I own all the content and pictures on this site, except where noted. If you steal anything from me, and
especially if you do anything mean or inappropriate with them, I will find you. Then I'll sue you for
theft, slander, libel and any other law that applies. Then I'll ridicule you in humiliating ways
here and everywhere else I contribute to. If you fuck with me, I'll get get all Gladiator on your ass
and unleash hell. Think I'm kidding? So did my a couple of my exes, my old neighbors, as well as
some assholes who ripped me off on Ebay, and last I heard, they were all still trying to undo the
damage I caused.
I prop my baby boy on my legs, look at his sweet face, and promptly break into tears. It's been like this every morning this week, each day filled with random breakdowns caused by his smiling at me, my snuggling him, his cooing or his "cranky" face - anything sets me off. I am blue because I go back to work next week, and this last week with my baby has been hell on multiple levels.
A critical time in my life and in my baby's life is ending. I vacillate between sadness and guilt even as I feel anxious to get to normal. Maternity leave, in a society that does not truly honor this time in women's and infants' lives, is not normal. I've been racing against time since the moment I ended up in the hospital. I spent 1/3 of my leave in the NICU, so our time together at home has been minimal. As it is, the first days that it was just him and me at home were difficult, the boredom and impossibility of getting anything done getting the best of me. In time, though, we found our groove and it's been good from there. I have enjoyed this maternity leave more than I enjoyed Max's: it's been easier caring for the baby, and so I've been better able to enjoy the small moments and not get too worked up about the drudgery. So when I think of this time ending, of knowing that now I won't spend most of my time with my tiny boy, of realizing the whole new wave of adjusting that we're going to have to do, even though I like my job and am o.k. about going back - I feel so sad, so, so very blue.
It helps a bit that there have been some people observant and kind enough to consider what happens next week and understand that my heart is tearing all over the place. Their compassion has been something that I've greatly needed and appreciated.
Things have been extra hellish, though, because my body has been my enemy and I've physically felt worse than I did both pregnant and after the delivery. I've thought for many weeks now that my hormones have been ravaging my body. I've felt totally off - physically uncomfortable, battling terrible cravings, and feeling so sensitive I think I might crack in two. This week I confirmed this feeling, as blood tests revealed that I'm completely out of whack. While I'm relieved that there's a biological reason for what I've been feeling, I'm now worried about my health and whether or not I'll be able to fix this. I have something that occurs in five to 10 percent of postpartum women, but it's unknown if it will be a temporary thing or if it will become permanent. For now, I'm stuck with the hellacious feelings brought on by the condition and feeling like my body is not my own, unable to do anything about this (unless I get on medication, which I've not yet decided on.). The worst thing for me is that one of the symptoms is irritability, and damn, do I feel it. On top of the sadness I'm feeling, I'm irritable about my health and about going back to work. So anything on top of this, it's just like 10,000 pounds of salt in my wounds and my irritability quadruples.This whole situation, my health and the nutty symptoms, it makes me doubly blue.
I hate feeling this way, so unable to feel normal, so unable to reign in the overwhelming waves of crappy feelings. I am blue, so blue, and it seems like nothing can make it go away.
My son's skin was translucent. That was one of the first things I noticed. His head especially showed a world of veins, right there on the surface, and I was struck by how incomplete that made him look. I knew he'd be fragile-looking, but his translucence was too much to bear.
I broke down in tears - my first real cry-fest since everything had happened - that moment when I first laid eyes on him. I'd spent 24 bizarre post-surgery hours, in a sleepy haze, medicated and immobile and repeatedly asking after my baby. When Monday dawned my first words were, "When can I see my son?" and I asked that question until they hauled me onto a wheelchair and instructed my husband to push me to the NICU.
It wasn't just the sight of my tiny baby boy in the isolette, all wires and gauze and tapes and tubes, that broke me; it was not being able to hold him. It felt beyond wrong, that I could see him there so vulnerable and alone and not be able to put him where he truly belonged: in my arms. It seemed then that nothing would ever be right, that something primal and essential had been denied and our fate was forever changed. So I cried. Those tears brought with them these hopeless feelings - we were all trapped in this situation, in this room, and the most important one of us was not guaranteed to make it out of there all right, and I was a weak, useless lump in a wheelchair. This was the moment, when I first laid eyes on my see-through baby, where I felt the most devastated.
It shocks me, then, to remember this terrible moment and feel it so far away already. My brain is clearly working hard to forget.
I don't know if I want to remember or want to forget. Most days, I think it's a little of both. Given my Swiss-cheese memory, I've felt my brain doing that thing it does with every painful situation, where it practically shuts down till the whole thing is blocked away. I'm doing that with the NICU experience, and so I'm here now, writing before it's all gone, because I know that ultimately, I will want to remember.
In hindsight, it was for the best that everything happened so quickly. However stunned it all made me feel (I still feel a bit so when I retell the story), I know that if I'd had time to think about things, to really understand how sick I was or that my baby would be confined to the NICU for who-knows-how-many weeks, I would have had a terrible reaction. I would have gone into denial and demanded to go home, or I would have wailed about how very wrong the whole thing was and been bitter from the get-go. The speediness of it all was good.
Also good was the care we received. I almost enjoyed being a patient, so good were they about checking on me, fulfilling my requests and keeping me comfortable, all with a kind, professional attitude. It actually was not as awful as I thought it would be.
But not good was the rest of it, though no hospital or staff can be blamed for my sickness and its consequences. Recovery from a c-section is excruciatingly slow and painful - how a woman can actually choose that torture over a vaginal delivery is completely beyond my comprehension - and it was made doubly so by the emotional toll of having a baby in the NICU. And while there is no doubt that my baby received the best care possible, I wish they had been better about how they communicated with us, because the vagueness of everything they would tell us was maddening and frustrating. I knew that no matter how badly I needed someone in that unit to tell me that my son was not going to die, it wasn't gonna happen. But I do wish someone would have offered perspective so that we wouldn't have had to have spent five weeks living in fear and dread, when neither was necessary at the extremely high levels we experienced them.
