Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wide arms

"A parent's love is whole no matter how many times divided."
Robert Brault

I'm getting better at remaining calm when both of my girls are crying at the same time, but it's still frustrating.  When I was pregnant with Crazybaby I wondered how I was going to split my attention between two children, and a wise woman said to me, "You'll just have to open your arms a little wider."  I remembered her words the first time both Pip and Crazybaby wanted to be comforted at the same time.  I just said to Pip,
"Isn't it lucky that Mama has two arms to hold my two girls."  It worked; that time.

Yesterday I needed four arms.  We were walking back through the woods to the beach house after having a lovely time playing in a waterfront meadow, when Pip screamed.  She was frantically clutching her forehead and I immediately understood that she'd been stung by a wasp.  My first thought was that I hoped that she wasn't allergic.  It was her first bee-sting so I asked her if her throat was feeling funny.  She just kept crying, "Mama," and buried her head in my neck.  She didn't seem to be puffing-up anywhere, so with Crazybaby still in the backpack, I lifted Pip in my arms and started walking.  I was still about a ten minute walk from the beach house.  I tried to soothe Pip by telling her stories on the journey home, but she was inconsolable.  Crazybaby was so frightened from Pip's outburst that she had started crying too.

We made it out of the woods and back onto the beach where I negotiated logs and rocks with my wailing, fifty-three pound cargo.  The beach house was in sight, but the fun had just begun.  Once on the front lawn, I twisted my ankle and fell down on one knee.  Both girls fell silent.  I said, "Pip, I twisted my ankle and I'm going to try to stand up now, but I need to put you down.  You're going to be a brave girl for me."  And she was.  Gingerly, I put weight on my right foot and was relieved to discover that I could walk. 

Once we were all in the house I put Crazybaby down and her crying resumed.  It was past her nap time.  I had no baking soda in the house to try to relieve Pip's sting, so I got a cold cloth and put it on her forehead.  (Rule of thumb: when you have no idea what to do, apply a cold cloth.)  A new wave of tears poured out of Pip as I said that I was going to put Crazybaby down for her nap.  "No Mama!!!" she cried, clinging to my neck.  I glanced over at Crazybaby, sitting on the floor screaming.  What to do?  I turned on the television.  
"Pip, you'll just be on your own for a few minutes, and once Crazybaby is in her crib I will come down here to cuddle with you."
"Mama, don't go!!!"  Pip's face was beet red, except for the glowing white sting-site, tears were streaming down her face, her nose was running and her hands were clasped firmly around my neck.  I would have to forcefully pry her off of me if I was to go anywhere.  I couldn't do it.
I hauled Pip over to where Crazybaby baby was sitting, lifted her up with my other arm, and made it back to the couch with both girls crying full throttle.  

I have to say, this is the part of being a mother-of-two that I find agonizing!  Thank goodness it doesn't happen every day.  It's not just the stress of both girls being terrifically upset, it's the frustration of knowing exactly what each child needs but not being able to give it to them.

I tried once again to reason with Pip, "You have a choice, Honey: I have to go upstairs and put your sister down for her nap-"(keep in mind that Pip is repeatedly crying, 'Mama,' and Crazybaby is still sobbing with fatigue,) "you can either stay downstairs and watch a show for a few minutes, or you can come upstairs with us."  Tearfully, she chose to accompany us.  Once I had changed Crazybaby's diaper and started nursing her, Pip surprised me with, 
"Mama, I need a nap."  Here we go.  I walked, with Crazybaby still on my breast, down the hall to Pip's room, and squatted while I single-handedly helped her take off her clothes and put on a pull-up.  She snuggled into her bed.  Back in Crazybaby's room, (truthfully, it's a walk-in closet,) I finished nursing her and she quickly fell asleep.  

 It was suddenly very quiet in the house.  All I could hear was the sound of wavelets lapping against the shore.  What a difference ten minutes makes.    

I examined my throbbing ankle.  It didn't look swollen or bruised.  It was just sore.  I was exhausted.  The entire episode probably only lasted twenty minutes or so, but I felt soul-drained.  The tandem nap is a rarity these days, so I seized the opportunity, lay down on the king-sized bed and let the waves lull me into a soothing mid-day slumber.