In the weeks after Zoe was born, I remember my constant irritation with Sweet Dog who quickly went from beloved first born to a needy, demanding, irritating obstacle.
Now it is Zoe who appears suddenly large and dangerous, all pointy elbows and heavy footsteps. Her voice is loud and screechy at just the wrong times. Her desperate needs come, magically, when I am least available.
"Zoe's such a GREAT big sister" I say to friends, within Zoe's earshot. The first few weeks I meant this, unequivocally.
Zoe is still so excited about Eliza, with frequent kisses and hugs and songs sung to calm her crying.
She is also suddenly "needing" the Boppy for her dolls and despondent when it's "Eliza's turn" on the Boppy. She wants my lap when I'm nursing, decides she HAS to bounce crazily on the bed when I'm nursing there, must have my assistance at bed time when I'm nursing Eliza (Do you notice a trend? [Luckily, she has decided that she is no longer interested in breastmilk.]).
"Eliza is such a GOOD baby" is an easy thing to think, to say. She has slept all night for the last two weeks. She hasn't ever required the three hour nightly bouncing/shushing/hair dryer-on-right-next-to-her-ear sessions that Zoe did at the same age.
She will, at some point in the future, not sleep all night.
She also has had a few screaming->coughing->choking->gagging->barfing fits that come out of nowhere and leave us frazzled and confused. Does she have reflux? Did I overfeed her? Is it just gas and she needs more vigorous burping?
(Is she still a "good baby"?)
I earnestly kept TV at bay for over two years.
Zoe just watched an hour of Sesame Street, then yelled for "more videos MOMMY!".
CG and I earnestly crafted family rules for the table (No talking with your mouth full. Wait your turn to speak. No throwing/spitting food. Clean up your own spills. Use your manners when asking for/refusing food. Ask to be excused before leaving the table. No walking around with food in your mouth or your hand. Once you leave the table, the meal is over. Clear your own plate and cup. OMG ARE WE CRAZY STRICT OR WHAT?) only to be unable to enforce some of them on a regular basis now that we have Eliza and her needs to contend with.
Having two children is either the best thing for Earnest Mothers like myself or the worst thing. I've spent three years reading all the books. I've spent three years explaining and caring and guiding and listening and reflecting and hand holding and setting boundaries and following through and BLAH BLAH BLAH NOW IT IS ALL FOR NAUGHT.
I cannot hover in ways I'm used to. I cannot always help her clean up every toy before she takes out another. I cannot ensure she isn't wasting water/soap/toilet paper when she insists on using the potty by herself. I cannot always intervene in her fraught peer relations during playdates, because I'm changing a diaper/nursing a baby/washing poop off of clothing. I cannot always help her when she asks me politely and calmly for assistance finding a toy. So then she melts down and throws a huge fit at my feet which begs the questions: when I'm finally available to help her, does she get my help? Does she have to calm down and ask nicely AGAIN?
She's clearly acting out due to all the changes in our lives. Her behavior is asking "So much is different.... is THIS different? How about THIS?".
And the answer, sometimes, is "yes".
I am finishing nursing Eliza in bed, her face squished against my breast. My nipple falls from her mouth and we both take deep, heavy breaths.
I hear Zoe's clomping footsteps in the hall and she bursts into the room. I scramble to hide, to fix, to erase, like a cheating wife in bed with her lover.
I simultaneously resent the abrupt intrusion into my lovely little scene and mentally toss Eliza from the bed to make room for my first baby.
I've heard that adding a second child to your family is like "dropping a bomb into the middle of your life".
To me, it feels like a house of cards, one that was so carefully built and so preciously tended, is collapsing in slow motion all around me. It is not so much painful and explosive as it is inevitable.
It will, of course, be rebuilt, with just as much loving, thoughtful care, but the cards are still falling all around me. The rebuilding will take time. It will look different than the first time around.
It has only just begun.