Almost four months later, the feelings seem to have been suppressed, and the images come and go. Most of it is fuzzy and distant, except for one: the sight of my translucent baby. That one is forever seared in me.
Notes from the Underground (of the PPD that's Eating my Brain)
It's true: it's easier the second time around. Everyone who would know told me so, and they were right.
Mothering this baby has so far been easier than mothering the first one. I spend too much time playing that game, comparing things that are similar but not really comparable. Some days, all I do is compare Infant Max to Infant Santiago, and it's a maddening, pointless game that I can't see my way out of. They are different human beings, each born into this world under very different circumstances, so what am I comparing, and why? How much less sleep I had then? How truly awful S's acid reflux is vs. M's happy spit-up?
Well, yes, that is what I'm comparing. When I'm able to run an errand and the baby remains fast asleep in his car seat, therefore enabling me to get it all done with no trouble, I slip into comparison mode: I was never able to run a single errand in peace with Max. When the baby is wailing for no apparent reason, and it's 2 a.m. and I'm so exhausted I could tear my hair out: Max never did this, why is this child punishing me like this??? On and on, I catch myself comparing even as something new occurs to me: what if it's not the babies so much as it is me?
For I am a different mother now than I was at newly-turned 28. The despair that ate at me for so many months then is not here now. I don't feel crazy at the avalanche of thoughts and worries; now I have as many worries and can get overwhelmed by my thoughts, but it's very easy for me to rein it in and move on. Or maybe I'm just doubly exhausted and can only muster a few minutes of worrying before nodding off. Or maybe the experiences of early motherhood are buried somewhere deep inside and the lessons learned so many years ago guide me now without my being truly aware of it. Whatever it is, something in me is different and this I am truly aware of. I'd like to think I'm older and wiser, and I know I'm in an overall better place in my life, emotionally, mentally, financially, matrimonially-speaking.
So yeah, I'm a calmer, more competent, less apt to freak out mom. It is for this exact reason that I'm perplexed to find myself muddling through post-postpartum depression - all things considered, it just doesn't make sense.
I am surprised and feel caught off guard because this seems to have hit me late, a few weeks after the baby was discharged and even more weeks since his birth. My crappy feelings aren't even about the baby, really. I'm hit with these thoughts and feelings about myself and my life, and I can't really tell if they are realistic or ridiculous or typical of being postpartum or just the tip of something deeper and darker. Right now I cannot properly gauge this.
First there's all the negativity I feel about my body. It's such a strange feeling, and I tend to criticize myself whenever I slip into "oh jeebus my body is so hideous!" mode, but this problem persists. It's neither fair nor realistic to compare my post-Max recovery to this one, but I do. I want my flat tummy back, damnit. I want what I've always had and am used to. I started exercising last week, these intense 20-min daily workouts that suck, but which I'm committed to. This week my old clothes started fitting again, though how, I don't know because I don't look any different than I have these last weeks.
Then there's this one incredible feeling that's been making me all kinds of crazy: I'm devastated that my pregnancy was cut short. I miss being pregnant; I feel gypped that I couldn't see it through to the end. While I felt more tired and uncomfortable than I did the first time, I loved being pregnant and wasn't ready for it to end when it did. The week I spent in the hospital, about four packages arrived at my house, full of maternity clothes I'd purchased to see me through to the end. So much for that. I didn't have a baby shower, since it was scheduled for two weeks after everything happened. I'm actually not a huge fan of these, but I was looking forward to the bonding and the fun. Belly-bump pictures? Didn't happen. How big was I ultimately going to be? I'll never know. Most painfully, I didn't have a Blessing Way, which I was looking forward to the most and during which I'd hoped to make a cast of my belly.
There were all these things, however small they seem, that I didn't get to experience. This was my last pregnancy, and these things meant a lot to me.
Finally, there's my marriage. There's nothing wrong with it, but I'm bummed at how all these things are affecting it. We're technically still newlywed, and it feels like this experience has cut into that, like we have been forced to be long-married people instead of newly married ones. And we are not long-married people, we are a couple who wants to last, to experience everything together, but who have just started this part of the journey. And for this part of the journey, I wanted a normal pregnancy. I didn't want to get sick and have the baby early and feel the fear of possibly losing the baby. I didn't want the stress of the NICU and pumping my milk 3,000 times a day and then the stress about breastfeeding and if the baby was taking in enough. What I want now is to be attractive and desirable and not so wretchedly hormonal, and I'm pissed and aggrieved at all this. Ugh. It was going to be enough to have a baby so early into our marriage, but all these other factors have changed everything for me. Maybe not in a terrible or negative way, but changed nonetheless.
Blegh, now I'm just whining.
Even so, I write now from what feels like the beginning of the end of the depression (that's a bonus of spending a good part of your life battling depression: you recognize its stages and can plan accordingly). It could be that darker days will return, and there are still days that really do feel hellish, but ever since I admitted to myself that this was happening and that I needed to factor that into my thoughts, feelings and daily life, it's all been a bit better. Better, but not resolved.
What would resolve it for me? My baby continuing to thrive as well as he has since we got home. Getting my body back, and with it my overall confidence. My marriage staying healthy and happy and growing stronger. Oh, and it'd be awesome if my hormones would normalize, too, because I'm pretty sure they're largely responsible for this craziness.
And, of course, I've written about it now. I've unleashed the demon, and as usual, that will do its part to make everything better. I hope.
