April 28, 2023
The Not So Seamless Integration
Written By: Mary Lawless Lee
From the moment I heard their little voices crashing down the hallway towards our room in the hospital, I knew starting our journey as a family of five was going to be a wild ride. Navy and Indie peer around the doorway, their chunky knit sweaters reading “big sis” and “big bro” respectively, and it’s pretty much love at first sight. They pile on the hospital bed with me and Knight and it’s everything I dreamed and more. It’s better than any Christmas morning. They kiss his fuzzy head gently, hold his hands and we cuddle– reunited and all of us, reborn.
Here’s the thing, right? Every time we’ve added a member to our family, the chaos levels have increased. In the middle of all the joy, extra snuggles, and impossibly tiny onesies, we’re all, even down to Indie, just trying to find our footing in this uncharted land.
Some of this new territory is literally physical – like settling debates about who gets to ride in the “cool” third row seat of the car. (Spoiler: Indie, it’s probably not gonna be you, babe.) There’s an Everest of laundry to work our way through every. single. day. A new and permanent landmark in our daily life. Even without the blowout covered baby clothes and multitude of burp cloths, there’s still just our usual laundry. That’s the part you always forget. At least I do, anyway. I sweat through my pajamas every night (thanks hormones!), and Navy treats dressing for school like her own personal fashion runway. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about bringing a baby home to toddlers - life doesn’t (and can’t!) just stop. There are still two other small humans counting on me and Madison to feed them, clothe them, potty with them, read to them, and all the other thousand daily tasks that fill the day.
And the reality is, I can’t do it all. Intellectually I know it’s going to be okay, that I’m right where I need to be when I’m breastfeeding Knight, and rocking him to sleep. But emotionally, I want to be the one to drop Navy off at school. I want to take Indie to the park down the street from our house and push him on the swing until dinner time. I want to have undistracted time with each one of them, and the reality is that I just can’t right now. The “mom guilt” creeps in, intensified by the hormones raging through my body.
I think it’s not talked about enough, that small shadow of grief that can sometimes creeps up, because things are different. Even when all your wildest dreams are coming true. I’m learning that though my heart can grow with each and every new baby we bring home, the time I’m given in a day stays the same.
I do my best to surrender to the chaos, knowing that this too, is ultimately part of the dream I’ve always had for my family and my life. Even as I coach Indie through his own big emotions around the adjustment of no longer being “the baby” of the family, I’m coaching myself too. We breathe in together, and I tell him I’m so proud of him. I’m proud of us. The goal isn’t perfection, most days it’s simply survival.
It feels vulnerable to release the idea of perfection, but once I do, I find more freedom to enjoy the wonderful, wild, noisy and erratic life I’m currently living.
"It feels vulnerable to release the idea of perfection, but once I do, I find more freedom to enjoy the wonderful, wild, noisy and erratic life I’m currently living."
Indie stumbles into my room with my breast pump instead of the bottle I asked him for and we clap and cheer for him, he did his best. And, I laugh knowing that these are moments I’m going to remember when they’re all grown and gone.
There’s no way to tie what these postpartum weeks as a family have been like in a neat bow – I don’t think there ever will be. Instead, all I have to offer is that it takes us at least 30 minutes to get everyone in the car to go anywhere. By the time we’ve grabbed all the diapers, bottles, snacks, made sure everyone has their shoes and jackets, we’ve locked the house and not left anything crucial inside, we’re hilariously late for wherever it is we were trying to go. I tell myself we’ll get better — practice makes perfect right??
I can tell you about the pile of UberEats boxes that have been carefully stacked by the backdoor like some kind of art installation. Or, about the time I literally cried over spilt milk when I knocked my breastmilk off the counter at three in the morning. Or, how the bedtime routine has turned into a mental marathon every night, with all of us begging for sleep by the end of it. I can tell you that whether we’re laughing or crying, the noise level in my house has never been louder.
And for that, even though it might make me crank the white noise machines up even higher, I’m deeply, incredibly grateful.