As of New Year’s Day, 2016, I have two daughters.
Quite a surprise, that. A surprise that, if it has taught me anything at all beyond simple stress tolerance, has taught me that, just because you remember what something was like, it doesn’t follow that you can predict anything for the second occurrence. Which is a bit disconcerting, because that is true in many aspects of life. After all, if you’ve ever flown, for example, you can generally predict what will happen the next time that you arrive at an airport to board a plane. Once you’ve gone grocery shopping, you basically have it under control for subsequent shopping excursions.
Not so much with children.
Confessions are for priests and not blogs, but, in the interest of transparency, I’ll say up front that I was extremely hesitant about having another child. Certainly, when we discovered that we were expecting again, I didn’t respond enthusiastically. Perhaps that makes me a bad person, I don’t know. In retrospect, it was likely a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees, as I couldn’t get past the logistical concerns of living in a new place, working in a new career (which mostly involves working for myself, which involves long hours), and trying to get a house ready to sell, all while planning for a new baby. I haven’t been thrilled with living in the South again, and bringing a new baby into the world while here was not on the list of adventures that I wanted to have.
That’s the thing about adventures, though. Planning them sort of misses the point.
So, I buried myself in the logistical concerns. What did we still own that would not have to be purchased again? How would my newly self-employed occupational status manage to make what we needed to have for this financially? We needed to locate a mid-wifery practice in our area, determine which hospital had the best reputation, take care of all of the diet and healthcare that comes with those nine months of planning. We had to pick a name again (something that came easily for our first daughter, but was the source of much debate this time around). So much planning, so many variables that had not been in the equation with our first, to say nothing of the fact that raising a four-year-old takes more time and energy than any human can muster. The sheer volume of things to do kept me too busy to ponder the gigantic spiritual weight of another child most of the time, and when I did have time to ponder, I chose to entertain myself and not ponder it, instead. I was very much behind in my to-read list, after all, and needing to catch up seemed a valid excuse to spend my time in a different way.
Not the best of coping strategies, admittedly. The end result, though, was that, even more than with our first daughter, this little girl existed only in theory until, for the second time in my life, the cries of my daughter being introduced to our world echoed from the walls of an operating room.
Since then, I’ve nearly lost my mind with noise, with conflicting priorities, with just keeping up with life. I’m doing, not thinking, because thinking and understanding…things which I hold dear…are luxuries that cannot be afforded now. There is only doing, and more doing, almost never for oneself, and always so profound in volume that the actions mean nothing other than survival. My anxiety and stress from nine months ago are more compounded than ever, but with less energy to give them voice.
Because I want our second to be as exceptional as our first, to love books as much, to bring smiles to everyone nearby as much. I want to be connected with her as much, even though I already am not, and all of this requires a constant, un-choreographed movement, emotionally and mentally as much as physically. My time is insufficient for both of them, yet it must be sufficient because they need me equally, because I am bound to each equally, and the weight of that responsibility is so crushing that it escapes me how anyone could find it a joy.
A few days after she was born, I was sprawled across the sofa, and our new little girl was placed in my arms by a grandparent because it was “my turn.” I was trying to stop the flood of thoughts in my head, the lists of things that had to be accomplished (the list for even the next evening seeming insurmountable), and I was finally able to breathe for a bit, and relax the noise in my head with one daughter in bed for the night and the other snuggling on my shoulder. She had been crying (a seemingly constant state of affairs), and had finally calmed for a bit, calmed, I like to think, because she was with her daddy. I actually couldn’t think for those moments, not because I was practicing avoidance or didn’t want to, but because I was actually not capable of doing anything other than experience.
And the experience by which I was touched in that moment, a feeling that couldn’t be explained except perhaps by the Divine, was that it will be okay.
Somehow, for her sake and not for mine, it will be okay.
And all manner of thing shall be well…