I'm looking at myself too much in the mirror lately. I can't help it - I'm in that annoying phase where all my maternity clothes are big on me but my regular clothes are a bit too tight still, and so I'm in a bad spot, looking like crap no matter what I wear. Seeing the way pregnancy #2 has changed my body has me in a panic: will any of my clothes ever fit me again? What kind of boobs will I have when I'm done breastfeeding? And this poofy belly - what. the. hell. is up with this poofy belly? Seriously, I'm a mess. I am currently the most ragged, bloated version of myself I've ever been, and it's making me crazy. I'm exhausted and my under-eye circles are worse than ever. My skin is neither soft nor glowing. I could go on, but I've just made myself too nauseous to continue. Beyond feeling dismayed at what I see, I feel more dismayed that I feel this way, that I'm even grappling with some body image issues.
This isn't me. I've always had a pretty forgiving attitude about my looks/body. As a child and adolescent, I was convinced that I was downright ugly, and while it stung at times, I accepted it. Or rather, I dealt with it as best as I could, namely by focusing on being the smart and funny girl in the room, a habit I've never shaken. My mother, heaven bless her, was not the kind of mother who harped on her daughters' looks. She made sure we were always clean and presentable, and our clothes were never shabby, but this was just not a thing in our house. We had nice clothes from the places we could afford, and we were taught to always look our best, but we were not raised to *be pretty*. No value was placed on our faces, our bodies, and what future potential there might be in them and in their abilities to land a man. I credit all this for never having an eating disorder or hating my body or for the fact that I've never placed my face or body before my brains in dealing with a challenge or problem or any situation (except for skipping the line at dance clubs).
And the truth is, part-way into my teens, the pretty came. At least, I liked what I saw in the mirror and enough boys kept the phone ringing for me to believe it wasn't just me who thought so. Once I accepted myself as-is, I did so completely and with full confidence, and I've been what I am now: someone who likes looking her best and who puts in a healthy dose of effort to do so, but not overly so. I mean, I'm lazy. And impatient. And don't care enough to go nuts about all this. So when I find myself caring like this, feeling obsessed and vulnerable about it... ick. I want to crawl out of my skin and hide somewhere.
My 30's have brought all this unexpected angst about my changing body. I never thought I'd care about this; I was pretty sure I'd age gracefully and wouldn't think twice about any of it. Maybe I never cared because I could afford not to care? Yet having to deal with some health issues that caused some weight gain, in the midst of re-booting my life with someone new, has thrown me for a loop. And now on top of everything I've got this baby weight to lose, and it's all becoming more overwhelming than I care to admit. That I'm even writing about this is a sign of how bad it's gotten.
Maybe I shouldn't feel so surprised to be struggling with this issue. This is an area, after all, that comprised a considerable chunk of the damage of my first marriage. But I am surprised. I long ago made my peace with the damage, and I long ago realized how specific all that crap was to one person, one relationship. And that was it, you know? Damage sealed away and for the most part gone. Except that right now I can't help the way it's crept back up. This issue - what my body looked like and how (un)attractive it was - was such a huge problem for so long, and I'm seriously in one hell of a vulnerable place right now, and so - easy pickin's I guess. There's no point in getting into the details of how this issue played itself out (just know that I vehemently disagreed with he who judged me so harshly, fighting a great deal about it), but what is currently playing in my head right now is one line my ex would tell me over and over again, every time we would fight, when I yelled in my own self-defense, convinced that a couple extra pounds or rounder curves were no big deal, at least not big enough to jeopardize a marriage forchristssake, and certainly not love, real love: every man feels this way, this is what every guy wants. Meaning, every man wants his woman to be skinny, zero fat, good ass, toned all over - and big boobs, those really help. And she must be that way, or else...
This is crazy shit, and I know it. I know it. I know love does not demand such rigid, ridiculous, unrealistic standards, nor does it disappear if those standards are not met. Hell, that's not love, period. I know most men don't really have such an attitude, that no one who really cares for another - romantic, platonic, familial - would think less of or feel less for someone who no longer looks how they did at 20. I know all this. Usually I don't even think about these things. But right now, those words haunt me. Could they be true? Were those words offered as the truth hidden in all men, even though they'd rather die than admit it? More than that, what if it's true of everyone I know and love? This is how I know that some damage was too deep to fully be gone yet: I start to believe awful things like this are true. And if they are, my g-d, I'm screwed.
Ay. I hate feeling weak and vulnerable. I could remind myself that these have been very overwhelming months and weeks, that I've been through a lot, physically and emotionally, that I have a lot going on right now exacerbating these feelings and need to go inward and find my center again, and that I need some time to get back to normal. I could, but that would be too easy. I'd rather take my frumpy-ass self and go hide under a rock now.
Late that first day, when I was still groggy but not as much as I'd been earlier and after having been visited by what felt like 50 relatives and friends, I noticed that one particular thought kept flashing in my already-throbbing brain: the very thing I'd prayed would not happen, happened. I was fascinated and scared by this, by the way that, for the first time in my life, I'd prayed for one specific thing not to happen and it happened anyway.
I did not enter into a crisis of faith - I didn't have the strength to get all deep and existential about it. I just marveled at the realization over and over again, my brain, I now realize, addled by morphine and magnesium sulfate. But I could do nothing with it, nothing more than think, well shit, look at that. What this said about God or the universe, I couldn't fathom. And honestly, I didn't really care.
It would be another day before I realized the truth: I had NOT actually prayed for this specifically to not happen. What I'd actually prayed for was this: please don't let me go into early labor and lose the baby. And that had NOT happened. Instead, I'd gotten suddenly sick, very sick, and the only way to save my life and the baby's was to get him out. An emergency c-section later, my son was in the NICU, tiny and fragile and critical, but alive. Not lost or dead - alive.
I probably spent a few more hours obsessing over that - over the discrepancy and the way that my prayer had been honored, but barely so. I recall these thoughts, but fuzzily. Five weeks after my son entered this world, details of those first couple of days are already kinda blurry. I credit the drugs and intensely terrifying and overwhelming nature of his first 48 hours for that.
