Last Friday was a rough day. I got to sleep at about midnight, then Dorothy woke me up at 3 a.m. Then, well, let me tell a story in Facebook status updates:
5:22 a.m. Dorothy is asleep, now I'm just killing time until Jeremy stops hitting snooze. Nothing's more fun than trying to go to sleep with an alarm going off every 9 minutes.
6:51 a.m. This grumpy Mama brought to you in a collaborative effort by all the members of her household to keep her awake at non-concurrent intervals.
7:00 a.m. As it turns out, those 45 minutes of snooze button pushing were my last chance to get any sleep last night. Sigh.
8:40 a.m. Anyone want to come hang out? Feeling overwhelmed today.
1:13 p.m. Where do I tender my resignation?
It was a pretty awful day, but what do you expect on three hours sleep? Somewhere in there, I managed to produce a blog entry in an attempt to focus on the positive, but it was only somewhat successful. In the end, a long nap (one that took almost two hours to bring about), a helpful husband (who managed to catch an earlier train home from work after getting off the phone with a sobbing wife), and dinner guests (who were gracious enough to bring dinner and to come late so I had extra time to clean) pulled me out of the fog. And Friday night, I got to sleep from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. which is double the amount of sleep I had managed the night before. Three more hours of sleep is apparently the difference between hopeless desperation and confidence that I will fumble through somehow.
Caring for a newborn is hard. I knew that from before, and I fully expected it to be hard again. But I had survived it once, so I knew that the darkest nights would be temporary, and that the sun would eventually come up in the morning. What I had "forgotten" was how hard life with a two-year-old was. Because that had crept up on me slowly, over two years, rather than being sprung on me all at once. Before Dorothy was born, I prepared myself mentally for sleepless nights and marathon nursing sessions. But I didn't prepare myself for the things I had been doing every day - the unpredictable sleep patterns, the hour-plus of laying beside Valerie trying to get her to sleep, the constant vigilance lest she get into something she shouldn't, keeping her entertained and attempting to wear her out so she would sleep, not to mention the energy involved in responding to a steady stream of requests, demands, and "Look, Mama!"s.
I had thought a lot about how I would take care of a newborn with a two-year-old around, but I had neglected to consider how I would take care of a two-year-old with a newborn around.
It seems like I talk about, think about, and blog about Valerie more than Dorothy. That's because Dorothy slipped quietly into the cracks of my life that I didn't know were there. But when she came, she brought an enormous spotlight with her and aimed it directly at her sister.
Dorothy has forced us to look at our daily lack-of-routine and create order. A predictable wake-up time helps me to make sure I get enough sleep. If I want Valerie to nap early enough to go to bed on time, we have to eat lunch on time, which means we have to eat breakfast on time so we can fit in a park trip or a play date between meals. I also quickly realized that I can't spend an hour lying beside Valerie at nap time anymore, and we helped her learn how to put herself to sleep. Throw daylight savings time into the mix, and that adds up to an awful lot of life changes for a little girl. I'd be overwhelmed, too. I have to remind myself that, while I've been through this "new baby throws your whole life for a loop" thing before, she hasn't. And if she is even half as overwhelmed as I was the first time around, I'm surprised her head hasn't exploded.
All in all, most days, things are pretty good. Valerie can be clingy and she has been acting out more than usual, but she has adjusted quickly to our new schedule, she goes to sleep on her own without complaining (a feat I thought impossible a few weeks ago), and she absolutely adores her sister. It's still not easy, but we have more "pretty good" days than bad days. Some days, I even manage to wash some dishes or fold some laundry! This blog post has been in the works for about a week, though, so I'm definitely not rolling in free time. (And since I started writing it, about seven more potential blog posts have begun percolating in my head, few, if any, of which will actually get written.) But that's Dorothy's fault for actually letting me sleep at night - I blogged so much when Valerie was a baby because there was nothing else to do at 3 a.m. Speaking of which, Dorothy is asleep, now, so I better get to bed. I'm posting this without thorough proof-reading, since I just want it to be done, so I apologize if it's not completely coherent. Semi-coherent is probably a more accurate representation of the state of my post-baby brain, anyhow.