When Blake was in the NICU, I desperately wanted her to come home. Life at the hospital was filled with worry and unease, and I was eager to develop a relationship with my baby and establish a routine with some semblance of normalcy. I promised the Gods above that I would embrace every newborn-period-inspired struggle if we could just make it out of the hospital alive. I wanted to change diapers. I wanted to wake up to feed in the middle of the night. I wanted to rock her gently whilst she cried for no apparent reason.
I wanted to huff glue, evidently, because that’s the only thing that would make any of the foregoing make sense.
Or maybe it was the painkillers that I was still enjoying in the wake of surgery; either way, I was clearly a few cards short of a deck.
Granted, when she first came home, Blake slept as much as she would have in the womb, leaving me with plenty of time to tend to Brooke. I felt naively confident and was being lulled into a false sense of security that had me believing that I could actually do this. That I could really pull this whole parenting Irish twins thing off. But then? Then she regained consciousness. And now? Now, I constantly feel as though someone must have spiked my breast milk with speed when I wasn’t looking, because she’s seemingly always awake. And when Blake is awake, she wants to be held. And when Blake is being held, Brooke loses her sh*t.
Let me be perfectly clear: Blake is a Stage 5 Clinger. That’s right, Stage 5 —Virgin—Clinger. There aren’t many times one can accurately use that quote in this day and age, but I feel pretty confident that I can now. And her father intends to keep it that way, at least until she’s 30. Okay, that’s probably an unfair characterization of his intentions. It’s probably more like 40. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was thrilled for a while there when her chances of ever losing her virginity were looking bleak — the period of time where she seemingly had no neck. I wasn’t sure if a neck was one of those things that grew those last 11 weeks in utero, and she had missed the boat, or if her second chin had simply eaten it. But I did know this: Blake’s neck was an enigma, and I had never seen it. During this same period of time, she was also suffering from an umbilical hernia, so Pat had multiple things going for him. Fortunately for her though, Blake’s neck eventually appeared, and her umbilical hernia has since resolved, but it’s left an outie bellybutton in its place, so all hope for Pat has not been lost. And that’s not to mention the sunken soft spot on the top of Blake’s head that had me dialing her pediatrician out of concern. Luckily, the pedi said I needn’t worry and that I should just use it as a bowl for dip. Okay, fine, she didn’t say the last part, but it’s not my fault she’s not forward thinking. We can’t all be visionaries.
Otherwise, Blake is absolutely gorgeous. Though I have to admit, I was thrown for a bit of a loop when she emerged a redhead. Despite the fact that I’m married to a Sullivan, it was completely unexpected and caught me off guard. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t upset about this. I mean really, who needs souls, right?! I just wasn’t adequately prepared and felt unsure as to how I should proceed. Should I change her name to Reba? Change my diet to one of corned beef and cabbage so as to make the taste of my breast milk more appealing? Or should we just skip breast milk altogether and go straight to Guinness? This was uncharted territory. On the plus side, this meant that I didn’t have to go shopping for Halloween — she had a built-in Chucky costume, free of charge. I’m kidding, of course. We got her a costume, and she was Minnie. Which also happens to be the same thing Brooke was. We’re a family full of imagination.
In any event, Blake has been nothing short of an angel. I always thought that the newborn period would be the most difficult period of a child’s life, but having a newborn and a toddler at the same time, I can now confidently say that I was wrong. That’s not to say, however, that having a newborn comes without its challenges. Because she lacks autonomy and the ability to self-entertain, little Carrot Top over here relies on me for absolutely everything. And not just in a normal infant way, in the Stage 5 Clinger way previously discussed. Every moment that Blake is awake, Blake expects to be held. And every moment that Blake is held, Brooke expects to be held too. So I’ll be rocking Blake, while Brooke screams at me from below; pulling at my pant leg and begging me to pick her up with those forlorn, pleading eyes. She’s even taken to throwing full-on tantrums these days if I don’t make the switch quick enough. She’ll let out a dramatic screech and flop on the ground with reckless abandon, drawing parallels to a young Dwyane Wade.
Notice how something that’s supposed to be about Blake has turned into something an awful lot about Brooke? Yeah. Welcome to our lives.
Anyway…Brooke screams at me, until I eventually put down Blake and return Brooke to her rightful throne atop my shoulder. And then Blake starts to cry. You can imagine the juggling act that takes place in the minutes (hours?) that follow, which is why the only time I’m ever able to achieve any kind of peace is when one of them is asleep. Bonus points if both are asleep, though that seemingly never happens, as Blake is sure to wake as soon as I get ready to put down Brooke. It’s like she has an internal clock signifying to her that it’s time to usher in the next era of women’s suffrage.
Otherwise though, Miss Strawberry Shortcake is extremely easy to care for. So long as she’s being held, she seldom cries. And even when she does cry, a boob is all that’s required to quiet her. Hungry? Boob. Traumatized by the sheer horror of a diaper change and the PTSD that follows? Boob. Spit up all of your dinner and are hungry again? Boob. Works like a charm. So you can imagine my dismay when she was crying the other day, and when I thrust the boob towards her face, she only doubled down and cried harder. It was the first time something like this had ever happened, and I was at a loss. Turns out, she was starting to get sick, which just goes to show that, while the boob can fix problems the majority of the time, there are some problems it simply cannot fix —a lesson I’ve also learned in the past from my husband.
Apart from that, the only issue we have with Blake is that, due to being a preemie, she has a pretty serious case of acid reflux and spits up after every meal. And I’m not talking a little spit up either. I’m talking like an Ally McBeal spit up. A spit up so large that when it’s deposited onto my shirt, and I attempt to take said shirt off, it’s inevitably discarded onto my hair, leaving me walking around like Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary. The only solace I can find lies in the fact that I’m told that the issue will resolve with age. But what if it’s not acid reflux? What if she just has body image issues? I mean, these are possibilities that must be regarded and discussed. That’s why I always tell her, don’t worry about your size; that boys like a little more booty to hold at night; that every inch of her is perfect from the bottom to the top. And other sentiments straight from the heart (/Meghan Trainor).
Those small struggles aside, this has really been a magical time, and one that I probably appreciate much more the second time around. As I learned from wisdom gleaned from a recent bank commercial, the days are long, but the years are short, and I’m better able to recognize the positives inherent in this stage of infancy now that I’ve seen just how fleeting it actually is. Unfortunately, lack of sleep, lack of spare time, and lack of any kind of social life can cause one to become pretty disillusioned with the newborn period. It’s easy to take for granted. You don’t always appreciate how remarkable and important it is, until you turn around one day and realize that it’s not there.
You know, sort of like necks.