As I sat down to start writing this, I immediately began crying. Not a word on the screen and I sobbed, my mind racing trying to decide how to start this post. I've thought about writing this post for months now, but haven't been able to find the words. And maybe the courage too. I love sharing our experiences and documenting life through my blog, but I've never been quite this real. So please be kind.
When I was pregnant with Phayre, not a day went by that I didn't worry. I worried that I couldn't love her the way I loved Sloan. Could your heart really grow enough to love two children that much? How would getting a sibling effect Sloan? Would she be starved for attention? Would she be a good big sister or was she just too young? Could I really be the mother I wanted to be to two little girls? Was I capable? When I had been pregnant with Sloan, I loved her from the moment I found out I was pregnant. I just didn't feel that way with my second pregnancy. I loved Phayre and couldn't wait to meet her, but the love just didn't compare to the love I felt for Sloan. I worried. All. The. Time.
As I prepared for Phayre's birth, I made sure that every to-do item was checked off my list. I had care for Sloan lined up. I packed her "big sister" gifts that Phayre would give to her. I even packed her outfits (which included bows) in ziplock bags so that she would be dressed properly while I was in the hospital. I typed out a huge schedule so that Sloan's day would be as normal as possible. I wrote down what foods she liked and didn't like, how to comfort her... you name it, I wrote it down. Hashtag control freak.
As I labored in the hospital, I got to FaceTime Sloan and I cried so hard. I missed her. I felt like I was cheating on her somehow by being away. I know that sounds dramatic, but I really did feel that way. Eric and my nurses kept saying, "Phayre needs you now, you need to focus on Phayre right now!" It was the first time I felt torn between my children.
Phayre made a swift entrance into the world and the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew she was mine forever. She reached up and wrapped her hand around my finger and I wept because I was so relieved that I loved her so much. It was love at first sight. I always wonder if other mothers have experienced that with their first and second children. I loved Sloan before I ever met her, but I also didn't really know what that love would be like. I didn't love Phayre deeply until I met her, but the love immediately felt the same. After Eric and I oohed and awed over her I said, "I can't wait for Sloan to meet her baby sister!"
Eric called to have Sloan brought to the hospital and we couldn't get a hold of anyone. He called a few times and I started PANICKING. While I don't feel comfortable telling the whole story, I will say that eventually Sloan was brought to us. It was much later than I would have liked and she was not in a situation which made her comfortable. She ran into the room and cried into me for more than 30 minutes before she even noticed Phayre. It wasn't anyones fault, but I felt so much anger because Sloan was scared and I couldn't be there for her. Eventually Sloan calmed down and was over the moon excited when we finally got to introduce Phayre to her. She spent a few hours in the hospital with us and then we decided that it would be best if Eric took Sloan home while I stay in the hospital with Phayre. Eric and I both cried because we felt like these incredibly special moments between us and Phayre were being stolen. We knew that we had to do what was right for both of our girls though and they both needed us.
After Eric left with Sloan, I cried uncontrollably. I had this sweet, brand new, perfect baby in my arms and I felt so much sadness. I wanted to take scared or sad memories away from Sloan and I wanted to be snuggling my brand new baby with my husband. I wanted my family to be together. One of my best friends (who lives more than two hours away) called me and I cried to her about sad I was and how none of this was in my plan. She hopped in the car and sped down I5 to get to me. She arrived late at night and let me cry into her for as long as I needed to. It wasn't at all a part of my plan, but I am eternally grateful for her. I was sad, but I was no longer alone.
Eric and Sloan were back at the hospital early the next morning which brought me great relief. We begged and pleaded to be released as we were anxious to get home as a family of four and put our hospital stay behind us. Luckily I had a super easy labor and delivery so they let us go home before Phayre was even 24 hours old.
Fast forward a few weeks. We were settling in as a family of four and if I could use one word to describe our lives it would be
I drug myself out of bed, packed a bag for Phayre and I and flew to California to say goodbye to my grandpa. I cried the entire plane ride, like big, loud, ugly cries because once again I was away from Sloan (and I was in a lot of pain still). We couldn't afford three plane tickets so Eric and I agreed that Phayre and I would just go for a quick 24 hour trip. I am so thankful I was able to say goodbye to my grandpa (he passed away hours after I got there), but that trip really was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was very confusing celebrating a new life while mourning the loss of someone I loved so much.
