The “baby” turned five over the holidays, which officially means that he’s not a baby and I need to give up the denial before it starts to get kind of creepy. His feet are huge. His hands are ginormous, to use one of his favorite …
I haven’t posted in such a long time, and the lack of writing/moment-capturing/shouting-rhetorical-pleas-for-help-and/or-wine-into-the-wilderness drives me nuts. The thing is, when I’m not writing/capturing/weeping it means that life is at its busiest, or fullest–which also means that it’s most likely at its happiest or stressiest (not a word. I just made it a word), depending on the week. I’ve missed a lot this year documentation-wise–I was so busy living it I didn’t record it, which is awesome in the moment but after I’m all AUGH. To see those moments slipping through my fingers more quickly than I can grab onto them, well…there’s nothing I can do but pick up the thread when I can and carry on.
Cian’s birthday was on New Year’s Eve, a day that has surprisingly become pretty significant to me. Everything changed for our family three years ago: we had our third child, of course, but it was a child we were told, thanks to a malfunctioning uterus and some minor life-threatening possibilities that popped up with it (so fun! so dramatic!), should be our last. That day our family just sort of…shifted. It became more complex. It blew up in size and significance and holy cow I can’t even really explain it.
When babies are born, their exhausted parents are told to expect them to sleep through most of that day and first night (wahoo! yippee! YES!). But in our case, with our third-born child? Nope. Not our son. Cian slept through most of that day, yes, but as soon as the sun set, he got a raging case of insomnia and/or starvation and nursed, constantly and always and never ever stopping, that first night. He should have been sleeping. We were supposed to be sleeping, but instead my boobs felt like they were falling off and David and I were squabbling because why couldn’t HE soothe the baby already and why oh why did he want to be fed AGAIN. Cian fell asleep right before midnight that first day, only to wake up, crying and screaming and begging to nurse again as the New Year’s Eve fireworks exploded in the sky outside our hospital room window. And that was the beginning.
Three years later, we celebrated his birthday with a Thomas the Tank Engine Cake and the start of a new year with some friends and a couple of family members. He stayed up till midnight with his sisters and our friends’ kids. He ran around with a light saber and played with a toy fire truck and banged away on a new drum set. He laughed and tripped over his too-big pants and asked some people to pick him up and others to play with him. He hugged his sisters and got piggyback rides from their friends and gave his dad and me big fat kisses on the face. He screamed and cried and pulled Quinlan’s hair till she screamed and cried and pulled at her hair, and then he sat in time out for a while before starting all over again.
When I was six weeks pregnant with Saoirse, the awful, stoic, possibly soulless OB I had at the time told me that I was actually, in fact, miscarrying her, but he’d delay my D&C over the weekend “just to be 100% sure.” As she plays now with her siblings on the family room floor, my breath catches and my heart starts to race–a now-familiar panic I first felt during that appointment (yes, we switched doctors, and no, I don’t think you should go into obstetrics if you have the empathetic capabilities of sandpaper). When I was having Cian–at the end of 39 weeks of pregnancy, after a painful (but ignorant) pregnancy, during my third caesarean section (because whee! They’re so fun!), when we were so excited to finally meet our baby, there was a horrendous, sudden, scary fifteen or twenty minutes when we didn’t know if I or the baby were going to make it. Everything stopped. The panic returned, bringing with it a fear I’d like to forget. He was beautiful, though, and he was fine and I was fine and oh, he was amazing. As babies usually are.
Our house two nights ago, as we waited to start a new year, was loud–so loud. It was noisy and rambunctious and full of all of these sounds, but David and I loved it. I’m pretty sure that our guests cringing while a drum solo happened didn’t feel the same way, but to us? To us it meant that our house was full of life. There was life. It was bursting (so. SO. loudly) at the seams with it. David and I have learned not to ever not appreciate that.
Cian still doesn’t sleep well. Right now he goes to bed at night on a temporary mattress on the floor between his sisters’ beds (go ahead and judge us. I would’ve too) because we can’t get him to sleep by himself. Even then, he doesn’t settle down at night. He doesn’t nap, either–hasn’t for the last year. He doesn’t like to let us out of his sight. He follows me around all day, bringing his toys to play while I shower. He watches at the open garage door when I take out the dog until he’s sure I’ll return. He waves his sisters off to school each weekday morning, then immediately says, “I miss See-sha. I miss Kin-lin.” He always needs to make sure we’re not going anywhere.
I understand the feeling.
