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?”

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.

Nanny Trial

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I told her that my goal for Fridays, spending them with my son while I’m gone at private practice, was for him to feel loved and cared for and that the structure of the day can be free flowing, as he is in ‘school’ the rest of the week, which is a very structured setting.

And I came home to find her handwritten note, and the dishes put in the dishwasher, and a little Christmas ornament made.

All of my initial fears of her being flaky have yet to come true. She was 5 minutes early, very communicative, and had a cheerful disposition at the end. I am hopeful that she will be the nanny we can keep for awhile while I get to explore whether private practice is a good fit for me or not.

Fall Bike Rides

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The best part about trolling the thrift stores weekly is coming across a gently used Radio Flyer trike for $14. Potamus is in heaven, and we’ve even bent the ‘no bikes inside’ rule for him. The hardwood floors might get banged up a bit, but it’s really cute to see how much he loves his new mode of transportation. Scooting down the long hallway, sitting in the living room eating a snack and watching his show, I’m happy we found such a good one for him!

And then I look at this picture and see how quickly time goes by. How the days ARE long and the years ARE short and think in just a mere two months he’ll be 3. And my anxious mind spirals into all the what-ifs about trying for another or staying one-and-done, and it doesn’t help that some facebook friends have ‘come out’ as one-and-done parents and I begin to be envious of anyone who can clearly make up their mind about anything parenting related. I love this little boy, and how he still snuggles in to my body, especially when he’s sick. I love that daycare teaches him to be polite, saying ‘okay mommy,’ and ‘thank you mommy,’ because Lord knows if he was in my care 24/7 he’d know how to say ‘this fucking_________’ because I can’t seem to control my potty mouth.

I’m thankful for the calm fall weather, and bike rides around the neighborhood, and that life is good in moments even when it’s hard in others.

Potty Training Bootcamp

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Last week Potamus leveled up to a new classroom, and while my head was still spinning at that transition, his teacher said “just so you know, I’m ready to potty train him whenever you are.”

Gulp.

Potty training. 

Potamus is only 2 years and 8 months old and a boy, which I naturally assumed meant he would potty train later, because that’s what everyone and their great aunt/second cousin/hairdresser said. Yeah, I figured potty training wasn’t going to be on the radar until Christmas or later. But with the teacher’s insistence that it’d be a good idea, and his friends are doing it too, I gave in to the peer pressure and rolled with it. 

Mari suggested doing the 3 day bootcamp method she used, which was 3 days off (which I happen to have built into my schedule every week regardles) filled with juice boxes and snacks and shows and running around naked or only in his new superhero underwear. It didn’t sound so bad, and so I headed off to the store to get supplies and get my head on straight about this whole business. 

Because once we decided to go for it, we weren’t going back, which was my biggest fear in the whole thing. Yikes. Commitment isn’t my strong point, really. And here I am, a baby led weaning, free range hippie dippy attachment type who still co-sleeps who let Potamus self-wean from nursing and I was…gulp…indulging in a potty training bootcamp. 

But, we forged on. 

Day 1

He loved his potty prize box. I had found some toys at Value Village, and every time he sat on his training potty he got a prize from the box. Sometimes it was a toy. Sometimes it was an orange or chocolate chips or a few coins that he’s obsessed with. Mommy Slot machine at its finest. He loved it. He dinged the kitchen timer that Mari had loaned us shouting “potty prize time!” in his cute little voice. It was adorable. And somewhat messy. There were moments where I was like ‘um, this is insane,’ but went with it. Total for the day: 2 big pees in the potty, 2 accidents, & 1 poop in the underwear episode. 

Day 2

He woke up and went on the potty like he had done the day before. He took a potty prize, but didn’t seem interested, He seemed annoyed by my potty dance in glee that he had gone. I don’t know if it was the dynamic of having Daddy Boof home, or what, but he spent the rest of the afternoon reluctant to go on the potty, refusing all things related to the potty, and just generally seemingly annoyed by my mere presence. My mind went into a panic and so of course I went out and bought 30 more pairs of underwear (which Boof said was funny that I ‘commit to something and just go with it full force’ because it would have equaled to 8 pairs of underwear a day if we only did wash weekly. haha). I figured I was a huge failure, that my kid wasn’t ready, and that I was doing everything all wrong. Wah wah wah. Total for the day: 2 pees in the potty, lost count of all the accidents, including a poop in the undies episode. 

Day 3

I guess it clicked. All the little dribble accidents went away. Sure he peed in the house once when he was watching a show and didn’t want to go on the potty. I get it. He’s still learning. He also peed outside once, but I didn’t count that as an accident, more like a perk of being a dude with a ‘magic penis’, which is what I started calling it. Saying, ‘can you do the magic penis trick of peeing in the potty?” And away went the potty prizes. He was done with them. So noncholant about the whole thing. Like, dude, mom, chill out, I got this. Though he protests a bit in being asked to go use the toilet, he does so rather easily now. We even braved two hours over at my in-laws and he made it through that and used the travel potty! 

Day 4

School. 

He did it. All day. Same clothes when I picked him up that he went in with. Teacher said he even woke up dry from his nap and made it to the bathroom to pee. So proud of this little munchkin. While he hadn’t been showing INTEREST it didn’t mean he wasn’t READY.