When I got home, I was exhausted and sick and I broke down. I remember sitting on my bathroom floor crying so hard that I could barely speak. I cried because I felt like I had turned our lives upside down and because I was pretty certain I had ruined Sloan's life. I had hardly spent any time with her because I had been so sick and exhausted. I remember saying, "I love Phayre so much and I don't regret her, but I miss my old life." Eric let me cry into him and promised me that things would get better. The amount of guilt I have carried with me because I spoke those words is unmeasurable. I have hated myself, truly hated myself for feeling that way. I began sneaking into Sloan's room in the middle of the night to cuddle with her. I would hold her so tight and cry into her because I felt so much guilt and because I missed her (and our one on one time) so deeply. I felt so broken.
When Phayre was four weeks old we took her into the pediatrician, desperate for help. She woke up every single hour at night to nurse, which meant I was getting no more than 20-30 minute gaps of sleep at night. And she just screamed constantly. Our doctor told us that she might have a sensitive tummy and put me on a very strict diet in hopes that it would help with the constant screaming (no dairy, soy, or caffeine). I immediately changed my diet and hoped and prayed that it was the answer. Phayre continued to scream and I fell into a deeper uncaffeinated funk.
We went back to the pediatrician a few times and nothing seemed to help. Everyone had an opinion, most people telling us she must just be colicky. When Phayre was eight weeks old, Eric had to go on a week long business trip in Florida. I was TERRIFIED to be alone for that long with my children. The week was hell. I was so tired and overwhelmed. I went back to the pediatrician begging her to please make my baby stop screaming. She listened to Phayre cry and scream for awhile and said, "I think I hear her coughing while she's screaming." She said she could have acid reflux and wrote P a prescription for reflux meds. I raced to the pharmacy and gave Phayre her first dose while we were still in the store.
Within two days, my baby stopped screaming. And began sleeping.
And before I knew it, I bonded with my sweet daughter. It was so much later than I would have ever wanted and I felt so guilty for that, but it finally happened. I fell completely and hopelessly in love with Phayre.
Phayre had severe acid reflux that went undiagnosed for almost two months. She was in pain and I thought she was just the worlds worst newborn. So I piled on more guilt. I had been failing her from the start and felt like I could never be good enough to deserve her.
It turns out, when Phayre is not in pain she is the worlds easiest and happiest baby. Ever since we started her reflux meds she has truly been the sweetest baby. Ever. I'm not joking either. I have never seen a more easygoing baby than Phayre. We had an incredibly rough start, but we have been rewarded handsomely with a baby who is always happy and is an amazing sleeper.
I have carried enormous amounts of guilt with me for months because of the way things went down during Phayre's first two months of life. I also feel jipped. I want to go back in time and do everything over. I want to make memories with Eric and Phayre in the hospital. I want to sit and stare at Phayre sleeping as a teeny tiny baby (which I never ever got to do because she only slept in the wrap on me). I want to cherish every single moment instead of crying about how damn hard life was. Unfortunately, I can't go back in time. I'll never get those first two months back, but when I think about how life has been since then, I am filled with such happiness.
I have been a good mother to Sloan and Phayre. I have put their needs before my own and I have worked so hard to create a good life for them. I have shared incredible memories with them and done my best to document those memories so that they'll have them forever. I have loved my girls so freaking hard. Eric and I both have. Those two sweet girls are our everything.
I never thought that I could love Phayre the way that I love Sloan, but I do. I give them every ounce of myself every single day and I go to be at night feeling exhausted and so incredibly fulfilled. I am finally letting go of my guilt. We had a rough start, but he have made the most of life ever since. Phayre is happy and healthy and so so well loved. I share this because motherhood is hard and because I cannot imagine I am the first mother who has ever had a hard time transitioning from one to two kids. It is a hard transition!! It's amazing and wonderful, but dammit it's hard!
Mostly though, I am freeing myself of the guilt I have been holding onto for much too long. As mothers, we hoard guilt and forget that we indeed are human. Just because we become mothers doesn't mean that we'll always do the right thing and never make a mistake again. We're learning, right alongside our children! While I can't say I'm living without any regrets, I am living without guilt. My best may not have always been good enough, but I have ALWAYS done my best. That's all I can do. That's all any of us can do.
It was not the love story I ever ever imagined, but it's ours. A different kind of love story.
I love you my sweet Phayre Golda Brown and I will spend the rest of my life making sure you know just how much. Xo, Mama.
Photos by the incredibly talented Lindsey Wiatt Photography.