Our second child, our son, was born on his due date, Friday, September 23rd at 7:06am. He weighed 8 lbs 2 oz and was 20 inches long. His older sister, who is 2 and 9 months old, had been doing a great job with the adjustment. There are highs and lows but overall, this is a beautiful time.
… Kind of sucks. Growing a human is beautiful and I can’t wait to meet this little boy, but oh my goodness this is so much harder than the first time.
I’m 34 weeks pregnant and we’ve been going through a heat wave here in NYC, with lots of hot, humid days with a heat index above 105° F. I’ve never been a summer person, preferring cool weather or even a rainy or snowy day to the clear skies with the burning sun.
So this summer, with the heat wave, the third trimester, and the challenges of parenting a toddler… I’ve felt a bit like I’m melting to pieces. Many times it’s all I can do to get through the hour or the day. Tears seem to fall more easily. I go to sleep when my daughter does most nights, spending 10 hours in bed, and often still want a nap.
I’m getting better at managing, though. I’ve been frank with my husband about the support I need, lowered my expectations of myself, set an earlier start to my leave (less than 3 weeks to go!), built more rest and refreshment time into my days, and also spoke with my doctors and increased my anti-depressants. All of this is helping, and I’m feeling more stable and ready and in control. We’ve made it to mid-August and there’s just a little summer left.
One day soon, I will walk outside into a cool fall breeze, holding my new baby and watching my toddler and husband play, and it will be beautiful.
With 2.5 years of parenting our daughter under our belts, my husband and I have come to believe that we have a wonderfully aware and sensitive child. I wrote about this as one of the traits we saw back at 22 months.
As she’s blossomed further into toddlerhood and has even begun to seem more child-like, this has become even more clear. Earlier this year we learned of the term “highly sensitive child”, and it’s provided a useful construct for understanding and talking about the special qualities our daughter possesses.
What is a highly sensitive child?
Recognizing our daughter is a highly sensitive child means that we believe our daughter, like 15-20% of the population, has a heightened physiological response to certain stimuli.
Highly sensitive children tend to be creative, intuitive, and empathetic in addition to being introspective and easily overwhelmed by such sensory experiences as sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings.
If you are wondering whether your own child might be highly sensitive, Dr. Elaine Aron, the foremost researcher and author into high sensitivity, offers a tool here.
Yesterday I listened to an episode of Susan Cain’s podcast, Quiet, which included a great description. By the way, if you have an introverted child, I highly recommend her podcast, a 9 part series on parenting introverts.
In the 9th episode, she interviewed a researcher of highly sensitive children who described them as Orchid children. An Orchid child is much more sensitive to their environment than the average child. In contrast to a Dandelion child, who will grow similarly well in all sorts of environments, an Orchid child’s outcomes will depend more heavily on the environment in which they grow up.
In a tough environment, an Orchid child will struggle and wilt. They may be seen as weak and may not come to utilize and value their strengths. But in a nurturing and supportive environment, they will flourish, outperforming their peers in areas like creativity, innovation, and understanding. If you have a highly sensitive child, the most valuable thing you can do is to value and help them capitalize on their unique traits.
Why do we think we have a highly sensitive toddler?
Highly sensitive children are not exactly alike, but I thought it might be helpful to share what we see in our daughter that has helped us to identify that the community and parenting resources for parents of highly sensitive children are particularly helpful for us.
She is upset by other children’s crying
One of the earliest signs that we saw in our daughter was her high responsiveness to other children’s emotions. This came out most strongly when she would hear other kids, usually babies, crying. It would distress her, sometimes leading her to cry too. As she began to understand language better, it seemed to help when we would acknowledge that there was an upset baby or child and reassure her that someone was caring for them and helping them to feel better.
More recently, our daughter started in a daycare where she is in group care for the first time. There are several other babies and toddlers there, and when she describes her day to us she often talks about the crying. We’ve talked with the daycare staff and know that there’s not an unusual amount of crying there, but the crying of children at daycare ranks high on her awareness of what happens in her days there.
