He slept so peacefully that I would wake up and shine a flashlight on his chest to make sure he was breathing.
I often found myself wondering if that was just who he was or if his lengthy NICU stay, where he adapted to nurse checks, babies crying and codes being called every so often helped him learn to sleep through anything.
Enter baby number two.
Sleep didn’t come as easily to her. We had the exact same bedtime routine, warm bath, stories, lullabies, bedtime. Yet the moment I laid her down in her comfy crib the screaming began. The crying wouldn’t stop until I would pick her up. On more than one occasion I sat on the floor beside her crib and cried, not knowing what I was doing wrong, wondering why she just wouldn’t fall asleep.
One baby would happily sit on his own in his bouncy chair checking out a toy, babbling to himself and giggling each time I played peekaboo with the curtain each time I showered. The other would crawl up my leg as I sat on the toilet because she didn’t want to be away from me even for the thirty seconds it would take me to pee.
One was perfectly at peace snuggled up beside me in bed listening to me read stories, the other couldn’t get through one book without asking 5 to 10 questions.
One was content with me doing absolutely everything for him for as long as possible, the other tried to do it all herself even before she was physically capable of doing it.
How is it that two babies born to the same parents, raised in the same house could be so very different from each other than you may question their relation?
I fed them the same homemade baby food yet only one child ended up with a milk allergy.
They each had the same sleep schedule and bedtime routine yet one child struggles with night terrors.
Maybe no matter how hard I tried to make their baby years the same, there were little inevitable differences that pushed their way into their world.
I thought, as a mother, that I had so much control over my babies’ lives. I put so much pressure on myself to get it right, thinking that if I made the wrong choice it would somehow ‘break’ my baby. Truth is, they guided me on the path we took as mother and child.
Circumstances were different, I was different the second time around and yes my second child was different.
It was nearly impossible to be the exact same mother to both children. They each had different needs.
One of my babies was bottle fed and the other was breastfed.
One had two whole years alone with our undivided attention, the other joined a family of three and shared the attention with a demanding two year old.
One baby spent the first six weeks of his life in a NICU while the other was safe in her crib beside my bed from the moment she entered this world.
Bottle fed or breast fed, co-sleeping or crying it out, whether I’m a helicopter parent or practice attachment parenting I love my kids fiercely and in the end isn’t that what matters?
Regardless of my methods, both my kids are turning into kind, smart, funny kids who constantly surprise me and continue to make me proud every single day.
While I worry less about what I could be doing wrong I learn to recognize all that I am doing right and I start to cruise through this motherhood journey at a much more relaxing pace.
I had such wonderful plans. Museums, bowling, movies, swimming, skating, you name it - we were going to do it together. It was March Break, and I had taken the whole week off just to have fun! I wasn’t going to worry about deadlines or commitments or anything but fun with the kids.
That was the plan... until the flu took me out.
It knocked me out hard. Fevers, chills, aches. I could barely walk up the stairs without needing to lay down.
I kept trying to convince myself that maybe some Neo Citran and a good night sleep would make it all better, and I would wake up ready to go. But this bug wasn't one that I could just shake off and keep going. This one was forcing me to slow down.
On day two of the flu, I was so sick that I knew the only option was my bed. Since my husband had to take our new puppy to puppy class, I asked my kids to gather some books and come lay with me. They read their books quietly beside me as I slept. As I came in and out of consciousness, I could feel their hands on my head trying to determine if I had a fever. I heard the whispers “Mummy is sweltering” and “I’ll get the thermometer.” I felt the thermometer slide under my tongue and heard the confusion in my daughter’s voice as she read the results, having no idea if 102 was a good thing or a bad thing.
In my feverish haze, I came to the bittersweet acceptance that I no longer have babies.
My kids are slowly walking down the path towards independence and are completely capable of doing so many things - not only for themselves, but also for others.
It was a liberating feeling.
Getting sick with babies can be a terrible, difficult, and sometimes terrifying experience.
Babies don’t understand that my body aches or that my head is pounding. They don’t care about fevers or vomiting. They still need to be rocked to sleep and expect someone to come when they cry in the night. No one else can take over nursing and diaper changes aren’t something that can wait.
Sometimes with little ones you have no choice but to dig deep and drag yourself up and out of bed and keep going.
Relief washed over me when I realized that those days are over for me. I'm officially in a stage where I can get sick, and it's not all going to come crashing down on me. I can get sick, and my kids understand.
My kids can spend a few hours entertaining themselves while I sweat out the fever in bed. They have enough compassion to understand that Mummy is not well, so they stay calm and quiet, checking in on me every now and then. They have enough kindness in them to bring me a drink from the kitchen because "I need plenty of fluids."
I felt so proud and my heart swelled, even through the chills, knowing that my kids were growing into kind, caring, and helpful people.
As your kids exit babyhood and enter childhood, things change. Some problems become bigger and more complex, but some things become a little bit easier. Getting sick when you’re a parent is definitely a challenge, but there comes a time when your children give you permission to turn off, and man does that feel good.
As I lay in bed with a cool washcloth placed strategically over my forehead by my daughter, the guilt started to creep in. The guilt of not being able to spend the quality time I had been hoping for during our vacation. When my husband came home and took over bedtime, leaving me to sleep off the fever and chills, I realized that my kids were happy to be spending any time with me, even if that was just lying in bed reading on their own.
As long as we were together that’s all that mattered.