Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On Showers, and the Loss of This and Other Things


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.

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Posted by Tere @ 10/30/2012   | | | links to this post

Saturday, October 13, 2012

This Time vs. That Time

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.

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Posted by Tere @ 10/13/2012   | | | links to this post

Saturday, October 06, 2012

My Body Doesn't Love Me Anymore

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." 

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Posted by Tere @ 10/06/2012   | | | links to this post