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.
“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?
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.
While I sat rocking my daughter in her nursery last night, trying yet another position to get her to go back to sleep, I closed my eyes and rested my lips on her head. I tried to remind myself to relish the time with her while she’s small. She turns 5 months tomorrow, and I lost my first two months with her to postpartum anxiety.
My anxiety robbed me of enjoying my first weeks with her. I honestly thought I was on top of my symptoms. I wasn’t. I finally admitted I needed more help after I acknowledged I was experiencing intrusive thoughts, and it took me 5 weeks before I could get in to a postpartum specialist.
I couldn’t call my daughter by her name. I didn’t want to look at her. I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts because I’d lose myself in a whirlwind of fears and anxieties that I knew weren’t rooted in reality, but I couldn’t pull myself out of them. I felt out of control, out of touch, and at a loss. I returned to a new job after 6 weeks at home, and I was a mess.
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.
Soon after our son was born, I developed a somewhat standard response to check-in questions. “Hard and best.” That’s how I described my transition into motherhood. Because it felt impossible to mention one without the other. The sleep deprivation without the joy, the loneliness without the fulfillment, the loss of one identity without the discovery of another.
Eventually, I graduated to the blessing sandwich.
You know, the “I’m grateful I get to stay home with him. Sure, sometimes it’s isolating. But I feel really fortunate to have this time together.” Or the, “He’s a really happy baby. Still not sleeping through the night. But all the smiles during the day make up for it.”
I didn’t have a detailed birth plan. Without ever having ever gone through labor and delivery, I was unsure of how I’d feel about pain management or who I’d really want in the room when it was time to push. So, on the hospital form, I kept my preferences short and sweet. Healthy baby, healthy mama. That was it.
At 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant, I went into labor. After 28 hours, I gave birth to our sweet boy. I awaited the moment everyone promises, when all the pain and pushing evaporates and you hold your baby in your arms for the first time. Continue reading →
I never knew many things before becoming a mother. I had heard “stories” from other parents but like many people, I thought “surely those are myths.” And then I became a mom and boy did things change.
I never knew how scary it was caring for another tiny little human. How delicate I’d think she was. How afraid I’d be to make the wrong decision in even the simplest of situations. I never knew I wouldn’t leave the house on time ever again. Or that when I’d finally leave, I’d be toting around a giant bag of everything in the house. Continue reading →
When I lived in Houston, my favorite radio station had a weekly prank call segment where the DJ would regularly repeat the phrase, “honey, we all got problems,” with a thick southern drawl. It was like listening to a scene from SNL and I’d often laugh so hard that I cried, hearing the outrageous personal issues she’d list in detail to the stranger on the other end of the line.
Her voice and that expression have stayed with me over the years and I’ll often find myself replaying some variation of those words in my mind. They’re my reassuring reminder that none of us is without insecurities, imperfections, or self-doubt. That regardless of how confident, poised, and put together our lives may seem from the outside looking in, we’re all dealing with something, or more accurately, some things. Continue reading →