Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dancer Heart

Another one of the "hearts" in my life is my middle daughter. I call her Tiny Dancer.
From the moment she was born she was different from my first daughter. First of all, she was healthy. It was so amazing to be able to cuddle her right from the start. Getting her dressed or giving her a bath was actually pretty emotional for me. To see her skin and chest, un-scarred, whole, it choked me up sometimes. Having a newborn, or any child for that matter, at home without having to schedule medication doses and scrutinize each milestone for delays was a new and wonderful experience.

Also, she was a screaming banshee. All the time. While Little Heart was smiling and happy and hardly ever made a noise that wasn't happy (in spite of the surgeries and everything else) Tiny Dancer introduced me to the wonderful condition called "colic." Starting at about four weeks old she would scream for hours at a time, every day, several times a day. I could not find a pattern to why or how to relieve it. I tried EVERYTHING - wrap her up, loosen the blankets, music, toys, pacifiers, baby massages, outside, inside, bouncing, rocking, swaying, walking, nursing, and everything else that could be imagined. It seemed everything would work - once - for a few minutes. Then, it was back to the scream-fest. The only thing that for sure would calm her down is the sound of the car in the drive way. As soon as Daddy would come home, she immediately reverted to Angel Baby and my husband was mystified as to why I looked as though I had been pulled through a ringer backwards - until bedtime (when we were already tired) and she would crank up again.

Then there was the spitting up. Actually, that is a polite term for what this child did before, during, and after each feeding. If you have never seen a baby with a "spitting up" problem before, it is very...unsettling. I am still amazed that she was able to grow at all because it seemed as though she could throw up 6 times as much as she could ingest. Somehow, the 4 ounces of breast milk or formula I had just fed her became 3 or so quarts of disgusting-ness on its path right back out.

Little Heart spit up only two or three times - ever so I was not prepared for the entirely different change in feeding and living patterns that were now required. I had to fill my diaper bag with not just several changes of clothes for her, but dozens of blankets and rags as well as extra clothes for me. She seemed to be offended by clean clothes because the instant I would change, she was not happy until she had "blessed it."

In spite of this, I was dedicated to the concept of nursing full time (no bottles or formula) which meant that I was having to nurse roughly every hour or so for 20 to 30 minutes. I felt like I had given birth to a human suction cup that was now permanently attached to one breast or the other. After 10 weeks things started to get even worse. The stress of juggling a newborn and a heart patient was too much and I had to relent and add in formula to supplement after just 12 weeks. It didn't help the mass evacuation of milk after every feeding, but it allowed me to pass her off to others to help with feeding so I was able to get a little more rest.

Suddenly at about 4 1/2 months, the crying just stopped. I was so used to it at first I didn't notice it until she had been quiet for about 3 hours all together. My first thought was "What's wrong?!" As soon as I verified she was healthy, and even happy, my next thought was "How long will this last?" Then of course I felt relief, then guilt at the relief.

Those months were some of the hardest I have ever been through. Beyond juggling the new baby and recovery for for her big sister, I was hit with the worst Postpartum Depression, imaginable. I had never really dealt with anything like it before and it scared the living daylights out of me. In retrospect, the colic might have been caused or at least exacerbated by my stress and anger and sadness. I couldn't sleep at night and I was exhausted all day. When I did manage to sleep, I was so exhausted that I couldn't wake up fully. I was angry for no reason and I felt overwhelmed and stressed even when there was nothing to be upset about. The absolute worst part of it was the awful apathy that would creep in at times. There would be the baby, in her crib, crying and hungry, or needing a change, or just to be held. It was everything in my power to make myself get up off the chair or even just wake up to care for her. Somehow this twisted, ugly, dark monster crept into my brain and sucked all the maternal instincts out of me and replaced them with anger, resentment, and even self pity.

Thinking back to that time, I still can recall those emotions so vividly and I feel shame and regret. I know that my girls were all cared for during this time. Most of the negative emotions were all in my head. I also have been blessed with the most amazing man for a husband. He was right there whenever he could be, caring for me and the babies, cooking, cleaning, shopping. He was an award winning Mr. Mom. There is no way I could have gotten through all of that without him. The patience he possessed then, and still does, is awe-inspiring at times. He was there to help me get through the healing and recovery process of my own self doubt and self loathing as well as be 100% of everything else he needed to be. Today, Tiny Dancer is still Daddy's Girl. I don't know if it has anything to do with those first months or of they are just made from the same mold, but those two are definitely a pair to witness!

She is 8 now and has reached the age that is so much fun to be a part of for me. Little girls become Big Girls at that age. But, she is my Tiny Dancer because she is ... well, tiny. She reminds me of a little bird sometimes, hopping around. She might weigh about 40 pounds now and it is all arms and legs. We also call her Tiny Dancer because not only does she love to dance, but she is actually fairly skilled at it. She has taken ballet and cheer classes and has excelled at both of them. No matter what else she might be doing at any point, she is probably dancing at the same time. Plie's during breakfast, pirouettes in the living room, and sashes down the hall at night. Even when she is sick and running a fever, she is laying down watching TV and kicking her legs in dancing motion.

She is also my little social butterfly. Neither of my other girls have half as many friends as she does. Recently, I took the younger two girls to an evening event at the school. TD was running around the whole time with a gaggle of girls, talking, laughing, and of course, dancing down the halls. I can forsee a future of cheer team parties and homecoming dances already. My pocketbook is cringing.

I think what I love most about TD is the amount of joy she spreads like fairy dust all around her. Once she was old enough to be mobile as a baby, she learned how to make people smile and she hasn't stopped, yet. With all of the medical issues and everything else her older sister has had to deal with, it is sometimes just refreshing to witness the raw beauty of little-girl-ness. I consider her my solace. When I feel like things are crazy around here I can count on her to come up, give me a hug, tell me she loves me, and then dance off. I remember when she was about 2, her older sister had started school and I had a rare moment home alone with nothing to do but be with her. "So this is what it is like to enjoy motherhood," I thought.

Don't get me wrong, I love all my girls with all of my heart and there is no "but" to add to that. They are all three just so different that I can appreciate each of them for their differences. TD is just snuggly, and sweet, and darling, and loves everyone to be happy. Littleheart is just more involved with everything around her. She can't just BE, she must DO. TD is just happy to BE - as long as she can dance while she does it.

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