I find that I get in zones with writing, and it’s very hard to switch gears. I cannot spend a day churning out copy for emails and brochures, then sit down in the evening and write from the heart. All this to say, I’ve been wanting to write for months and months now, I have so much to say and so many things to capture, but I haven’t been able to sit and get the words out with so much of my focus tied up in my day job. Now that I’m on maternity leave, I would like to spend more time in this space, telling my personal stories.
Maternity leave. I am 38 weeks pregnant. I wish I had written more during this process, captured more details to remember it by, since this will likely be my last pregnancy and last baby. Then again, how can you really capture it? There are not words sufficient to explain how weird and magical it is to grab hold of your baby’s foot at it kicks you, stretching your uterus, reaching for the outside. How deeply you feel the connection to a bundle of cells you’ve never met, and how you instinctively know how connected they feel to you too. How that connection is proven every time my husband rests his hand on my stomach - the baby scoots over and calmly bunches up right under him, then kicks furiously and pushes outward whenever he takes the warmth away. How can I put into words how magical it is to listen to her heartbeat at every appointment, and hear it accelerate every time big sister starts singing or talking? Or the joy of preparing an older child for the responsibilities and realities of expanding the family, the pride in witnessing her excitement and readiness?
There really are no words. To be pregnant is a privilege and I know it. It hasn’t been easy this time, for sure. I have a hard time right now remembering what life was like before I was pregnant. A time when I felt comfortable in my body, able to wake early and run long and still keep up with my family all day. A time when it didn’t feel like my husband’s work schedule was sucking the life and joy out of me. A time when I wasn’t repulsed by 80% of all smells, my bones didn’t ache, and my underwear fit. I look at pictures of myself from a year ago, in my size 7 jeans, and it feels like another lifetime. I’m sure Amaliya doesn’t even remember a time when her sister wasn’t in my belly, and that’s a strange thought. The days are long but the years are short, or so they say of raising children, but it applies to pregnancy as well. This will all seem like a flash in the pan, a brief moment, when I look back on it. For now we are frozen in time, my undulating belly and I, just waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
I plan. It’s what I do. I am able to make fast, firm decisions partly because I am always forecasting and reviewing all possible future scenarios in my head. It’s a mixed blessing when pregnant, because though I feel very well prepared for all that can happen to me during labor and after, I am also a little terrified when I think too long about my life with two children. I know we’ll adjust, life will continue, we’ll settle into a new normal and forget that life was ever different. I know that anticipating the struggle is much worse than living it. I already can’t imagine life without my newest baby girl, and she hasn’t arrived yet.
Still, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the depression that will inevitably set in, thanks to hormones and sleep deprivation. I’m afraid that, unlike last time when I the freedom of a husband who worked part time, allowing me to get plenty of exercise and sleep in and maintain a sense of relative freedom, this time I will be alone with my babies for 13+ hours a day, every day of the week. I’m afraid of losing the ability to take care of myself, and having no one to take care of me, and what that means for my family. I’m afraid of not being able to hold it together, mostly. Of losing myself, the sense of identity that I proudly held onto throughout my initial transition to motherhood.
It’s the same old, sad story that fuels blogs and message boards and mommy groups around the world – women lose themselves in motherhood, our sense of separateness and personhood and individuality is eroded by the fact that we are non-sleeping, milk-dispensing, caretaking drones who exist solely for the comfort and upkeep of the families that we, at one point, thought it was such a brilliant idea to build. We all feel that way, sometimes, and there’s no judgment here. We all question our choices even when we know beyond doubt that they were good choices. We all feel worthless sometimes, even when doing the most important work. It is possible to look at the child you created and feel overwhelmed by love and joy and pride AND despair, knowing that you are doomed to be worn down by the intensity of those feelings for the rest of your life.
I wrote the above a few days ago. I seem to be wavering between panic and peace on a near daily basis. The last week was hard, physically – my own fault, since I committed to a consignment sale and volunteer hours when I really should have been gently stretching or warming the couch. We had our third baby shower yesterday (I honestly did not plan for or anticipate having any; my gratitude is boundless), which was the last of my big commitments for the month. I am grateful my baby Moon Cheese decided to bake for a full almost-39 weeks and allowed me to push through. Now I can breathe. Now I am prepared. And no, she will not be coming home to a spotlessly clean, quiet, calm house, or a meticulously decorated nursery. Those things just aren’t in the cards for second babies. But she will certainly find two parents and a big sister with arms wide open, so anxious to meet her, so in love already.
We’re ready for you Moon Cheese. Asha. We’re ready.