This new chapter of my life begins here: in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit, where we practically lived for five weeks, waiting for our son to grow strong enough to come home, a miracle we accomplished this weekend.
Born seven weeks early, he has been stable and subject only to "typical preemie stuff," as nurses and doctors have repeatedly told us. I don't know how true that is, if any of the issues that have come up were downplayed to spare themselves hysterical parents (I don't say that as a criticism; these folks must deal with all kinds of parental craziness all the time). Perhaps if anything had become truly critical, that would have been the time to be straight with us. I don't know; I've just had take each day as it comes, trusting the NICU staff and working with them to help my son.
My son. Oh, he is divine. He is tiny and sweet and looks a lot like his father, with a splash of his big brother for good measure. He's got a temper on him, wailing when his diaper is changed and when he's hungry. Barring that, he is calm, his vitals perfect when he spends hours in my or my husband's arms. Once he was feeding well on the tube, without spit up, they let me put him on my breast and he's been a total champ. The highlight of my day is watching him latch on and chug away. It makes all these long, long weeks of near-constant pumping (and the exhaustion, soreness and obsessing about having enough MLs for each of his feeds that comes with it) worth it.
But this is not the beginning I imagined, and part of being a new mother all over again has been accepting the unnaturalness of his premature birth. I couldn't see him the day I gave birth to him. I couldn't hold him for another two days after that. It was almost three weeks before I could nurse him. My life became contained within a hospital room - actually, to the chair next to his crib where I could hold and nurse him in full view of the security camera. There was nothing else for five weeks, nothing but the exhausting routine of getting Max off to school, driving 25 miles to the hospital, spending all day there and making it back home in time to do homework, dinner and the nighttime routine with Max. Ah, Max. There was also all the time I took from Max, especially on weekends, because he could not be with us in the NICU and I had to make the best choice possible as far as figuring out which son to be with, and when, and for how long.
There's no point in dwelling too much on these things, but they have been difficult to live through. I am grateful for the care he received but nearly went insane with the long weeks of waiting and fearing the worst. I spent too many nights worrying the phone might ring in the middle of the night and too many days feeling dread every time his monitor would go off. It's been impossible to feel relief every time he makes it to another day when no one can tell me the one thing - "Your son is going to survive" - that I need to hear the most. It's been better since we've been home, where we can be comfortable as we settle into a new routine, but the fear lingers - it's like I've got NICU PTSD. It'll wear off, I suppose, one day. It helps greatly that we are home and that he is healthy. I think every day that it could have been so much worse, that all things considered, we got off easy. He avoided major crises and was generally stable, and has been steadily growing and thriving. We made it home with this sweet, darling little bug that's completely won us over. We are settling into a new routine, the three of us hunkering down as a team to take care of the baby while staying afloat above the exhaustion. And so, I begin again. Say hello to Santiago:
I thought being pregnant would compel me to write more frequently here. I wrote a lot - every day - during my first pregnancy (though - ha! - on my first Geocities website and LiveJournal). I couldn't help chronicling all the random things that come with pregnancy - the cream cheese cravings, the day my beloved Earl jeans stopped fitting me, the feelings of his first movements inside me. I needed, too, a space to process all the anxiety and ambivalence and excitement.
So I figured it'd be about the same again this time. But it hasn't been. I've not felt even the slightest desire to bore anyone with every little thing that's happened, or my thoughts on much, really. I've written about some of the bigger things that've been on my mind, but overall, I've just not wanted to write. The world wide web is sufficiently littered with other moms droning on about the minutiae of pregnancy, and every time I've thought about sharing something, I've instead ended up rolling my eyes at myself.
The thing about this pregnancy that's made me
less desirous of writing is that I've spent a decent chunk of it
filled with an inexplicable rage, and it's had me feeling irritable and
impatient and downright pissed some of the time. It’s not an ongoing feeling, nor
anything along the lines of “I have a terrible life,” or “life sucks,” but it
is the feeling that flares up the instant something somewhat negative or
inconvenient happens. It’s an odd thing to deal with at a time when I’m
actually in a good place in my life, happier than I've ever been. I have no
real reason to feel this way, but I do.
Worse, it’s not like I go through a ragey fit and then feel badly – I actually
feel pretty justified in my feelings. The situations that have arisen have
sincerely struck me as others being selfish or melodramatic or plain old
ridiculous, and the key difference is that instead of sucking it up, I've been
lashing out. I mean, not crazy lashing out (except to my husband, who’s had to
be my sounding board), but I've been blunt and direct and have felt pretty fed
up and acted just so. Non-pregnant Tere has become someone who holds her tongue a lot - a lot - to keep the peace, to not be problematic, etc. But pregnant Tere is like, eff that crap, xxx (person) is being a moron and I'm not going to just sit quietly and let them get away with this shit. Sure, I rage in my head but ultimately present a much more diplomatic attitude, but I'm definitely blunt and direct and care very little for how the person might react. In some ways, it's like I'm back to how I used to be a decade ago.
I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I'm relieved to not feel like I have to be so, so cautious and overly careful about what I say to someone, lest I inadvertently insult them and cause a problem. What I've become - my near-total avoidance of any kind of confrontation, or my extreme stressing when I know some kind of confrontation - even the most polite kind - is unavoidable - is not something I can really accept, and I struggle with it. I think it's become a necessary attitude to keep my anxiety at bay: I brush a lot of things off to not spin into over-analysis overdrive or to not waste time and energy on people and situations that are simply not worth it. There's a degree of peace in tuning someone out and letting it all slide off me. And yet, the part of me that can't handle anything that is unjust is reveling in this right now. I can't lie - it feels a bit good to (tactfully) call someone out on their bullshit or to put them on the spot. Too many times, people fling shit out at others and then run and hide. I can't stand that. And right now, something in my body is like, you can't just stand by, say something, do something! So I go through all this raging at the unfairness of it all at my husband and then filter it down to something I can less ragefully communicate to the jerk in question.
