Yikes. I’m pretty sure I no longer have a blog. Instead I have a few dusty relics of carefree days gone by. Days when I read books not made out of boards, when I could sleep until I was awakened by the distant shouts of someone else’s kids. Now I’m rattled by the early-morning whines of a two-year-old, fresh lungs full of antsy anticipation.
Life with one child was different. Life with two kids represents the molting of a past self. I am still getting my footing.
Emilia, first baby, was early. Just early enough to be a pleasant surprise. A 2 a.m. contraction followed by a realization, a repacking of the hospital bag, a baby.
Now that I’ve met Gracie and have gotten to know her, it makes sense that she, on the other hand, was late. Just late enough to make me weep openly at the doctor’s office, a pile of hormones and Runza milkshakes. The Grace that we know now is slow and deliberate and easy, the personification of a lazy smile.
Four days after my due date, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling nauseous. I watched the sunrise with the Kardashians and a family of popsicle wrappers. I took a bath at 5 a.m. and texted our doula, Diana. (If you had told me two years ago that someday I’d have a doula to text, I would’ve laughed at you, you crazy hippie. But now, I will forever consider Diana one of the best people I’ve met, one of the smartest decisions I’ve made, a Contraction Whisperer, an honest-to-goodness angel.)
At 8 a.m., I told Matt to go to work. At 9 a.m., I told him to come home. And at 10:30, we were admitted to the hospital, where I spent the next three hours in some other world (the place where a Canadian hypnobabies podcast meets a Lisa Frank folder), opening one eye every so often to ask for more water in my wilting paper cup. Then, at 1:30 p.m., Grace arrived, quickly and efficiently, all matted black hair and origami cheeks that are still unfolding three months later. Beautiful.
And for the rest of the day, everything was beautiful. Look at Emilia meeting Grace – beautiful. The grin on Matt’s face – beautiful. Our parents are so happy – beautiful. This hospital-grade chicken salad sandwich – beautiful.
But reality never stays at bay for long.
Life since Grace’s arrival has involved a lot of strategizing, a lot of scolding Emilia for being too rough, too loud, too toddlerish. I’m trying my hardest to remember that she is, in many ways, still so little herself. I try to go easy on her and appreciate her curiosity, the way she imitates us by talking to Grace in a creepy, high-pitched baby voice. This has been one big character study for all of us.
She is doing a really great job as a big sister. She is going easy on me, too.
And Grace is pretty wonderful. I would even venture to say that my dreams of a mellow second child have come true. Our first-born was always a little agitated with us, always a little ready to move on to the next phase of life – and that gumption is what makes her so amazing. But Grace, on the other hand, is such a stereotypical baby. She’s fat and soft, with a constant stream of drool that runs in rivulets through her neck folds, soaking our shirtsleeves. She purrs when she’s happy, grunts when she’s mad, and smiles like an old lunch lady in cat-eye glasses.
She is a warm retreat from the chaos of everything else.
They say not to worry about where the love for your second child will come from – that it will appear just when it's needed, sneaking in to fluff the pillows, dust the entryway, hide the unfolded laundry and ready your cramped two-bedroom heart for one more guest.
And they were right.
However, I’d venture to say it’s been more of an incremental process. When Grace was born, the love was there. But when I see Emilia affectionately poke her eyes or lick her arm, the love grows. When she smiles at Matt, it grows. And when Grace and I get a rare minute alone to just stare at each other like two smitten dopes, it grows again.
But I guess that’s how parenting is in general. Nothing is totally automatic. It’s all a process. Sometimes you halfheartedly potty train your toddler over the course of a year. And sometimes you fall in love with a baby a little more each time you’re reminded of how fortunate you are.