Hopes

When I was a kid, I distinctly remember my mom saying “don’t get your hopes up.” I rationally know that it was a moment-in-time-specific saying, but it stuck with me, and has had a profound effect on many things that I do. I halt my emotions, rather than feeling them, in order to put myself in emotional limbo until all.the.facts.are.known.

I was doing this with my recent pregnancy. Because my sister-in-law had a 10 week miscarriage, I was afraid that an early announcement would bring about a similar result (not rational, I know), but announced secretly, anyway. I was afraid to let myself get too excited about being pregnant, in case it meant losing it (and then deciding the next steps, which almost 90% would be not trying anymore). When Potamus asked for a sister, and I want a girl, I held off even entertaining the idea that it could be a girl. Sure I know that I’ll love another son, but I want a girl.

In the past few days I have been catching myself calling the baby ‘her.’ I spent ten hours cleaning out our office/guest room and moving the changing table from the garage into our new nursery/guest room. I know it’s just nesting, but when my parents arrived I was just naturally calling it ‘her room,’ and saying, ‘when she gets here,’ etc. And I realized, when doing my mindfulness app, that I actually want to get my hopes up. Will I be sad, and go through the emotions if anything were to happen to this baby, or if she were to be a he, yep. And I’d also be fine. I’d know that I can handle emotions and changes and everything turns out okay.

So I’m letting myself get my hopes up. And I’ll deal with the consequences later. Because I’m tired of living like my life is on hold until I know X or Y or Z happens.

Fear of the Unknown vs Fear of the Known

I’m having trouble.

I’m currently in the blissful weeks of pregnancy. The afternoon nausea has gone, and I’m mostly even keeled (with the exception of dealing with a very trying almost 4 year old. WHEW I WILL BE GLAD WHEN THIS STAGE IS OVER. THERE I SAID IT.) I mostly am symptom free, and not yet in the showing + feeling kicks stage.

And yet, I am petrified.

Last pregnancy I was nervous, in the “can I do this? Can I really be a parent?” naivete way. But this time around? Petrified. I see pictures online of my friends’ brand new baby and I’m propelled backward in time with all of this new knowledge and I’m like “no no no no no this can’t be happening to me.” Like, wake me up from the nightmare.

Rationally I know I’ll survive, as we do. But thrive? Boy am I concerned about that. I sit in stillness for a minute and try to imagine a tiny wriggling 8lb baby on my chest while my son yells “mommy more orange juice” from the living room and think, “what the fuck have I gotten myself into?”

The fear of the known has always been hard for me. During sports seasons I would DREAD the daily conditioning, even to the point of making myself occasionally vomit to avoid practice. Knowing what was to come was terrible. The anxiety buildup was beyond what I could control. Something sprung on me in the moment isn’t fun, but I suck it up and deal much better. So having 10 months to think about this impending doom (as I can’t help but conceptualize it) is crazy scary.

And then I get the mommy guilt trip that I’ve thus avoided with my son so far. But this worry that somehow my antepartum anxiety is going to effect this little one. That I’ll give birth to a neurotic daughter* and thus feel terrible for creating a child just like myself.

I spin and spin and annoy myself to no end. Despite the fact that I know I will be okay. I’ve been okay this whole time, and I will be okay again, but I’m petrified of the hard parts. With my son I didn’t know what to expect. And so once he was born I rushed headlong into parenting with a naivete that I’m afraid will be tampered down by my obsessional desire to conserve energy at all costs.

Can anyone at all relate? Am I completely a nutcase?

Lego Ninjago does nothing for  my liberal "it's a culture, not a costume," leanings. At what age will I have to enforce that?

Lego Ninjago does nothing for my liberal “it’s a culture, not a costume,” leanings. At what age will I have to enforce that?

Perspective After a Good Night’s Sleep

The night of sleep, long but fitful, did not serve to reset my heart and mind. Potamus’s sweet voice, saying “let’s get up mama,” roused me from my already-awake-but-not-wanting-to-face-the-day musings. Bowl of cheerios. Dog trying to steal cheerios. A few games of Candyland. Another glass of orange juice. All normal morning routine. Except for the slumbering husband still peaceful in bed. And my bad attitude.