But on the other hand, I don't want to revert to the me of my mid-twenties and earlier, and I would hope that even in the middle of my increased irritability there's still a difference in how it all comes out, then vs. now. I certainly don't want to be a perpetually cranky person who's fighting against every damn thing. I don't want to carry anger within me, especially over people or situations I know are hopeless, nor do I want to put out a negative (or unpleasant or difficult) vibe out to the universe. In some ways, this current heightened indignation is a setback and I'm working on it like I do everything else.
At the very least, I don't for a second believe that this is all about my current (pregnant, hormonal) state; I'm lucid enough to understand that my current state is making it hard for me to brush off problematic people who have always been there, and unnecessary b.s. that can be avoided but pops up anyway (thanks to thoughtless or self-centered people). In other words, this stuff isn't in my head, it's real. That's a small comfort, but I'll take it. I need any piece of comfort I can get to see me through these remaining weeks, so the rage won't eat me alive.
Somewhere between my exhaustion, achiness and random bouts of irritability and forgetfulness, I am fully aware of this: I am one lucky woman. I hope you are as surrounded by love and happiness, your lives full of good things, even among the challenges.
I'm consumed lately with my own sense of awkwardness. I am not me right now, not with this changed body that sways strangely, my movements slow. I waddle (already, not even in my third trimester yet). I breathe heavily when I walk ("I've become a loud breather!" I tell my husband, laughing but embarrassed by it). My thighs are growing at a rate that's making me nervous.
My midwife tells me my belly is perfect, that my size is normal. Truthfully, from behind you can't tell I'm pregnant, and I have no extra weight anywhere else (except my thighs, probably, and my face seems rounder to me). But I don't feel like myself. This is so different, I keep thinking, stupidly, too, since I knew from the beginning that no two pregnancies are alike and that this one would be as unknown as the first.
Yet every day I'm surprised anew when I see how big I am - my belly with Max was tiny; I currently look now, at 26 weeks, like I did at the end of that pregnancy - and every day I have a moment where I feel like I am not me and am not quite sure what to make of this new me. I am foreign to myself; aside from the typical aches, acid reflux and exhaustion, this pregnancy is no longer in any way similar to my first. I have no point of reference anymore.
One superficial thing that bugs me is how dowdy I look now. I'm annoyed at how boring my clothes are, every item practical and usable in various combinations. Yawn. This is my own fault, of course, given that I can't stomach the thought of throwing money away on temporary clothes and have instead chosen to stick to affordable basics. I stand by this choice, but man, my fashionable side is aching. I'm now more aware of just how much my sense of fashion mattered to me. The funny thing is, I don't consider myself particularly fashionable, but whatever I had going on pre-pregnancy, it worked for me. I think what I miss is the choice - I could wear conservative clothes to work then rock a sexy-as-hell top and uber-high heels at night. There was variety, there were options to match my mood. Now? Now it's all so bland. I noticed just this week that I'm wearing more jewelry and mixing it up more than usual to make up for the loss.
And shoes? I'm down to two pairs, the most comfortable shoes I own, since that's all I can handle now. I have my awesome NB Minimus and these cute, go-with-everything Born black flats. See that? Two brands that specialize in comfort. It's come down to that: comfort. My feet get achy by the end of the day and I have mild swelling sometimes, so no more heels, no more flats, no more boots. This is what I've changed into, one who chooses comfort over style, every time I get dressed, every day. Not that I think the two are mutually exclusive, just that in my awkward state, it seems that it's one or the other, but not both.
I can't be bothered to think about what I must look like to others, but I'm bothered by what I look like to me, and it annoys me. I wish I was more focused on the miracle of life growing inside me, but all it takes is me huffing and puffing from my office to my car and that goes out the window and I'm all, when and how did I become this person? I have a mild worry that none of this is normal, that what I look like now is a sign that it will all get worse, that I will balloon into a monster, that I will not be able to walk anymore, that I will go into labor too early. There's no sign that anything is amiss, yet I can't let those thoughts go. All I know is that I don't look like me or walk like me or even think like me right now. I'm a nutty ball of emotions, housed in a body I can't control. W. T. F.
Maybe I'm being too hard on myself? I wonder about that, too, if I'm just expecting too much at a time when "too much" is not really an option. I don't want to make excuses for myself, don't want to use pregnancy as a shield from responsibilities or anything else. Even so, I feel limited by my body and all the stuff going on inside me.
My third trimester looms around the corner, and I know I will have to slow down. I'm ready for it, I welcome it. I know I have to rest and stop criticizing myself. I'm more and more ready to focus on this baby and the priority of bringing him safely into this world and working with my husband so we can all transition to this new phase of our very crazy, very sweet life, part two. Bring it.
I get home from work today, and the house is dark, empty, quiet. While not an altogether rare occurrence it nonetheless is not the norm, and after going over the mail and checking my work email one last time, I do that which I relish but cannot indulge in too much any more: I jump in the shower.
A lifetime ago, before motherhood, it was my habit to get home from work and within 15 minutes be in the shower. It relaxed me; it helped me wash the workday off and allowed me to settle into my evening in a good (or at least better) mood.
And then my boy came along, and hell, showering at any point in the day became a challenge. Early on, I felt so drenched in milk after nights of constant breastfeeding that I'd need to jump in the shower by about 9 a.m. I'd put him in his baby papasan chair, take him into the bathroom, and shower and watch him at the same time.
At some point, a new routine developed, and I started showering late at night, after Max had fallen sleep and after I'd woken up from the inevitable passing out that would happen when I put him to sleep. Maybe I had to get home from work and pick right up on dinner and childcare, but I'd be damned if I was going to go to bed without being able to get the ick of the day off me.
