I wrote this post right in the midst of having our first long term foster placement. I didn't publish then because it all felt so new and I wasn't sure if I was qualified to talk about it. Several years later, I am happy I found it so I can publish it now.
A foster placement.
A really little one.
I have been practicing the transition to three children on and off for a while with respite care, so that's not so bad. There have been good surprises like a newfound maturity in my youngest daughter as she takes up the mantle of Big Sister. There have been bad surprises like when the bathroom sink started leaking, the girls were fighting, and I was trying to change a diaper with a social worker at the door all at the same time. Keepin' it real.
But mostly the surprises have been kind of superficial. I'm not ready to be deep yet. I have a baby. My brain is fried. I thought that because I wouldn't be recovering postpartum things would be easier. I won't kid you: It's easier, just not in the areas and levels I expected.
Expectation: I'll have more energy.
Reality: For a few nights I was so sore I couldn't sleep from doing all of the squats and arm curls a baby brings! And anyway, not breastfeeding means you actually have to get up and wake up at night. On the other hand, not having all those crazy hormones and having had a big human pushed out of me means my husband is still attractive to me, so... yay!
Expectation: I'll take it slow once the baby is born.
Reality: My house has never been this clean on the regular since ever. Having social workers over constantly really puts the fire under me. Plus no one comes to help you recover or bring meals. And instead of getting a pass from doing things, there's a whole round of extra appointments for the baby: I reference the above statement about the frequent visits of social workers. Still, I didn't push a human being out, so I'm in a better position to handle it.
Expectation: Some people like bottle feeding better. Maybe it'll grow on me!
Reality: Nope. Still nope. You know how they always say to drink a glass of water when you sit down to breastfeed? I was good about that with the girls, but bottle feeding takes me two hands, and I am incredibly dehydrated. I think that's what has shocked me the most. I thought I would be better at self care. So that's a goal.
P.S. In retrospect I also missed the quiet gentle bonding of breastfeeding, and overall I think the baby missed it too. This is not to say that bottle feeding is bad, or that you can't bond, but that I did notice a difference having done it both ways several times over.
Expectation: I didn't really know what to anticipate with my children's reactions.
Reality: There is a degree to which it is stressful for them to share mommy with another person, and we didn't really prepare them for that the way we would have if I had been pregnant. There was nothing obvious that signaled that change was coming! For the most part they have been really happy and really helpful with the baby. At the same time, their fuses are quite short. Tears are coming easily, and misunderstandings abound. I may have been accused of evil step-motherhood a time or two. It's been important to celebrate their new roles, reinforce what routines we can salvage, and acknowledge the changes that are hard. I am praying that a few weeks will find us with a new, less tearful normal.
Expectation: Dance will need to go on hold for a while.
Reality: Yep. Night time feedings are kicking my butt, but I have plane tickets to dancy things, so miraculously a-dancing I will go, at least once this month. Once a month is probably doable right? [Side note: I must say doable often, because the girls sort all undertakings into the categories "Doable" and "Not-Doable."]
P.S. I ended up dancing at least twice a month throughout babyhood. Toddlerhood is kicking my butt though!