When I called my mother to tell her that I was pregnant with baby number two, her reaction was very… unexpected. After what seemed like an eternity she mumbled under her breath, but Lelan is not old enough to be a big brother… I’m sure she was happy for me, but I’m also sure that in those moments of silence she was seriously wondering if I’d lost my mind.
If truth be told, I wasn’t fully prepared for this experience. But, then again is anyone ever? Sure, I was already a mom to a thriving toddler; I’d lived through the sleepless nights and uncontrollable crying… or so I thought. But, nothing, nor anyone can prepare you for the arrival of a new human being with its unique set of wants and needs. Throw breastfeeding into this mix and it’s a damn miracle that people keep having babies. The things I worried about, like the hospital stay, breastfeeding, Lelan’s adjustment, etc. turned out to be the least of my concerns and those things that I thought were manageable ended up kicking my already sore butt. Here’s an honest account of how we survived the first six weeks with our second baby.
Sleep: I had no idea how good we had it with our first born. Lelan was two weeks late and spent a week in the NICU before coming home and I’m sure those weeks had something to do with his temperament. Ravina was technically a week early and barely slept longer than 45mins at a stretch during the first couple of weeks. When she wasn’t sleeping, she was nursing. On top of this, she only wanted to sleep in my arms. Not even my husband could hold her in the beginning. And, no matter how soundly she was sleeping, as soon as I left the room she would wake up screaming. I was convinced she could smell me. My son, on the other hand, was going through a regression of his own and wanted mommy for everything. Basically, we did whatever we had to, to get through this phase and threw out any schedules or routines that were in place… During sleep times, I would sit at the edge of the bed with the baby in one arm and my son hanging on the other, all while trying to recover from a csection. Good times! On those nights when I had two screaming babies on my hand, I tended to the one who needed their basic needs met first. If my son woke up in the middle of the night, my husband took over no matter how long it took to get him back down to sleep and I primarily tended to our newborn. As much as I hate to admit it, cosleeping worked for us on those times when the baby refused to settle down. I would lay her down next to me, sometimes latched, and maybe get an hour of uninterrupted sleep. But, almost always, I woke up in a panic only to find her sleeping peacefully. I know it made my husband extremely nervous too since we are both sound sleepers in general… Thankfully, around 4 weeks, Ravina started distinguishing between days and nights and began consolidating her feedings. And finally, around 6 weeks, she has started sleeping longer stretches at night. Last night she slept for almost 6hrs without waking!
Feeding: Let me just say bottle feeding was/is a thousand times easier than breastfeeding. I knew it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk going into it. I had prepared for the cracked nipples and improper latching issues but I seriously did not have a clue as to what a time commitment it really was. Not only was I delirious from lack of sleep, I was attached at the boob to a tiny human who seemed insatiable. Some days it really felt like she was sucking the life out of me. Sorry little girl! Breastfeeding is soooo much more than just feeding your little one. It’s about comfort, security, relaxation, bonding… and on and on. And, my daughter needed me more than my son ever did as an infant. Some say it’s girls in general and others say it’s second babies who are more needy, but whatever the reason those first couple of weeks of breastfeeding were pure agony. Once I got through the hump, however, things became more manageable. The goal was always to do the best without subjecting to an ideal standard. I nursed as much as I could in those early weeks and when she lost a little bit of weight, I had no qualms about giving her formula. I give my daughter a bottle of formula twice a day now, to give my body a break and to prepare for going back to work. And, based on OUR daily needs I supplement more or less. I have absolutely no guilt or restrictions when it comes to this subject, whatsoever.
Bonding: I gave this subject a lot of thought, but mostly from my son’s point of view. I naively assumed that my husband and I wouldn’t have anything to worry about. Thankfully, Lelan has had the least issues out of us. Ever since we came home from the hospital, he’s been acting as if the baby has been a part of our family all along. His little heart is so big at times! It is so endearing to see him running towards the bassinet first thing in the morning or searching for her paci whenever he hears her crying. He has shown absolutely no hostility towards her, thank goodness! My husband, however, had it the hardest because the baby simply wouldn’t go to anyone else until she was almost a month old. There were no midnight bottle feedings he could help with. With a few diaper changes here and there and a toddler on the loose, there was no time for bonding with the baby. Besides, Lelan needed him more and he willingly took on the role of being his primary caregiver during those weeks. When my husband went back to work he could no longer attend to Lelan at night, so there were days and nights when I was burning the candle at both ends leaving me tired and cranky. Luckily, Lelan started sleeping better around the one month mark and we were able to resume his daily routine again. Ravina’s schedule is slowly becoming more predictable and she has been bonding with her daddy more and more lately.
