Thursday, August 14, 2008
Some things get easier!
When Eliza was a few months old, I began to feel the exhaustion of a new baby keenly. I knew that the few months since her birth had been overwhelmingly and unusually busy; after all, we brought her home to a hotel room, then moved into our new house when she was just 8 days old. Between clean-up, unpacking, organizing, chasing after 2-year-old twins who never napped, dropping off and picking up my preschooler, kindergartner and 2nd-grader at school, and running a household, I was extremely stretched. It didn’t help that I was up several times a night to feed a baby and had no opportunity to sleep during the day except for a Sunday nap. Even that Sunday nap went away when Eliza was 2 months old and our Church schedule changed to 1:00. I was beyond exhausted.
Even though I knew I wasn’t being rational, every day of sleep-deprivation had global implications, and I’d think, “I can’t handle being this tired any more. I can’t handle any more children. I wish our family were complete so I know I won’t ever be this tired again. Can I really handle this 3, 4, 5 or even 6 more times?” I knew there were more children to join our family, but I wanted nothing more than to declare our family complete and look to a future full of good-night’s rests.
It didn’t help any that two of my close friends had babies within weeks of Eliza, and both of them were done, one with six children, and one with five (Ironically, 18 months later one of them would decide to add to their family again). I envied them and thought of how nice it would be just to raise the children I had and not be laden with the illness and discomfort of pregnancy and the exhaustion and sleep-deprived months of the new babies.
At the same time, I knew that our family was not complete and that there would be several more children to join it. I prayed a lot that I would be up to the task and that my negative feelings would change. Last summer, I felt an answer. I was prompted to know that there was a baby girl ready to join our family and that she would arrive in a year’s time. I felt great comfort and determined to enjoy the last few months before I became pregnant again. Eliza, at 9 months old, finally began sleeping through the night, and I felt stronger and excited about the future.
In more rational times during those trying months, I would examine my feelings and realize that while the tiredness I felt at the time was overwhelming, it did not mean that I would experience the same level of exhaustion the next time around. For one thing, the twins would be at least 4 before another joined our family, and for another, my other children were growing older and more able to help. I thought that while the next child would probably still be very difficult, with Lillian likely being 9 at the time, the child after that would join our family when Lillian was old enough to babysit. I thought, even if I could just hire Lillian to watch the other kids after school while I napped one day a week, what a relief that would be. And while Lillian is the oldest, I knew that Joey and Michael would also become more helpful as they grew older.
Fast forward a year. Last Friday, I gave birth to the promised girl, Harmony Anne Bartholomew. The two days in the hospital were quiet and lovely. While I knew I needed to rest, I did it as much as possible with Harmony in the room. I spent a lot of time simply enjoying her. We brought her home on Sunday to the delight and chaos that is our home. Everyone adores her, including Eliza (we worried she's be jealous, as she often pushes the twins off my lap and is quite wary of new situations).
And the last few days have been much better than I could have dreamed. My mother-in-law stayed until Tuesday morning and helped out by cooking some extra meals and giving Lillian instructions on getting them to the table. With Lillian helping in the kitchen, and all of the kids used to chores, things have gone well. I’ve even gotten a nap every day during Eliza’s nap, which is no small feat. If I can count on a little rest during the day, then no amount of getting up at night is daunting.
The best thing about bringing home a baby into a large family, though, is the sheer number of people who love the child. Eliza has enjoyed such support and love and spoiling from her brothers and sisters, and now Harmony is being welcomed with that same excitement. When Harmony is awake, Joey and Lillian clamor to hold her. They exclaim over how cute and sweet she is and love to give her attention. The twins and Michael also hold her with supervision, and when I need a diaper or wipes or an extra blanket, Sarah and Allison are ready and eager to help. So far, so good. I’m a bit nervous about new routines next week when school starts back up again and I’m home during the day with four preschool girls, but no matter what, it should be an adventure!