Friday, December 23, 2016

The Second Time Around

Stress and Stars Ellie baby

I drink a lot of coffee these days.

I realize that drinking coffee is an innate aspect of my personality and that everyone who reads this already knows that I drink a lot of coffee, but let me explain — I drink a lot of coffee now.

At a friend's Christmas party, a friend of mine who has become a mom for the first time pretty recently asked me what it's like having two babies.

I asked her if she had ever seen Jim Gaffigan's standup when his fourth was born.

The sentiment is roughly the same.

Imagine you're drowning, and someone hands you a baby.

It's a bit less like drowning when it's two, but there are days that Jason and I, even working as a unit, struggle to keep up with the demands of two very small people, one of whom needs us to do literally everything for her and the other just really wants us to do everything for her, especially now that there is someone else competing for our attention.

Add to that the simple truth that our new baby Ellie hates sleep exactly as much as her older sister did.

I spent the first six weeks of Ellie's life mainlining coffee. I've spent the second six weeks of her life cutting back from probably enough caffeine to damage something important to only enough caffeine that people continually remark on how much caffeine I'm drinking.

I'm okay with that amount, really. That seems like a good amount.

Jason and I parent as a unit and that means we share it all — we share the sleep deprivation and diaper changes, as well as the big gummy smiles and toddler tantrums. We share one of us keeping them both while the other goes to have a social life or hobbies.

We share that look of mixed love and desperation when one of us returns to find the other all but hiding beneath a mound of toddler chaos, holding a cooing infant who is already head-over-heels in love with her big sister. We share the destruction we discover after turning our backs for just a second.

We share nights spent watching over one child or the other. Audra never learned the art of sleeping well. We read all the books and tried all the tricks, listened to all the well-meaning advice from loved ones, and Audra stubbornly went her own way anyway.

If I can just get her to channel that bull-headed strength for good and not for making-Mommy-and-Daddy-exhausted, she could be some kind of superhero.

I suppose that is what happens when two people who are stubborn as sin find each other, get married, and create new little people. We didn't cut in half our stubbornness as it manifests in our children...

we doubled it.

I was worried Audra wouldn't like Ellie. I don't know much about close-in-age sibling relationships. I'm five and seven years behind my siblings respectively, and by the time I came along they had their dynamic down pat. I was worried Audra's jealousy would be an issue.

I was worried for nothing.

Audra is jealous, to be sure, off and on.. part of her remembers when it was just the three of us still, part of her knows there didn't used to be competition for our attention. But she also kisses her little sister good night and sometimes won't even go to bed unless she gets to.

Sometimes she sits next to Ellie on the couch, where we have her lying down for a nap while we sit nearby, and just watches her for a few seconds, transfixed. Her little body vibrates with all the energy she has for the day, but still, she sits like a statue watching Ellie for a few seconds.

If Ellie wakes up, Audra smiles.

"Ellie's eyes are open," She will announce to no one in particular, hop off the couch, and go racing off to destroy something, as is her way.

One night Audra woke up and I happened to already be up with Ellie, who had just woken up wanting a bottle. The three of us sat in the dark for a while, one of my arms curled around Audra and the other holding Ellie and her bottle, just barely balanced so she could eat.

"Ellie not sleep too," Audra said, snuggled into me. "Audra and Mommy and Ellie too, not sleep."

I just sighed, a little bit, and tried to remember if it was 2 or 3 AM.

"No," I answered. Ellie sighed contentedly from somewhere near my right elbow.

"Mommy and Audra and Ellie, too," I said into the dark. "None of us are sleeping."

So... I drink a lot of coffee these days.

Sometimes, though, I switch things up and drink a lot of caffeinated tea.

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