When Arlowe first came home form the hospital, Ryan was home, so managing two kids, one who slept most of the day, was fairly doable. Caches was feeling things out and I was slowly learning how to balance the needs of two tiny people. Cache would want me to put Arlowe down and hold him and I would. Arlowe would need to nurse and Ryan would take Caches out to do something fun or play in the other room. It was going fairly well, but I knew that it wouldn't always be like this.
At some point the reality of it all was going to hit him. Was going to hit me! There was going to come a time when I couldn't hold him, couldn't put him to bed, couldn't do what he wanted me to do, and it was going to be because of her, and it was going to suck. And it did.
He would have minor meltdowns shouting at me to put her down or telling me that he wanted me to hold only him. I would accommodate to the best of my ability, but almost always to a fault, all the while knowing that I should probably step back a bit and let him experience his upset. Sometimes this meant I was carrying both babies, standing up at Caches' request, thankyouverymuch, for extended periods of time while in pain, or nursing Arlowe with my left and holding Cache with my right. It was both a special time of connecting with both of my children and a time of intense mixed emotions for me.
I went through intense feelings of guilt, it was as if my very soul was being drawn and quartered. I wanted Arlowe to just sleep by herself or be quiet so I could spend time with Caches. I wanted Caches to leave me alone so I could bond and spend time with Arlowe. And perhaps most of all, I wanted them both to give me just one second all ALONE! Keeping it together emotionally was extremely challenging for me those first few weeks when we were all transitioning into a new normal.
I made a point during quiet moments to talk to Caches about how hard it must be to have a sister and how it was okay for him to be upset about it. I still do this in fact as it is still hard for him and I imagine it always will be. I want him to feel comfortable expressing his dislike of this new situation, I want him to feel validated, but most importantly I need him to know that he is still loved, he is still just as important as he was before Arlowe was born. She isn't a new baby coming to replace him, she is another baby coming to enrich all of our lives.
Yeah, easier said than done with an almost three year old. The first week passed in a blur or soreness and newness, and the second week saw Ryan returning to work and our journey as a trio begin. The most difficult times, as predicted, were when I needed to be holding Arlowe, she was crying or eating, and Caches also needed to be held or needed my attention. Sometimes it was easy, I'd offer for him to sit next to me and hold my arm and that would satisfy him, but other times where was nothing I could have done to make it right. And I didn't want to. Okay, that's actually a lie. I wanted nothing more than to make him "okay." I would have bought him a fucking pony that shit cake pops and let him eat ice cream for breakfast and never sleep again if it made everything okay again, but that's not what he needed. He needed to let out his feelings of anger, sadness and overwhelming change. He needed an emotional release and it was going to happen pony or not.
Caches was taking a nap, back when he used to nap, and Arlowe was overtired and struggling to fall asleep herself. I could feel my anxiety rising as each minute passed; he'd be waking up soon. I can't be holding her when he wakes up. He will freak! Of course Arlowe settled into sleep just as I heard him waking up on the monitor. I knew if I put her down she would wake up screaming so I took a deep breath, played cool, and carried her into his room. His blurry eyes looked up at me and saw her asleep on my chest, in his spot. "Hold me, mama. Hold only me." I knew it was coming. I wanted to pick him up, I wanted to hold only him, but I didn't, I couldn't. I had to hold firm on this boundary, he needed to feel his feelings, and I needed to allow him. I took a deep breath, "I can't hold only you right now, I'm..." And before I could even finish my sentence he collapsed into a screaming pile of emotion. Caches has never been one to hold back and this was no exception. He was feeling ALL the feelings.
Breathe Anne, breathe...
I told him that I would be happy to sit in the chair and hold him with Arlowe but I wasn't going to put her down. This was met exactly as I imagined, poorly. He began to scream and yell at me, demanding that I put her down. Begging me to hold only him. I had to sit down. I sat in the glider and tried to remain calm. He needed me to be calm. I sat by his side and focused solely on breathing and empathy. I watched his sweet face turn red with range and tears run down his cheeks as he reached up for me, waiting nothing more than for my arms to hold him as they always had before, without question. I sat there quietly as my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. I wondered if it would ever be whole again.
Amazingly enough, Arlowe was still sound asleep as he continued to sob and scream. He was grabbing at my body and trying to get me to put her down. I held firm that he could sit with us but I wasn't going to put her down. He tried to stop crying and through tears and a sniffled voice asked sweetly if I'd please hold only him, please mommy, please he begged! When I wouldn't, he pounded his fists into the bed, he squeezed his legs and screamed the kind of primal scream that only toddlers seem capable of. I sat still and quiet only speaking to remind him that he was loved and that I knew this was so hard for him. He stood up and with everything he had left he tried once more to change my mind; and then he stopped. Like a deafening hail pounding a tin roof and then giving way to bright sun, it was over.
His voice was still shaking and his body trembling with adrenaline, but I could tell he was relieved. He walked over to me and with a tear soaked face asked to sit with us on the chair. Without saying a word I picked him up, kissed his salty face and tucked his body into mine as close as I could. " I love you, Caches. I love you always." "Look mama!" he exclaimed, "You can hold both of us." And just like that my heart mended together again. I can hold both of you!
I remember looking at the clock when he first woke up and noting the time. I walked out of his bedroom holding two babies thirty eight minutes later. Thirty eight minutes of unrelenting screaming, of raw emotion, of cleansing tears and of personal growth and acceptance. Thirty eight of the most gut wrenching minutes of my life. I wish I could say that it only happened this one time, but it didn't. He had a few more of these emotional releases, though none as intense as the first one. And I must say, as difficult as it was for me to watch and as difficult as I'm sure it was for him, I bet it felt SO good to get all those yucky feelings out.
For the most part things have settled way down and we are getting into a routine. It actually does feel like a new normal which is amazing considering there was a time that I thought I'd surely drown in this sea of change. Caches will still occasionally tell me that he wants Arlowe to go somewhere else or to get the car and drive away from us or to go back in my belly. He still asks that I hold only him sometimes, and he still gets frustrated that he has to share mama, or daddy or the dog or the window HE IS LOOKING OUT OF, but I wouldn't expect anything else!
The addition of a sibling is the most traumatic thing he has yet to experience. He loves her, I know he does, but he also wants her to go away and for things to be the way they used to be. I get it. I really, really get it. I can't imagine I'd be all that thrilled if Ryan brought home a new wife and was all, get over it, don't be sad, don't you want to give her a hug. The bond of siblings is a journey that cannot be willed by their parents. Sure, I am here to facilitate their bond, but I can't do it for them. Heads are going to butt, hands are going to hit, ears are going to be pierced with screaming; and I'm looking forward to it, honestly. I am so lucky to get to watch these two grow closer, and further, and then closer again each and every day. In the process though, oh, my heart <3