Even with Max spending almost half his time with his dad, the habit has stuck because I get home and have to get on with dinner and the chores I tend to neglect when he is with me. If not, I'm just so exhausted that I prefer to sit and numb out for a short while before getting up and starting all over again.
But today, I got home a good 10 minutes before I usually do, and I knew there were leftovers in the fridge. And I was achy and feeling icky and thought, man, a shower is just what I need. And it was. As usual, I had 15-20 minuted to decompress, to run through some thoughts, to create that separation from work and home.
As I wrapped the shower up, my thoughts turned to all that I've written here - how it used to be like this all the time, how motherhood changed that, how I've pretty much maintained the habit even when he's not with me, how very much I prefer it this way, how nice it is that I do get to enjoy it from time to time.
And then, a new thought creeped in: I will soon lose this all over again. I will soon be back to showering whenever it makes most sense to do so, between nursing and holding and putting to sleep (and cooking and cleaning and managing routines). This thought pops up quite a bit now, every time I'm enjoying something and I feel aware that said thing is allowed now that my son is older. Immediately after that thought, I realize, over and over again: I'm going to lose this. Maybe just for a few years, but I'm losing it. I will again be at the mercy of a life too tiny and vulnerable to do anything without me. I hope to carry the lessons learned with my first and avoid some mistakes, but in many ways, I will again choose to make things harder for myself so that he may feel from the start that I am present and responsive and care more to hold him and play with him and comfort him than I do "training" him to live by what's comfortable for me. I will make choices that are inconvenient for me but which I know are best for him.
And in so doing, I will again feel the loss of a certain part of myself, feel the consequences of my choices, feel exhausted and defeated when the day's been long and it's late at night and he still is not sleeping and wanting boob boob boob and I'm in a ratty nightgown and hungry and unshowered. I will question my choices and have mini-crises about how much milk I'm pumping, how this child and this experience are changing me, about how I still want to and need to be me and am not sure how to keep all these fragmented mes whole.
It will be like this and it will be hard. But it will be right. I know this not just by the feeling in my gut, but by that seven-year-old of mine who is happy and well-adjusted and utterly secure in my love and our relationship. If I can give his brother the same kind of love and attention and nurturing, and have him grow up as well-adjusted as Max, then what's a shower or 100? One day I'll get to enjoy one again.
Does every woman compare her second pregnancy to her first? It seems like such a useless endeavor, when it's obvious that no two pregnancies are ever the same, yet I catch myself in comparison mode all the time.
While it's true that this pregnancy has been different from the first, there are nonetheless similarities. So far, this has been as problem-free a pregnancy as the last, and I've got this endless "please let everything go well and let the baby be healthy" loop playing in my head. Truth be told, that loop's been playing since I was pregnant seven-and-a-half years ago, with only slight variations. It's impossible for me to say, well, this is going great, it's clear skies ahead. I'm just halfway through and understand that complications can arise at any moment. For now, though, this is the same as then in that I'm tired, but healthy.
Similar, too, is my obsession with the baby's movements. Once I felt Max move, nothing mattered more in my world than to continue feeling him move. Oh look, I wrote about it right here. This time, it's the same. I felt Baby F move a lot earlier, and the feelings have been the same. He's been quite an active little bug, and I thrill in each kick, wishing only that Jevo and Max could feel it too (seems like it's still too early for that). As it is, I haven't felt him move this morning, and I can feel a quiet little panic starting to swirl inside me. His movements are a concrete sign a life, a signal that everything continues to progress, and the way I've come to depend on them is both incredibly familiar and slightly horrible. Because what if one day there's no movement?
At the same time, there are differences, the biggest being how, well, bigger I am now. Let's start with the fact that I was about 15 lbs. heavier when I got pregnant now than when I got pregnant with Max. That's bad enough. Add that it's my second child, which every single person, book and website I've consulted affirms makes me show earlier and be bigger than the first time, and what you have is this: I am a whale. I should probably find some relief in the fact that it's "only" my belly that's big, that the rest of me seems pretty much the same, but I don't. That belly includes the 15 extra lbs. I'm a giant round mess, waddling already - already! - huffing and puffing like a fool. I really do fear that I'll be double my current size when I hit 40 weeks, and I just wonder how on earth I'll move, and handle all my responsibilities, and hell, even just breathe.
And the crappy symptoms, specifically acid reflux, have started up earlier this time around. The last week has been rough, though I also have a bad cold and I wonder if that's just exacerbating it. Mild reflux is o.k. with me, but this has been almost constant. I didn't feel like this last time until the third trimester, and honestly, I wish this had held off til then! I know what causes it and how to deal with it (though none of the recommended methods have worked, at all), but in seeking to keep my gut happy and not gain unnecessary weight, my eating habits this time have been so, so much healthier than last. The one bad thing is that I crave bread a lot and indulge it every single morning with a Cuban toast (this happened last time, too), but otherwise, I've been so much better. I went through a two-week Slurpee craze, and so I would save all my caffeine and sugar allotments for that. So there's that, too, a good difference as far as I'm concerned.
Ay. It's hard not to compare, not to wonder if the differences are a bad sign or nothing at all. I tend to think it's nothing at all, but when I consider the negative ones, I wonder how I'll make it another 20 weeks. That brings on a new set of worries about the labor and birth, though, and for now, I've refused to think about either one. So I just hope it all continues well and that this belly doesn't end up toppling me over.
My body is changing so rapidly that I can barely register one new development without another popping up. I am more aware of these changes now than I was during my first pregnancy, mainly because last time, I was solely focused on how tiny my belly was and how non-pregnant I looked.
That bothered me so much, how all my maternity clothes were huge on me (I wore regular clothes – in size M or L – all the way to the end since they looked less billowy than maternity clothes), how I didn't really look pregnant until well over the halfway mark. In the end, I looked totally pregnant and huge and uncomfortable, but it took a long time to get there.
