Friday, April 20, 2012

So, About Having a Toddler...

Back when we abandoned infertility treatments and decided to pursue adoption, one of the first questions we had to answer was how old of a child we would hope to adopt. After a lot of discussion and soul-searching, we decided a child 12 months or younger would be our wish. I remember people telling me I was crazy for limiting myself like that. They would say things like, “you should just skip that part, it’s exhausting and messy and just a pain.”

My reply was always the same: “Sure, but I want the baby experience. This might be my only chance to have a BABY, and I’d really like to have that experience.” Most of them rolled their eyes, shook their heads, or both, and sort of left it at that. I usually walked away annoyed. Was it not bad enough that I had already lost my ability to carry and birth a child myself? Now people were telling me I should just hope to skip the entire first couple of years. It really hurt.

We were so fortunate to have been chosen before Aidan was born and, even more-so, for me to be in the delivery room for his arrival. I know I’ve told the story here, but I’m repeating a little bit of it here to make my point. I was with him from his first breath. On his first day of life, he did a lot of sleeping… and a lot of waking out of a dead sleep, out of nowhere, and immediately SCREAMING for a few seconds and falling back asleep. It was unsettling and I didn’t like it one bit. All I could do was comfort him and try not to have a heart attack when he did it.

We later figured out what was causing that and it went away…


I’m going to be honest. My kid has never been a great sleeper. For the first two months of his life, hubby and I took shifts with him in the living room. Hubby covered from about 8pm until about 2am while I slept, then we’d swap and I’d take him from 2am until hubby got home from work. He rarely slept more than two hours at a stretch during this time. His days and nights were completely flip-flopped. Around the two-month mark, we transitioned him to his crib. He did sleep almost through the night one time when he was 5 months, but he was sick at the time, so it was sort of a fluke. Aside from that, he never slept through the night until he was 16 months old.

Even now, he’s not a great sleeper. He regularly wakes up coughing or just tosses and turns a lot. Just recently, in fact, he has started waking up crying “Nooooo! Nooooo!” or “Miiiiine! Miiiiine!” I have no idea what he’s dreaming about, but it doesn’t sound pleasant. Poor little guy.

In terms of other ‘baby experience’ fun, We went through RSV three times (one of those requiring hospitalization), two rounds of bronchiolitis, four cases of pinkeye, two rounds of pneumonia, an allergic reaction to Amoxicillin, hair-follicle-choking cradle cap, hand foot and mouth, strep, colds and flu, terrible constipation, and all the other stuff that comes with the territory.

Yup, aside from childbirth itself, I can definitely say I have now had the baby experience. And I wouldn’t trade it for ANYTHING.

But you know what? This time right here – 18 months, 19 months, THIS is what I always wanted when I wished to be a Mommy. I didn’t really realize it since I’d never been through it firsthand. But this age is so incredibly fun, even despite the recent emergence of strong opinions and various (some inappropriate!) ways of expressing those opinions.

My little boy is, aside from his daddy, my very best friend. We chat, we wrestle, we play, we get silly at mealtime, we both bargain to get our way. It’s so incredible to watch his communication skills explode like they are right now. He has figured out the power of please and thank you. He has begun testing the limits and even has a very distinct facial expression that tells me he’s about to do it. It’s very much a give-and-take relationship in some ways. He’s getting to the age when it’s impractical (impossible?) to FORCE him to do something I want him to do. Sure, I can force him, but by the end of that process, he’s angry, I’m frustrated, and the desired action usually hasn’t been completed.

I’m a huge believer in explaining things to him. (This is not to be confused with needing to get his permission. That’s not what I mean. This also doesn’t mean there aren’t tantrums. There are plenty. It amazes me how many people think that we just cave to this kid all the time. It’s a little offensive when people tell us we need to be tougher, stick to our guns more, be more firm. We are plenty firm with him. Rules are rules and they are to be followed. Safety is paramount. When it comes to most other things, it’s more about ‘pick your battles’ than ‘never let your toddler win a battle.’ He certainly doesn’t win them all – not by a LONG shot – but people seem to not realize that. It’s annoying and I wish people would just keep their philosophies to themselves sometimes.)

Wait, this wasn’t supposed to be a rant post. Oops!

Anyway, I have found that my little miniature grownup responds really well, most of the time, if I explain to him WHY we need to go change his diaper, or WHY we brush our teeth, or WHY we don’t reach up and touch the stovetop. He understands so much more than we have been giving him credit for, and that’s become very obvious in recent weeks.

The other night, we drove past a blue car. He pointed out the window and said “blue!” Whaaaaaaaa?! I mean, sure, we’ve been talking about colors, but he’s never done anything other than repeat my words. I’ll be darned, it’s sinking in! He mimics things that we do, which is so very adorable. He has finally started saying ‘no’ – it wasn’t one of his first words unlike many toddlers. The way he says it is so dang cute. I really need to get a recording of it. The tone can only be described as something like “I’ve carefully considered your offer, and I’m really really sorry, but no.” He sounds so apologetic when he says it. Hilarious.

When he wakes up in the morning, he sits in his crib and talks to himself. It can be babble or actual words, but either way it’s a great sound to wake up to. When he decides he’s ready to get up, he starts calmly, but persistently, calling for one of us. This morning, it was “Mama? Mama? Pleeeeeeease? Mama?” I wish I could think of the words to express how my heart feels when he says this. It feels like it’s overflowing.

He has abruptly started to be aware of his bodily functions. He announces when he’s peed, pooped, or tooted (though he calls that poo-poo as well). I have no idea where he got this from; we hadn’t even started talking about it yet. I was planning to wait until closer to the 24-month mark. I guess maybe other kids at daycare? At first I thought it was just random, then I noticed he was actually using the terms at appropriate times. He’s started expressing disapproval at having a soiled diaper on. Consider my mind blown. We are on the verge of potty training here!

I could go on all night. Suffice it to say I am having so much fun with motherhood right now, even amid (brief) frustrating moments that come with having a 19-month-old. There is nothing I love more in this world right now than watching him soak up his world and teaching things. He thinks I know everything. I am really soaking this up because I know it won’t last long.

Here’s what I’m getting to with all of this rambling.

I don’t know if we’re going to adopt again. I mean, I do want to. I never wanted to ‘only’ have one kid. But if I’m being honest, I just don’t know that I can take another failed placement or even knowing I’m putting myself out there to have it happen again. I still miss Allie every single day. (Her second birthday was last month; emails from her mom are getting less and less frequent, so I suspect this may be the end of that contact. Totally understandable, but still painful.)

But… if we do? I think I will be changing my tune about ages. I’ve now done the baby thing. I don’t feel the need to do it again. I want to grow my family, not to specifically start over from the starting line, if you know what I mean. I don’t miss those sleepless nights, or washing bottles, or worrying myself sick anytime there’s a fever or a wheeze.

This part is SO much more fun.

I just can’t wait to see what’s next.