Have you heard the saying, fake it till you make it? Well, that’s been my motto for the past few weeks. Slowly but surely I’m getting the hang of how to parent two under two. Seriously, there’s never a dull moment around here! There have been episodes of epic meltdowns and serious crying, but nothing that hasn’t been manageable and thankfully, nothing that has lasted more than 10mins. I had no idea how much of a type A person I’ve turned into since becoming a mom. I’ve come to appreciate the predictability of a monotonous routine and without it, I feel a bit lost. But, as with everything in life, if you stick with it, it does get easier or maybe you just get better at faking it, whatever the case maybe it’s a helluva ride and I’m just thrilled to be on it!
Today was the perfect day to go pumpkin picking with my family. Lelan’s eyes lit up when he saw the patch. He kept trying to pick up the biggest pumpkins and sticking his fingers inside the rotten ones… haha! He is such a boy! His biggest reaction came when we took him into the corn maze. He kept repeating WOW as he ran through the maze all wild eyed and bewildered.
As soon as we got to the farm, Ravina had a major blow out. I panicked for a moment when I realized I hadn’t packed a spare outfit. But, thankfully it was manageable and after a quick diaper change, I settled her into my Solly baby wrap where she slept peacefully the entire time.
On the way home, Rob and I were reminiscing about the time we went apple picking. It was one of our first outings as a couple and I can still remember the feeling as we held hands walking through the corn maze. Today, it was a special treat to relive the experience through the eyes of our 1 year old son. Wow seems like the perfect exclamation point to this beautiful day!
You came into this world so peacefully, yet the force of your being is still reverberating far and near. In the month that you’ve been with us you’ve made an impression so deep and profound that it has forced us to reevaluate our priorities… I’m not the same mother that I was to your brother and neither is your father. We have grown up and out, extending ourselves to fill in wherever we are needed. You have changed us fundamentally for the better.
From the beginning, you’ve been your own kind of baby and I’m embracing the fact that our journey together will be its own saga. Every time my mind tries to draw a parallel to the experience with your brother, I’m quickly reminded that there is none except for the fact that both of your hearts once beat inside me. You are opposites in many ways. But, you’re cut from the same cloth so I’m not ready to paint you into your corners just yet.
The first few nights with you in the hospital were blissful and I’m grateful for that time together! It was just you and I mostly and we really got to soak in without any distractions. Once we came home, however, there was a lot going on with everyone trying to adjust to your presence. I won’t lie, those first few days and nights were hard, but I’m sure it was hardest on you, my doll. Yet, you hung in there with us and as the weeks passed we have started adjusting to a new normal around each other.
During your hospital stay you lost a fair amount of body weight and came home all skin and bones. So, we’ve been on a mission to fatten you up. I’ve been breastfeeding mostly with nightly supplementation of formula. During the first couple of weeks you were waking up every hour to feed, which was a shock to the system. But, thankfully we both survived it. Now, it’s anywhere between 2-3 hours and I’m getting very good at feeding you on the go. At your 1st month visit you weighed 8lbs 1oz. and measured around 21inches long. You are still a petite little thing, but, oh so lovely that you take my breath away!
Last week, your thatha and paati came to visit from North Carolina and couldn’t get enough of you. And, before that your great aunt Kay and your aunt Kate visited you. Papa and grandma have always been here and last week great grandma stopped by for a quick visit. Other than a couple of neighbors, we’ve not had too many visitors. I’m sure you’ll meet more of the family around the holidays, but for now it’s been nice to be holed in with you.
By far your biggest fan is your brother! He adores you and loves rocking your bouncer and giving you kisses. He can’t stand it when you cry. Just today he brought me your paci when I was trying to console you. He calls you ‘baybee’ and doesnt seem to mind sharing his space with you. I’m most looking forward to seeing your relationship blossom.
I hope things settle down a bit more in the next few weeks and we get to see more of your personality. There are so many firsts that await us in the coming months which are far more exciting, but getting through this first month as a family of four is my greatest accomplishment to date. Welcome to this crazy, wonderful family, my darling girl! You are so loved!
