Holy shit, y’all.
We made it one whole month with two kids – who are both alive and, it would appear, thriving. I am still exhausted.
Some things have definitely gotten easier – Angus has gained enough weight continuously that we can now let him sleep a 3-4 hour stretch at night. L has been given the ok to cut pumping to just 3x/day instead of after every time she nurses. These two things mean that we can split the middle of the night feeding so that we each get a 3-4 hour stretch of sleep (God willing, all other factors/toddlers cooperating.) We also don’t have to supplement Gus after every feed – just a few times a day, which we do with fortified breast milk.
Ansel has also gotten more adjusted to the idea of being an older brother. He still struggles a little with me feeding Angus, but he isn’t having the daily struggles with . . .well, everything, anymore. He loves holding Angus and asks almost daily to sit in the chair with the “pihho” to do so. He still calls Gus “Tiny”, which I imagine may never end . . .I only hope that when they are both big dudes that it continues.
Some things are definitely still hard . . .
L has a seroma at the site of her cesarean incision, which effectively means that about an inch and a half of her incision still hasn’t closed. Initially, she was going to the doctor every day to have them pack it with gauze, but her surgeon eventually allowed us to start doing it at home. It is definitely improving – I am the lucky “packer” so I can see it growing more shallow – but it’s still an open wound. This means her recovery has been slower going than we anticipated, and has limited her ability to feel back to whatever normal you can obtain in the fourth trimester.
Angus is still very small and still very much needs to be monitored closely. He will see a pediatric nutritionist this week so his growth can be more closely monitored. Right now, he’s up to 5 lbs 12 oz, which is AMAZING, but they want to look at his head size, length and limbs to be sure he’s growing as he should. And while he is indeed “making gains”, we still have to track his intake, give him fortified breastmilk (which means pumping for L and lots of gas for the baby), and weigh him daily to be sure he’s staying on track.
A few weeks ago, we thought we’d up our game and decided to attempt potty training. You can file this firmly in the “what the actual fuck were they thinking” category. To answer that question: we were thinking I’m home on leave (so, theoretically, there would be two of us) and he’s consistently been waking up dry and telling us when he pooped. What we didn’t clearly factor in was our own exhaustion, the emotional intensity of trying to get another human to shit where you want them to, and the fact that our toddler has experienced massive change in a very short amount of time already. Needless to say, our attempt at the “Oh Crap!” method – which basically utilizes a 2-5 day “bootcamp” approach – did not work. We made a valiant effort for four whole days . . .at the end of this stretch, we were bickering and emotionally spent. The final straw was when Ansel had the biggest blow out crap of his life in a pull up at the park, after withholding the poo for three days. On the upside, since calling it quits, he’s self initiated peeing on the potty a few times. So, we’re kind of taking a no pressure approach for now.
And yes, things are still hard – I’m still the one mostly running this circus while L recovers and nurses – and some nights I feel totally DONE with all of it. But also, it’s pretty amazing. Like many other push-pulls in parenting, the tiny sweet moments seem to outweigh the hours of extra work or seemingly endless days of frustration. Ansel kisses Angus, or calls him “My Tiny” and it’s easy to forget that a moment earlier he almost jabbed his finger straight through the soft spot in his brother’s skull.
We’ve made some outings – the first to Ikea, then to parks, and most recently we made it to the State Fair and for a small hike. We are getting better at navigating the two kid thing in public. L gets extra stars for nursing a very tiny baby in public while also using the dreaded nipple shield (per the LC’s instructions) which is no small task. And I’ve gotten some great special time with Ansel so L can rest.
I will start transitioning back to work the last week of September – just one day a week at the office and one working from home for the first little while. It’s a daunting idea to us all, that L will have to be home with both Little Gus and Ansel by herself, but there isn’t any way around it. I still think it’s better to do a slow transition that stretches the leave out, rather than a full time leave for a full 12 weeks. I’m SO GRATEFUL to work for such a forward thinking organization, and feel really lucky to have so much paid time home with my family. But also – how could anyone do this without a second parent around?! I suppose if Ansel were in full time care and L could just focus on Angus, that would work but alone with a toddler and an infant 5 days a week? Ooof. The insanity of the American parental leave policy just becomes more and more apparent to me. This shouldn’t be a lucky benefit – it should be the norm.
Finally, Ansel started coop preschool this week! If you aren’t familiar, coop preschools involve a lot of parent work (ie: we work in the classroom as volunteer teachers 1-2 times/month, we fundraise, we sit on committees, etc.) in exchange for VERY inexpensive tuition (in our case, $50/month) It’s not childcare, for sure – it’s really designed for folks like us who have a parent home but want their kids to get some school experience. It’s a good fit for us right now – and since I have leave time and a lot of flexibility with my job, working in the classroom isn’t a big deal – although once I’m back full time, L will also be working (she can bring Angus until he’s 9 months old.) Once Ansel is 3, we can look into other preschool options, but right now we are pretty happy with this one!
Today was his first day, and he LOVED it. We all took him and hung out while they were on the playground for the first 15 minutes. He had a bit of a meltdown when they transitioned inside, but once I walked him in and he remembered the space, he ran off and didn’t look back. When I picked him up and said we were going home, he said “No home! More school!” May it always be so.
There is a LOT of joy in this chaos, but there’s also a lot of hard. It is gradually getting easier, although maybe not as fast as we thought. But we are happy. Exhausted, but very, very happy.