Hap­pily with Hadley

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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.

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