My husband went back to work this week, and on my first day alone with the 3 kids I totally rocked it. Seriously. By the time Earl came home that night, the house was clean, the kids were bathed, and dinner was in the oven. I was all, "LOOK AT ME! MOMMING ISN'T SO HARD! WOO HOO!!"
And then the next day happened.
Why I decided to try to start potty training my 3 year-old when I have a brand new infant in the house is beyond me. I knew that it was going to be hard, but I also thought that eventually it would get better.
IT DID NOT GET BETTER.
Not only was I cleaning up random puddles of urine all around our house (after stepping in them and soaking a sock each time, of course), I was also trying to calm a fussy baby AND monitor the toddler while he spent 90% of the morning in the bathroom.
I should have known this would all backfire.
After lunch, my son was sitting on his little throne for the millionth time and I thought it was safe for me to run downstairs and throw the laundry from the washer into the dryer so that his baby sister may have some clothes that were not covered in spit up. I was down there for less than 20 seconds when I heard the telltale sound of a toilet flushing.
No. Nonononononoooooooooooo WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?!!!
See, I had left him sitting on his tiny potty that does not involve him having any control over our septic system. But, he can walk, so of course he hopped right off of that mini seat and ran for the real deal when I left the room.
I high-tailed it back upstairs as fast as my neuropathy riddled legs would carry me and crossed my fingers as I entered the bathroom. There was my little cherub, standing next to the toilet with his hand poised over to the handle, ready to try to flush Buzz Lightyear "DOWN THE HOLE! THE HOLE MOWWWMMMM!!"
I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I realized Buzz was still sitting in the bottom of the bowl and I donned my gloves and scooped him out, vowing to never leave my son in the bathroom by himself ever ever EVER again. Crisis averted! I turned around to take "Mr. Buzz Lightyear" to the sink to get a proper wash-down when my son said, "MOW-OM! R-D-D-D-OH" went down the hollllle!!"
Stop. Slowly turn back around to look at child.
(Forced calm voice): "What did you say, Buddy?"
(Mournful toddler voice): "R-D-D-D-OH went down the hooooooole....get R-D-D-D-OH!"
Crisis NOT averted.
R-D-D-D-OH is our son's way of saying R2-D2. It is his favorite toy that he stole from his Auntie's house on Thanksgiving and he hasn't gone a day without playing with him since. Apparently R-D-D-D-OH had been specially chosen for the maiden voyage through our pipes.
I would like to give myself kudos here, as I did NOT scream. (Except for in my own head.) In the beginning of this ordeal, I remained perfectly calm, cool and collected. I did what any sane parent does these days. I Googled things like, "what to do when toddler flushes toy down toilet" and "will toilet be okay when kid flushes toy?" and "how to take apart toilet."
4 hours later....
I had most definitely LOST my cool at this point. The bathroom had tools and kitchen utensils (because I thought a butter knife might work when a flathead screwdriver did not???) and books strewn all about the floor. My 3 year-old was still perched on his little potty, only now he was decked out in my loafers and a plastic headband with a watermelon card stuck to it ("Headbands" for those of you who are not up on the most recent games for children.) His crazy mother was sprawled across the closed toilet lid, frantically trying to get behind it to unscrew the entire contraption from the floor because THIS IS WHAT ONE OF THE WEBSITES SAID I NEED TO DO AND IT TOTALLY SEEMS LIKE SOMETHING I CAN HANDLE TAKING APART AND THEN RE-INSTALLING, RIGHT?!!?!?!
When the toilet ultimately refused to budge from it's spot on the floor (I would be very thankful for this later), I loaded all 3 kids into the minivan for a last-minute trip to Lowe's to get a new toilet snake. Earl was due home from work in an hour and I could NOT tell him that our son had f*ed up our septic system.
Long story cut short, the snake did nothing to help us retrieve the toy.
R-D-D-D-OH was gone for good. (Unless my prayers are eventually answered and he will just show up back in the toilet bowl on his own one day.)
