Thursday, August 19, 2010

Middle Child

So bedrest. Not an experience that grows sweeter for being repeated, that's for sure. With Addy, it was practically a vacation, boredom and back pain aside. And the fact that I was DYING from all the supressed nesting urges to scrub baseboards and refold baby clothes. With Eli, it was decidedly worse, requiring someone else to constantly be here to care for Addy. Addy, my nearly two year old who was quite thrown by her mother being suddenly incapacitated and didn't understand at all that a new baby was on the way. There was also that TEENSY issue of my getting an inner ear infection which manifested itself in the form of severe vertigo to the point of vomiting every time I had to move. There was a lot of crying and feeling of despair going on in those five weeks.

And this time its... Well, I'm not vomiting, so there's that. And at least both the kids understand about the upcoming baby, so they kinda-sorta understand why I have to suddenly live on the couch. We've attempted explanation a couple of times- the understanding Addy seems to have is that I'm laying down so that the baby doesn't literally fall out of me. Which I suppose in a general sense is exactly right. But saying that they understand in a mental way what's going on and saying that they ACCEPT what's going on are two very different statements, aren't they?

Addy vaccilates between being extremely solicitious and helpful, running around cleaning to the point of obsessive-compulsiveness (more on that later) and being kind of hostile towards me, though never outright. It's just a passive-aggressive vibe, things like ignoring me even when I've called her name five times and she's two feet away, or refusing to look at me when I'm trying to talk to her in a Serious Tone about behavior issues. Mostly I think she's ok, though, or will be ok as soon as I'm up and around again. I really think half of it is just that she is so tired of waiting for the baby to come, and subconsciously suspects that I'm keeping him hostage in my belly or something. She nods along when we explain that he isn't big enough to come out just yet, but it doesn't stop her from complaining daily, "It takes such a long TIME for babies!" and then glaring at me accusingly.

It's Eli I'm a little worried about. He was doing so well about tantrumming for awhile there. We've seen a drastic improvement in his verbal skills from age two to now, and subsequently a drastic reduction in the frequency and severity of his little screaming fits. But literally since the day things kind of fell apart in the doctor's office, he has been screaming and throwing himself on the floor about every little thing that disappoints or frustrates him. He also keeps wanting to sleep in the crib, to take naps (something he'd given up months ago,) to pretend he's a baby, and other very obvious signals of insecurity about losing his status as the family baby. He's always crawling up onto me to suck his thumb and cuddle, and I try my best to accomodate him while protecting my belly from his jabbing knees and elbows. I'll stroke his hair and whisper, "Are you my Eli boy?" Usually he would nod happily and say yes, but the past week he always shakes his head solemnly and corrects, "No, I your BABY."

I'm trying really hard to maintain perspective and to believe that all of us will come out of the next few weeks ultimately unscathed. To know that children are amazingly resilient and to remind myself that at least I'm still here with them, even if I can't take care of them right now. But it just keeps killing me, every time he says it. I'm getting all teary now, writing about it, even though he is currently fine and running around with his dad and sister. I feel like I am grieving for him, because the fact that he understands about a new baby was initially great and exciting and sweet. And now it's just kind of excruciating to watch. I feel like we're about to break his heart, just a little, and there's nothing I can do about it.


Fran said...

One of the things I said repeatedly to my soon-to-be middle child before our youngest was born was, "You aren't A baby, but you'll always be MY baby." He even told other people that when his sister was born. It's an adjustment that will never be the same from one family to the next but it will happen, I promise! In the meantime, keep Jameson (that's the name right?) cooking for as long as possible and look forward to the moment that all the bad stuff melts away as they place him in your arms for the first time :)

Marie Green said...

Well, man, this is a sucky season for your family, that's for sure. I totally understand what you mean about breaking your kid's heart and not being able to do it. I think there are several things that do this: sending them off to Kindergarten sometimes makes a child feel rejected by Mama, or holding them down for a shot while they look at you- scared and betrayed... that kind of thing. It's just so hard not to protect our kids 100% of the time from the realities of the world...

I think the wonderful thing about the human brain is that a few days/weeks after baby arrives, NONE of you will remember life without him, not really. There will be an adjustment period, sure, but when realities change, they simply... change, ya know?

Hang in there, chica... this season, too, will pass.... And then SQUEEEEEEE baby!!!!!!

Hillary said...

ah, poor little guy. Poor Momma, too.
I really struggled the day The Lad arrived with leaving The Boy. I didn't expect to, but then it came down to it and I ... didn't want to go. Didn't want the baby out. Felt guilty about changing my kiddo's life. It is a happy time and a good thing, but there is some loss there, too.

Jana said...

Oh, I'm so sorry for all the drama in your life right now. :( I'm sure it seems like time is just creeping by, but it will go faster than you think.

My middle child had his moments, too. Of course, he was younger (18 months) and his "moments" were less verbal than Eli's (hitting me - that was loads of fun). It was a rough few weeks, but it eventually ended and now he and his little brother are the best of friends. At almost age four, he thinks it's funny when I scoop him up, call him my baby and rock him back and forth while singing lullabies. I'm hoping it makes him think that he wasn't replaced, but still loved just as much as before he became a big brother.

Jess said...

I love what Marie Green says, how all four of you won't be able to remember life without this baby once he arrives. And, I think this kind of regression/clinging to baby status is pretty common once a new sibling comes along, so maybe it's for the best that he's getting it out of his system now before the baby is actually born? And yes, maybe in some ways you are kind of temporarily breaking his heart, but he's also getting a brother out of the deal and that is more than worth the trade-off.

Still, this part sounds tough. Good luck! You WILL get through it, all of you, really.

Saly said...

Oh Sarah….Sarah…. The transition for Lucy from baby to middle child was hard. Much harder than when Bud was 19-months old and there was this new baby Lucy. Lucy was 2 weeks away from turning 3 when Liv was born, and it would be putting it mildly to say she was pissed. She had some animosity for Liv when we brought her home for the first few months, but it disappeared fairly quickly. She has some times now where she asks me why I don’t speak to her in the soft tones I use with Liv, now 2, but mostly, the transition was over after a couple of months. It will be better, I promise. I know exactly what you are going through though and it is tough, no doubt.

d e v a n said...

Ah, it's hard for the baby to adjust. :( He will though, and I know you know that already but it might help to hear it anyway. He will adjust as you all will. I do hope the adjustment period is fast and mostly painless!

Katy said...

You know, I GET that this is really hard thing for a mother. My MIL, who has two lovely, well-adjusted sons who both adore her still, to this day, gets downright weepy about the transition from one child to two. Apparently my husband (the elder) regressed some and she is STILL beating herself up about it.

In the grand scheme of things, you are giving Eli a brother and he will cherish that brother long after he's completely forgotten the "trauma" of being displaced by a new baby.

Jen @ Rolling Through Looneyville said...

Girl, you are a rock star. I'd be climbing the walls. Or I'd be mean. You may be cranky about it, (referencing your latest post's self-declaration... I'm not calling you cranky!) But you're a sport!

My middle child was thrust rudely out of her "Baby" roll into "Middle Child" at 15 months on the nose. She is making up for lost time. Tantrums out the ears, etc.

The best time for Eli might actually be when the baby comes... because when they're new? You can either wear them and have your hands free for fun with the other kiddos, or they sleep all the time and you're able to be snuggly Mama again. He'll adjust. I know you know that... and I know it's hard. I have cried every pregnancy for how insanely screwed up I thik I'm making my older kids. (And no one's in therapy yet! Well-adjusted for the WIN!)

Thoughts and prayers for you!