She is bothered and scared by loud noises
“Too loud” is one of her most frequent phrases. From the sounds that are nuisances to most of us, like construction work or a loud motorcycle, to the more benign, like the buzzing of the machines that keeps a bouncy house inflated, loud noises make her cover her ears and she frequently stops what she’s doing and needs reassurance. It’s too the point where she is scared to see new machines even when they are off. She recently cried and covered her ears when we got a new window a/C and when she found my breast pump in a box of baby stuff. Even though the machines were off, both situations took some time and soothing to get through.
She’s always been highly responsive to music
Her first clearly intentional arm movements, at under 2 months old, were along to the beat as a friend held her and sang a rhythmic song. As a baby she would be calmed by soothing music, and we soon noticed that she would reflect the mood of the music, even getting sad or scared when the music suggested it. As a toddler, we’ve had many a time where we are walking down the street and a car or boom box goes by playing loud music and she dances and moves to the beat.
She is very focused and loves quiet play like puzzles, Legos, and drawing
As a baby, other kids would crawl to her and check her out, and she’d be more absorbed in the toy she was looking at. As a young toddler, she would happily play on her own more than other kids her age, engaging with her stacking rings, blocks, or board puzzles. Nowadays, she does 24 piece jigsaw puzzles (with some help) and can even stay engaged enough to do 3 or 4 of these in a row.
And here are a few more signs:
- She doesn’t like tags on her clothes or loveys
- Lately, she has lots of trouble with her shoes being uncomfortable
- She wants to change immediately when her clothes get wet
- It’s always a struggle to wash her hair because she doesn’t like the feeling of water dripping down her face
I haven’t written much this past year. I wrote a post nearly a year ago about returning to full time work (from the part time schedule I’d had since my daughter was born), and I think the strain the full time work has put on me is a large part of why I haven’t written much. It’s not only more time away from my daughter, but it’s also just a stressful job – without a doubt the hardest job I’ve ever had!
When I’m not working, I want to be with my daughter or vegging out or out with my husband. I just haven’t had the mental energy to write, which saddens me because I value writing as an outlet and a way to stay connected with others online. And there are things I could have written about, like how hard I find parenting a toddler to be, the horrible night terrors my daughter had, the 3 month long menstrual cycle I had after having my IUI removed, how that ended in the briefest of pregnancies that ended during a major product launch at said stressful job, or how I got to starting a 4 day/week schedule last week.
But of all the updates I could share, I’ve been nagged by not having written yet about one thing in particular – we have a baby boy due in late September!
This pregnancy has been more exhausting and trying than the first was, but it’s hard for me to say if that’s the pregnancy or the fact that I’ve already got a toddler who demands near constant attention from me. Now that I’m 18 weeks along, the exhaustion, emotion, and nausea of the first trimester have somewhat subsided and I feel the baby move sometimes, so I’m feeling more excited.
Our daughter has been pretty amazing with the news so far. Our nanny is pregnant too, due in July, so there’s a lot of pregnancy around her. She loves babies, whether real or pretend. She likes to care for them and tickle them and talk about them. She’ll be 2 years and 9 months when her brother is born, so we expect sharing the attention will still be tough on her, but she’s so into babies and learning about them that we think that will help a lot.
I can’t wait for our family to grow and to share some stories from the trenches as we raise 2 little ones in NYC!
I wrote the following a few months ago, but wanted to add pictures before posting and didn’t get around to it until now.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how at 22 months, our daughter’s personality and traits are starting to really show. We are really getting to see just WHO our little darling is! It’s really incredible to watch her develop. Here’s a bit about who she seems to be these days.
We think she’s athletic, because she loves to run and climb. These days she will climb the curved ladder at the park that is twice as tall as her all by herself, and we taught her to do a forward roll. We can’t wait to take her to the rink to skate and to gymnastics classes!
