sucks. Really sucks. BUT. It took the second child to show me how fun babies could be. I never thought it possible. I thought it was just a stage to "get through". I stand corrected.

Kyla said...

Kids are so different, Sin. I think the odds of you getting another kiddo with the same sleep issues that Swee'Pea had is really slim, though not impossible, of course. If it is something you want, you just have to close your eyes and dive in again. It's likely to be a completely different experience this time around, goodness knows KayTar is nothing like BubTar. LOL.

I'm glad that boy has someone caring about him, too.

metro mama said...

We have one car. Sean shuttles Cakes around in the MEC single trailer. They both love it.

Bon said...

dude, you have every right to a fair dose of PTSD after the sleep deprivation Swee'pea brought with him...seriously. that fell way outside the usual, and often once one is able to leave a period like that behind and realize just how traumatic - and unusual - it was, one builds up defenses about the idea of ever doing that to oneself again. i think it's self preservation.

for what it's worth, i had a way easier time with O than you did with Swee'pea (only four or five really bad months of sleep dep) and i'm still scared shitless of this baby's arrival, much as i desperately want her. it's the long-term payoff of having another child to love that makes me hope i'll manage it with some grace.

the boy at the shelter? yes. i see them all as somebody's boy, now. and they break my heart.

Cloud said...

Our sleep issues are somewhere in between "average" and yours- Pumpkin is 15 months, and has yet to sleep through the night more than a couple of times. But she's usually only up once or twice in the night, so if I go to bed earlyish I can get enough sleep to not feel too traumatized.

Anyway, we know we want a second child, and we know that I'm not getting any younger, but... it is so hard to think about actually stopping the birth control when Pumpkin is still not sleeping all that well. I think we'll eventually do it, but the thought of going back to the early days still scares me. I love Pumpkin to bits, but I hope the second one sleeps better!

The last bit about the drop in center is right on target. It is too easy to forget that everyone is someone's child.

Mimi said...

One kid. I"m stopping. We had a rough time, too, and frankly, I don't know if my marriage can go through another couple of years like that, or my career.

You know what? I feel exactly the same way you do about people who are going on to have a second (Um, Ewe, and Kittenpie, and Nomo, and Bon, I love you and all but ...). I totally get how you feel the betrayal. Somehow, they're making me look bad, or tacitly telling me that I'm a big baby or something.

So. Let me be the first to say: me too, I feel exactly the same.

kgirl said...

well, you know what our first's sleeping issues were like... honestly, it made me feel prepared for anything, which i was. and then i had #2 (which i really jonesed for), and she is so different!

i say, if you're not into having another, don't, because you won't be doing anyone any favours to have another before you're ready, but i do have to echo what the other moms x2 have said - it's nowhere near as tough as the first time.

mamatulip said...

What's been the hardest for me is dealing with my kids' differences. They are night and day and while I didn't expect them to be carbon copies, I didn't really expect them to be so different.

I also didn't expect Oliver to be such a spitfire.

It's a learning curve, one that I'm hugging.

Great post.

Julie Pippert said...

Your second story broke my heart and was the second of that type today.

This type of thing:
"Oh really? We didn't find it bad. We had a lot of fun."

is about as bad a conversation killer as it gets.

Your stories remind me somewhat of my first one, who had medical problems, as it turned out, which affected her sleep.

We were more firm with where the second one slept by when (as Beck) on the whole and she didn't have the medical stuff but was a troublesome personality, and still is. They all have challenges, but yes, some are beyond the range.

So for someone to do the oh really thing...yeah that can be a real kick. I've never run into it that it wasn't meant somewhat disparagingly as in "yeah? what's wrong with you" kind of way.

Your time was tough. That's real.

No two kids are alike but you always get a challenge, and some challenges are harder than others, and each hits us differently.

So Phhbbtt on 'oh really.' Really.

Janet said...

I agree with the others: every kid sleeps differently. I do hope Swee'pea enters that heavy-limbed-nothing-is-waking me stage of sleep soon.

I have that "he/she is somebody's child" sensation often. It can be heart breaking.

Elizabeth said...

I have no children (yet) and am eternally amazed at parents. I truly cannot fathom how people get through the first year, not to mention the second, third, and so on until about age 17. I hope when I have children I'll find out where that strength and patience comes from!

I often try to think of people as someone's child, as you did with the boy at the drop-in centre. It makes me feel a little warmer towards humanity at times when I need that.