Happily with Hadley
Hey, friends — I’m back!
After a wild two months at home, I have applied actual makeup to my actual face, stuffed myself into work-appropriate slacks and rejoined society. It was scary, but I’m actually writing this from somewhere other than my living room.
Hadley Rose was born March 10 with no complications — a fact I will never take for granted, given how her older brother entered the world. We’d been monitoring my blood pressure for months after I developed life-threatening preeclampsia with Oliver, requiring my son to be born eight weeks early.
I was nearly full-term in March when my doctor noticed a blood pressure bump at a weekly check-up. Probably nothing, but she sent me to the hospital for monitoring. You know: just in case.
I was happy to oblige. My greatest fear was developing preeclampsia again. The blood pressure spike amounted to nothing — but in a little side room in Labor and Delivery, a nurse showed me a graph printed from a bedside machine.
“You’re having regular contractions. Only four minutes apart. You can’t feel that?” she asked.
How can a woman be in labor without realizing it, you ask? I don’t actually know. In my defense, I’d been experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions — “practice” ones that are uncomfortable, but not painful — for months, and those amounted to nothing. These felt no different.
Still, it was apparently happening. And I was staying.
Many hurried phone calls to family and a very long night later, Hadley arrived at 8:16 a.m.: 6 pounds, 12 ounces with a head of dark hair. She is a sweet, easygoing baby who somehow sleeps through Oliver’s antics. Her interests include ceiling fans and milk.
Falling into the newborn zombie life again is tough, but definitely easier the second go ’round. My husband and I are more confident, more caffeinated parents. The difference between Hadley (born at 37 weeks) and Oliver (born at 32 weeks) is astounding; Ollie took weeks in the NICU to coordinate the suck/swallow/ breathe rhythm the rest of us know only as drinking. Hadley was guzzling milk within minutes of birth.
And compared with Ollie’s terrible twos, having a drowsy infant is a breeze. Aside from the whole up-in-the-dead-of-night thing. Still, I choose to look on the bright side: dibs on the TV! No “Minions” or “Muppets” on repeat. I can watch all the ridiculous programming I want — without judgment. It’s 3 a.m., so nothing that requires thought. Perfect for reality TV.
Sleep deprivation, though awful, can eventually become normal. We’re so accustomed to listening for Oliver’s midnight howls that Hadley’s seem tame by comparison. She wakes, she eats, she goes back to sleep (well, usually); it’s all very routine. Spencer and I take shifts. It’s equitable and familiar.
But now we’re in a new routine again.
I’d be lying I said I wasn’t anxious about returning to my full-time job. Many parents — mothers, especially — grapple with the push-and-pull of wanting to be home with their children (a full-time job, too) while also wanting or needing to work. There’s no easy answer. It’s personal; I pass no judgment on others’ choices.
But for me? I think I’m a happier, more productive, more patient parent when I wipe the applesauce off my yoga pants, put on real clothing and leave the house to do work I enjoy and help provide for the family I love. I am tired, though. The first weeks at home with two kids were tough. Though Oliver adjusted to the new baby better than expected, it was challenging to balance the needs of a crying newborn with a crying toddler. After my husband returned to work, I was often in situations where I had to choose who to help first: Oliver, shouting for milk and jumping dangerously off the couch; or Hadley, needing a diaper change and howling herself.
I was lucky if I had two minutes to use the restroom. Showering was out of the question. When I did have a second, I tried to eat something — typically cold cuts straight from the fridge. I lost even more of the baby weight, but not intentionally; amazing how quickly it comes off when you can’t eat and rarely sit down.
Though my morning coffee was non-negotiable, I can’t hold a steamy drink with a baby cradled in one arm and a toddler grabbing at the other. My options were to leave it on a counter to cool or inhale it before returning to the ruined remains of my living room.
Guess which one I picked.
At first, not always being able to respond to Ollie’s pleas for drinks or “Minions” made me feel guilty. He does have to learn to share — and that includes his parents’ attention. But I hated knowing he would see me holding Hadley and have a meltdown, or feel like I was ignoring him.
Still, we got into a routine. There were times — amazing times, complete with unicorns frolicking in the background — when both kids went down for a nap, but that rarely lasted long enough for me to like a few Facebook posts. Oliver did go to daycare twice a week, but the three of us were usually together: hanging out, making messes. Making memories, too.
If I thought my house was a disaster before, the chaos has increased tenfold. Oliver’s LEGO blocks are literally in every corner of the house, and he’s taken to dragging 10 toys up and down the stairs before every nap time. These “days off” largely consisted of following him around as he shed belongings, avoiding his stuff like landmines as I rocked a fussy baby in my arms.
“The days are long, but the years are short” — a quote I’ve repeated many times over the last few months. I’ve been back at work less than a week and already those eight weeks feel like a dream.
Back out in civilization, the sun feels especially blinding. I sobbed in my car after dropping the kids off at daycare Monday, but know Ollie was already happily playing at our wonderful babysitter’s house with Hadley snoozing before I’d even left the driveway.
I took advantage of my freedom to get coffee at the convenience store I’d waddled into daily during my pregnancy, treating myself to an extra-large coffee before my first morning back at work.
Everything went fine. I started writing this column. It felt good to wade into words again — and 5 p.m. rolled around quickly.
But so did 2 a.m. And 4 a.m. And 5:30 a.m.
Still, it’s good to be back.