As much as you can plan for the way you think you’d like things to play out, when you get into the thick of it, there’s so many variables that we weren’t able to consider logistically. I had planned on couching it downstairs with the baby while my husband took the nightshift with the non-sleeping toddler. The first few days though, he offered to split the night with me, which was kind and thoughtful and I definitely took him up on it. I think I ended up getting more sleep than he did in those few days, but as his calendar filled up with appointments for job coaching and interviews, it became clear that I was needed to take over the nightshift again.
I had forgotten the toll that sleep deprivation takes on the body and mind. This time around, we had no reprieve as my older son began stepping out of his “best behavior” mode and started reverting to his recently minted “three-nager” stage. (I realize I’m not alone in this, if you have any doubts, simply google “my 3 year old is an a-hole” and you’ll see the struggle is very real.) Tantrums and screaming and throwing things and hitting from one side, a shaky sleep schedule for a fragile life still figuring out what day and night time are on the other. Add the stress of my husband’s forthcoming unemployment and the prospect of having to move and relocate everyone on top of the wildly swaying emotions of a hormonal, depressed mother in postpartum hell, and we have what I could easily describe without hyperbole, the hardest shit we’ve ever had to live through.
Being needed so thoroughly by two small humans who equally demanded my attention, nearly always simultaneously, lent us a strategy of divide and conquer. Still, that wasn’t always successful, and the wrong parent would attend to the wrong needy child and there would be inevitable meltdown. I will say, my husband has some daddy magic in getting the baby to sleep, something I used to be able to work on my older son, but is no longer very effective.
As I write this post, the baby is less than two weeks old, and in that time, we’ve had probably 3 good nights with him, and only 1 with my older son. It’s not a great track record, and I’m reasonably frightened about the future, as the baby gets older and will have to share a room with his brother and I return to work when he’s about three months old. I have no answers either on the problems we’re encountering. Most people who’ve been through it, can only offer up “stay the course, it will get better,” which was unsettlingly the same mantra as the Iraq war and we all saw how awesome that went.
And I worry. I worry about my ability to parent my older son properly when really I’m operating in autopilot, survival only mode. I worry about my younger son having his emotional needs met, and being able to properly attach and bond to him. I worry about my husband’s stress, and his job prospects, because he finally told me that he’s been breaking down in tears quietly when he’s alone and hadn’t wanted to tell me about it because it would only stress me out more. I worry about my own mind, how easily I can be reduced to tears nowadays and how this impacts my ability to function as an adult human. I worry about money, because we haven’t resolved the job situation for my husband yet, and we can’t swing the budget on my income alone. I worry about my job when I return to work, because I know that my industry and department are surviving on borrowed time. I worry how I’m going to hold it all together, with so many things pushing against us, and so little to give back. It all feels so impossible.