I really do think that Daddy O and I prepared for parenthood as much as a couple could. We took parenting classes, watched instructional DVDs, read endless books on adoption & discipline as well as listened to scores of solicited and unsolicited advice from just about everyone we knew (and a few folks we didn't for that matter). We baby proofed our home, bought age appropriate toys, clothes, furniture and books. Just before traveling to Ethiopia, I even took the time to prepare exactly seven family dinners that could be stored in the freezer (I estimated that it would take me exactly one week to recover and start cooking again) and pureed one months worth of vegetables for Baby O. I also made plans to resign from my full time job as a biologist-in my mind, that just about covered everything. And yes, in case you haven't already guessed, I have been compared to the character 'Monica' from the TV show Friends.
Despite all my best intentions, I liken the first few weeks of parenting a toddler and an infant to the picture below. I ended up with pages of descriptions in my journal, but this just sums it up better than words:
Now that I am able to look back, I honestly don't think that anything could have properly prepared me for the reality or shock of going from zero to two children. I've heard people say that it is harder for us because we started with two boys at such different ages and that we didn't 'ease' into it like a family that gave birth to kids of the same age. Is it any harder? I don't know-I've never had just one. I think it doesn't matter how you decide to start or add to your family or with how many-it will always give your body and schedule a 'jolt' and take time to adjust. I would venture to guess that as new and experienced parents alike, we are all just as exhausted as the other. That being said, I will say that when I see people with twins or people with more than two, I am silently in awe and want to ask them how they do it. Two months later, I still feel like the picture above on a regular basis :) by the end of the day.
Having two children, I find myself worrying whether or not I'm spending quality time with both boys equally. Sometimes I feel like I'm being pulled in different directions and have to decide which need to fill first. "Mommy look!, Look at me Mommy....Mommy? Mommy? MOMMY?", then when I do turn to look and lose sight of Baby O for one second, he has already crawled over to the dog bowls (which I always seem to forget to put up high in the morning) and either has a fistful of dog food or has turned over the water bowl. I feel like I'm not as patient or understanding as I could be all the time. Some days my attitude is a bit lacking. When I find myself getting frustrated, I try to find an activity to do outside with both boys-I am always amazed at what a little fresh air can do for a (aka my) poor attitude.
Another issue that consumes much of my thought is attachment and bonding-something that every adoptive parent must deal with to some degree. Are they looking me in the eye? Are they smiling and laughing enough? Are they comfortable? More importantly, do they recognize us as their parents? This last question always leaves me wondering. Baby O definitely recognizes our voices and faces now. He will reach for us and lets us know what he needs. He smiles more and looks us in the eye. He just started to return our kisses this weekend. These are huge milestones to us.
From the outside, I'm sure it looks like Boy O has transitioned beautifully-and he has-given the fact that we have only been home for eight weeks. He is anxious when we leave the house and new people come to visit-now that communication has progressed, we can explain that we will be coming home and visitors will be leaving. He genuinely wants to be here and is always eager to please. People seem amazed and sometimes impressed that he called us Mommy and Daddy from the beginning. But what they don't understand is that it's just a word to him. He's just now noticing that other children in the neighborhood call their parents Mommy and Daddy too. It will take more than eight weeks to know the true meaning of what Mommy and Daddy means in this family. It breaks my heart sometimes as his parent but those are times that I have to step back, take a deep breath, think logically and trust that the unconditional love we feel for our beautiful boys will prevail.
Even though I whine and worry a lot, parenthood has been an absolutely amazing ride and it is by far everything I thought it would be and more-with every frustration there are far more touching and funny moments-too many to count. We are having so much fun. We have waited for what seems like eternity to have our sons with us and wouldn't change a thing. Not a thing.