When Jarod and I first discussed the possibility of adopting Elvie, I had high hopes for my skills as a mother of two, and told him so. After all, I’d been a nanny for many years and nannied two or more children many times. I was confident in my skills and abilities, and still am. However, there have been many things about this transition that I couldn’t anticipate or plan for, and that has added to the complexity of the tasks at hand. Over the years I’ve heard many parents say that the move from one child to two can be bumpy. If you factor in the special needs of both of my daughters, it does make sense that our experience would be even bumpier than most families.
I comfort myself with that thought when it is 5pm, and I haven’t changed out of my pajamas. And then I write about it for you, in case your reality is similar to mine, or you know someone who is experiencing family growth with challenging circumstances. I’m still alive and mostly well-balanced; surely that means there is hope for everyone.
Besides the dual unanticipated hospital stays, I’d say that the most challenging thing for me as a mother of two is the sleep deprivation. I knew that we would be doing feedings through the night, but I didn’t anticipate that there would be so many of them, nor that the best decision for our family would be that I have night duty every single night. If Elvie were our only child, I would nap when she naps, but that’s not a possibility. So instead I sleep in once a week. The morning I sleep in is Saturday; I hand Elvie over to Jarod at her first waking after 6am, and then I sleep as late as I need to. It’s not the same as a full night’s rest, but it works well enough that on Saturday and Sunday, I still feel like I can conquer the world. As the week wears on, though, I become increasingly exhausted, and it shows in my tolerance for normal five-year-old antics. At this point, both Zinashi and I are happy when the weekend rolls around so that I become less of a crabby mom.
The second challenge is the emotional needs of both of my girls. I’ve mentioned briefly before that Zinashi has struggled emotionally due to the trauma she endured due to losing everything known to her and subsequently spending months in group care before the difficult transition to life in the United States with Jarod and me. We have made great strides, but she still needs quite a lot of me some days, and it’s harder to give it when Elvie also needs my time and attention. Elvie is figuring out that we are her family, and that she definitely prefers us, and furthermore prefers to be held by us, not set down. This is a good thing at this stage of attachment, but when both of my babies need me, it is hard to decide whose needs to meet first, or to figure out creative ways of meeting both their needs at once. If only my lap were bigger!
The third difficulty is simply that there is twice as much work to do with two children to tend to, but still the same amount of time available to get it all done. There is more of everything that needs to be cleaned and laundered and a whole extra person who might need me in the middle of my chores. I feel like I could use at least three more hours at the end of the day, but so far they have not materialized. Instead, I find many little tasks half done at the end of the day, and I have to decide which ones to finish up in the short amount of time I have left.
Still, it has been worth it. I am tired, but I am happy. Each of my daughters brings me great joy, and seeing them together is pure magic. Though Zinashi gets jealous of the time Elvie spends wrapped up and cozy on my lap, and Elvie is not impressed when I have to finish the portion of Zinashi’s hair that I’m working on before I can make her bottle, both girls adore one another. When Elvie hears Zinashi’s voice, she stretches her neck to try to look for her and smiles when she sees her. Zinashi loves to hang out with Elvie and make her laugh, telling her stories and making stuffed animals dance in front of her. It is such a gift to see the love they already have for one another. It is a lot of work to mother my babies right now, but I would work even harder if I had to, just to see them together every day.