Owen is one tomorrow. Nearing 30lbs, almost a 2T, a mouthful of teeth, walking, dancing, growling, gasping and groaning like an old man, pounding his fists in the air and straining like a body builder when he’s mad or happy, and giving lamprey-esque kisses open mouth on everyone and everything.
He started out in the world sounding like Godzilla and now sounds like a cross between a traumatized primate and an overly amorous Italian lover. Trouble imagining it or believing me? I have trouble hearing it on so little sleep so I have even less energy to argue with you, so just take my word for it, he’s loud and expressive.
We’re used to neighbors stopping by to see our chickens but I noticed that some of the neighborhood college kids giggle when they walk by during Owen’s morning nap. Or, should I say, during the time I’m trying to get him to sleep. I only noticed because Jamie was at home one morning with the kids and as I returned from the doctor I happened upon a cluster of students standing near our house chuckling. At first I thought it must be normal college student bullshit but they looked guilty and scattered as I walked up our front steps. Then I heard it as well. Owen.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, YEAH!” And repeat. His loud chant that he sings to help himself fall asleep that sounds not all that unlike a pow-wow and looks like it as well when we have to dance him to sleep. The only time he’s quiet is when he’s fully asleep from nursing. Then he’s a serene cherub of chubby cheeked baby.
It’s in these peaceful moments that I reflect on this past year with him. The guilt I feel for not doing more structured activities with him like I did for Nora or maintaining a play group for him. Between the constant illnesses, sleep deprivation, the madness of juggling the two of them, being cooped up because of all of that…my depression returned and I’ve been struggling and learning more this second time around than I ever anticipated.
Pulling yourself out of a depressive state, or people expecting you to pull yourself out of it, is like someone asking you to dance when they clearly see your feet are stuck in tar. They don’t know how it feels, they see the problem, they might want to help, but they don’t know what to do. Frustration all around from anyone involved and the overwhelming urge to run away. No one wants to be around someone depressed, even yourself.
I thought that I knew how to handle these feelings from my first bout of postpartum depression but I underestimated the severity of the sleep deprivation with having a second child and the specific new set of demands that would accompany his arrival. Naps not coinciding with each other but screaming and crying do. Both kids poop at the same time but don’t run in the same direction. Everyone talks at the same time so no one seems to listen unless I cuss on accident. Everyone hears that…and repeats it, at the grocery store…and the pediatrician.
Simply put, I had my ass handed to me. My parenting prowess was severely challenged and put to shame. PBS saved my sanity many times over and our stroller gathered dust. I had to accept a new reality and alter my expectations for myself and our life. This meant caring less about other’s perception of me and focusing on surviving the day with as little crying as possible from everyone. Less photo opportunities and more snacks, more mess, more snuggles on the couch, lots of vitamins and using myself as a human tissue, feeling less guilt and trying to find joy. Most importantly, caring more about what matters and not giving a #!$% about what doesn’t.
These past twelve months have been a roller-coaster but a ride that I would not undo or forget. All the challenges and heartache brought together a sister and a brother, taught us all life lessons (mostly about baby proofing and poop), and gave us immense joy. To quote the movie “Parenthood”, “Some people prefer the merry-go-round…but it just goes round and round…I prefer the roller-coaster.” Owen, my love, you are that and more our giggly, growly, passionate boy. Happy birthday and Groundhog Day, please don’t see your shadow and try to eat it…again.
And Nora, you are the best big sister, ever, your father and I are always proud of you and love you both. Thank you so many times over for being generous, patient, gentle, and kind with a brother who admires and adores you even if he shows it by drooling, pulling hair, chewing, and screaching. His love is rough, loud, hilarious, and sweet. We’re so thankful you’ll have each other in this life and soon in your room together…yeah, about that…