We’ve been talking about the new baby for 9 months. We mostly talked about the birth because we knew this would be very intense for Jack to see. But we also helped him work out his questions and concerns about there being a new baby here. We knew it would be rough around here for awhile once the day came when there was this new person attached to Mommy who was never going away. And it’s proven intensely challenging for all of us.
One recent evening Jack started to show some curiosity about Exley. He stood over him in the bassinet. He ran to the couch. He ran back over and touched Exley. He ran back to the couch. He ran to Exley and touched him again. Back and forth like this for several minutes. “There is major shit going down for Jack right now. Tonight is going to be hard,” I said to my husband. Not 3 minutes later did Jack’s demeanor change. He looked frustrated. He started throwing all of his toys around the room. We asked if he was OK. He said “I’m frustrated! I’m freakin’ out!” I said, “Are you freaking out about Exley?” He said, “I’m freaking out about Exley!” And he continued to throw things. “It’s OK to feel that way, Jack. Mommy and daddy are here for you,” I said to him. His emotion was so raw and genuine. I couldn’t help but feel for him, to support him and let him have that.
Upon Exley’s birth I felt an immediate distance from Jack. I anticipated this and felt a deep sadness for sometime before the birth. My suspicions were right, once I was holding Exley, Jack felt far away. It broke my heart to know that this was the real end of what we had together. We’re in search of our new happiness and balance, but we have yet to find it. I desperately wanted to tandem nurse. I felt that this would help ease the transition for Jack. I don’t know if it has. I guess so. It’s all so different for me as I am sure it is to him as well. Sometimes I want to just throw my arms around him and cry, but I know that won’t do him any good.
The day Exley came Jack clung to my husband and Mom. He was very cautious around me; wouldn’t even look at me. By the end of the day he accepted my invitation to nurse. He leaned in and latched for a short time and then left. He has slowly circled back to wanting to nurse and now he seems to be clinging to that. He is nursing much more than ever. Sometimes he’ll nurse with Exley, sometimes he stands in front of me and cries that wants Exley to go away. I believe him. I really want to like tandem nursing, but I can’t say that I do. It’s a lot. I feel touched out much quicker. It’s not very comfortable. Someone is usually upset. I thought it would be breastfeeding as I knew it + 1. It is not. It is a whole new breastfeeding relationship and journey. One that I am not convinced of yet, but I remain hopeful. Maybe with more adjustment time Jack will go back to nursing a few times a day and not every hour as it seems now. I won’t wean him. I don’t feel that would be good for him now. He’s going through too much. I’m going to take responsibility for it and try to make it work for me. We are working on developing a new routine and my husband spends a lot of time playing with and supporting Jack. I am trying new breastfeeding positions and trying to pay attention to my own emotions connected to tandem nursing.
It’s painful to watch Jack try to find his way in the new dynamic. My husband and I aren’t always helpful since we’re finding our way too. There is this new life at my breast, but much of our effort goes to Jack who is all too painfully aware that things are different, that what he has known is gone and there is no new normal yet. His behavior (increase in meltdowns, increase in nursing, decrease in sleep) reflects his confusion and struggles, my tears reflect my sadness for him and my husband’s dark circles reflect his fatigue. We’re taking it moment by moment.
Abby Theuring, MSW