This time, though, it's not like that at all. This pregnancy is payback for all the complaining I did back then. I have no real idea how average my belly and looks as a whole are for this point of the pregnancy, but I have days where I feel like I've been lugging this bump around for ages and like my belly weighs an extra 100 lbs. I've been "looking pregnant" since about 12 weeks along. Weight-wise, I'm normal, and I don't notice extra fat anywhere (though I have the typical fuller face and overall roundness), but again, this belly. I'm achy, I'm slow, I get tired so easily. And I'm just about to hit 20 weeks! I'm good for just about the entire day, and then 7, 7:30 p.m. hits and all of a sudden it's like my body just can't take it anymore.
I was in a panic late last night - I was so exhausted and in pain (by the end of the day, the muscles in my entire abdominal area make moving difficult and lying down painful), and I was seized with this terrible thought: what if this belly just does not stop growing? How big will this baby be, and how on earth will I get him out without my body being torn apart? It all felt so huge and impossible. If I feel like this now (and I don't remember feeling like this last time), what awaits me?
So I've got all this stuff going on that feels foreign and worrisome and of course, it just bleeds to my appearance and I worry if I'm looking worse than I think I do and if it's repulsive (damn these hormones!). People look at me and smile and give me that "aaawwwwww" face, and I actually think I'm putting myself together pretty decently, but I feel waves of doubt. I feel it, really, just when it comes to my husband and how my changing body must be affecting him. I worry that I'm unattractive to him, that he's kinda grossed-out by what I look like now, but if that's true, no matter how honest we are with each other, what kind of asshole tells his wife such a thing? If I go by the facts - how often he tells me I look good, that his level of affection has not diminished in any way, that our sex life hasn't suffered - then I know all is fine. But... just but. How can I not expect him to be affected by this?
I know, too, that there are psychologically deeper reasons for this fear. The last time I was pregnant, that husband rejected me in many ways, and I know it left a permanent scar. It was, like everything in that marriage, a mess of mixed messages. On the one hand, I was adorable and he showed me off like a prize; on the other, he didn't lay a finger on me for months. It was an incredibly difficult time for me - thrilled to be pregnant and freaked out by the lack of affection and sex in my life. And he had no explanation for me, not a word. Not, "I'm tired," or "I'm scared of being a dad and don't feel sexual," or "You look terrible." Nothing. Nothing but getting mad at me and refusing to provide any semblance of an answer. When everything ended, I realized I'd never really recovered from that. And it was all well and buried until now. Not because I'm experiencing it all over again - far from it - but because it's all I know. I know what's possible, how bad it can get and how damaging it is, and I guess I worry I will live that all over again. Never mind that there are zero similarities between my life then and my life now - the deep psychological shit is sometimes just too strong to fully disappear.
I wonder, too, about my body postpartum, and what will be left of me. This, however, is too overwhelming and distant an issue for me to allow myself to get wrapped up in. I'll go insane if I pay any real mind to that stuff now.
I'm back to the days where I need to tell myself to breathe deeply and just make it from one day to the next. Now, of course, I add: "and let my hormones not get the best of me, and let this baby make it here safe and sound."
Yesterday was one heck of an eventful day. My sister and brother-in-law threw us a wonderful brunch so that with our family and close friends we could find out Baby F's sex.
They had me do some of the old-wives' tricks to divine the sex. I unwittingly sat on a chair under which there was a knife, which in Cuban folklore means you're having in a boy. Then I tied a ring on a ring and held it in front of my belly, and it moved in a circular motion, which means... a boy.
I didn't know how the actual reveal would happen and kept thinking I'd bite into a croissant and discover a little pink or blue plastic baby, but finally, my sister brought out a piñata, one side decorated in pink, the other in blue. By now I'd been yammering on for over an hour about how sure I was about this baby being a girl and was about to explode if I didn't find out, like, NOW, what it actually was.
So what is it? Is my Baby F a girl or a boy?
Let's review the tape:
I crack up every time I see this video, and I've seen it like 50 times now. I'm pretty sure that's me (for reference, I'm on the right in a purplish blue top and Jevo's on the left in an aqua top) yelling, "OOHH NOOO," and there's really no mistaking my utter shock, because that's exactly what I felt, very much so.
What the video doesn't capture is that my eyes instantly filled with tears as Baby F very suddenly became insanely real and wonderful and amazing to me. I'd so completely accepted that I was having a girl that I'd just not imagined, not at all, that I could in fact be carrying a boy. And yet, three seconds after finding out, I loved that baby a million times more and was already praying for a continued healthy pregnancy, a healthy labor and most important of all, a healthy baby.
A boy. I'm having a boy. We will be parents to two sons. Max is thrilled, even though he'd said he was "dying for a baby sister." After things had quieted down I asked him how he felt to know it'd be a brother, not a sister, and he said, "I'm so happy my heart feels like it's going to explode with love."
In five days, we'll know Baby F's gender. We did an ultrasound today, and the tech told us he could see the gender clearly. We had him seal the image with ID in an envelope, and Saturday, at a family brunch, my brother-in-law will reveal to us all what the baby is. I'm excited to find out, mainly because I can NOT wait any longer to buy baby things. It's been torture to see so many cute things and not be able to buy anything! It's also pretty amazing how very little there is available in neutral themes or colors; I'm convinced that in the seven-and-a-half years since my last pregnancy, infant clothing and accessories have become ever more genderized.
More than this, knowing what Baby F is will make him/her more real to me. When I began to feel him/her move last week, I was floored and giddy and awed, thinking (yet again), "wow, this is real." This is just another piece of that. At the appointment today, when the tech confirmed that he knew the gender, I choked up and blinked back tears, overwhelmed (yet again) by the awesomeness of all this. Watching that baby move and wiggle and knowing that it was actually a he or she now, it was almost too much to bear. Jevo and I held hands and smiled at each other, making it all such a perfectly sweet, cheesy scene that I just didn't know what to do with myself.