It has been two whole weeks since I gave birth to my daughter and life has once again burst wide open. While her birth was starkly different than my son’s, both experiences have enriched me in immeasurable ways. Ravina Jayne arrived on schedule via c-section, without any incident and in doing so she gave me the peaceful birthing experience that I so desperately wanted with Lelan. His birth taught me to let go and her’s to hold on…
Before I dive into her birth story, I should describe the events leading up to her birth because it really is a miracle that things worked out as well as they did. Throughout my pregnancy I was feeling great physically, but emotionally I was struggling to keep it together. As I’ve shared before, around 13 weeks we had some disturbing results from genetic testing (CVS), which were thankfully negated by further testing (Amniocentesis). Still, the weeks of stress leading up to it was not lost on me. Even though, my gut told me my baby was okay my monkey mind was a wreck with worry. Around this time we made the tough decision to switch OBs due to scheduling conflicts, which would turn out to be the best decision for my pregnancy.
At 20 weeks pregnant, I nervously sat in the office of my new OB. He came highly recommended by a friend and did not disappoint. Right off the bat he laid out a plan of action. I immediately felt at ease with his no nonsense approach and attention to detail. After reviewing my chart thoroughly he made a few recommendations including regular ultrasounds to closely monitor both the baby and I. Given my state of mind, I was more than relieved to hear his plan. The first several weeks went by uneventfully. At around 30 weeks, during one of those routine scans, we got another dose of unsettling news.
At first the mass was described as a common ovarian cyst inside the baby caused by maternal hormones. But, by the next visit it had doubled in size and we were told that it could be a tumor. And, more tests were ordered including a MRI, which is hard enough to endure laying down without being almost 34 weeks pregnant. As one doctor put it, the best case scenario was inducing labor between 34-38 weeks with possible surgical intervention immediately after birth. None of this seemed to make any sense to me since the baby was growing as she should and I was feeling perfectly okay. Again, my mind started to wander even though my heart knew better. Thankfully, my OB kept me focused on the task at hand by reassuring me along the way. I’ve seen these things resolve itself, he said. Let’s wait and see… So, we continued on with weekly monitoring and scans. We met with pediatric surgeons and neonatal specialists just in case we needed to intervene early. Each week I went in clutching my heart, preparing to hear hard news only to hear that we had survived without any complications. With each visit I was getting closer to carrying my daughter full term and my scheduled c-section date. Towards the end, miraculously, the mass stopped growing giving us greater confidence that perhaps it might resolve itself on its own. While the drama played out behind the scenes, my husband and I made a decision to spare our families from unnecessary worry until there was actual cause…
As my scheduled c-section date neared we focused our energies towards planning for our son while I was away. Naturally, grandma and papa were our first choice, but due to a previously planned trip they would be out of town the entire week before my scheduled date. Every day I pleaded with my daughter to hold on until they were home and thankfully she obliged. On Friday, September 8th, I shut down my work computer for the last time and officially began my maternity leave. Everything had gone according to plan and I was finally ready to have this baby.
I could barely sleep the night before from the excitement of it all… which in retrospect was not the smartest thing to do before major surgery. On Wednesday the 13th, at 5:30am, my husband and I left our home for the hospital to welcome our baby girl. Upon arrival we were quickly registered and ushered to the labor and delivery unit. Within an hour I was hooked to an IV and administered preliminary procedures. The L&D nurses were both kind and funny making the entire experience pleasant. Are you feeling these contractions? One of them asked me. They’re quite regular at 15 minutes apart. I guess with or without the c-section, Ravina had chosen her birthday!
