36 weeks + 6 days pregnant. That’s when I officially lost my chill.
It wasn’t as if things started off in an Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day kind of way. In fact, if you’d seen me just an hour earlier you might have assumed that I had it all together.
Sometimes they’re small things: I forgot to move the laundry to the dryer or I forgot to answer a text. Other times, they’re a little more significant: a work email that’s sitting in my draft folder, an invoice I need to send, the paperwork from my accountant for tax season. I’ll remember at inconvenient times: driving on the highway, brushing my teeth before bed, or while trying to fall asleep. Oops, I’ll think. I’ll do it tomorrow.
You know those things that just come naturally to some people? Like running or baking or hitting a tennis ball over a net? Well, cheerleading was not that thing for me. As an awkward 13-year-old navigating middle school, I really hoped it might be my undiscovered talent. And, after a week spent learning the routines, I discovered that linking movement and words and flexibility was not (and would not be) my hidden skill. Still, I went to tryouts and gave it my all. Clumsily flopping my arms and legs in the air, following the movement of the girls around me, and yelling to “Go! Fight! Win!”
On a cold spring morning, I stood alongside my aspiring peers, anxiously awaiting a glimpse of the roster for the upcoming year. To the surprise of no one, my name was not on the list. I suppose I felt the familiar kind of disappointment that comes with failure of any type. And maybe a little embarrassment too, because I had enough self awareness to know what my high kicks looked like. But more than that, I felt relief. I could put the pompoms down forever knowing that cheering wasn’t in my wheelhouse.
“Be away from me” my almost-three-year-old boy shouts at me, for likely the seventh time this week. To compliment his bold declaration, he throws one small arm out straight in front him and swings it from side to side, as if indicating the exact amount of space he needs in order for me to “be away”.
Though he is good with language for his age, he obviously lacks a command of the English language, which sometimes win us some great little phrases. When he doesn’t want to snuggle before bed at night, I am told to “be off his body”. Typically my husband and I giggle about these mistakes in wording. We try to document them because we know that one day he won’t make mistakes like these. Or he will…. But it won’t be funny so much as a reason for a concerning parent teacher conference.
As I’m sitting on the living room rug with my son building blocks, my mind starts running through its regular list of questions. Have we read enough books today? Does he get the socialization he needs? How many servings of fruit has he had? Vegetables? Dairy? What am I missing that I don’t even know I’m missing?
It’s not unlike the list I work through when I’m racing through the checklist of my own life. Am I setting a good example for him? Should I be working out of the house? Do I bring enough to our family? Am I doing it as well as she (mom on Instagram, mom at the grocery story, mom at the park, mom I’ve never met, and mom who is my best friend) is doing it?
“Unfortunately, you failed the glucose screening. We’ll need you to come in as soon as possible for the 3-hour test.”
So, here I sit, one blood draw down and an orange sugary drink guzzled, waiting for step two. (And also wondering why I couldn’t have just had a couple doughnuts and a glass of chocolate milk, but I digress).
I cried when I hung up the phone. I wasn’t even entirely sure why. Partially because I didn’t want to deal with more needles and fasting, but it was more than that. I felt like I’d done something wrong. Was it the scoop of ice cream I’d had the night before my appointment? Should I have eaten something that morning? Was I eating too much? Too little? The wrong things?
There’s a special kind of nagging, annoying, feeling of guilt that is unique to motherhood. So much that there’s even a term for it; aptly, it’s called “Mom Guilt.”
For me, and so many others, it sneaks up a thousand times a day: if I take 30 seconds to answer an email instead of playing with my daughter, if I spend 25 minutes getting ready rather than 20, if I arrange a rare night out and leave her with anyone who isn’t me. Mom Guilt is always there to remind me I didn’t come up with a fun Pinterest’y craft that week, or that she’s eaten mac-n-cheese three times for dinner instead of whatever colorful nonsense I see on those toddler meal Instagrams. And Mom Guilt loves to have a party whenever I find myself missing my pre-mom life, or wanting to indulge parts of myself that isn’t wrapped up in the identity of being a mom.
I’ve always loved those images that can be viewed two different ways, like the young girl or old woman. Once you’ve seen one, it’s nearly impossible to recognize the other. And then, just as quickly, the opposite is made clear and it’s hard to go back to your original perception. It seems inconceivable that the two could coexist. And yet somehow, they do.
Life feels like that sometimes.
6 years ago was my wedding rehearsal. I can remember everything about that day in better detail than I can remember what I was doing this Tuesday afternoon.
I’ll be walking my son in his stroller, watching him pull at his socks and kick his legs happily as he woofs back at dogs in the neighborhood. I’m usually listening to a podcast about motherhood, nodding my head as the women I’ve self-declared as friends talk about how they do mornings and meal times and meet other moms.
I’ll catch a glimpse of a bumper sticker as a minivan rolls by. Something about dance or soccer. My mind will start to wander. I’ll begin imagining recitals and open fields. I’ll think of our blonde little boy chasing a ball. I picture buns and tutus. Orange slices and Gatorade. Cheering on sidelines and carpool lines.
Communal restrooms and a shared cubicle for a bedroom were hardly my favorite part of dorm living in college. I habitually whispered “I’m sorry” to my roommate as I whipped up my morning smoothie before 8 am class. No need for an alarm clock when you have a blender on full speed just feet away from your bunk.
That being said, what I’ve come to retrospectively appreciate, was the
inability to fully hide anything.
My friends knew when I had a hard day, because I had to cry somewhere. And unless I chose a dirty bathroom stall, privacy wasn’t really an option. Homesickness, insecurities, and academic struggles were on full display.