This weekend Mellow in the Midwest wrote a great post called On Knowing I Know Very Little. (Sorry if my title is a rip off, M!) The post is about the contradictory place those of us who are waiting for second children find ourselves in: On the one had we know what it’s like to have a newborn and yet, on the other had we have no idea what it’s like to navigate our days with a newborn AND toddler. We also have no idea what our second children will be like, so really, we don’t know all that much at all.
It seems, in fact, that the only thing I am more aware of this time around is how much I don’t know.
During our big discussion last Friday, Mi.Vida and I talked about his fears surrounding our son’s arrival. At one point me reminded me of how confident I seemed before Osita was born. I kept assuring him that it was going to be alright, that we’d know what to do and we’d get through. I promised that everything was going to be fine. This time I’m offering no such platitudes. The truth is I’m just as afraid as he is, maybe even more so, though I rarely talk about it. I may not voice my fears but evidently my silence speaks volumes; Mi.Vida has noticed how infrequently I assure him that everything will be alright and it makes him uneasy. He’d probably be terrified if I admitted the truth: I honestly don’t know if it will be.
When I had my daughter I had no idea what to expect. I thought I did, because I’d spent so much time around children and babysat for so many families over so many years. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but really I had no idea. Having a first child is like trial by fire. This time I’m not sure what it will be like, all I do know is how likely we are to get burned.
It’s a strange predicament, for one’s experience to provide no frame of reference except to make one MORE aware of how little she can comprehend of what’s coming, how impossible it is to predict. I’m trying to think of what else in life creates such a contradiction.
The truth is, while I know what it was like to bring my daughter into the world and parent her for the first three years of her life, I have no idea what it will be like to bring my son into the world and parent him, along with his sister, for any amount of time. I don’t know what he will be like. I don’t know how well he will nurse or how easily he will sleep or if he’ll be content to hang out anywhere besides me. I have no idea what he will require of me, and while it’s hard not to assume my future experiences will mirror (or at least resemble) my past experiences, I’m constantly reminding myself that I have no idea how it will go this time around. I also have no idea how his sister will react. I don’t know what kind of support I’ll get from Mi.Vida. I don’t even know what kind of support I’ll ultimately need. It seems I don’t know much of anything.
And of course, there is no part of me that thinks I could ever fathom what it will be like to navigate two children with constantly contrasting needs. The first months with my son will look nothing like the first months with my daughter, because this time there will be a demanding, highly verbal, emotionally charged 3.5 year old in the house where before there was only a grumpy, resentful cat. Some how I suspect my daughter’s anger and frustration at being usurped will be considerably harder to ignore than my cat’s was.
The one thing I have going for me is the many bloggers who have traveled this road before me. While their circumstances aren’t the same as mine will be (most have children much closer in age than mine will be and most are SAHMs) I appreciate reading what the first days, weeks and months have been like with their children. I absolutely believe that I will reflect back on the blog posts where they explain what parenting two children is like when I’m mired in the sleep deprivation of the first months.
I do wish more women I read had situations that more closely resemble my own. I find myself assuming (based on their experiences) that things will get better at some point, but I’m realizing that point will probably arrive right when I go back to work, if not a bit afterward. Unfortunately very few of the moms I read have to figure out the unique challenges of returning to work with a very small baby (that is still breastfeeding) and a preschool-aged child. At a certain point, when they really start to hit their rhythm, I realize their experiences apply less and less and I wonder what mine will look like when I’m leaving my tiny three month old every day to teach other people’s children.
Leaving a three month old is something I didn’t do before and the prospect terrifies me.
I am 34 weeks (adjusted) today. My due date is exactly six weeks away. I should really have my long term sub plans done in five weeks, at the absolute latest. I think I’m in denial about how much I should already have prepared (when I read the posts where other to-be-mamas-of-two list what they’ve accomplished I begin to hyperventilate). There is still a part of me that is letting fear dictate what I do and don’t do and I’m always couching every thought about his arrival with “if’s” and “hopefully’s”. I know these fears aren’t letting me properly prepare–either mentally or physically–but there is nothing I can do to banish them.
So I take baby steps to get ready, sorting through old clothes and washing them but not putting them away. Moving the nursery furniture into the back room but not arranging it or even putting all of it together. My financial lockdown means I can’t buy anything new so the few new things I would like to have this time around probably aren’t going to arrive. I’m trying to open my house, and therefore my heart, to this baby who is supposed to be here in a month and a half but I have a hard time embracing the possible reality of it. Instead I focus on all I don’t know. And hope that by the time he comes, I’ll be ready enough to muddle through.