By Lindsey Magner
When Bre asked me to guest post about my transition from one child to two, my response to her was “are you sure? It was pretty awful.” Because it was, y’all. It was so awful. And not just the first six weeks. My son screamed 6-8 hours a day for the first 5 months of his life, nursed fitfully and exclusively at night, and was ultimately diagnosed with a laundry list of medical conditions that took over a year to fully address. My husband started an extremely time-intensive and emotionally taxing job a few months prior to Caleb’s birth, went back to work 6 hours after he cut the cord and pretty much only came home to sleep for 18 months. My completely delightful first child trailed me like our dogs as I shushed and bounced and pleaded with her banshee-shrieking sibling. She heard little more than “in a minute,” “not now,” and “here’s another pouch—that’s only your eighth today, right?” I’m pretty sure I heard her call Daniel Tiger “daddy” one day. As for me…well…to be honest, I’m kind of shocked I didn’t hitchhike across the border and take up long-shoring in Nova Scotia.
The Universe is infinitely kind, however, and as any mother with a tough labor or colicky baby will tell you, gives us the gift of amnesia. That degree of sleep deprivation and stress acts as a sort of retroactive opiate. Like, I remember how much pain I was in at the time, but the edges are blurry, the details mostly gone.
My umbrella memories are:
1. Crying. Caleb’s, certainly, but also my own. My cheeks were raw and red for months from wiping the steady stream of salt-water that poured from my face, and I remember on several occasions Sadie exclaiming “oh NO, mama! Your eyes is running again.”
2. Doctor’s Appointments. I’ll spare you. There were a million of them.
3. Helplessness and Despair. When your child is clearly suffering and no one can provide a
solution, it’s yuck-soup the likes of which you cannot even imagine. I swore at a nurse
once. Okay, twice.
4. Praying. Less “i know there’s a reason for this, and I trust you, God,” and more “HELP ME
FUCKING NOW BEFORE I PUT THEM BOTH IN THE YARD,” but at least I was reaching out. Not claiming to be enlightened here, y’all. Just telling you how it was.
Sadie had transformed into a toddler seemingly overnight. I knew how fleeting infancy
was, and how soon Caleb would be walking and talking. But there are literally zero instances in which I “wished for time to stop,” and all of that preemptive nostalgic heartache we talk about as mothers. I just wanted the shit-show to be over. My “silver-lining” mantra for an entire calendar year was “it could be worse: at least it’s not cancer. ” And that’s not something I want to lovingly ink into a baby book (which I do not have, by the way). Do I grieve the fact that my son’s infancy was one of the darkest seasons of my life? Yes. Do I lie to myself and pretend that it wasn’t so? I do not. Because the thing about dark seasons is that as they leave us, they provide a lens of perspective through which Life is seen anew. New, clear, and alight with a beauty almost impossible to describe.
Caleb will be two next month. He has ear-tubes and some food allergies, but he’s otherwise a perfectly healthy, happy toddler. One might think I’d love him less after what we walked through, but I assure you, the opposite is true. I look at him and think “holy ever-loving LORD, you’re the best human ever.” We all feel that way—even Sadie. As I write this, Caleb is sitting stark-still as she puts every hair bow she owns into his crazy curls. Their bond gets stronger and more complex with each passing day. There are things they give each other that neither me nor Sheldon can impart, and watching their friendship grow is one of the great joys of my life.
My transition from one child to two broke me into a hundred pieces. That’s just the truth. The thing about being in pieces though? When you’re broken that completely, you can’t even begin to pretend to be whole anymore. You have to ask for help and slow down and prioritize. You have to let people see your vulnerability and ugliness and mess. And then comes The Gift: you get the opportunity to put your pieces back together. As I slowly climbed out of the mire, I noticed I was stronger, calmer, more sure of myself as a mother and as a human. I look back at that year and think, “HOW did I do that?” And then I get kind of tickled and excited. Because, know what? I DID. Our toughest day today is a cake-walk compared to an easy day a year ago, and I hold that knowledge close to me. I feel proud of myself and of our family and I feel so much gratitude. I have so much more to offer other mothers who struggle now than I did before Caleb, and I feel the meaning of “love without condition” in the marrow of my bones. Who’d’ve thought that a screaming baby could be the sagest of teachers?
God’s kind of a badass that way.