A week back into work and I am freaking exhausted.
I am lucky enough to get home before 630pm everyday. And yet by the time the kids are in bed, I am just flat out with only enough energy to grab the ice-cream from the freezer and stuff it into my mouth. And then I crawl off to bed to surf the net and look at pretty wraps and ring slings.
Mr Thick has been working late too so I have been powering through the evenings, feeding and bathing the littles, and then attempting to put them to bed. I’m embarrassed to say that I have yelled more than I should but truly, the patience does wear thin when one child is crying and the other is screaming.
I guess I haven’t got this “work full-time with two young children” gig down pat. Yet. Slowly, but surely though, we are beginning to establish a routine. I work systematically and methodically to ensure that we reach our goal – bedtime!! – intact. Sometimes, Zac may have to be left alone on the bed to cry for a bit while I bathe Aidan. Sometimes, Aidan may have to play on his own while I nurse Zac. Sometimes, I end up nursing Zac AND reading to Aidan (who is lying on top of my body somewhere) at the same time. Sometimes, I just want to sleep.
No, scratch that. I want to sleep all the time.
But. I love bedtime. I love sleeping with my babies. I love having them nestled under the crook of my arm, their hair sticking to their sweaty foreheads. I love that they love cuddling close to me. I love watching them sleep.
So I guess it will be a while before I get to sleep like a log.
For the past three nights, I have called the hospital home.
I lay on the chair-bed that’s hard as stone and go to sleep to the sound of my baby’s oxygen mask. I wake up whenever the nurses come in to take his temperature, feed him his medicine or nebulise him. Inevitably, I will have to carry him to soothe him or, if he allows, nurse him.
Every evening, I bid farewell to my toddler and my husband. I know my son well – he says goodbye to me cheerily and kisses me. But once home, the notion that mama isn’t home with him sinks in and he cries for me. I so long to be there for him when he wakes, to kiss his sweaty forehead and say goodnight to him.
It’s so hard.
I miss my family, whole and healthy. I miss my home. I miss our daily routine, as mundane as it seems.
And yet I have to stay here so that my littlest can recover from that nasty virus.
It’s been a difficult, challenging month. Enough already, please?
Get well soon, bubba.
I watched this video with Aidan the other day and he was fascinated. He waved to the people in the video and then asked to repeat it again and again. As we watched, my eyes swelled up with tears (postpartum hormones, uh-hmm) and I explained to him that we must accept everyone, no matter their shapes and sizes, colour, gender and sexuality.
I am not entirely sure the two-year-old fully understood what I was saying though. Although that Coldplay song (“uncle star song” to him) is currently his favourite tune.
Yes, we are the sort of parents who will take our kids to Pink Dot and show them videos of Pride Parade. It’s not really a big deal to us but to some of our, say, more conventional friends who are parents, we are sort of odd.
Actually, strike that. It IS a big deal to us. I think Mr Thick and I are of the agreement that we want our kids to grow up understanding that there are all kinds of individuals and families out there in our society. We want them to grow up in an inclusive society, one that celebrates the freedom to love.
As a mother, my yardstick is always this: if either of my boys tells me that he is gay, what would I do? My love for my children is unconditional, and it should remain unconditional.
The world is so full of war and conflict and hatred, we need more love, not hate.
(PS: Isn’t the video really, really cool? It makes me want to get a job at Apple and move to California. Actually, no, it makes me hope that my dear Apple fanatic of a husband is able to get a job there and make his lifelong dream come true.)
Aidan started school this week and it’s been a rocky start so far.
Oh, we expected it. There were tears and a lot of wailing. He has been extremely clingy to me. At night, he wakes up sobbing and asking for mama. In the day, he wants me to carry him and play with him and read to him and take him to the potty and wash his hands. Basically, he wants mama for everything.
It’s been hard on us too. I cried when we dropped him off on the first day. And tears rolled down my cheeks when I picked him up and saw him sitting on the lap of the teacher, crying his little heart out. On the second day, I cried at seeing his joyful smile when he realised that I was there to get him. On the third day, I cried when his face crumpled at catching sight of me peeping through the doors.
In short, I cried a lot. Even though I know that eventually, he will enjoy school and it will be a good experience for him. At the present moment, I am still feeling my heart crack at seeing my child in this state of uncertainty and confusion and sadness.
Remember that quote from Elizabeth Stone? “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
My heart wrenches when I see Aidan cry at being away from his parents at a new environment. My heart wrenches when I see Zac choke and sputter and then cry from reflux. My heart wrenches when Aidan waves goodbye and blows kisses at his teachers in the midst of his sobs. My heart wrenches when Zac wailed inconsolably on the bilibed.
It’s an awful feeling.
But then again, my parenting mantra has always been this: my role as a parent is to love them and nurture them, and then let them go. They need to learn to find their own way around in this big, bad world. I cannot hold their hands forever, nor baby them forever.
And so, in this little way, I am letting my son take his first step into the world by himself. I know, it’s only school and he is only 2 years old. But still, it’s a step towards independence and away from mama. And if I can’t even do that gracefully now, I will become that awful, controlling and overbearing mother who will insist on running my sons’ lives even when they are 50 years old.
I wish, though, that time would stand still and let me keep them so little forever. The way Aidan lets me cuddle and kiss him. The tiny newborn-ness that Zac is fast losing every single day.
Being a parent is so bittersweet, ah.
