Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 • 1 Comment on 19 Days
I had a baby 19 days ago. My second baby. What’s my life like right now? Crazy. Chaotic. Exhausting. Wonderful. Scary. Painful. Joyful. Overwhelming. I’m riding the postpartum rollercoaster—sometimes I’m so high on life I think I can accomplish anything—and I try to do just that. Then I overdo it by pushing myself too hard and hit rock bottom, quite certain my life will never be peaceful or mine again. In the course of 24 hours, I can go from bouncing off the walls with energy to sobbing in the shower in utter defeat. Oh, hormones. Oh, life.
I’m officially back to work. I say officially because even though I was never really not working, yesterday I had to stop pretending I could choose to take time off when in the span of a couple of hours I had several emails, a phone call and various immediate tasks to complete related to three different books. I was up working until 1 AM—this is not something I would necessarily choose to do at 19 days postpartum, but it had to be done. Right now, I have to beg, borrow and steal time whenever I can. And I’m grateful for the work and thrilled with the books I have coming out—Steamlust releases next month, Best Erotic Romance in December. Writing (and editing) sustains me through the frustration of toddler tantrums and newborn sleep cycles right now. Though I could probably use some sleep myself.
After Patrick was born and I felt overwhelmed with the task of taking care of a newborn (I had no previous experience with babies and no help), a wise writer friend told me to slow down and stop expecting so much from myself. She wrote me a lovely email of support and understanding and it meant the world to me, maybe because we weren’t much more than acquaintances and she’d taken the time to reach out to me. In any case, I saved that email, not knowing that I’d soon have a second child and need her advice again. Part of what she said to me:
…try to do one thing every day, however small, that can’t be undone by another load of laundry, etc. Just some tiny thing to make you feel as though you’ve actually accomplished something OTHER than being Patrick’s mama. Something for YOU. Even if it’s only reading ten pages of a book or a magazine article, whatever. And remind yourself that every day is one day closer to that seemingly elusive routine, one day closer to his sleeping through the night…
Truth be told, there are days when doing one thing is simply too much. I’m exhausted because, even with Jay being home and having so much more support this time than I did when Patrick was born, I have two children now and I’m older than I was then and I’m still recovering from surgery (which has been harder and more complicated this time). On the other hand, I’ve had some amazing stretches of sleep (4 hours = amazing in Kristinaland) that I haven’t had in at least six months , thanks to Jay’s stoic ability to juggle a tired toddler and a crying newborn. We also have a terrific babysitter who has been great about schedule adjustments. One day last week, I was in bed from 8:30 PM until nearly 4 PM the next day. Granted, I wasn’t sleeping the entire time or even half of it—but oh the joy of being able to stay in bed, cuddle a newborn, tickle a toddler and not have to do anything else. It was much needed rest therapy. If only I could get a couple of days a week like that. But then, my mild case of Type A personality already rears its head when I have a perfectly good excuse to do nothing, so I don’t know if I could spend that much time laying about even if I am fantasizing about it.
It took me weeks to feel like I accomplished anything after Patrick was born, but this time I’ve already had days when I not only accomplished one thing—I’ve sometimes accomplishedtwo and three things, too! I’ve written some, I’ve blogged some, I’ve worked on editing and promo for upcoming books and I’ve even managed (so far) to keep up with my blogging commitment at Oh Get a Grip! (though I wonder about the quality of my writing). It was nearly three months before I was able to get out of the house without Patrick to work in my usual fashion, now I’ve already spent a few hours here and there working at Starbucks (both with and without Lucas), feeling the pull of the familiar routine before I need to go home. I didn’t get out to see a movie for over three months the first time around, but I’ve already gone to a movie (I Don’t Know How She Does It—timely escapism), which was followed by lovely wine, good conversation and live music.
I’m dealing with the baby blues, recovering from surgery (“major abdominal surgery,” I’m often reminded), coping with a nasty allergic reaction to the pain meds they sent me home with (which manifested itself as a miserable itchy rash that has driven me around the bend), postpartum high blood pressure and occasional blinding headaches, and the aforementioned exhaustion of having a precocious 21 month old toddler who is also going through an adjustment phase and a beautiful newborn who hasn’t yet figured out the difference between day and night. I’ve taken care of both babies all by myself for several hours, with both of them awake most of that time. That doesn’t sound like much, but right now it’s a big accomplishment.
I’ve run errands (I drove Saturday night for the first time in two weeks), I’ve eaten out with my family (no small task with two under two and me unable to pick up anything heavier than the newborn),I’ve ordered birth announcements and gone food shopping. I’ve watched some television (season premieres of Two and a Half Men and Castle last night), thumbed through a few catalogs and thought about holiday shopping and read a few chapters of Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman. Before Patrick, I read all the how-to baby books, this time I’ve gone a different direction. Though I still intend to reread both Baby Whisperer books—for baby and toddler.
I’ve thought about Patrick’s second birthday and contemplated travel plans (book promo + vacation) for next year. I’ve thought about sex, because even if the body can’t, the mind still wants what it wants. I’ve thought about exercising, moving my body in ways it hasn’t moved in a year—or three. I’ve thought about what I’m going to write when I have more than an hour to myself when I’m truly alert and lucid and able to be creative. I’ve thought about stories I need to send out and stories I need to write. I’ve thought about the nonfiction book proposal I’m supposed to pitch soon, soon, soon. I’ve made a few phone calls and sent probably a thousand text messages, because texting is easier when babies are crying or eating or sleeping. Texting is soothing. Click, tap, words.
I’ve reached out to friends, not because I need help (which I probably do) but because I just need a smile or a reminder that I’m still me and there is still a great big world outside my door. I’ve nested and cocooned and hibernated. I’ve enjoyed a rainy Sunday with my exhausted family, I’ve reveled in the autumn-like drop in temperature. I’ve drank caffeine—coffee is a blessing right now—and made the most of the burst of energy that followed. I’ve eaten spicy food and not needed to pop a Tums afterward. I’ve gone hours without having to go to the bathroom. I’ve slept on my stomach and on my back. I’ve written thank you cards and mailed them. I’ve thrown away dying flowers and folded laundry. I’ve made tentative plans—for lunch, coffee, dinner, a movie, a chat, some girl time. I’ve gone to doctors appointments and taken Lucas to doctor’s appointments. I’ve made play dates for Patrick, I’ve had people over for dinner and enjoyed the semi-chaotic fun of having five adults, two toddlers and a newborn crowded in my eat-in kitchen. I’ve bought wine that sits chilling in my refrigerator for those evenings when only a glass of wine will do. (Which is most nights, right?) I have taken pictures of beautiful children at play and at rest. I have studied my wrinkles, stretch marks and scars in the mirror and been both depressed and impressed. It’s amazing what the body can do—and the marks time and trauma will leave behind.
I’ve thought a lot about the past and even more about the future. I’ve reveled in the now. I’ve forgiven myself for doing nothing, I’m patted myself on the back for accomplishing more than I expected—or others expected. I’ve been told I rock, I’m amazing, I’m crazy. I’ve been told I need to slow down, write a book, tell others how I do it. I’ve been supported in ways I didn’t even know I needed support and I’ve detected a note of horror in the “Better you than me!” comments I’ve heard about having two children so close together (and at my age). I’ve wondered what the hell I’m doing and I’ve embraced the wisdom in the saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” I have lots of plans and no regrets. I’ve had more good days than bad.
That’s my life in the past 19 days. Not much different than usual, really. Just me, finding my balance.