With advancing pregnancy, it’s getting harder and harder to do much of anything. Standing or walking too long makes my hips ache. Going over a bump while driving makes me feel kicked in the crotch, as does taking too hard a step. Spontaneous waves of mind-numbing fatigue, the kind that make you wonder what was in your drink, smack me facedown on an hourly basis.
As a result, I’m spending more and more time off my feet. The first time around, I was reading book upon books about childrearing, like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (which needs to be shot, by the way, or at least renamed “If You’re Not Suffering, You’re Wrong”). I even read “Queen Bees and Wannabes” after finding out I was having a girl, hoping it would help me arm my girl against future mean girl schoolyard toughs.
Ah, those were the days of scary first time parenting. The second time around, I’m filling endless hours dealing with a crazy banshee toddler, hoping she doesn’t figure out that I can’t bend over, and contemplating how we’re going to pull off this newborn + toddler thing.
John is being a saint. He helping me with laundry and tying my shoes now, because of the aforementioned bending-over issues. If I inadvertently drop something, it’s dead to me now. I can’t pick up all the messes Brontë leaves anymore, so clutter is piling up our floors and I try to see around my feet to avoid tripping on it as I waddle back and forth until John comes home and pushes it all aside like one of those ice-smoothing machines at ice skating rinks. He is doing most of the cooking now, after a hard day’s work, which means we are all eating a lot of spaghetti and pizza (but I’m hardly complaining!). I think Brontë wishes her dad always cooked.
All you single moms out there? I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know what I would do without my husband to help out, whether it’s putting dinner on the table, or taking a nighttime feeding shift so I can get a couple hours more sleep, or just being there to hold my hand when I’ve had a rough day. Partly, he is a great daddy and a wonderful husband who is excited to have another baby and wants to help out the best he can. Partly, he figured out after the first pregnancy that I am way too hormonal and scary to argue with when pregnant and right now it’s best for him to just agree with me , offer me food, and back out of the room slowly without baring any teeth…
We are having another girl, yay! That means cute little sisters and bunkbeds and well-attended tea parties. Having a boy would have been cool too, of course, because then I would have one of each. John seems happy to be getting girls. I think it’s because he put his own parents through twenty shades of hell growing up and is afraid of having to parent a little version of himself. On the other hand, he doesn’t know what it’s like to grow up as a girl; he has the Hallmark cute version running through his head while I’m suddenly panicking about how to protect them from catty schoolmates (girls can be MEAN!), body-image nightmares, and push-up bras marketed to 10-year-olds.
Now that we are getting so close to the new baby’s arrival, my husband and I are strategizing about how to best handle it with Brontë. We were both only children, so we had a Hallmark fantasy about how cool it would be to have a brother or sister growing up (complete with holding hands, pinkie-swears, and unshakeable loyalty). From people who ACTUALLY had siblings, however, we have heard all kinds of horror stories about sibling rivalry, feelings of abandonment and replacement, and are trying to figure out how to minimize conflict. Brontë is used to loads of attention and will be, though sheer circumstance, not getting the standard amount very soon.
The first thing we have done is move Brontë into her own room. Our pediatrician stressed the importance of doing this at six months, but we ignored that, since Brontë loves to sleep in a crib in our room. We set up a new room for her and talked all about her new “big girl” bed, and John slept on a mattress in her room for a couple weeks to ease her into the change. We wanted to do this before the baby was here because we didn’t want her to associate being moved out with the new baby coming in. So far, this is working out…
I have also explained to Brontë that there will be a new baby. She is growing in my belly, I told her, and my belly is getting bigger and bigger as the baby gets bigger and one day I will squeeze her out and bring her home. I think she gets it, since she points at my belly whenever she hears about babies. I told Brontë that she is getting a baby sister that she can teach things to and be friends with. I explained that the baby would cry a lot, because that’s what babies do, but she would grow up and play with her in time. Brontë seems concerned sometimes, but often excited about the prospect.
Many times while growing up, my mother talked about how traumatic it was when her little sister was born. She was sent to stay with her grandparents for a couple weeks when the new baby arrived, and felt “pushed out” by a new rival. Bearing this in mind, John and I have been scratching our heads about how to handle that newborn stage, when the baby is up all hours of the night and I am recovering from childbirth. We decided that Brontë feeling “replaced” was a bigger concern than her getting enough sleep, and are planning to move a mattress into our room and all sleep in the same room, so she feels included.
Brontë might have wonky sleep for a while and John and I might be more exhausted, but feeling replaced left such a lasting impression on my own mother that I think it’s best to stay communal, despite the difficulties. She will stay with my parents while we are in the hospital, but come home as soon as we do. I’m picturing a lot of take-out food, cartoons and round-the-clock naps.
We are crossing our fingers and hoping for the best…