Earl came home to a very different house on day 2 of us being on our own. There was NO dinner cooking in the oven. The children were NOT bathed. The house was most decidely NOT CLEAN.
I am pretty sure when the toddler was the first and only one of us to go to the door to greet him, and he did this without pants on but with the headband and the boat shoes, my husband decided right then and there that he was the chosen parent not to lose their sh*t that night.
Good job, Earl.
Basically my expectations for my parenting dropped from "being Susie Homemaker" to "keeping all three children mostly alive until Dad gets home" over the course of 24 hours.
Self compassion, people. It is necessary for survival!
Keep hanging in there. Each day is a new day!
And then there were 3.
....And Mom and Dad were thrown into a new life where it became a challenge to:
I have no idea when the last time was that I got more than 2 hours of sleep at once. (Also, this has only been achieved because my husband is home on paternity leave for the moment and can juggle all of the children so that I can recharge just enough that I don't lose one of them or fall asleep in the preschool pick-up line.)
We are both exhausted. And happy.
I have spent months and months worrying about having another child. A second daughter. Someone else who will need so many things from me when I am already stretched so thin trying to provide for her siblings. How would it be possible to take care of 3 small people at once??
It is, and I am.
The moment she was born, and they were trying to get her to "pink up" at the little baby station in the c-section room, I realized that it was possible to love 3 human beings exactly the same. It wasn't a matter of slicing the pieces of myself even thinner so that everyone got an even bit of me - when she came into the world, she made everything bigger. There was suddenly more of me to go around. Go figure.
I was in a very, very bad mood up until I was laid out on the table being prepped for the surgery.
I kept thinking to myself, "if anyone else asks me if I am so excited to have another daughter, I am going to punch them in the face." Then I would instantly feel guilty for thinking it. What kind of a mother thinks that about their upcoming child? How could I not already feel completely bonded and attached to her when she was going to be here ANY MINUTE?? When I was pregnant with my first 2 kids, I was over-the-moon excited and was counting down the seconds to their birth. With Emmy, I felt like I would be happy to just keep her in there and cook her for an extra year. Or 10. I didn't feel any of that enthusiasm I had with my previous pregnancies.
I just felt weary.
....And then she was here. And I was in love all over again. I wanted to hold her immediately, but I couldn't. She was having some trouble coming around, so they were huddled around her in the little warmer, rubbing her like the tiny puppy in 101 Dalmations that almost didn't make it. I was terrified. I wanted to do whatever I could to protect her and make her okay. I was feeling all of those "mom feelings" and I had been feeling so bad about not having only 5 minutes earlier.
I had been trying so hard to love this baby, when suddenly it wasn't a challenge at all.
Now we are home, we are healthy, and we are adjusting as quickly as possible. I think of it a lot like juggling. Having one kid is like just tossing a single ball from hand to hand. Having two makes it harder, but still doable. Adding a third suddenly takes a technique and rhythm that has to be learned through practicing.
So, we are practicing. Only it's not practicing, because the 3 balls we are juggling are already depending on us to keep them alive, and fed, and not to forget them at the supermarket.
Still a good metaphor...
I just wanted to put this out there in case there is anybody else who isn't feeling that bond with the child currently growing in their belly.
Don't worry. Don't feel guilty. You are not a horrible mom.
It'll happen and your world will envelop this new human being and it will be like they have always been there.
Until then, rest up.
Lately, I have caught myself staring out the window and just reveling in the sense of peace I have found here. Home. My home. Where I have kids, a husband, a dog....big windows, sunshine coming in from all around. Rooms filled with things we have picked out, things I have made.
This is ours. Literally ours. Our little piece of earth.
I am appreciating every minute I have here.
I fully understand that this sense of calm will not last forever. I know that there will be many times in the future where I will be unable to see the beauty and wonder filtering through the glass. I am hoping that if I fully immerse myself in this current feeling of tranquility, I will be able to recall and revisit it when my mind locks me away again. These past few months have been the best that I can remember ever having. I have had difficult days, and I have definitely struggled throughout. But I am almost always able to see beyond the fog when it swirls around me.
