As a new parent, you never fully grasp the level of tired you will be when your baby arrives (because they’re so cute and it won’t matter, right? And besides, you read the books, you took the classes; you’ve got this). Right? Right?! Then, the baby arrives. Were those books lying?! You ate ALL ORGANIC YOUR WHOLE PREGNANCY!!
Now, waking every few hours to feed them, changing their diapers in the dark hoping they won’t completely wake up, and freaking out every.single.time. because they’re probably not breathing you just know something is wrong and you can’t see their chest rising and falling (remember it’s dark) and you knew you shouldn’t have put a blanket in their crib but what if they’re cold and what will you do you will have to call the hospital and then of course you see their chest rise and fall and you do it all over again two hours later. And your confidence wanes a bit.
As a second-time parent, you’re a little more prepared, a little wiser, and probably a little over confident, (because obviously you’re an expert now). And if you’re having your second child within three years of the first, you’re also probably still in some level of a sleep deficit. And that’s okay, you think; it’s just your new normal. And then your new bundle of joy arrives, and it’s totally different. And I think that’s true for most parents. Everyone has a story to tell, ours just has more poop.
We brought Fitz home after only a few days, before the doctors and nurses anticipated we would be able to. I’d had another c-section and had to complete the normal list of box-checks to leave, usually accomplished over three to four days. I did it in two, albeit not without pain. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. Men..I hope you don’t. 😆 Our stay at the hospital had been stressful, giving us more questions than answers and more legitimate fear than the illegitimate fear we’d had with our first, and we were determined to get home and start our new lives together as a family of four, hopeful that once we’d settled in, our little one would even out, and we with him. Even at home, though, we knew something was off. What, we didn’t know, just…something.
Now, our fears of late-night asphyxiation were valid, because our sweet baby vomited nearly every.single.bottle we gave him. We’d tried every formula our doctor prescribed, including the $200 per carton powder that was the most hypo-everything you could find. But nothing stayed down. Now, when we woke up every hour to feed him since his belly couldn’t hold more than two ounces at a time, we turned on the lights, we woke him up completely, making sure he was still breathing normally. We’d spend over two hours feeding, bathing, diapering, and rocking him back to sleep, making sure we didn’t overdue it or rush him. Now, instead of fearing a blow out, we hoped to hear that familiar grunting sound, assuring us he’d absorbed some of the nutrients from what he’d kept down. And now, instead of the anticipation of a few extra minutes of sleep once he moved to his own room and we’d sleep trained him, we anticipated the day he could sleep in his own crib, the day we wouldn’t wake to hear him choking on his vomit.
A few months in, doctor google was in our website favorites. We’d scoured every article we could find, that could possibly explain our baby’s…differences? The doctors couldn’t explain it. They couldn’t explain the crying (Cholic? No, that wasn’t it), the writhing (growing pains? No, he isn’t growing enough to warrant that), the vomiting (lowered gag threshold?) the sleep-wake cycle, the deafness, the bloody stool. Nothing. The unknown weighed on us like a wet blanket. Until we met our new pediatrician, who was a little different, himself. Dr. Mason is to this day, a God-send. He caught things we didn’t know to look for. Gave advice without judgement. At every check-up he reassured us, all the while quietly assessing our son using a standard tool called a MCHAT we knew nothing about. (And God bless him for not mentioning it to us at that time). And at our eight-month check up, he gently explained that Fitz was not meeting expected developmental milestones, would need greater medical intervention including surgery, and was very possibly autistic. Our worlds were shattered. Every seemingly-irrational fear we’d had with our first-born rose to the surface, and some. Paranoia set in, hyper-vigilance our new norm. The sleep deficit we’d experienced with our first was now a distant dream. Where did we go from here? No answers, just questions. Hundreds of unanswered questions.
As I stand here now, having just cleaned poop off my face, pee off the couch, and signing to my son to find out what he wants to eat for breakfast, (a story for another day) I can’t help but smile, knowing that was just the beginning.