Promptly at 8am my doctor arrived and came in to chat with us. After signing a few consent forms we were ready for the races. See you soon, I said excitedly as I kissed my husband and walked into the operating room. A lovely anesthesiologist welcomed me and helped me up the operating table. I was given a pillow to clutch and asked to sit at the edge of the table facing a blank wall. She explained the next few steps in detail and began the process of administering a spinal tap. She cleaned my back with something cold and then I felt a pinch followed by a warming sensation which only lasted a few seconds. I didn’t feel anything afterwards. I was told to sit very still while the spinal was being administered. Two nurses helped me lay down on the table and placed a sheet over me. The anesthesiologist stayed by my head making sure I was okay. My husband joined her moments later and gently rubbed my forehead. Tears streamed down my cheeks as months of preparation and anticipation culminated into a single moment. I said a quick prayer and breathed through my anxiety. Several minutes later, after some tugging and pulling, our daughter emerged from my womb at 8.56 am weighing 7.7 lbs and measuring 20 inches long. She barely cried as she entered into this world…
Once out of surgery, my husband wheeled our precious little girl over to me. But sadly the combination of powerful drugs and lack of rest from days prior rendered me completely useless. I held her for only a few minutes before feeling light headed and nauseated. The hardest part of my recovery was the first 12 hours post surgery. But thankfully by 6 pm that evening I was starting to feel like myself again. The next three nights were spent in the hospital at the care of the excellent nurses. They helped me every step of the way including getting my little one latched on. Any concerns I had about spending the night alone in the hospital with the baby were quickly alleviated by these caring individuals. The next morning a pediatric nurse practitioner stopped by to give us the best news ever… The initial ultrasound revealed no traces of the mass in Ravina’s body. A follow up scan was recommended at her 1 month checkup to be on the safe side, but for now it seems the issue may have resolved itself just like we had hoped for. She passed every one of her newborn tests in stride. She is a hearty little thing with a strong will and composition.
As I hold my daughter in my arms, I’m flooded with gratitude for all the blessings that have been bestowed along the way. I’m humbled by the grace that has chosen me to be the guardian of this beautiful spirit. She is perfect in every way and the final puzzle that completes our lives. But most of all, I’m grateful for the lesson in faith that she has brought with her. Life is a sequence of tiny miracles even if we cannot feel the collective weight of them in any given day, we’re nonetheless changed by them. The transformation is gradual, if we choose to notice at all. So, the only way to live life is to understand that every little thing is a miracle and every single moment is a blessing.
The weather has started cooling off nicely around here. The promise of fall, in all its glorious shades is making me pause in anticipation. In exactly 14 days, I’m scheduled for a c-section. Yesterday was my last biophysical and everything looked great on screen. Baby is going to be fine, the good doctor reassured me. Ravina is a strong and vibrant baby, growing as she should be. Already quite feisty, when the sonographer pushed on my belly with her instrument she pushed right back at her with her tiny palm. I don’t blame her, she’s been monitored closely for weeks now and I think she’s as ready as I am to get on with it.
Last night, I joked with my partner that our baby girl is like the very hungry caterpillar from the popular children’s book. She is literally eating through me at the end of this journey. For most of my pregnancy, I’ve had little to no appetite but suddenly, I’m ravenous. I have been eating everything in sight. As if anticipating my needs, my mom and aunt collaborated to send me a month’s worth of home-made Indian food. When the box arrived a couple of weeks ago, I was deeply moved by their thoughtfulness… While the food is very tasty, it’s also quite spicy so I’ve been rationing myself. On top of it, my mother in law has been bringing over delicious meals so, all in all, I have been eating like a queen.
An unexpected byproduct of this hunger is heartburn and acid reflux. Ugh, I’ve never experienced this much pain in my life. Nothing seems to be helping, not even Tums or a cold glass of milk. This morning was particularly bad and my doctor recommended taking a Prilosec OTC if it doesn’t improve by the weekend. I know that my first pregnancy was only a little over a year ago, but I have absolutely no recollection of those last few weeks leading up to labor. For the most part, I don’t recall being as uncomfortable as I am now. I was just so eager and impatient for the show to start that nothing seemed to bother me. This time, I’m feeling much different. With an active toddler on the loose, there’s very little time to rest much less complain.
The pressure of the baby on my pelvis plus the unrelenting heartburn is making me wish I would have the baby already but… not so fast! My in laws are away until the 10th on a trip that was planned well in advance of my pregnancy. If Ravina decides to make her debut before they’re back, we won’t have anyone to watch Lelan. Sure, some well meaning neighbors/friends have offered to help in a pinch and our babysitter is on standby, but there’s nothing like family to give you that much needed peace of mind. I should have learnt my lesson from my last delivery that ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry’ but, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for an uneventful delivery.