So, I am basking in it. I am not taking it for granted. I am looking and seeing the world around me. I am not allowing myself to rush though. I am not letting my mind twist my nerves so tight that I can't even get off the couch. I am living as much as I can in the moment.
We have no control over when the floor drops out from beneath us. It will come as a surprise, and it will be awful.
But, I still had this minute of peace. It is imprinted on my mind. It cannot be taken away and I will marvel in every color, every scent, every single bit of wonderment that my soul is able to absorb.
My home. My family. My life.
There is peace here.
It seems my sleep schedule is completely backwards.
I've been working almost all overnights lately, and it's worked out wonderfully. Except for the fact that I CANNOT WAKE UP once I get comfortable on the couch at home. I could sleep for 16 hours straight if my husband would let me. I've learned to block out all of the everyday noises of people yelling down the stairs and across the house, or the pots and pans banging about in the kitchen. I don't use earplugs, but it's like my ears have developed their own resistance to the sounds.
Time to try something new.
I'm going to try to set my alarm and actually GET UP when it goes off every night. I want to be awake for the better part of the afternoon, if possible. I want to spend every minute I can with my family, because that's what is most important. It's easy to get caught up in the every day I-need-to-make-money-to-survive mindset and let other things fall by the wayside. It's going to be a lot harder to force myself into a schedule that my body is rejecting even as I think about it.
I miss my family.
I have been trying to juggle everything when I need to just let some things drop. Like expecting 6-8 hours of sleep a day. My anxiety peaks when I think about only getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep some days. I need to get over it. Suck it up and move on. People function with less than that all the time. I've been greedy to want the sleep and the family time all together. It just doesn't work with an overnight schedule. A lot of the time, you have to choose one over the other.
I choose my Loves.
Starting tomorrow, I will be waking up earlier and forcing myself to drink coffee and shower as soon as I'm up. Hopefully that'll give me the extra boost I need to get through the sleepiest part of my night and it'll be smooth sailing from there.
I'm just sick of sleeping my life away.
So I'm going to start sleeping less, and start living my life more.
If you catch me snoozing, feel free to poke me with a stick. A really long stick would be best - sometimes I wake up swinging!
It's about that time again.
No matter how tired I am all day long, once the stars come out, my adrenaline kicks in and my body says, "it's go time."
Much like a werewolf, my personality drastically changes with the moonlight. I have been told several times that I am like two completely different people. I like to consider it my own way of multitasking in my life...I don't make an effort to change - it's like a switch being turned on and off. I think most people are this way. I just do it backwards! Instead of being afraid of what lurks in the darkness, I find it comforting. Somehow I feel ten feet tall and bulletproof once the sun is done setting. It's my chance to show everyone what I'm good at and to do what I really enjoy doing. It's the time of day I get to spend giving back and trying to help however I possibly can. It is the time I get to spend being the me I always envisioned.
This also saps a lot of energy from some pretty weary bones here.
My daytimes are spent running from the sun. I cringe when I have to go to an appointment in the middle of the day (how would YOU feel if your dentist was only available at 3am?) And there are so many people out during the day...how can you all stand it?! It is sensory overload to go from being one of the few people awake to being one of thousands of people awake in town. The noises seem louder and I find myself getting irritable when people slam doors (I quickly picked up the habit of shutting doors silently when I started working overnights) or when chatter gets too high. I'm like a librarian, wanting to walk around and shush people all day.
I probably need to work on this.
For now, I am happy with my quiet darkness. The sense of solitude and autonomy invigorates me. It charges me up for the coming day. It makes me comfortable and it makes me happy. It's a schedule that is conducive to my personality. In a way, I think my body was built for it. I've always had trouble feeling rested after a night's sleep. I like being able to hear everyone else going about their business when I am crawling into bed for my own nighttime. It fits me.
I think I truly have become a creature of the night....and it doesn't bother me a bit.
It may be by a thread, but I'm hanging on.
I seriously think that surgery whooped my ass. It's taken me a lot longer to recover than I thought it would. The scar tissue still hurts and I've still got the residual nausea. I've also been exhausted lately due to this and other stressors. I am a mess.
