Let's begin with the beginning. Post-delivery: the hospital room is a sacred cave. A safe bubble of bonding with your tiny one, filled with sweet tears and kisses. Nurses, who come to your every beck and call, bear gifts of ibuprofen, percocet (oh sweet, sweet percocet!), and extra pillows. They'll change your baby's diaper-- and even your own for that matter. They are sweet beings, and I believe they come straight from the heart of God. While there, in that little bubble of safety, you may find yourself rushing to return home. To bring the joy so overflowing back to the place you live, hoping it will quickly plant itself there and continue to grow. But as you are slowly rolled out the doors of the hospital in your wheelchair by a sweet old woman (who you begin to feel should be the one in the wheelchair), something begins to change. The air is shockingly warm after being indoors for two days and you start to wonder if your child, yet untouched by the outside world, will come to harm in this sudden climate change. (Yes I worried almost as much with my second as I did with my first). As you stand from the wheelchair to get in your car you feel an ache that was not there earlier. What is this? You may wonder. Only to realize the percocet has begun to wear off, just in time for your drive home. Why do they not stock your bag full of the stuff?! You may scream within. But you keep a brave face. As you drive home, cars swerve in front of you, pot holes appear out of nowhere, lights change much too quickly. You look at the world around you with a new found angst. You begin to regret not staying the extra day in your safety bubble. What was my rush? You ask yourself. Then you arrive home.
The closer we got to home, the more anxious I became. I didn't realize how wonderful percocet was until my last dose wore off. I had been living in delusion, thinking my body had recovered remarkably fast from childbirth. I only continued taking the drugs for those god-awful cramps (which at times were almost as bad as labor by the way). As the drugs wore off I began to feel the pain of things not yet healed-- including my back and hip pain. On the drive home, Aaron got a phone call. Things at a job site were not going as planned; the guy he had hired to cut down a tree suddenly remembered he had a doctor's appointment that day and could not do the job (yeah, don't get me started). I saw the look on Aaron's face and my heart dropped. "I'll only be 30 minutes! I just have to meet with this client..." He said with a look that seemed to say he was beginning to realize how hard it would be to actually take off work. I paused for a moment, feeling the tears rise, trying to decide how not to be upset. Nothing came to me, so I lost it. I knew he could only take a couple days off to be home with us and I didn't want even a second of that time taken. And let's be realistic, "30 minutes" in Aaron's world is more like an hour thirty. We arrived at home and as I stepped out of the car I was greeted by my mother's happy face, oohing and and ahhing over how precious Gabriel was and letting me know my dad and sister were inside waiting. Although I had been excited to show Gabriel off, I was also very overwhelmed, emotional, and wanted nothing more than to be alone. Our sacred little bubble was bursting and the real world was pouring in. Who is ever ready for that?
The first week home was both blissful and frightening. Not to sound cliche, but I did in fact cherish every moment I had to just sit and admire my little Gabriel. I was relieved to find that Aiden loved his little brother and was already very protective (telling the nurse at Gabriel's two day check-up "You no hurt him!" while she was weighing him). But I also struggled with guilt. I hadn't imagined I could develop such a strong bond with Gabriel so quickly. It almost felt like a betrayal to Aiden, who just a few days earlier had been my "baby" and was now my "big boy". Although not out right angry with Gabriel's presence, Aiden had many melt downs in response to the change in our home. My connection with him felt so different that it scared me. I was worried we would never be the same. But as that first week came to an end, we began to find each other again. While cuddling with him at bed time one night after a particularly stressful day, he put his arm around me and said, "I miss you mommy." Things started to get better after that. I had a tearful talk with my mom the next day, crying about my guilt and fears, while she shared words of comfort and wisdom from a life experience of child-raising. Unfortunately I can not remember exactly what was said (I really was an emotional wreck), but after we talked it began sink in that, no, life would never be the same. Our family was forever changed. We were no longer mommy, daddy, and Aiden. But mommy, daddy, Aiden, and Gabriel. Two car seats would now fill my back seat (carpooling no longer an option), trips to the park or the store would be a new, slightly more complicated adventure, and at restaurants we would now say "Table for three and a half." instead of two and a half. Life with two. It is indeed life-altering.
And so just as nothing can fully prepare you for the birth of your first child, nothing can fully prepare you for the birth of your second either. I agree with the many who claim the adjustments are much easier from one child to two than none to one-- but don't let the term "easier" fool you. Never the less, I can assure you, it is every bit as worth it. Change, no matter how exciting, can be pretty scary at first. But as we grow and adapt, it's rather remarkable to see how beautiful that change becomes. Soon you find yourself unable to imagine life before it.