This Mother’s Day was my first baby’s-out-of-my-belly Mother’s Day. I’ve been trying to formulate my thoughts over the past two years from the time I first found out I was pregnant. I can say that motherhood has changed me. I don’t know that I am better or kinder or more patient. My anxieties haven’t seemed to lessen much. I am still the flawed person I was before this remarkable change.
The greatest part of being a mother is my boy. I hold on to that when the fears crowd my mind. I need it when I feel at a loss for the answers just out of reach. I can choose to care for my child using option A over option B and then switch to option B when option A only worked the first time but never after that and I am still his mother.
As my boy enters more and more new phases in his life, I am still his mother. When I feel so inadequate and I make mistake after mistake, I am still his mother. Through the well meaning voices that abound and offer advice and sweet counsel, I decide what will work for me because I am his mother. What a marvel to be this boy’s mother. What a gift.
A couple of weeks ago, I binge-listened Magic Lessons, a podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert. The last podcast she had with Brene Brown was so great. One of the ideas they shared was to tweak the often quoted pseudo-inspirational question “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” to “What’s worth doing even if you failed?”
I know I can be risk averse to a fault. Failure has always had such grumbling resonance in my mind that its mere shadow sometimes leaves me in a state of flush. And yet…when I thought of the moments where I knew failure could find me, I flinched, I worried, I consulted those I trusted, I read loads: I did it anyway. I listened to the risks as they howled my anxieties, my worst case scenarios. I did it anyway. I traversed through mistake after mistake and tried to learn and improve. I was competent. I was lacking. I am still working at it.
The two times when I felt it would be worth it even if I failed was choosing to be a wife and a mother. Maybe that seems silly compared to more vocationally impressive goals and aspirations. Maybe I will drum up the courage to find another thing I’d be willing to fail for. But at least in 2015, I can say that I was brave. I can say that I opened myself up to a new adventure that has changed the direction of my whole life. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid. Yet despite the fear, I am unwavering in my conviction that they are both worth it.
Every lady has a different pregnancy experience, good and bad. Although I thought I was pretty prepared for all of the ups and downs, here are 10 things that still surprised me about my pregnancy:
- Sharing the burden with the husband will make you feel better. I used to hate the phrase “we’re pregnant”. And although there’s still only one uterus being effected here, I realized that suffering alone through the unpleasant moments of pregnancy only made it worse. As I was pouting not-so-silently about the physical discomfort and morning sickness, the husband pointed out that we were BOTH going to be parents and we might as well stick together.
- Advice received will only apply 50% of the time. You will have no idea which of the 50% actually applies and your tolerance for hearing it (whether or not it’s true) skews downward the closer you get to your due date. Most people were really kind to me and were eager to share their experiences of parenthood. At first, it was great. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that most of the advice shared was inherently negative, (especially about labor) and it was much better on my nerves to ignore most of the advice completely.
- You will come to hate the phrase, “Just you wait…” During those moments when I needed to vocalize my discomfort or all around stormy mood, my listener would smile sympathetically at me and utter those three dreaded words, “Just you wait…” My response was a joking, “Do you want to see me cry?” Which would usually elicit a hasty, “…but it’ll all be worth it when you [see your baby],[hold your baby],[become a mom],[Charlie Brown teacher wah, wah, wah]” I usually waited until they left the room to cry.
- “You look so cute” and “You look so miserable” will share the same meaning which is “You look EXTREMELY pregnant, let me let you know that I’ve noticed” I might have also lumped the question “How are you feeling?” into the mix, but sometimes that question was followed by hugs or baked goods and I certainly did not say no to either.
- Even if you don’t know how to swim and you embarrass yourself in front of a bunch of strangers by half-drowning in 4 feet of water, prenatal water aerobics is worth it. As my pregnancy progressed, this became one of the few things in my week that eased the discomfort, swollen feet/ankles and fatigue. It was also a chance to chat with other pregnant ladies which made me feel a little less alone. Added bonus: this was the first time in my life that I didn’t feel self conscious about wearing a swimsuit because I couldn’t see myself past my belly.
- Whoever you choose to deliver your baby, trust them completely and if you don’t trust them completely find someone you will. When the husband and I took a birth class, this was the advice from the instructor. She explained that by trusting in this person completely, you can let them worry about what might go wrong, and leave you to focus on staying calm, maintaining your breathing, etc. My OB was wonderful. She was respectful of my birth plan and explained to me every step of my delivery. It allowed me to get through it without being afraid.
- Yoga teaches you to listen to your body, but sometimes your body tells you that it hates you and wants you to be sad. My yoga teacher was the 2nd person after the husband that I revealed I was pregnant. She has 2 kids and was so excited for me to experience the baby movement during my practice. In the 1st and 2nd trimester, feeling my little boy move during postures like standing bow pose was such a weird/cool feeling. Getting only 2 hours of sleep because my little boy is kicking the crap out of me inside my belly, less of a cool feeling.
- Pregnancy books will be your friend and your enemy. Of the dozen or so books and Pinterest articles I read, the influx of information was encouraging at best and terrifying at worst. My favorite books were Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck, Hypnobirthing by Marie F. Mongan and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (not a pregnancy book). I’m pretty sure I would have been just fine reading these books only and listening to my doctor. They were encouraging without being scary or scolding, and they didn’t contradict each other.
