I’ve talked a lot about strength the past few weeks and really if I want to give a true picture of that I’m going to need to turn the focus to our other little girl for a few…our 3 going on 30 year old Presley. 😉 Now in no means am I trying to belittle an instant of what Riley is going through, she is a rockstar and we can all atest to that. However, Riley knows no other life, Presley does. Presley knew a life prior that was all about her, a life in which Mommy was always home, a life in which everything was explainable. Presley was our first born and the first grandchild on both sides of our familes so needless to say she was a pretty big hit. I wasn’t sure what to expect from her when we broke the news that there would be another baby joining the mix. Sheer joy was what we got. She loved that little girl from the minute she could understand that there was a baby in my belly. During the dreaded morning sickness she cuddled me and retrieved me “medicine” in the form of Preggie Pop Drops (come on Mamas you remember those), she practiced being “big sister” on her stuffed animals for months in anticipation of Riley’s arrival and when Riley came Presley was ready.
Chris and my Mom brought Presley to the hospital the day Riley and I were set to come home, no one had told her that baby Riley had been born…we wanted to see her reaction. She had been at my Moms for two nights and so when they walked in the door and she laid eyes on me she was thrilled to see her Mama. Back then being away from me for 2 days felt like a lifetime to her. She scurried over to the hospital bed and jumped up on my lap with a big hug. Instantly she backed away realizing the closeness between us was different…she looked down at my belly completely confused as to how she was able to be so near to me…”Mommy where’s baby Riley?” she said with a little bit of anxiety and fear in her voice. She had grown so used to my uber expanded belly as Riley’s home that its deflated state left her puzzled. I then pointed to the little clear crib beside the bed where Riley lay sound asleep…”She’s right here baby.” …without skipping a beat Presley excitedly mutters “Can I tickle her feet?!?!” Presley was as instantly in love as were we. From those first moments she was gentle, brave and bursting at the seams with admiration for her baby sister. Riding home from the hospital I sat in the middle backseat between my two daughters, we were headed home to start life and I couldn’t wait.
The three weeks that we spent at home before the SCID storm struck were magical and exhausting all at once. Two kids is a lot, you’re hormonal, they’re needy, all involved are beyond tired and you feel like you’re learning to be a parent all over again because well…you are. Presley was such a helper..sometimes too much. Often it would take me twice as long to do something simply because Presley insisted on aiding or overseeing my mothering…according to her, she knew best how to shake a bottle and unfold a diaper. Presley welcomed Riley and never once feined jealousy towards this little lump that was now consuming much of the attention once reserved for her. She was so proud to show off her baby sister and jumped at any opportunity to tickle her toes.
Presley went from being the center of our worlds for 3 years to then sharing that stage for 3 weeks and then had her family and the homelife she knew shattered. For 3 years she woke up to my face and fell asleep to my voice almost exclusively minus the occasional business trip or slumber party at her grandmas and now I am gone 4-5 days a week. The little baby that she patiently waited on for months and only got to enjoy for weeks is now gone from her home. Riley remains at “that place getting stronger” while Presley is home trying to go about things as “normal” though everything she has ever known is different. Life has changed the most for Presley no doubt. She is getting the shortest end of this stick in so many ways. My heart aches and breaks for her more times a day than I can count. The first two weeks were hard on her, so hard there are simply no words to fairly describe the confusion and pain she must have felt. I just wanted to hold her, to be there for her and tell her how much I loved her but I couldn’t…I had to be here, I had to be with little Riley. As torn as I felt during those weeks at least I understood, of course I didn’t understand why this happened to our family but I understood the reason for my absence…Presley did not. The beauty of 3 years olds is their resilience, I’ve said it a million times but I will continue to say it because it deserves the recognition. Two months into this rollercoaster that is now our life and it is normal for Presley. Does that mean she likes it? Hell no. But she is handling it on a daily basis. She definitely has her moments where she misses Mommy and just wants me home but she is handling this with true grace. Not once has she acted mad at Riley for any of this, she does not blame her, feel anger towards her or even so much as make a snotty remark about me leaving her to be with Riley. She only acts out of concern. She misses Riley. She wants to know when I will be able to bring her home. She always says “Mommy it’s takin’ a long time for Riley to come home” and I simply reply “I know baby but soon enough she will be.”
There will be a day that I will be back home with both of the girls and a few weeks later Presleys exterior will look and feel as though things never changed, on the interior however she will be forever changed, forever stronger because of this. The tears that she cries for me are not signs of her breaking but signs of her courage to overcome, signs of her ability to feel love and sadness but also pick herself up and giggle her way out of a tantrum. While it breaks my heart I know that the more adaptable and able to face change that my girls are the better that will serve them throughout life. Presley will continue to grow to be an amazing young lady, she will understand struggle, compassion and patience more than most adults before she’s even able to tie her own shoes.
I shared this conversation we had on facebook a few weeks back when it took place but it so well sums up her ability to deal that it is worth documenting again…
“Mommy, I wish Riley would come home.”
“I know baby me too.”
“When will she? It’s taking a long time.”
“I know Pres…she just needs to get a little stronger before she comes home, remember?”
“OHHHHH yeah Mommy I forgot (very excited)…last night in bed I was wishin’ for baby Riley to come home and then when I went to sleep I had a dream about her…Mommy she is SOOO cuuuute.”
Think of something sweeter than that…I dare you.
The 11 days that I was just away from Presley was the longest absence we have ever shared. That was a serious strain, by day 7 I was absolutely crawling out of my skin and so was she. Again, at least I understood the reason. We made up for the missed moments as much as we could over the weekend and all involved are thrilled that long stretch is behind us. I wrote a letter to Presley in my journal back in early September, stumbling across it today is what brought on my need to share a bit about her.
I haven’t had the chance to sit down and say it but Happy 3rd birthday little bean. As much as I cannot believe you are already 3 years old I also have a hard time remembering my life before you. You’re Dad and I ask each other all the time “what did we do before Presley?” You have brought an amount of joy into my life that I simply could have never imagined. Looking at you now and seeing the strength you already have blows me away, I could not be more proud. You are my rock. You are my safe place. You are the glue for so many. You glued my heart back together when you were born and you have held it in place ever since. When little Riley came along it was amazing to become a Mom all over again but even more amazing to see you become a big sister. The amount of love you showered over her in the 3 short weeks that we shared with her at home was amazing, I couldn’t believe that much love could come from such a small person. At your birthday party when asked “Where’s your baby sister?” I couldn’t have been more proud when you strongly and sweetly replied “she’s at that place getting stronger.” It broke my heart, not because of Riley but because of you. I am in awe of you. I know you miss her, I know you feel the void yet you are so brave, so strong. I admire you, I cannot believe that we created you, that we made something to perfect. I am so sorry that I am not able to be with you everyday, there is not a moment that I am away from you that my heart is not breaking. I miss you, I miss you dearly. Just know that Riley and I are up here both trying to be strong like you.
As you keep Riley in your thoughts please be sure that Presley is not far behind. xoxo