I did self care. Coloring in my new National Parks coloring book. Yoga class at my local gym. Boof took Potamus to the store and to watch the Blue Angels land at Boeing field while I got a chance to write. There was downtime for me. And yet, my nerves were shot. The brushing teeth struggle particularly highlighted it, while he, yet again would not brush his teeth without a rabid coyote battle, I cussed and imagined myself smashing every dish in the house.

I bowed out of bedtime routine and watched trashy TLC TV while self-loathing on York peppermint patties.

My Queen Mother rage inside me is frightening. My unpredictable emotions scare me, and I look into the face of my sweetness and think about how I must be breaking his spirit, or creating a fear of pissing me off in him, like I’ve somehow managed to do in every other person who knows me. The flashbacks to the time in high school when I was so out of control with rage that I was throwing glasses on the ground in a giant 15 year old tantrum of depression and not being understood plays in my mind. Knowing that exists inside me is scary as fuck.

I woke up this morning in a different place. Potamus snuggled into me and said, “I want to be big like mommy and daddy.” Some of my softness had returned, and so I explored, “what do you mean buddy.” “Just, I want to do things like mommy and daddy. Like play ball. And be big.”

“Is it hard that you’re little, and mommy and daddy make you do things you don’t want to do, like brush your teeth.”

“Yeah,” he said, burrowing his head into my neck.

“Yeah, it’s hard for mommy and daddy, too. We tell you to do those things because we want you to grow up to be big like mommy and daddy. It would be more fun if we didn’t have to make you do those things.”

My heart is tender today. I feel so bad for this sensitive kid I’m raising. I feel bad for myself as a sensitive parents, who gets so overstimulated that I shut down and act like an insane person. I’m glad for re-connection and perspective. Maybe I’ll be able to take it going forward, when I forget my compassion and empathy.

Midnight Drives and Intuition

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Star darkness.

“Look honey, up there, at the stars,” I said. I could hear the Puget Sound lapping less than 50 feet away from the cabin, as I loaded the wheelbarrow full of my haphazardly packed items. Did I really need to bring home this pillow? Could it be sacrificed the Gods of State Parks and Midnight Ear Infections?

I knocked on the cabin next to me, “Dad? Dad? He’s sick, can you help.”

The mismatched trio. One headlamp. One wheelbarrow. A purse, and some extra bags, holding hands up the long steep and winding hill to the car.

“I’ll text when I get home. I might stop at a hospital along the way if he doesn’t go to sleep. I was afraid this was going to happen.”

Four days earlier I had taken Potamus in for a chest cold checkup. Doc said that it’d clear up on its own in the next few days, and if it didn’t, come back in. I had gone because this was exactly what I was worried about: the midnight drive home from camping. I guess no amount of interventions can influence karma, the Universe, or the way things are supposed to be?

I pulled out of the state park into the island darkness. No GPS to guide me. No daylight to illuminate landmarks. A wing and a prayer. The evening too far gone for even Coast to Coast radio.

Everything smelled like garlic, and puke, and dribbles of urine. There was coughing, and choking, and my panicked “are you okay? tell me you’re okay,” as I hurtled 70 miles per hour down the freeway, coming to a screeching halt at the fortuitous rest area. New change of clothes. The thought: in nine months this will be my new normal. The zombie-like decision making, where I’m so tired I’m not even mad (which says a lot, because I’m often awoken like a bear), and all I can think is “please be okay.”

Where did this motherhood strength come from? Was it always there? Was it bestowed when he was born, like a gift from the Good Fairies?

I admire Boof, who didn’t freak out, when I unexpectedly barged into the bedroom at 6am and said, “I’ve been driving since 4. I need a shower and to sleep. Can you sit in the car with him. He finally fell asleep after puking.”

Eventually we dozed together, the babe and I. And now we’re heading to the doctor…

The Problem of Comparison

There is some small part of me, my innermost heart maybe, that is excited about being pregnant. Not excited about being pregnant, but excited that I will get to see another life unfold in my house, under my care. Maybe this isn’t a small part of myself, maybe it’s my Highest self, that takes these moments to step back and look and witness and feel a whole world of feelings in an instant about the meaning of life, love, and parenting.