- “Eating for two” really means being conscious about what you’re eating for yourself and your baby. Also, hydrate! I had no strange cravings, but I wanted sweet things constantly, and most people would not refuse a doughnut to a pregnant lady. The husband was really good at keeping me in check and my doctor gently cautioned the same thing. She mentioned that many times my hunger pangs might actually mean I was dehydrated so reach for water before chowing down. This was true more than half of the time.
- You will never be wholly prepared, but that’s mostly okay. Even though we were in intense baby prep mode for the majority of my pregnancy, we still ran up against a lot of blind spots once the boy finally arrived. Reading about giving birth/caring for an infant and the emotional/physical roller coaster that comes with it is a heck of a lot different than actually experiencing it. It’s challenging and scary. Two months out and I still find myself feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Still, this little boy is mine. He is perfect. He is loved by me, his dad and the family and friends that surround him. It is a burden. It is a blessing. It is being a mom.
Remember when Dan Wilson from Semisonic revealed years later that his song “Closing Time” was just a sneaky way of writing the cliched songwriter-has-a-baby-and-writes-about-it song? I know, right? Mind blown. Well, just like Dan Wilson, I originally wanted to keep quiet about all things parent-related on the blog and now find myself so entrenched in mama-land all my draft posts seem to revolve around one nagging central theme.
Pregnancy and the new mama phase that followed have been such strange experiences that it only makes sense to me to try and put it to paper (or sending it off to The Internets, as it were). I will not be sneaky in any way about these future posts, but to appease the me of 2013 and prior, this site will not turn into an exclusively mommy blog. Eventually. Probably. Don’t judge me, 2013!
I want to be in a better mood. I want to have people stop asking me dumb but well meaning questions. I want to hear their dumb but well meaning questions and think of them as only well meaning questions. I want to tell my sweet husband how much I appreciated the homemade fried chicken and garlic mashed potatoes he made for dinner tonight. And while I went upstairs to veg in our bedroom playing Words With Friends, I wanted to tell him how awesome he was for cleaning the kitchen, washing the dishes and taking out the trash. I want to stop craving gummy bears and Swedish Fish and be happy that we will be going refined-sugar free in the month of April. I want to believe those people that say after awhile a person will stop craving sugar.
I’ve been reading The Highlights of My Day (via). It reminded me of my tendency to take pictures on my iPod of quotes that strike me. I haven’t looked at these pictures in awhile, but I went back to “Leaving Maverley“, a short story by Alice Munro. I snapped the last part:
He looked at the nurse in wonder. She thought he was asking her what he had to do next and she began to tell him. Filling him in. He understood her fine, but was still preoccupied.
He’d thought that it had happened long before with Isabel, but it hadn’t. Not until now.
She had existed and now she did not. Not at all, as if not ever. And people hurried around, as if this could be overcome by making arrangements. He, too, obeyed the customs, signing where he was told to sign, arranging—as they said—for the remains.
What an excellent word—“remains.” Like something left to dry out in sooty layers in a cupboard.
And before long he found himself outside, pretending that he had as ordinary and good a reason as anybody else to put one foot ahead of the other.
What he carried with him, all he carried with him, was a lack, something like a lack of air, of proper behavior in his lungs, a difficulty that he supposed would go on forever.
The girl he’d been talking to, whom he’d once known—she had spoken of her children. The loss of her children. Getting used to that. A problem at suppertime.
An expert at losing, she might be called—himself a novice by comparison. And now he could not remember her name. Had lost her name, though he’d known it well. Losing, lost. A joke on him, if you wanted one.
He was going up his own steps when it came to him.
A relief out of all proportion, to remember her.
Bob Aamodt from Knox Capital came to speak at a Finance and Accounting luncheon at my work today. His talk was on getting your financial house in order, a subject that usually morphs me into full-on nerd. I’ve always been a goal oriented person. There were milestones that I always thought I would cross.
I was feeling reflective on the train ride home about where I’m at in my financial life and, as per usual these days, feeling anxious over my future finances. Suddenly it occurred to me if I was speaking to my elementary school self, what would I say and how would that differ from what she would see?
When I thought about my 30s, I thought I would be the boss. I thought I would have most things figured out. I thought I would have a wonderful, chaotic, full life where I balanced home and work with confidence.
On paper, most of my aspirations came true. I bought a house before I turned 30. I married a lovely man who is my partner always. We are slowly growing our family. I feel that I am good at my job. I have people that look to me for their assignments at work. I am not rich, but financially, I am not struggling.
My life has wonderful, chaotic full moments. The stark difference is that the confidence is not how I imagined. The ease. The control. Often times I wonder how everything is going to come together. Often times I despair that it won’t.
I wonder if I was speaking with my 50-year old self, would the conversation have the same cadence? Would I still be that lady that doubts herself? Would I still wonder how things will work out? I suppose that’s what’s so nice about dreaming your future self. You hope that it will.
I am notoriously bad at staving off the temptation for eating out, but the husband and I went through an entire credit card cycle with less than $15 in dining out charges. $10 of those dollars weren’t even mine! Shocker. Although I can’t say this will become the average for months to come, it’s encouraging to see the conscious spending paying off.
It’s helped that we’re adding new recipes to our arsenal. The husband is a wonderful cook, but I need no-hassle-tasty recipes to keep interested. Trolling Joy the Baker has helped. Cup of Jo, too. Also, A Cozy Kitchen (pic above).
This article was especially interesting: The Tyranny of the Chicken Finger. The husband always calls me out on refusing to eat something I’ve never eaten before.