We haven’t posted much lately partly because of being endlessly sick, but partly because we’re starting to become more and more conscious of the enormity of the next phase of our lives. I know this is not really breaking news, but the idea that the baby is coming soon (like 7 weeks! or so…) is finally starting to sink in. We live so in the moment around here that anything not happening in the next 24-36 hours has almost no meaning for me.
This past weekend, we went out of town on what – barring some emergency – will be the last trip we take before the baby is born. I guess it’s the idea of knowing that something is the last anything before the baby is born that makes it more real. Perhaps it’s that it gives time some definition and clear edges, like I said, something that doesn’t happen much in our hour-by-hour world.
Mary and I have this running thing on long car trips that we’ll think about baby names to pass the time, but for the most part until now it’s been a car game like “I Spy” or “License Plate Bingo”. Now we’re at the point where we really do need to pick a name. We’re down to under a half dozen first names, with a likely candidate emerging. I find myself saying the names out loud, letting my voice get used to the possibilities and seeing how I feel when I say them.
With that being our last trip, it started me thinking about how on earth we’re going to travel on our next trip – whenever that will be – now with two kids given how getting out of town now with just one feels like it takes 10 people and an act of Congress. What feels like a sea of little questions fill my head and stress me out more and more. Which side of the back seat do we put the J-Man on and which side will the new baby ride on? With the J-Man, one of us rode in the back with him on long car trips. Now, we won’t be able to. How will he react to a baby back there? How will the baby do with neither of us back there?
It’s hard enough for the J-Man to be away from home and the routine and the things he’s familiar with, though he does better and better it seems with each trip. We can now tell how much he tries to understand new situations by relating them to situations he’s already experienced. This is a very helpful skill for him to learn, but knowing that’s what he is doing is actually somewhat anxiety-making for me. I have a much better idea of what he’s thinking we’re doing even though that’s not what we’re really doing, because he’s trying to make sense of something new with something familiar. It’s his confusion that I feel stress about.
For example, we haven’t been in the water in months for obvious reasons, but Mary’s parents have a hot tub (!) and the J-Man loves being in it. If he could figure out the breathing thing, he’d be a fish. But to get in, he needs a swim diaper and his swim trunks. So, as I asked him to step into his swim diaper, he started to panic. Mary picked up on it quicker than I did. It was getting dark outside, and I was asking him to step into a diaper. At that time of day, that normally means, “It’s time to go to bed” because he steps into his overnight diaper right before we take him to his room to finish dressing him and put him to bed, and of course it’s dark outside then. He thought he was going to bed and not going outside to swim. This equaled panic.
As I’ve thought more about how he processes things, I’ve felt some fear rising. All of his stories and experiences are about to undergo the biggest upheaval of his life. How many of these will he have to relearn with brother around? Everything? How quick are we going to have to be at learning when we’re ‘off-story’ so we can understand his anxiety and panic and learn how to help him? How do we help him learn new stories?
I know a lot of people say that this is always something you’ll have to deal with when you have a second child. Sure. But a lot of those parents can’t begin to understand the challenges he faces and why helping him the best we can is so critical.
I realize I’ve become someone who normally just can’t worry much about stuff that may or may not happen more than 15 minutes in the future. This is why all this wondering is so noticeable to me. A big part of me had accepted that our lives are going to change so much as a result that I had let a lot of this stuff go until now and instead decided to wait and see what would happen after he’s born.
When we travel with the J-Man, our super-awareness of his various sensory, behavioral, emotional, etc. states goes into overdrive. This serves useful purposes, but it’s really focused me on needing to do some things to help him prepare for the baby, and then not knowing what those should be. It also makes me aware of concrete details like that we have a crib to put together, more stuff to buy, flooring to put down, every room has 50 things to do it seems, and God knows what else needs to be done, but that’s another story.
If that weren’t enough, Mary and I both have a mountain of work projects to finish and the J-Man goes on his three-week break from school starting on the 27th. When that break ends, the baby could be here at any minute, assuming he’s not already. When he’s on break, my ability to work decreases a lot. I don’t have the faintest clue how I’m going to finish all this.
And clearly my career and vocational options will change significantly with a second child around. For those of you new around here, I’m first of all a stay-at-home dad and then a part-time freelancer as time and schedules permit. I can feel a vocational day of reckoning coming, and I know I’m subconsciously kicking that can down the road as I’d rather not think about it or deal with it. I plan to take some paternity leave from all things work-related after he’s born. But after that, I just don’t know. I guess I’ve been kicking cans down the road about a lot of things, but when you do that, eventually you run out of road, and you have to pick it all up and deal with it.
So posting may be erratic for a while, but transitions like these lead to new opportunities, experiences, and possibilities. The coming weeks will be filled with both lots of stress and lots of excitement. But I think that’s what being part of something wonderful is about. All this is just part of it, and what we do with it all is ultimately up to us to decide.