That is what I’m excited about. The ability to watch a small life unfold into the person that they’ve always been. The unlimited potential about who and what they can be or do, and all the funny things they’ll say.

That is what I look forward to.

But I am struggling.

I’m not sure yet if it’s prenatal depression, or simply adjusting to the idea of a new life inside of me to change the whole dynamic in our family. But I’m struggling.

This pregnancy is not like the last. And I’m worried that this will only begin the list of comparisons. It wasn’t like this with your brother, why can’t you be more like your sibling, it’s so different.

I had hoped to engage with my pregnancy and my new baby in a neutral way, free from the comparisons of four years ago.

But it’s hard not to.

I’m already in a lot of pain. The nights are spent tossing and turning with incredibly deep pelvic pain that’s not alleviated by pillows between the knees or yoga stretches. I’m assured it’s simply ligaments moving, but at six weeks in, I think “really, another 7.5 months of this shit left to deal with?” I’m off this summer, but this fall I’ll be teaching 24.5 college credits AND working 16 hours a week AND being a mom to a 3 year old. If I’m already not sleeping well, in lots of nighttime pain, then how am I going to cope?

I feel like a whiny bitch.

I have nausea all day.

I feel ugly (yes, this is a real feeling, not just looking for pity). Like I finally believe that body dysmorphic disorder exists, because I look at pictures and think “who is that person?” My husband says I look fine. And my brother-in-law said I was looking ‘flacando’ (aka skinny), so I’m not the fat cow with jabba the hut chins that I feel.

Have I mentioned the mood swings?

Right after Potamus was born, I cried a lot. It was like the Grinch’s heart had cracked open and I felt all these amazing tender and anxiety provoking emotions that I rarely let myself feel. And so I cried. For joy. For sadness. For holy-fuck-overhwlem. This time I’m crying at commercials, the movie Inside Out, at the thought that sometime ‘soon’ I won’t have the special 1-1 moments with Potamus that I’ve grown to love so much. I’m sure they’ll be moments, I’ll just have to look harder for them.

I want to hurl. About 3/4 of the day is spent navigating this landmine of nausea that hasn’t resulted in actual vomiting, but definitely leaves me averse to many foods/smells that trigger the upchuck reflex.

Last time I got lucky, I guess.

What I don’t want is to start resenting this little bean. Because I was on the fence about having another baby, that I hope that I can be excited, rather than, “holy shit have I made the worst mistake of my life?”

Pregnancy Comparisons

Both of my pregnancies have been conceived after a grandparent dies. For Potamus it was Boof’s grandpa. For this little Whirlygig it was after my grandma. It’s part of the reason I’m hoping for a girl. Then our naming scheme will be right in sync. Also, for someone who didn’t want to have kids, having karmic reincarnation conception stories (not that I believe Potamus is Boof’s grandpa, or this Whirlygig is my grandma), is pretty fucking cool.

But let’s talk about what isn’t cool: pregnancy symptoms.

Now maybe it’s because I had just started a new job as a crisis counselor the day I found out I was pregnant the last go round, but with Potamus I had zero symptoms. Besides gaining weight, craving pizza and Dairy Queen Blizzards, one week of heartburn, and some low back pain toward the end of pregnancy. I’d say those “didn’t count,” because A) I already had low back pain in life, B) I already eat a lot of pizza/Dairy Queen Blizzards, C) weight gain because it was a fucking baby inside me.

This time?

Oh golly.

While I’m not to Princess Kate’s level of nausea, let me say, the hours of 3-5pm are not that great. It’s not like I’m vomiting, but it’s more like the Spirit of Nausea Past. It’s haunting. Not like the day you’re actively hungover, but the next day, when you can still remember being hungover and the thought of alcohol wants to make you yak? It’s like that.

Even writing the word yak makes me want to yak.

