I find myself, with about eight weeks left of this pregnancy, suddenly terrified of having a newborn again. This happens with each consecutive child. I cycle from excited, to thinking we must be crazy, to content, to excited, to terrified, to content, to excited, to OMG WHAT WERE WE THINKING?, then back to excited, then content, then terrified.
Part of it is our kids are spaced just-so, that we finally are at a point where sleep is basically working, routines are basically established, everybody's got some level of independence, and I feel like I'm in the groove, and then we throw another newborn into the mix and everything gets thrown out of whack again. And this being my fourth time through the ringer, well, I kind of do know what to expect.
In some ways, knowing what to expect is comforting. I know what to do with a newborn. I know phases start and phases end. I have almost seven years of watching kids grow up under my belt and have been through sleeplessness and teething and illness and firsts and potty training and nightmares and picky eating and tantrums and I know that "this, too, shall pass" is an absolute mantra of parenting. I know I can stick it out for a little longer until one problem ends as suddenly as another begins. I can pass along the sage wisdom of, "Just when you think you have it all figured out, they change it up on you again," and I can remember it for myself. I know that "do what works," "wait it out," and "give it another couple weeks" are absolute truths. I know that every kid is different, that every baby needs love, and that I have the strength and capacity to make it through this hour, this day, this week.
But in other ways, knowing what to expect is terrifying! I know about the sleepless nights, the crying for no reason (both me and the baby!), the stress of feeding issues and poo-splosions. I know about the pain of recovering from childbirth. I've experienced the complexities of balancing the needs of the older kids and the baby, and the sheer exhaustion of new parenthood. (And it's still new, even when it's for the fourth time.) I know about the disruption of routine, the randomness of life with a newborn, and the stress of evening fussiness. I know that sleepless nights and teething woes are once again on the horizon.
I find I do have a longer view than I used to. I'm already thinking about next fall, when my second will start kindergarten, my third will be three, and the new one, who is right know kicking and dancing within me, will be almost one. Because I can envision that, when it used to seem impossible that my kids would ever grow up, grow bigger, start school. It used to feel like toddlerhood was forever, that I'd be always wiping butts and noses (not simultaneously), cutting up food into tiny pieces, and washing sippy cups. Now I see that it is not. That life will change. That one day my days will be my own (except for school breaks and sickness), that my kids will be helpful in stores, that I won't have car seats to buckle or diapers to change, that I won't have to supervise trips to the bathroom, that as suddenly as life changes when you give birth, life gradually evolves again as that baby becomes a little person who walks and talks and has opinions all his own.
So, I'm terrified of the short term, of what I know is coming in the next few months and years. But I'm excited, too, about the long term, of watching another bright soul come into his own, of seeing our once-little family become huge and full of life and noise and warmth and love.
To those of you out there with one little one, or two little ones, who see life at knee-height, whose days are full of poop and whose nights are empty of sleep: give it a few weeks, months, a year. Life will expand. Your kids will grow. You will grow. You have the strength to make it through this hour, this day, this month. And while you may not look back fondly on every tantrum (yours or theirs), you'll look back and know that the weeks are shorter than they seem and that the months go by faster than you could ever have imagined.
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