It had been no more than 30 minutes since my husband and I had brought our second baby home from the hospital when I heard my toddler's tiny voice from the next room. "Mommy help?" he asked. My heart sank. I had just had a C-section so lifting my 28-pounder onto the changing table to help him get ready for bed was out of the question.
I felt a healthy dose of guilt. After two years of being the only child, not only did he have to adjust to having a new baby in the house, but suddenly his mother wasn't able to care for him in the way he was accustomed to. It was a lot of change for a 2-year-old, and I worried we hadn't done enough to prepare him. As my husband calmly explained that Mommy had a boo-boo on her tummy so Daddy would have to help him get ready tonight, I scooped up our newborn and peeked around the corner. I could see my son struggling to comprehend why his bedtime routine was suddenly uprooted and tears started falling. I felt like crying too, knowing that I couldn't comfort him in the way he needed in that moment.
The next few days were riddled with tearful protests of "No! Mommy do it" when my husband tried to perform simple tasks like lifting our toddler into his car seat or high chair. I shed tears of my own on several occasions, trying to reassure myself that although I had to prioritize my recovery right now, ultimately the benefits of giving my son a sibling would far outweigh the difficult adjustment period.
While we were in the thick of it, though, the transition to a family of four was hard to manage. During my pregnancy I knew in an abstract sense that adding a new baby to our family would come with its challenges, but I hadn't realized just how dependent we'd all become on the predictable routine we'd established as a family of three. My husband is a hands-on dad, but it took me being temporarily out of commission as the Chief Lunch Packer, Breakfast Maker, and Bedtime Storyteller for us to realize how much our son depended on and thrived in his regular schedule. Being physically present but on strict doctor's orders to avoid many of our usual activities was hard on all three of us.
But, as the weeks went on, I was amazed at my son's resiliency. Although we've now passed the standard six-week recovery period, he still thoughtfully reminds us that Mama's boo-boo is gone, but reassures us that he can do things like wash his hands and brush his teeth all by himself. When he does need help with daily tasks, he goes straight to Daddy. Each time, my heart swells with pride at how well he's adapted. Although I'm thrilled to be able push my son in the swing, put him to bed without help from another adult, and simply hoist him onto my hip again, I no longer feel guilty. Instead, I'm grateful for the independence those weeks fostered in him, as well as the strengthened bond he's developed with his dad.
Bringing home a new baby is a life-altering experience and the C-section recovery period adds a complicated element to the mix, but for our family it's truly been a blessing in disguise.