Field notes

* In one of our first days home from the hospital, when Neve was getting a little fussy, I placed her on my chest, and she stopped crying for a minute or two, her eyes wide open. I wondered if she was hearing my heartbeat, and if, to her, that sound was home – the only place she’d known before this. There was a look of longing on her face as she blinked, and all I could think to say was, “I know it’s a big change, baby girl. But I think you’ll get to like it out here.”

* While I’m sure part of it has to do with having past experience going for us – and while I’m also sure some challenging times lie ahead – I must admit that so far, this home-with-a-new-baby experience has been about a billion times easier the second time around.

Now more than 2 weeks old, Neve is thus far a sleepy, laid back baby. She sleeps well and quickly between nighttime feedings, which are reasonably spaced out, and she has never yet fussed inconsolably for longer than a few minutes. (Swaddling, feeding her, or finishing the diaper change seem to be the answer in every situation presented so far.)

And despite my paranoia – or maybe partly because we did everything we could to prepare Lily for the change a sibling would bring – Lily is generally handling the whole thing like a champ. She’s maintained her routine, going to pre-school on weekdays; she loves holding Neve and giving her kisses; and while I’m repeatedly having to admonish her to GENTLY hug Neve, and GENTLY rock her in the swing, and GENTLY play with her fingers and toes – I’m struggling to bodily protect Neve while not completely dousing Lily’s enthusiasm about her – I’m thrilled that Lily’s so tuned in to her new sister, and seems not at all threatened at the start. Again, I’m sure there will be more challenging times ahead – but it’s sure nice to have a smooth, dare-I-say “easy” transition after a bat-crazy delivery.

* One of the hard things about the recent transition from one kiddo to two was that, at least in these early weeks, I’ve had to sit out on fun excursions with Lily – that is, the day after I came home from the hospital, when I could barely walk around the block because of pain, Joe took Lily to the zoo (and she’s a blast to take to the zoo these days); and this past weekend, Joe took Lily to meet up with her best friend and cousin (who became a big sister one day after Lily did) Abby and her Uncle Chris to see the new Winnie the Pooh movie. I’ve always been a sucker for seeing movies on the big screen, and since Pooh was an early love of mine in childhood, I enjoy sharing stories and videos about the character with Lily. So I was sorry to miss out on both these excursions, and I missed watching Lily respond and react to everything. These are some of the most rewarding moments of parenting at this point, so losing them, even temporarily, is kind of a bummer. Of course, it’s more important that Lily’s having a good time while in the midst of all this change; and Joe aimed to give me a bit of a break (which he did) by taking these trips on. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t a bit sad. Ah, well. Hopefully, when we get Neve trained with bottle-feeding in the near future, I’ll be able to do some one-on-one activities with Lily. I miss having the time with my bug.

* You can never predict, on a given day, what’s going to freak a kid out and what won’t. A few weeks ago, Lily was playing in our backyard, around some flowers, when she suddenly backed away and started screaming as if she’d just been stabbed. I ran out to find out what happened, and Joe ended his phone call, but Lily was too hysterical to communicate anything clearly, so we led her inside the back porch.

Turns out she’d been stung by something. At first, given her reaction, I wondered if a bee had gotten her, and if we were about to find out if she was allergic; but when the bite all but disappeared the following day, it seemed a mosquito was the likely culprit. To Lily, though, no matter what it was, the event represented a terrible violation – one that I feared would keep her fearfully indoors for the remainder of the summer. (She was REALLY freaked out, saying she wanted medicine and a band-aid. We offered the latter, though Joe and I could spot nothing much on her arm in that moment).

But the thing that’s both maddening and wonderful about three year old is how easily distracted they are. She still wept and dramatically played up her injury the following day, but then she went to play outside without a second thought. Boo-yah!

Then there are things that you, as a parent, think will freak a child out – because it freaks YOU out – but instead, the thing rolls off the child’s back like a complete non-event.

This occurred when we went to Camp Michigania in mid-June for a pre-baby vacation. The camp is located near Petoskey, so it’s about a 4 1/2 hour drive. Last year, on our inaugural trip there, Lily got car-sick with about 45 minutes to go. It was horrible. I was in the back seat with her, and I just started saying, “Oh, no. Oh, God,” instead of “Joe, pull over. Lily’s sick.” But eventually, the message was sent, and we found ourselves on a residential dirt road next to a golf course. We cleaned her seat off with a load of wipes; stood with her behind the car and changed her clothes, trying not to get puke in her hair as she whimpered quietly; and then faced the awful task of putting her back in the seat, and distracting her somehow (with a sticker book, bought for the trip, as it turned out), until we got to the camp. I thought I couldn’t bear it, let alone her.

But this year, we weren’t behind schedule, like we had been the year before, so Joe hadn’t been pushing his speed on the twisty, northern Michigan roads; he had a new, more spacious car that allowed her to watch DVDs; and she was a year older. So I thought, “Maybe we’ll be in the clear this year.”

And indeed, I was feeling pretty good about all this when we were a mere mile or two from the camp. But then, I looked at Lily and she looked strangely despondent, and then cupped her hand to her mouth – a gesture I’d never, ever seen her make before. And sure enough, she started throwing up.

Now, let me just confess that pretty much nothing freaks ME out like this particular thing. Whether I’m the one involved, or I’m hearing someone else in a bathroom stall, or smelling it – whatever, I’m less than great in this particular kind of mini-crisis. So once again, I vaguely indicate to Joe that something is wrong, he pulls over, and we go through the whole routine again – one cleans the seat, one cleans up Lily.

I did the latter, my hands shaking as I pulled her clothes off her body and told her it’s OK. “What are you doing?” Lily asked me, as if she had no memory or understanding of what just happened.

“We’re changing your clothes, sweetie,” I said.

“Why?”

Huh? Is this simply selective memory at work? Or did she, in a sense, black out while this moment, which probably only lasted about 45 seconds, occurred?

“Well, because you got a little sick, so we want to clean you up and get some different clothes on you. How about this sundress?”

“Why?”

Still shaking, I realize there’s nothing to be gained by pounding home the point, when she seemed beyond it already. I was the one reeling from it, not her.

So although the car smelled less than inviting, we rolled the windows down a few inches for the last few minutes of the trip (thank God we were so close this time), and Lily seemed her happy little self. When we got her out of her car seat in order to go in and register, she ran in, giggling and flirting with strangers as she normally would.

Looking at the two of us in that moment, if you’d had to guess who had just been carsick, you would have said, in a heartbeat, that it had been me. But I guess this is part of what it means to be a parent. Sometimes, when something happens to your child, you feel it tenfold.

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One thought on “Field notes

  1. Erik Kuszynski says:

    I hate it when kids throw up. It’s not so much the chore of cleaning up, but the fact that you’re always taken by surprise when they do. Unfortunately they have to have the experience of throwing up several times before they know what it feels like to be nauseous and can give you enough advance warning to get a bucket or get to the bathroom.
    Remember the look that on your child’s face just before she vomited? That’s the only warning you get. Unfortunately it comes only 10 seconds before the mess, so good luck!

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