I’m sensitive to smells. To a ridiculous degree. If there’s a missing person in the area, give me a sock, because I could find them. I’m not kidding. I can’t take out the garbage. I can’t be around onions or spicy foods. My own sweat makes me gag and I’m wearing deodorant. I don’t get it.

Zits. Yay. It’s like karma. I was the teen who went through the awkward years without any zits. Well, maybe a few, but definitely not the recurrent theme going on on my chin right now.

Lack of appetite. I’m forcing myself to eat a wide variety of things, even when I’m not hungry. I mill around the kitchen but nothing sounds good. This is not usual for me.

Lastly, the intense mood swings that have changed both my emotional outbursts and the way I see myself. I normally don’t have any body image issues, but until today I have felt like a fat bloaty cow and wish I could just wear sweatpants and a baggy shirt for the next 10 months. Surprisingly, today I feel a bit like a sex goddess, so maybe that’s the after effects of my water aerobics class last night. Tone the abs that will disappear in a few months.

But the mood swings you guys. They’re off the charts. I’m crying at commercials and while reading stories to Potamus. I’m raging at the slightest perception of criticism. I even slammed the phone down and hung up yesterday when my mom said she couldn’t hear me on the other end because of poor reception. We had been talking about hotdog buns. And I got irrationally angry. I sorta feel like I’m walking around without skin on and every nerve is exposed. It’s annoying.

So there ya go. This pregnancy is completely different than the last. I don’t know what to make of that (though googling these symptoms = baby girl, but I’m trying to not get my hopes up). I have the first trimester off, summer vacation, so hopefully by the time I go back to work in the fall (because it’s going to be CRAZY), I’ll have my shit together.

Day 1 of the Hostage Situation

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July 1st.

I am writing this from my kitchen table. The dog is barking. The kid is sticking his head in a box of sand on the floor. I have afternoon nausea. It’s fucking hot. And I’m regretting this whole “let’s save money and not have me drive 1.5 hours a day to get kid to daycare and back everyday. It’ll be fun,” I said. Besides, now with a new baby on the way, we gotta save money for the crazy expensive daycare. And six months of me not working. But I digress.

School ended for me two weeks ago, but with some work from home, and a meeting to go to, I’ve been shlepping Potamus to daycare four days a week. Which has left me time for myself, even if it’s just a haircut, or lunch with my sister-in-law, and some time to write. I’m in a manuscript writing class, so trying to get my words on paper is best while listening to a podcast, instead of listening to a 3 year old declare “look at me mommy, look at me,” as he climbs onto the windowsill.

But it’s now summer break. Day 1. Normally we have Fridays off together, so I figured this would be fine. We’d sleep in. Dink around. Get groceries. Watch a show. Play some games.

Instead it was watching shows and whining. So much whining. Our easygoing grocery shopping took 1.5 hours thanks to a question about every damn thing I put into the cart. And asking why I didn’t put other things into the cart. Seriously. “But why mommmy?” “Because I don’t need soap.” “But why?” “Because we already have enough soap.” “BUT WHY MOMMY?”

The highlight of the day so far was getting my kid to eat foods he normally doesn’t eat for me. English muffin pizza and cherries. It felt like a dissertation victory, which then makes me feel like a fucking idiot who has already lost her standard for self congratulations. Yay my kid ate 8 cherries. Big fucking deal. Last year I managed to teach a heroin addict.

Oh comparisons. My work self. My mom self. My self who wants to just watch the Kardashians uninterupted.

The pregnancy hormones are insane this go-round, and “keeping it together,” looks like sobbing. And yelling.

Why did I want another baby anyway?

My “saving grace,” is going to exhaust me even more I’m afraid. I signed up to counsel from 8-6 on Thursdays through the first week of September. I’m excited because the money, paired with the money saved from daycare, is going to be about five thousand dollars. Not something to scoff at. But working 10 hours in one day counseling students isn’t exactly a break in the way I like breaks…ya know?

I know I’ll get in the groove. Already this afternoon I’ve enjoyed some time weeding the backyard, and reading some stories while he sits on my lap. I am sad for these moments already as I experience them, for this time next year, there will be two grasping at me for everything.