I'm hanging in there. I'm doing it. I'm waking up every night, going to work, getting the munchkin to camp and back in the mornings, and finding time for sleep when possible. I've actually been sleeping a decent amount, so I'm not sure why I feel so exhausted. That's a lie. I have some ideas, but I'm not at the point where I would like to share them yet.
I feel a bit numb, a bit empty, and just a bit less me. It's been more difficult to get myself to sit down and read, or do the housework. Which is why I've been pushing myself harder to get these things done anyway. I want to prove I can. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I don't push myself too hard and break.
That would pretty much suck.
Keep hanging in.
This past weekend blowed.
The worst part about working the overnights is when our daughter doesn't have school for a few days and my sleep "schedule" is all screwed up. And by screwed up, I mean I don't really get to sleep. Wait, wait, that's not true...I do get to take short naps before I go into work once the hubby gets off of his shift. The only problem is, once I've stayed up all morning it's really difficult to get my brain to wind down and go to sleep in a reasonable amount of time. I'll just lay there for an hour or two and tell myself that closing my eyes and relaxing is almost the same as sleeping...But since it's not, I hit that 4am wall all weekend where my head started to pound and my eyes felt like they were made out of sandpaper. I almost never have that problem anymore - only on our weekends on when I have to stay up with the munchkin for the majority of the day. Don't get me wrong, I love spending some good QT with our daughter! I just hate feeling like a walking zombie for 3 days straight. (I know the weekend is only 2 days long...but it takes me an extra 24 hours to finally catch up again.) It's all worth it in the end, though. I tend to appreciate our weekends off even more when our weekends on fray my nerves.
All about balance...
I have officially declared myself a "creature of the night."
I honestly believe my body was assembled to run on it's own clock. I am WIDE AWAKE at 4am, which is when even the most seasoned 3rd shift workers start to hit a wall. I try to keep to myself and chatter as little as possible so that I don't overload anyone's already sensitive senses at that time of the morning. I just can't sit still, though! I'm constantly pacing around the office looking for new things to do. During the day, it's a struggle to peel my self away from the couch - it literally feels like it's the middle of the night for me.
All of the doctor appointments I've had to schedule lately have been killing any type of schedule I'd managed to get myself on. I've had to try to shift back and forth between sleeping in the morning and the afternoon. Oh, and don't forget my nights off when I sleep at nighttime to try to make up for missing my husband all week! I literally don't have a specific time of day that I can absolutely say I can go to bed.
The good - I'm used to it.
The bad - it's probably wickedly unhealthy...
I always feel terrible when I have to orient someone new to the overnight shift. They're all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the first half of the shift! They have so much confidence about it being easy to make it through the night and blah, blah, blah....then at 3:30 on the nose, they start to look a little pale and sickly. By 4-4:30 they look like they want to abandon ship. I try to keep up with the words of encouragement - "Don't worry - it only took me 6 months to get used to this routine!" (Probably not helpful.) And, "At least now you can go to the liquor store at 9am and not look like a serious boozer - just tell them you worked all night!" (That one usually helps a tad.)
I also try to enforce the whole "we need to be veerrrryyyyy quiet on this shift. If you start a party at 3am by closing the doors too loudly, you'd better be prepared to host it!" I really, truly love my staff I work with. They put up with my shenanigans, and we all work together as a solid team. No matter how the night looks like it's going to turn out, I know we'll make it through it as long as we keep each other motivated.
OOH-RAH! GET SOME!
*Insert obligatory fist pump here*
I feel like I'm in the middle of a 20 mile hike, and the person behind me keeps sneaking more rocks into my pack the further we go.
I am being bombarded by issues these days. I mean a full-on attack from all sides. Every time I put out one fire, I turn around to find 10 more behind me. I don't know what to do. The only thing I can think of is to keep putting the fires out one by one and hopefully they'll slow down or even stop. Hopefully. I am just living on adrenaline these days. Pure adrenaline and willpower.
