Within the first week of Joel coming home from the hospital Mark spent, I kid you not, 2.75 hours calling around St. Louis nurseries in search of the perfect pine tree for our front yard, because, when we constructed our house, we spent thousands trying to preserve an oak tree that is now dead, so we are being forced to plant a replacement tree in effort to recover our tree deposit from our municipality. But my point with this is that Mark needs to learn to better manage his time.
I loved the Olympic games and had so many thoughts on them that would have made it into some kind of post if I would have posted, but now I don’t remember any of them, except that I loved watching Simone Biles and Ali Raismann and Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky and Usain Bolt. But one of my favorite parts of the Olympics was United States diver Steele Johnson. Though he may have only won silver, his name is certainly golden.
So many parents talk about their little boys spraying them with piss during diaper changes, so I don’t want to pretend this story is original, but Joel seems to prefer peeing outside of his diaper as opposed to inside of it, and his stream reaches pretty far across our bedroom for such a small boy. And the other night I laughed so hard about this that I almost pissed on the floor right alongside him, which might have actually been special. And it makes me thankful that we have hardwood floors.
Introducing Howie to Joel went relatively smoothly, which was a relief because Howie isn’t used to tiny humans. What was most interesting is that Howie immediately became very protective of Joel, wanting to know his whereabouts at all times as well as running into the room upon hearing him cry. It was very sweet, but we shipped him off to Mark’s parents’ house anyway (temporarily) as having a dog right now is too overwhelming.
Mark’s mom spent two weeks with us after Joel was born. She cooked and cleaned and shopped for us, which was so appreciated, as I’ve yet to figure out how to simultaneously care for Joel and do any of these things. She also spent tons of quality time with Joel and put up with the obnoxious questions I asked when I was away from Joel for any extended time period (>5 minutes), “Is he alive? Is he breathing?”
I need to dye my hair again, and I’m not sure whether to go dark brown or bleach blonde.
Mark took two weeks off and then returned to work. Upon his return to work, a colleague asked how I was, and Mark explained that I’m doing well, but I still struggle with complicated emotions about Matthew, and said colleague was like, “She HAS accepted Matthew’s death by now, right?” to which Mark was like, “Well, yeah… She’s accepted that he died, but she isn’t over it…” And then he filled the ensuing radio silence with, “If one of your children died tomorrow, how quickly would you accept it?” I’m proud of Mark’s response.
My parents’ dog, Twixie, died. My parents got her at the beginning of my sophomore year of college, to replace me, and I have fond memories of them sneaking her into the dorms for me to meet her. It isn’t only sad that she died, but I’m also reflecting on how quickly 12ish years seemed to pass, and I’m sad about this too.
The other day we received a wedding invitation addressed to Mark, Christine, and Joel. And it felt like a freaking knife to the heart, and I was immediately angry at the senders. But then I realized that, oftentimes, once people die, they aren’t included on things like wedding invitations because they aren’t able to attend events. So I wondered if maybe I needed to cut the senders some slack. I think this might just be one of those things that will forever suck.
This week I was channel surfing and landed on The View, and, for some unknown reason, I stopped. And what was the theme of the show, you ask? None other than a giant baby shower for guest co-host Sarah Haines. And everyone in the audience was pregnant. And I was like, “OMG – Are you shitting me?” and I immediately wanted to change the channel, but I didn’t, because I’m a glutton for punishment apparently. So I watched it like it was a bad train wreck. And I’m sure some are wondering if this stuff is any easier for me now that I have Joel. It isn’t. At least not much easier. Because Matthew still died, and never will this not be devastating and traumatic for me. So I watched these 100ish women squeal with delight over free strollers with what I can only assume was massive amounts of underlying certainty of their happy outcomes, and it more than irked me, because why couldn’t I successfully have this certainty? And I also kept thinking about how, sadly, statistically, for someone in this audience it won’t end so happily.
So those who’ve been reading my blog know that phone calls from recruiters generally provide for sufficiently awkward conversations, and last week was no different. I received a call from a recruiter who knew about Matthew and also about how we were expecting Joel, and the conversation went something like this…
Recruiter – Hi, Christine! How are you?
Me – I’m doing well. We actually welcomed our second child here safely, so we’re very excited and also obviously relieved and thankful.
Recruiter – Congratulations! When was he born?
Me – July 27.
Recruiter – Oh, I thought you said you were due in August.
Me – I was, but they took him three weeks early. After losing one, they tend to take the next ones early.
Recruiter – Oh, I see. So how is the other one handling the transition?
Me – Ummmmm… You mean Mark?
Recruiter – No, I thought you said this is your second child.
Me – He is our second. But our first one died.
Recruiter – Oh. Ummmmm… Right. So I have this job opportunity I wanted to tell you about…
While there is no greater privilege than to be able to feed this living baby, breastfeeding is still proving challenging for me. One morning at like 4:00am, I sent my mom a text, “How the fuck does anyone breastfeed?!?!” Apparently other women have these thoughts too, but no one talks about them, so I had little advance warning about any of this. It feels like Joel already has more teeth than the average adult, so when Mark hands him to me, I first see this beautiful baby, but then he kind of morphs into an alligator for a few seconds, which generally makes me cry. But in the past few days, it’s gotten a little less painful, so we’ll see.
So I’m officially trying counselling again today because hell may have frozen over. A friend recommended a counsellor who claims to be one of the “most experienced in the state” in my particular issues (grief, post-partum anxiety, etc.), so I have high hopes that this could help me. Last night, in preparation for my visit, Mark advised me to jot down a list of the issues I’m struggling with, and the list is pretty long… So I hope I’m not too much for her.
We recently sent thank you notes for things people did for us after Matthew died, though there are still a few I’ve yet to send, as I need to look up current addresses. Doing this was kind of awful for me. It felt like not sending them left an “outstanding item” related to Matthew, so when these are done, it’s just one less thing I’ll be able to do for him. Also, it feels like there are a handful of people in our lives who we’ll never be able to sufficiently thank… I’m also very behind on sending thank you notes related to Joel, but I’m hoping to get these done within the next few weeks as opposed to the next year, and, in theory, this is do-able, as there aren’t devastating feelings associated with them.
Mark ordered some birth announcements for Joel, so I guess we’ll send them to those for whom we know they won’t be triggery, but part of me doesn’t want to send them at all, because we didn’t send them for Matthew. But Mark wants to feel normal for once, and I can understand this. I mean, if we never do things because we didn’t get to do them for Matthew, we won’t ever do anything. But these are tough feelings to balance.
Mark jokes that Joel might have my sometimes short-tempered personality. (I was also colicky and a VERY difficult baby.) We don’t think Joel is necessarily colicky, but he will go from being sweet and/or sleeping to screaming blooding murder in like one second. So when people advise us to look for his cues that he is hungry, it can be difficult to do this, because he seems completely content until the moment he isn’t. It’s stressful, and, especially after what we’ve been through, it makes me so sad to see/hear him so upset.
At nearly four weeks old, Joel hates his old bassinet (we traded it for a new one), diaper changes, and sponge baths. He loves eating, his swing, walks in his stroller, and mommy and daddy singing to him. We are finding having a newborn to be difficult (but certainly less difficult than grieving the loss of one). We continue to remind ourselves (and each other) that this newborn phase won’t last forever, and to take the time to step back and enjoy Joel for all of his sweetness, even in the midst of our immense sleep deprivation.