My son lost the mother her knew when my second child was born. I share this difficult time in “Now we are Good A Letter for My Son.”
I have written about the time after Sydney was born. I have talked about how much I struggled with having two children, and what a poor job I did. I talked about the guilt that I still hold for your experiences during that time. Guilt that will never subside no matter how many more positive experiences we continue to have.
Today, though, I want to tell you so that someday you may understand.
Bringing Sydney home was wonderful. The first words that you said to her when you met her were “Hi Syd-a-ney. I’ve been waiting for you! Now, be very careful, that is a radiator and it is very hot. You are my best friend in the whole world.”
I sob as I write these words. Because your words were so genuine and beautiful, and also because when I picture you saying them, I am clearly brought back to who you were then.
You were so little, a toddler! Even then, you had the most beautiful blue eyes and most genuine and contagious smile. You still wore diapers when Sydney came home- which is so strange for me to think of now.
It had been just you and me for so long, and we did everything together. We went to music class and grocery shopping and spent lots of time with our friends. You slept with your dad and me, we ate together, even the television programs that I chose were ones that you could watch too, so that on nights when I was really tired from the pregnancy, we could watch together. Dancing with The Stars, and John and Kate Plus 8 were our favorites.
We would sit on our red marbled couch on those fall nights with the window open. Daddy may have been traveling or working late and we would both be in our pajamas. I would cover us with a blanket and push “play” on the DVR. The dishes were done, the house picked up and a candle burned in the kitchen- always my symbol that housework is done for the night.
As the end of our alone time together drew closer I became filled with a sense of sadness.
I knew that our time together and relationship would change. And I think what made me so sad was understanding that you had no idea- that you thought that things would always be this way- just us two or we three, with your dad.
That the space between daddy and I in our bed was made for you, to have access to both of us all night long, and that you alone would be our focus. Forever. How could you know any different?
Sydney arrived, and you adjusted so well. Daddy and I did everything that we could to prepare you and us for a smooth transition. We wanted to immediately start fostering sibling love instead of rivalry, and so far our efforts seem worthwhile.
Sydney slept most of the time until she was about four months old. I would put her in a baby wrap and you and I would continue on as though things were the same. I was more tired, but your world did not much change.
Once Sydney woke up, though, you lost the mommy that you knew. I turned into a crazy person. I could not figure out how to balance keeping you entertained while nursing Sydney to sleep. I struggled internally with a total loss of identity because literally every minute of my life was spent caring for a child. I suspect that my postpartum depression played a small role in this time, but mostly it was inexperience.
It was not that we did not have good times together. We did. We spent a couple of months in Virginia during this time, and it was in the spring. We went into D.C. several times each week. We would walk along the Mall and pop into whichever museum you felt like visiting that day. You loved the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History. And of course, we visited the Transportation exhibit at the American Museum of History many times.
We had fun exploring a new area and seeing what it might be like to move away and have to make new friends. We had a really cool apartment adjacent to a manufactured “Town Corner” that had lots of fun things to do. Your favorite thing was to go and play in the fountain, and so we did. Daily.
So, you see, it was not that we did not have wonderful times together. It was that the bad times were so, well, bad. Those moments when Sydney was exhausted and in desperate need of sleep and was crying, but wide awake you wanted to come in the bed too, seemed impossible to me. And you were so little! And I would yell at you. To be quiet, to settle down, to let her fall asleep… that if you kept making noise she would not fall asleep and that this might go on all day.
And you my poor baby, you did not understand- who this person was, why she was so mean all of a sudden. You did not know how to cope with it because you had never before experienced it.
Some say that I am too hard on myself. That every mother “loses their patience” at times and children adjust “just fine”. I suspect that every mother does become impatient, and maybe even yell.
Still, it does not change how genuinely rotten we feel because of it.
Things got better when Sydney turned about 10 months old. We found a balance; you were older and began to entertain yourself while I nursed her to sleep. But mostly, my desire to change things was motivated by my inability to live with giving you anything less than what you deserve.
And somehow, those difficult months now shape every interaction that I have with you. From that awful time I learned that there are certain points I will never cross with you. That I will never yell at you in a way that scares you, because I want you to always feel safe. That I will always try to stop myself and gain my composure when I am frustrated because I know that it makes you feel calm instead of anxious.
Now we are in a really good place. We have been for some time. It is indeed a new relationship. How could it not be? You are older, you know more and you have some life experience. You can relate to stuff that we talk about.
I now know that this was going to happen whether or not we had another baby. You were going to get older and wiser either way.
Our days are almost all good now, and we are having so much fun. Sydney walks and talks and wants nothing except to be with you, and do everything that you do. And frequently, I walk in to find you with your arms around Sydney, telling her how much you love her and how cute and special she is.
I pause, lean against the door frame and watch you through tears of happiness. And I think: “somehow we have recovered. Owen knows love.”
And while this will never diminish my guilt, it does offer me some solace. That I was able to correct things with you and for you- and for me there has never been a more important objective.
However the memories of those months manifest themselves for you when you are older, know that I wish I had handled my own emotion more appropriately. Mostly though, I hope that you realize that my love for you was strong enough to step outside of my own struggles and better myself, with the only intent of making your life happier.
I love you my baby boy.