We think she’s adventurous, because she’s always run at the ladders and the pool with abandon. This is exciting to watch but makes me nervous, too!
We think she’s strong-willed, because when she wants something, it’s hard to distract her or convince her to let it go. She can get really upset about being told no.
We think she’s a bit shy, because she often takes a while to warm up to people and likes to hide in me.
How do you describe your kids? Are there things you thought about their personality as a toddler that no longer seem true?
It’s Saturday morning, and I am on my work laptop. The last two days I have been at the office, working hard as one of my staff is leaving, and while I am eager to focus on family again, there are a few nagging items I can’t get out of my mind. I send off a few emails, interrupted here and there by my toddler who is hungry for breakfast.
I get my daughter dressed in her bear suit so we can run some errands. We head outside in the late morning, her bundled in her stroller and me wondering how navigating the snowy sidewalks will be today. I am relieved and happy to be done with work and spending time with my daughter, experiencing our weekly reconnection day after my time away. I am getting ready for a party and I need to stop at the grocery store and the bakery.
I have all 4 stove tops going – pancakes for breakfast, bacon, broccoli, and pasta for the mac and cheese I will bring to the party. My daughter is alternately playing on her own and clinging to my leg as I work. My husband is sleeping after a late night out with friends. I peek in on him to tell him breakfast will be ready soon and ask him to help out.
Our daughter is dressed and ready to go and I have packed up the stroller with the cake and mac and cheese. The party has already started and we are not yet out the door. My husband is moving slowly, his body showing how drained he feels.
“Do you have to go?” he asks. We embrace and I feel him curl into me, how genuine his pleading for me to join him in staying in our nest, ignoring the world and its demands together.
I had wanted for him to accompany us to the party, but I decide not to push, instead asking if he still wants to go out after. We had arranged a babysitter and were planning on a date, but I could tell he was in the mood to stay in. “I don’t really want to do anything at all,” he says, confirming my suspicions. I understand all too well how he is feeling – the sense that any effort at all is too much, that nothing could be rewarding enough to make it worth it. It’s not true, of course. But I know how true it can feel, when you’re there, in that place.
I pause. “Let’s at least get dinner, just the two of us,” I say. “We can always come home afterwards.”
As I push the stroller around the building and roll it up the stairs, careful not to wake my sleeping toddler, I hear the buzz of the party inside the building. The voices of adults mingle with the squeals and cries of children. I open the door and enter the space, looking around at the gathered families. Here are my daughter’s best friends, my best mom friends (though the “mom” qualifier is no longer needed), and their spouses, all gathered together to mark the occasion of our children’s first birthdays. It is a room filled with love and support, I know, and yet as I enter with my sleeping child I can’t help but feel a bit alone.
I roll the stroller with my daughter to a spot in the back, where she is somewhat removed from the din but we can see when she wakes. With a sigh, I note that I am 45 minutes late for a 2 hour party. After getting settled, I snap a picture of my sleeping daughter, and send it to my husband.
“So far, she is sleeping through the party. Your daughter, much? ;)”
Once she wakes up, she is a joy. We have some food and talk with our friends. Then we all get together for a group photo of the moms and babies. As we laugh and smile and look at any of the many cameras in the hands of the many dads, I know that this will be a picture I will cherish – we will capture a moment, but it will call to mind so many more, of emails and texts and afternoons together in the park or indoors, of home cooked scones and pot luck dinners, of watching our children make their first friends, with each other.
During the group shot with the fathers, a few of us step out of the frame. My daughter and I run back and forth in the large space, enjoying the music.
Someone who generously watched my daughter in addition to their own just the day before returns a sippy cup that I had left behind at their house. My daughter wants to drink from it, and I let her carry it, then lose track of it again in the sea of children’s things that is our celebration of ten 1 year olds and their moms and dads.
