Several things are very apparent after the first week of having little N home from the hospital.
First, having a full-term baby is SO DIFFERENT from having a preemie. C was born 8 weeks early and it was a whole different story with him. I don't want to sound all cocky or tempt fate, but taking care of N is a walk in the park compared with out first few months with C. The worst thing so far is staying up late feeding her when she is cluster feeding (current record was set last night, when she ate from 11pm until 4:30am before falling into 2-hour stretch of sleep). And that's kind of it. And I can't help thinking, at least she eats! At least she gains weight! I lost so much sleep over trying to get C to gain even one ounce at a time, at the very beginning.
That being said, it would be really nice to take an hour-long hot bath or sleep through a night. But I guess another benefit to having a second child is that this time, I know that this difficult low-sleep period is temporary. I can set my jaw and power through another 6 to 8 weeks of this, before she regularizes her schedule a little.
One of the hardest things about coming home is the adjustment in my relationship with C -- of course, when he was my only child, I had a lot more energy and time just for him, although even in the last stages of pregnancy I was not able to give him as much just because I was so large and tired. When B and N and I were in the hospital, it seems to me that he popped up into a new phase of toddlerhood -- his sentences are longer, his requests more detailed, and his tantrums more premeditated. In a way, I have had to get to know him again. He changes so quickly that even three days apart threw us a little off-kilter.
It seems to me now that the thing to do is to let go of my expectations about him (an emerging theme of parenthood in general) and let my intuition lead me to what he needs, and what my relationship with him should be. Today this led me to the idea of helping him to get more exercise, to burn off some of that unbelievable toddler energy (my attempt at modifying a USB cable to download some of it to myself has so far proved unsuccessful -- and I can't seem to find the USB port on his head no matter how short I cut his hair), so for today we went to the playground. It was a very successful trip -- over an hour in which I did not have to tell him "no" even once. The weather was sunny and warm, but with a cool breeze, and not too much humidity. N chilled out in the sling and I successfully nursed her twice while C played -- score two for me! And I got both kids in and out of the car, and I didn't forget anybody at the playground. What more could I want?
The latest thing that I am mulling over (a bit too much, actually -- I need to calm down the brain and perhaps slash the coffee intake a bit...) is when to return to teaching. On the one hand, it isn't that hard, especially if I am only teaching one class at a time. (I teach college research writing for two different online colleges.) On the other hand, some classes can be very difficult -- argumentative students, plagiarism, having a class that just doesn't "get" the paper assignments, etc. These things can add hours of work per week, and after yesterday's all-nighter I am thinking that a little more time to get used to two kids might be better. On the other hand, B is on leave right now, and has offered lots of time watching the kids. But back on the first hand again, I just got done teaching a total of six different sections within a 12 week period, and I was more than a little burned out. I had two days off, then went into labor with N. Is it time to jump back in? Should I wait a little longer? I am thinking I will wait.
That leads me to my final thought for this meandering post. I do not mean to be ungrateful to anyone who has helped me out so much since N was born, but I am having a hard time right now figuring out when to ask for help and when not to. Here are my thoughts about it. I am nearly completely recovered from birth/labor -- I have bounced back pretty quickly. My mental state is better overall when I am fully engaged in my life -- as much as I appreciated it when people came over to wash my dishes and do my laundry, part of me felt like I was walking in molasses or looking through fog, watching other people live my life for me. I can't help it -- I just prefer to do things myself, even if I can only do them halfway. I am also really eager to see how well I can do, fully growing into this new life as a full time mother of two. Can I do it? I still don't really know, and I am curious to find out. What will be the hardest part? What will be easier than I thought? I want so much to get to the point where I feel competent as mom of two, and I know that I will not really get there until I jump in and do it. It's like, in this early newborn phase, I am sitting on the ski lift, and it keeps going up and down the mountain. Nobody is pushing me out of the lift, some people encourage me to stay in as long as I can, watching other people ski, but all I want to do it just jump out and see how long I can stay on my feet. Will I look back at this phase and wish I had eased into it more slowly, asking for a lot more help, or is this way of approaching it -- doing whatever I can for myself, splitting the work with B, cooking and cleaning because it makes me feel more like me than napping and calling people to come and take care of things for me -- the better, healthier approach for me?