In the meantime, most of the preparations for Ravina’s birth are either complete or underway… The bassinet is now a permanent fixture in our bedroom and Lelan never fails to peek into it each morning. Her crib is setup as well, just in case she doesn’t care for the bassinet. All of her baby clothes for the next 3 months have been neatly organized in bins. Thanks to my sister in law Kate, we have all the essentials and then some. The hospital bag is packed and ready to go. There are a few last minute items to buy, but nothing overwhelming. My last day at work is next Friday and I hope to make it till then, but I’m in a much better place with work this time around than I was last time.
It all sounds so organized doesn’t it? Who am I kidding, having a baby is no walk in the park and I’m sure there will be many challenges ahead in the coming weeks, but I’m prepared. I’m already a mother and this time around, I’m more calm and confident in my abilities. With Lelan, everything was new… A first. He was the spring, a promise of life itself bursting at the seams. He awakened me and taught me how to bloom. But, with Ravina, everything will be my last… like the magic hour of autumn when warm summer days collapse into moody hues, as the crisp air hangs on my bones like a wooly scarf. Ah, I want to savor every bit of it, like a good book, and let every milestone linger. There is something very special about this feeling of not wanting to rush things… to deliberately slow things down. To really take the time to enjoy the minutiae. I hope to carry this feeling with me throughout my days…
You are now a full fledged toddler! You are a walking, talking, singing wonder! Every day you are learning something new- a new word, a sound or a gesture. You laugh easily, filling our hearts with unimaginable love. There is nothing better than time spent with you, my darling. Your hugs heal the broken parts of me in seconds and your kisses connect the lost pieces of my soul. The sound of your pitter patter feet, running towards me is the soundtrack of my life.
In the last three months you have mastered so many skills. The day after your first birthday you took your first steps and now you’re practically running. You have always been very vocal and we think you are very close to talking. Your vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. Your first real word, apart from dada and mama, was was corn which you learned on your own by watching Baby Einstein. Now you say, cat, car, apple, thatha (grandpa), nana (banana), momo (moon or Elmo), choo choo (Thomas), tree, hot, duck and just today you said flower. If we ask you to repeat something, you will oblige. Whatever your Papa says, you repeat without hesitation. You are constantly babbling and singing which is music to my ears.
Beyond what you can say, what impresses me even more is how much you can retain. If I ask you to pick out any book you’ve read, you will promptly get it for me. If I ask you to point to anything in the book, whether it be an animal or thing, you will do so without hesitation. You know the names of about a dozen fruits and will bring them if asked by name. You know your alphabets from A-G and numbers from 1-5. You are a sponge. Your love of learning is insatiable and your dad and I more than happy to aid you in your growth.
You are still a creature of habit though your schedule is starting to shift a little. On most days, you are awake between the hours of 6am and 7pm with a nap before lunch. Recently, we’ve been trying to shift your nap towards the middle of the day with some success. In a couple of months, you will start attending daycare for a couple of days. You are so ready for it, my love… When we took you to the school you jumped right in. We are excited to see how you are going to adjust to all the changes in the coming months.
For all your wonder, you are still a normal, developing toddler. Not every day is a walk in the park with you. But, I enjoy it just the same. You have been experiencing strong feelings lately, going from happy to grumpy in seconds. You have a stubborn streak in you, which is sometimes hard to control. You are testing limits, pushing boundaries and growing up way too fast. But, it’s our job to teach you how to control yourself, how to harness your awesomeness, and return to your usual cheerful disposition. As long as we’re being calm and consistent you seem to recover quickly. Your dad and I are getting good at reading your signs and we hope to help you more and more as the days go by.
In just a short while you will be a big brother… I have been thinking a lot about how you are going to handle this change. How am I going to ration out my love equally between you and your sister? I don’t have all the answers, but I can assure you that you will never have to share my heart… My love for you is its own stream, overflowing its banks. Our bond will only be strengthened by the arrival of your sister. Sometimes I worry that I will never be able to give her the same undivided attention that you so lavishly enjoyed, but just as I think about it, I’m comforted by the thought that she will be the luckiest recipient of your love. You will fill in those voids that your dad and I could never fill just by being a big brother- my wonderful boy!
The next few months are going to be hectic… and exciting at the same time. When the days become too long or whenever the inspiration strikes, I will remember to take a deep breath and write about this journey… OUR journey. Because, as I write these words, I’m reminded of how lovely this life is… how much light has come pouring into my wretched soul since you were born and how truly blessed I am to have you as my son.