We are cleaning up, putting away furniture and sweeping the floor. The babysitter has picked up my daughter and is on her way to our apartment. I have messaged my husband, but heard nothing. I guess that he has fallen asleep and will wake when the babysitter arrives. I make the most of the time, chatting with the friends who remain and helping out. A boy, the older sibling of one of my daughter’s friends, brings the sippy cup to the mom I am standing next to. She tells me he thought it was hers because her daughter was drinking from it too.
“No worries,” I say as I put the bright pink and yellow cup in the pocket of my oversized coat, thankful at this moment for the coat and its large pockets. The coat is too big and not very flattering. I wore it last winter when I was in my third trimester, and I continue to wear it now so that I can close it around my daughter and I when she is in the wrap. It has dried finger paint on the hem from my encounters with not-quite-dry toddler art, and crumbs and specks of food from her snacks in the wrap. It is, as my boss put it, a “mom coat.” I probably should get a nice fitted coat for myself, but I just couldn’t bring myself to invest the money and time in the hunt for the right winter coat this year. I am not focused on that part of me. I am a mom first, and everything else after. It’s how I want it to be.
My pace quickens as I see my husband walking towards me on the street. I feel weird, like a train off the tracks, as I walk towards him without our daughter in sight. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve gone out without our daughter in the 14 months since she was born. As the two of us draw closer, I am giddy with happy memories – a decade of dinners for two, conversations both deep and light, games and trips and weekends in.
We embrace excitedly, sharing a big hug and a kiss, even though we’d just seen each other a few hours earlier. I lean into him as we walk, an extra skip in my step. As we hold hands and chat about where to go for dinner, I am relieved to hear more energy in his voice and feel more strength in his walk.
We choose to eat at Le Cheile, where we had our first dinner out as a new family of 3 a little over a year earlier and where we have been since many times, instead of Saggio, the fancy but cramped Italian restaurant where we ate our last dinner out as a childless couple. We are creatures of habit and comfort, and they have delicious mozzarella sticks.
I sit on a bench in the park, my legs awkwardly stretched in front of me on the deep blanket of snow. My husband sits across from me, helping me light the joint I just rolled as we talk about family size and when to have another child. I am enjoying myself, and I tell him so. It feels nice to be able to focus on each other and not worry about what our daughter is up to.
My throat feels dry, and I think a drink would be great. Then I interrupt our conversation – “I’m about to have a very mom moment. Are you ready for this?” I ask as I reach into my pocket and pull out the sippy cup. “Want some water?” I ask, thinking of all the people involved in making this drink turn up in my pocket on this particular day.
I smile, feeling immense love as I talk with my husband.
What a great day.
I can’t believe how long it’s been since I took the time to write. So many things have been going on – a reorganization at work, Husband started a new job, the holidays and family visits, and my daughter’s first birthday!
She seems more and more like a toddler these days. She walks well, even being able to catch her balance after wobbling on one leg, standing from sitting, and balancing in a squat while she plays on the floor.
Lately she is all about the couch, and she can now get up and down safely in her own. She likes to crawl around on it or to grab the Wii U remote and play with the touchscreen. She’s taken a liking to her Elmo doll. We do watch a little bit of TV, and when I turned on sesame street she was blown away to see Elmo on the TV. She turned to me, back to the TV, back to me, as if to say “Did you know about this?”
She has a handful of words, and babbles all the time. She regularly says Dada, Mama, cat (“atttt” or “tttttt”), up, all done (“aaaaahl duh”), that, this, and yes (“ess”). She has also said book, bye bye, towel, and bed. The other day or cat had climbed up to a shelf in the closet, and her Dada was holding hey up so that she could see. She was amazed to see the cat there, and said “(c)at up”.
She is so much fun. She loves music and physical play and investigating objects. She puts rings on pegs and is working on the shape sorter, sometimes getting the shapes through and other times getting frustrated when she is trying to put a circle through a square hole.
We love her so much. It’s been such an amazing 13 months with her.