I want nothing more than to crawl under my covers and hide from the world for a few days. Unfortunately, this is not an option. Nor would I enjoy it as much as I'd like to think...I'd probably go stir crazy after the first hour. It's still a nice thought, though.
I'm just going to keep going. Keep moving. Don't stop. Fake it 'til you make it. Seriously, that's all you can do sometimes.
Eat, sleep, breathe. Eat, sleep, breathe.
Rinse and repeat.
I miss sleep.
It is one of the downfalls of working the overnight shift when you have any kids at home. Never, ever have I come across someone who has a set sleep schedule who works through the night. We're kind of crazy that way!
I have this whole system down. Anytime I come across a new 3rd shift worker, the advice I give to them is the exact same thing my grandmother told me when I first had my daughter and was her sole caretaker. Basically, grab naps whenever you can because you are never guaranteed a straight 6-8 hours. Never. (I kind of wanted to underline that one 3 times but I couldn't find the button to do it.) When you have children, there is always the chance of something going wrong. Someone gets sick and can't go to school, (Oh, I'm sorry, were you planning on going to bed from 9am to 2pm? HAH!) or someone has a dentist appointment smack in the middle of that 6 hour block you were yearning for. Or, as was the case for me yesterday, you are trying to sleep while the rest of the world is wide awake and going about their daily business. No one else notices the car alarm that's been going off for 4 STRAIGHT HOURS right down the street. And oh my god the chainsaws!! I swear...my neighbor must watch out his window to ensure I am coming home from a night shift before he decides it's a great day (!!) to cut down that giant tree in his backyard. Or to use the leaf blower for 3 hours. Or to mow his lawn. He has a wide array of torturous tools, that man.
To make myself feel better, I add up the individual snoozes I get during the day and count them all as one straight block. (Genius!) It makes me feel less like I'm going to die at the age of 35 from running on straight caffeine and adrenaline for days at a time.
Did I mention I hate sleeping alone? I absolutely, positively hate laying in our bed, shivering my ass off because there's no one else to warm the blankets with me, and listening to my husband walk out the door to go to work. Or even worse, the days that he's home in the morning and I haven't seen him for 2 or 3 days and I'm supposed to shut myself in the room next door and not focus on the fact that I am not tired and all I want to do is go make out with him. Seriously, how are we ever going to expand our family if we don't even have time to make out?!!
In short, for those of you who think we night owls like working this shift because we "don't do anything" or we "just sleep the whole time"...you are more than welcome to join me anytime! You'll see that yes, sometimes we do have really uneventful shifts. It can be tedious, and slow, and really really lonely at times. But wait until you get that angry, psychotic, GIGANTIC man coming through the door and you have just a handful of people making up your code team. (Hopefully it's quiet everywhere else and everyone is able to come! Oops...just used the "Q" word...) And it is just YOU in charge of the code. You had better damn well know what you're doing or you're going to have a lot of people angry at you for risking their safety because you didn't assess the situation correctly. Once you get a reputation as a bad code team leader, everyone dreads having to come help you out. And can you really blame them?
I work with an awesome crew. I know I can count on them in a crisis, and we are very skilled at quick, clean problem solving. Part of it is the fact that it's a pretty small group of people who work this shift, so everyone knows everyone from the second they get hired. The other part is that it takes a certain kind of person to be able to hang in with this type of schedule - once you've stuck with it for a few months, you earn some serious respect. (Or deserve it, at least.) We are a skeleton crew (which is pretty much what you'll get in ANY hospital on the 3rd shift!), but we are BAD ASS.
So...if you can deal with a lot of "hurry up and wait" and like to be pushed into crazy situations that you have to get yourself and your people out of, definitely look into a job like mine. (Former military personnel - you've pretty much already been trained for all of this...only in our "hurry up" situations we aren't encouraged to utilize weapons here!)
I don't know how this entry became so long....here's the Cliffsnotes version:
I love my job, but I miss my husband and my child. And I am tired.
Mother and wife by day, psych RN by night. So many different ways to view life. I try to take everything in and be very slow to judge.