It's hard to explain. Having two kids feels like having so many more than one, and I simply don't know how this can be. Perhaps it's because Tommy is so independent and self-sufficient. He can get himself out of bed, take himself to the bathroom, turn on his morning cartoons, and come and ask for milk and breakfast. He can play on his own if I need to get something done and he doesn't sit there and wail and beg to be held all the time.
Tommy is a blast. We have the best conversations, we play together. We tell jokes, I read him stories, he's even eating what we eat for dinner now without a huge battle waged over whether or not he will do it (most of the time anyway). Tommy is easy to enjoy at this age, though with him, he has always felt easy to enjoy. Maybe it's because he was my first - the one I prayed for and never thought I'd have. Maybe it's because we are both firstborns and share a special connection.
And as wonderful as the baby thing can be - I mean they're so cute and cuddly and when they laugh for the first time it makes you cry - it requires so much tending to. Maybe because it had been nearly four years, I forgot how much it takes out of you to mother a baby. The holding, the feeding, the rocking, the getting pooped on, the sitting out with your baby while everyone else is doing something fun. The never getting to make out with your husband because they seem to always wake up right when things are getting exciting. And the overwhelming feelings of just wanting to get out and do something that makes you feel like you the woman, rather than the mommy who just managed to get spit up on straight into the crotch area.
I mean sometimes, I just want to put on a pair of heels, have a margarita and enjoy a conversation that doesn't come with a side of a restless, fussy baby or an episode of The Backyardigans. What is uninterrupted, adult conversation anyway?
More often than not I have found myself disgruntled, discouraged, and frustrated. I keep telling myself that I'm too old for this. I'm too set in my ways to handle raising another baby from scratch all over again. And forget, FORGET, a number three. Though of course in the deepest deep of my heart....
But the guilt. The over-riding guilt because this time around, I want to be at work every day - I really do. The guilt that comes when I would rather be in the pool than out of it holding Jacob. The guilt I have when I need a break even on the weekend when it's some of the only quality time I have with my boys. And the biggest chunk of guilt where I feel like I enjoy Tommy more than Jacob - where I'm struggling to connect with him and enjoy him. It's hard not to travel down the whole "what the hell is wrong with me ?" road and "I'm so selfish it should be a crime."
Yesterday, I took Tommy to get his haircut and I was solo with both boys. Managing this event all by myself with the two of them felt like this giant feat. I was relieved that Jacob wasn't fussy and that Tommy didn't throw a major tantrum now that he has realized he has officially graduated from sitting in the cool cars to a big boy chair at the hair place. I even felt good about myself, like maybe I was getting the hang of something. Juggling the carseat, teaching Tommy to look both ways before stepping out into the street - I remember thinking, "Okay, I got this. I'm doing it. I can be a mother of two."
But then the evening came. Todd was out of town and I was at a pool party with friends. And I had to sit on the outside holding Jacob while everyone else got to play and enjoy themselves. (I have yet to find size small swimming diapers or swimming shorts/shirts in his size so that he can come in the pool with me. Baby girl swimsuits abound, but the boy things - they do not!) And I lost it and had to go inside and cry everywhere for awhile. And the tears were about more than that - because Todd wasn't there and I always feel lost without him. Really, it was disappointment upon disappointment.
At it's root was where I've been beating myself up for all the guilt. The wishing Jacob was bigger already and wishing away his babyness - all so I can do what I want to do, when I want to do it. And I've felt alone here. Though I know I'm not the only woman who has ever felt this way, it feels like it most of the time. Even writing this I fear all of the mommies who might condemn me or leave me comments full of "encouragement" that feels more like a slap in the face and affirms all I have to be guilty over.
My biggest fear is that I will look back on this season of life with regret. That I'll want to beat myself up for my selfishness and wishing away Jacob's smallness and I'll have missed all of these wonderful things because I was so self-centered. I know I have my own limits as a woman and as a parent, but I feel like my limits look different than others. That is a whole new can of worms I can open if I start comparing myself to all of my other fellow mother-friends and their own abilities and limitations.
There are moments though. Small, fleeting ones where Jacob smiles at me and talks his awesome baby talk and I am so full of joy and delight I could bust open. I can already tell that he will be much more social and vocal than Tommy was and is. He wants to be in the action, see everything that's going on and he has a lot to say about it even only being three months old. He is completely different than Tommy - in appearance, in attitude, in neediness, in every sense of the word. And maybe I expected all of it, even how I felt, to be the exact same way the second time around.
At the end of a work day though, the first thing I want to do is hold him. His laugh makes me light up inside and nothing beats that feeling when he has finally surrendered to sleep on my chest and I can hear his little breath. I do cherish those times. Small and fleeting though they may be, I have them.
I wish I could tie up my thoughts neatly as though I've figured something out. But I haven't. I have much to learn, much to wade through, and much more to struggle with and enjoy while Jacob is still small and dependent on me.
One thing is for sure: it's messy. It's as messy as the poop I somehow managed to get all over my hand this morning during a diaper change. It's as messy as his spit-uppy smiles. Maybe all of it - my feelings, the experience, the everything that comes with being a mom and the parenthood journey is supposed to be that way. Messy.
Learning to see and find the joy and the grace, even if you're covered in shit. Messy indeed.