Second time around, things are admittedly easier than before.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, we are all exhausted. A typical night looks like this: bathe both boys, put both boys to sleep and then concuss at 10pm, wake up at 2am in alarm because I had forgotten to set the timer for my three-hourly wake up call to feed the baby, feed the baby, change his diaper, feed the baby again, place baby gingerly into his cot, sleep, wake up at 5am when baby fusses, feed baby, change baby’s diaper, feed baby again, place baby gingerly into his cot, sleep, wake up at 7am because toddler is up.
Some nights, Zac will not go back to sleep after his feed. Which means that we will be staring at each other for a good hour (or two, or three) before he conks out. If I am lucky, he doesn’t cry much. If I am not, he will be fussing and whinging and I will be all WHAT DO YOU WANT, KID.
But it’s cool. One night, both Mr Thick and I collapsed in our bed and laid there in silence for a little bit. And then I said, “Good thing we know that it is not going to be like this for too long.” He nodded and we shared a quiet laugh.
With two littles, there is no time for us to sit there shell-shocked, wondering what the heck is going on and how do we do it. We just roll up our sleeves and do. And having experience on our side helps, we know that eventually, things will get easier.
Admittedly, it’s tough during the day when I need to juggle the needs of Zac and Aidan at the same time. Thankfully, I have my mother over and she’s been a gem at helping me with the boys. She adores Zac and will put him down for his nap while I give Aidan some one-on-one attention that he craves. And when I am nursing Zac, she will feed Aidan, bring him to the potty and keep an eye on him.
And let’s not forget that I get all my meals prepared for me for a month. I have no idea how I will survive without her after this but mmm, let’s take it one day at a time.
So yes, having two kids has been great so far. Extremely tiring, but also extremely joyful.
(But no, this family is going to be a family of four for a long, long, long time.)
I thought long and hard about sharing the birth story of Zac. I wanted it to be kept a memory, our memory. But then, I had shared Aidan’s story and I think Zac’s deserves a voice too. Plus, I want people to know that it is possible to have a drug-free, natural birth after an emergency Caesarean.
So here it is, the story of how my second-born joined the family.
7 June, Saturday
We woke up, thinking that it was going to be a regular Saturday morning. The kid was rolling around in our bed with us and we were talking about going to the supermarket for a grocery run. I got up and went to the bathroom and then I saw it. Blood. Just a little bit when I wiped but enough to tell me that the time for Zac’s arrival may be sooner than later. My contractions were still intermittent but they were getting stronger.
“We are going out for a good breakfast,” I declared to husband. “It may be my last good breakfast for a while.”
We ended up at one of our favourite joints, where Aidan kept demanding “pancakes and banana”. And we did do a grocery run before heading back to put the little man down for a nap. He ended up taking a long 2.5-hour one with Mr Thick, before I woke them both up.
On hindsight, I should have taken a nap too! But a contraction woke me up just as I was falling asleep and I couldn’t go back to sleep after that. Boo.
We headed out to National Museum for Children’s Season and, at the very last minute, I decided to go to Vivocity to get my eyebrows done. Just in case I go into labour soon! Priorities, people.
After dinner, we went home, put Aidan to bed and then chatted for a bit before I decided to hit the sack at 11pm.
8 June, Sunday
Unfortunately, sleep was NOT forthcoming. Every time I drifted into unconsciousness, I would get hit by a contraction. And as it died down, I would try to go back to sleep, only to be hit by another one. Slowly and groggily, it dawned upon me that I was well and truly in labour. Gah!
I started timing the contractions and they were coming about 20 minutes apart. Thinking that I wasn’t going into the hospital anytime soon (I was gunning for the frequency to be about three to four minutes apart), I tried to force myself to sleep.
And so this went on, me drifting in and out of sleep, while being woken up by contractions. At about 1am, I realised that the frequency had increased to 10 minutes and the “biggie” contraction was REALLY PAINFUL.
“We are in labour and I want an epidural,” I announced to an astonished husband, who was geeking out in front of his computer in the living room. We marched back into the room and started packing our things for the hospital stay. And then we sat and waited.
AND THEN THE CONTRACTIONS WENT BACK TO 12 MINUTES APART.
Okay then. At that moment, Aidan woke up in his room and Mr Thick went in to soothe him. I stayed in our bedroom and tried to get comfortable. I couldn’t walk because the pressure down my back was too great, and going on all fours did not help. I could only lie on my left or sit up and hug my pillow.
I remember reading somewhere that how you usually respond to pain would be how you are like in labour and the writer was right. I ended up internalising the pain: I would tell myself that every contraction is helping me to dilate and to move baby down. I would tell myself that this is nothing, this is not a “biggie” (I was getting a labour pattern of two small contractions and one huge one). And when the “biggie” hit, I would tell myself that it’s okay, I can get through this, OUCH OUCH OUCH.
After a while, time seemed to pass so slowly. I was still timing my contractions and they went back to being eight minutes apart. It was so frustrating, I thought that labour was stalling because they were just not moving faster. In frustration and denial, I stopped timing and tried to go to sleep.
To make things worse, I started throwing up at about 4am. At the peak of every big contraction, I would rush to the toilet to hurl. Sometimes, it was just dry heaving. Other times, I was throwing up bile. The pain from the contractions, I could take. But the vomiting was just too much, I could not imagine myself throwing up all the way till baby was out.
I needed that epidural. NEED.