Cian is stubborn. He sings songs to himself when he thinks no one’s listening. He mumbles when asked to remember his manners, but reminds us to say grace before dinner. He thought Santa’s name was “Ho Ho” and asked him for a “choo choo train and a wocket ship” for Christmas. He gives kisses away like they’re quarters in a slot machine. He hates to clean up his toys, but loves to throw stuff (wrapping paper, milk glasses, my jewelry) in the trash. He screams when he’s frustrated and tells stories when he plays and is actually pretty good on those drums. When he was born he tipped our life over–everything we knew about parenting went out the window with this guy. We became overwhelmed, overtired, and completely gobsmacked by the sudden imbalance in the kids-to-parents ratio in the house.
I’d have another child if I could. Because what this boy has added to our family–and the noise and the laughter and the yelling and the stories–is something that makes our life full. Better. I told David this New Year’s Eve, in the early hours of 2016, after everyone had left, as he washed the dishes and I swept the cake crumbs out from under the kitchen table, this: I love my life. Nothing in it is perfect, nothing in it is ever under my control–heck, I can’t even find a moment to write a blog post on the day of my kid’s actual birthday so I sneak it in while Dave throws frozen waffles at the children for breakfast. I forget to respond to emails and don’t rsvp to parties even though I thought I did and can’t ever seem to clean out my office space. We live in a house that’s pretty on the outside but looks like every other house on the block (just a beige-er, boring-er version, actually) and has no trees in the backyard and electrical outlets that short circuit when you plug in the vacuum. I need to go to the gym and figure out what to do with my hair and start cooking again because the people at the local restaurants now greet us by name. I need to get my insides fixed because my lady cycles went haywire after that last pregnancy and Mother Nature needs a stern talking-to. I need to be kinder to David and stop yelling so much and walk the dog more. We need to figure out how to get Cian to go to bed at night and the girls to stop talking back and how to find inexpensive lessons for those drums that are now sitting in my living room. But this life, this family, is beyond what I ever dreamed of. I didn’t need to be frightened of never having it to learn that. But looking at my children–the ones I wanted so badly–and my life–the one I never really imagined having–is a good reinforcement of appreciating the happy that is there to be found amid this
Cian Xavier weighted nine pounds, six ounces at his birth that New Year’s Eve morning. I still remember the feeling of my belly suddenly becoming empty as he was lifted out of my craptastic, miraculous insides. That was it, that empty feeling. It was the end for me. But then he cried. And then I got to hold him. And I knew–of course, I knew, because that’s what happens on New Year’s Eve–that it was just the beginning.
David is washing up the breakfast dishes as I write this in a different room, with the tailless cat on my lap and a dog licking something gross on herself by the front door. The girls just started squabbling over a race track they were playing with, and David sent them off to another room (one closer to where I sit, for some reason) to work on some craft. I hear Cian say something to Dave, and Dave talk softly back to him, and think of those fireworks that night. Cian has started his fourth year of life. Saoirse has just told Quinlan that “funner” is not a word. And the dog has come over to give me a kiss (yes, with the same gross tongue, because dogs). So often new beginnings in life are marked by fireworks. Because humans, we like the crazy. We like the happy madness. We like our lives to be full.
My baby is no longer a baby. My last baby, the one that makes us a family of five. The one that keeps us up and makes us laugh and ensures that our home will be noisy and full. The one that calls Santa “Ho Ho” and wraps his arm around my neck when he sits on my lap and who asks us to play with him because he knows how much we mean to his life. He’s the one that started off that year with a bang, and makes sure every year after that begins the same way–with balloons and cake and people and fireworks.
No wonder the kid never likes to fall asleep. He realizes how good it is to live.
We were in the car on the way home from school after sibling picture day. What follows is a completely typical conversation. For us, anyway. Quinlan, from the back seat: “When we were getting our pictures taken Saoirse kept telling me to stop.” Me, driving: …
We talk to Saoirse with the same tone we’d use to speak with an adult, or each other.
We scold her when she cries because Quinn’s playing with one of her toys. We can’t understand why she just doesn’t get it–it’s not a big deal, we think. You’ll get the toy back. She’s your sister, for Pete’s sake. We reprimand her for guarding her playthings, hiding them.
We ask her to go get that diaper, or clean up those toys, or put those crayons back in that container like I asked you.
We want her to try spices, and tofu, and apple pancakes, when all she wants is chicken fingers, and shrimp with Old Bay please, and frozen waffles with honey.
She gets herself up in the morning, goes to the bathroom, washes her hands. She comes in to the bedroom to say hello, blows us a kiss, then goes down to the playroom for the few minutes she’ll have to herself before the rest of the house wakes up.
It’s hard to forget that she’s only 3. I looked around today, though: at her crafts from preschool hanging on the playroom bulletin board (don’t I sound organized? Ha!), at her trains and cars lined up on a bookshelf, at her collections of toys she hoards protectively in various corners of the house. And I remember, she’s just a kid. No wonder she’s so precious.