 

But now, we need to get him to poop, ya’ll…ugh…it’s been 24 hours and counting…

I am Jennifer Huston

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“Did you hear? They found her body today,” I said as I was laying in bed with Boof last night. While I don’t normally like to talk about, or even watch, the news (especially when I am in the throes of crisis counseling), I felt particularly drawn to this case, to this smiling blonde woman in the pictures plastered on the news. I had just spent time in Newberg, Oregon, and her face just looked back at me from the TV and the internet news media.

I am Jennifer Huston. I could feel myself empathizing, putting myself in her shoes. And while the police haven’t yet confirmed the cause of death, and she wasn’t found in the San Juan islands like some people thought, I resonated with the mythology around her disappearance and subsequent death. I don’t know what actually happened, as the articles said she complained of headaches in the days before her disappearance, but what I do know is that there is a mythology surrounding her disappearance and death. Suicide. Maybe they will come out with this confirmation today, maybe not at all, and my heart hurts for her family and her two kids who will grow up without her.

Regadless of what happened, the story in my mind is one that mixes with my own story. My own emotions. That feeling I get inside when it all seems to much and I just want to run away from it all. As if taking off on a full tank of gas and $40 in my pocket will solve the big life problems of being a wife, a mother, a worker, an American, a person with mental illness, an adoptee. As if running away will solve any of it. Will give me a break, at all.

Lying in bed, Boof said, “I’d hope that if you needed to leave for awhile, to clear your head or get rest or whatever that you’d tell me.” And I said, “in a good  moment I would. In a sane moment I would, you know? I’d schedule it and go and get some rest, but in my crazy panicky moments, you know, the ones where I’ve found myself driving 45 minutes north only to end up at the doorstep of my childhood home? In those moments I would want to escape, leave it all behind, reinvent myself in a world without responsibilities. It crosses my mind, and I hope it’s not something I ever do.”

I’m not talking about suicide. Just leaving. Escape. That blessed freedom on the road of nostalgia to a time when I didn’t feel so tied down to it all. That feeling of the woman in Kate Chopin’s Awakening, who simply walks into the ocean and drowns in order to escape. Because sometimes it feels like it’s all too much. Though, not right now, I just know that feeling. Of wanting to leave and take my green SUV and trail mix and sleeping pills to the San Juan islands for a retreat. And I could see not wanting to come back, not wanting to face the embarrassment of a country-wide manhunt, having to explain that “I was just tired y’all, I just needed a break.”

I had hoped the story would end differently. That after a week of missing mom reports we’d learn she had checked herself into a remote spa for some downtime, or a hospital for an evaluation, or that she was camping by herself and emerged stronger and healthier. Instead we hear a story of a life lost, without a cause given (yet), and two boys and a husband who are left to pick up the pieces. I think that bit inside me, that wants to leave, is outweighed by the thought of Boof and Potamus left to pick up the pieces. My heart goes out to the family, her boys, her husband, her friends. And maybe, just maybe, a story like this can help mom’s get the rest and relaxation they need, without resorting to disappearances, or suicides, or leaving families to pick up the pieces.

 

Embrace the Rain

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Okay, maybe I was a little hard on other moms in the whole bathing suit post I wrote earlier. Like maybe my point was lost, that it’s not so much about wearing a bathing suit (that was supposed to be my metaphor), it’s more about GETTING INVOLVED with your kid’s lives. It’s being in front of the camera so your kids will know that you weren’t just the photographer/bystander/witness of their life, that you were there both physically, but also emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Yesterday it rained. I don’t mean a normal Seattle rain, where it drizzles and the ground is moist (ugh, I hate that word), but it was a DOWNPOUR. I had so much paperwork to do from my on-call day, that I kept Potamus home from daycare and we snuggled in bed until 9:45 and then he watched Wild Kratts and I did my mental health assessments for the crazy crisis counseling day I’d had the day before. It was a perfect day to stay inside, curled up on the couch watching cartoons and working from home. Even the dog was mellowed by the downpour outside.

And then, when Potamus came up for air from his Wild Kratts binge, he noticed the rain. And we were off. Puddle jumping outside in his bare feet (I barely convinced him he at least needed a coat). This kid is so his mama’s boy it’s not funny. I remember the squishy feeling of puddle jumping in bare feet…in college (yes, I went a year without shoes ya’ll), that I risked the judgment from my neighbors and let him be a little barefoot hippie rainy Seattle baby.

I wasn’t wearing a bathing suit, though Potamus probably wanted his swim trunks on. Because it wasn’t about wearing a bathing suit, it was about getting involved. Being present. Puddle jumping with my toddler, whereas a week ago I was swimming in a pool with him, because these moments count. They are the things that we grow up to remember. Like the memory of jumping fearlessly into my daddy’s arms in the swimming pool as a kid, and how on the ride home we’d sing The Muffin Man.

Wear the goddamn bathing suit. Wear the rain jacket. Or take off your shoes and jump in puddles with your barefoot hippie kid. It’s that simple. Really. The dishes will wait. The pounds may never be shed. It’s okay.

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