This kid is ever more human and real to me now, and my thoughts are moving now to more concrete things, about what this baby will look like and what his or her personality will be like and how we will parent him or her, especially if it's a girl, since we have no experience with that. I am slightly terrified of having a girl, but I won't get into that unless it turns out to be a girl.
But - let the record show, I think I'm having a girl. This is a girl belly, and for whatever reason, I have just had this very strong feeling ever since I was about eight or nine weeks along. I could be wrong, and that will be fine, this is feeling is very strong.
So now, we'll see what happens Saturday, what we discover about our tiny, thriving Baby F.
He is seven today. He is seven and all that seven should be, all high energy and unending questions and incredible curiosity and insatiable desire for knowledge and fun and toys and adventures. His face is all drama and emotion and smirks and wide, gorgeous smiles. His voice still has a little lisp, and his knees are perpetually caked in dirt - I've given up on ever successfully scrubbing it off. His imagination is wild, whether he's playing any one of his various made-up games or driving me nuts with his invented scenarios: "What if one day I'm getting out of the car and I fall back and I land on the street and a car is coming and it doesn't see me and it runs me over, and I die?" or "What if one day you give me dinner but you forget to cook it all the way and you poison me?"
He is a study in absurdity, making claims so outrageous and exaggerated - "I've wanted you and (Jevo) to be married since I was a baby in your belly," "My stomach's been hurting for 15 million days now" - that it's hard not to laugh at him, and sometimes, I do. I'll tease him gently and get him to see that maybe he's stretching things too far - I don't ever want him to take himself so seriously that he loses sight of reality. He doesn't like it when I try to bring him down from these heights, where everything is so huge and such a big deal. More than anything, he thinks he knows best and very truly believes that he knows better than and more than us. Ha.
Over the last year, it's been harder and harder for me to write about that nutty boy of mine. I've hit that point that I think a lot of "mommy bloggers" hit eventually, when they start guarding their growing children's privacy more and more.
I have, anyway. I have felt less willing to share details about his life because I see his life growing more complicated, and don't feel anymore that it's "safe" to be as open about him. Plus, I feel more aware of his individuality, separate from me as my possession, and I must respect that there are things that might bother him to know are out on the Internet for the world to see.
I'm comfortable writing about him still when it's something that's really about me - my feelings about being his mother, how he affects me, how an experience affects me, etc. But his stories, I prefer to stay away from. Kindergarten last year brought a lot of difficult times, things that are normal but unpleasant, and it was in living though it that I realized that I don't want to write about his challenges or about him when it's just about him and his life. I don't know what the future holds, what unintended consequences there might be to my words. This is the right decision for me.
Still, he is everything to me and it's impossible to remove him from here. And as I've watched him approach seven and reflect on his first three weeks of first grade, I'm struck by the speed of time and his growth in individuality and into independence. He still straddles a line, where he can be a little man one moment, and a snuggly baby the next. He remains incredibly affectionate with me, and I still can't tell if this is part of his development or just who he is. I'd be thrilled if he was always affectionate with me, but I treat it always as something I will lose. I tease him about it, how he will one day be a teenager and I'll be his lame mommy and he won't want to kiss me or have me hanging around. The reply he always gives me slays me: "But why would I do that, mommy? You're my favorite person ever." And when I explain that it's normal, that kids sometimes want to not be so close to their parents, he tells me, "But why wouldn't I want to be with you when I love you the most in this world?" That he truly feels that way means everything to me, but I think I know better.
He would disagree, not just because it is he who knows best, but because it is in his nature to take an opposite stance and push back, talking a topic to death till you just want to seal your ears shut. He might be a bit like me in this way...
My quirky, sweet, crazily intelligent, open, dramatic, imaginative, funny son is seven, a big boy who continues to amaze me and inspire me and frustrate me and impress me.
Despite all this evidence to the contrary, he is my baby still.
Happy birthday, kiddo. Your other dad and I love you like crazy.
Three years ago on this weekend, everything in my life changed. It was the weekend when Jevo made his big, big move and we entered into a romantic relationship. I love reliving it every year, and he's such a great sport for indulging me and going along with it. I still feel a sense of amazement, and it hits me anew how unexpected it all was to me. We went from a friendly lunch on Friday to his pouncing on me on Saturday to us staying together for days (while Max was with his dad). It was overwhelming and awesome and bewildering. Sunday morning we had our first serious talk about "us" - he made it crystal clear that he wanted a serious relationship with me and addressed my most pressing concern - Max - and once I let him know I felt the same way about him and wanted the same thing, we didn't look back. I think of those early days now - now as I sit here, his wife, pregnant with his child - and I can easily conjure what I felt those early days. It felt amazing to be in his arms, even as it also felt crazy - what the hell was I doing in his arms?? I love how we started, going back to our (seriously platonic) friendship and how that allowed us to get know each other without the pressure of needing to impress each other, and I love that I have the memories of our early days as a couple, because it was all such a good, healthy start to things. I hadn't ever had anything like that before - something so free of pretense or intrigue or drama. I think that's how and why I knew it was so right. I will forever be grateful to him for being so straightforward with me, for being genuine and sincere with me, for not hiding his enthusiasm and not being that kind of guy who plays it cool, who retains some distance. Maybe he knew that shit wouldn't fly with me, or maybe, like me, his feelings were too intense to do anything but give in to them. Three years. It's technically such little time, but as he told me a couple nights ago, our early days seem like a lifetime ago. And they were. We'd closed the doors on our former lives and had these new, blank lives to make our own, to fill as we wished. The best decision we've ever made was to start anew together, and to fill our new lives with as much joy and adventures and love and gratitude and commitment and openness and intimacy and trust and nuttiness as we can contain. These last three years have been chock full of all these, but there's room for so much more.