A Pregnant Pause, weeks 13-19: Comparative Joy.

To be honest, the first half of the second trimester is a bit of a blur. The secret was out, and my energy level started increasing. Unfortunately, the gag reflex issue was still in full swing, but for the most part I had reached the part in pregnancy that everyone says is the best. And it is, really. I mean, you’re not sick or tired anymore (generally—I know this does not apply to everyone, and to those suffering with pregnancy-long sickness, I salute you and say carry on, warrior!) and the tiniest of baby bumps is starting to appear.

Of course, leave it to me at 16 weeks-ish to stand in the mirror, bemoaning my lack of noticeable bump, wondering why everyone ELSE got to have a bump at this stage. By “everyone else”, I of course mean the other two people I knew who were pregnant at the time. I worried that baby must not be growing properly, something must be wrong, etc.

Are you guys sensing a pattern in these posts?

Of course, as our 16-week appointment confirmed, all was well and baby was on track and growing just fine. At that appointment, we got to hear our little one’s heartbeat-until I hear her cry, laugh, and eventually speak, I must say that the whirring of her little heart pumping away inside of me is the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. It never, ever gets old.

This stage of pregnancy brought into focus something that has plagued me my whole life but became a glaring issue the moment the sperm hit the egg: The idea of “everyone else.” I’ve long been aware that comparison is indeed the thief of joy, but it’s never been more obvious than over the course of this pregnancy. I was lucky enough to have both friends and family members sharing this journey with me—due two and three weeks ahead of me, respectively. It was a huge blessing to be able to ask them questions and share my fears and worries with them. They celebrated milestones with me, and we shared symptoms and sales and tales of registry adventures.  But I found myself all too often comparing my pregnancy with theirs—Their bumps were bigger, their babies moved sooner or more often. They ate better or exercised more, or took the right supplements. I started doubting not only myself, but this poor innocent baby I’m carrying. Was this baby okay? Was this baby behind schedule? Was there something I was doing wrong to be having a different experience from (here it comes) everyone else?

No.

No, no, and no. I realized somewhere around week 19, preparing for the big ultrasound at 20 weeks, that all my constant stress and comparison was doing was stealing my joy. And this joy…oh, it is not worth compromising, even for a second. It broke my heart one night to realize that this miracle inside of me was not being fully celebrated, but instead compared. I sobbed out loud and told him/her how sorry I was for not waking up every morning and hitting my knees in gratitude for the gift I’d been given.

It was then I understood that this urge to compare is not going to go away when my child is born, or as they grow. In fact, it may just get worse. I learned (okay, am learning) that as a mother, my job is to help decide what’s best for my child and see to it that he or she receives just that. My responsibility is to not only instill confidence in my kids, but model it for them. That won’t be accomplished in constant worry or concern over what everyone else is doing and how my family measures up.

I will always be grateful to have a village, a safety net of mothers and friends I can go to when this journey gets tough. I hope to only add to it as we move along in this parenthood thing. But beyond my village there will always be my family, the ones that are simply mine, and the greatest thing I will ever have going for me.

Pregnancy did a 180 for me when I chose to lean on the village but delight in the family. I hope when my friends and I are selecting preschools and comparing notes on teething and vegetable consumption, I can recall and rest in the peace that came with gratitude for what is mine. It’s more than I could have asked for, and much more than I deserve.

A Pregnant Pause, weeks 9-13: First Trimester Fun!

I had thought that after our 8-week appointment, my nerves would calm themselves, my anxiety would dissipate, and I could settle in for the next 32-ish weeks, while my cute little belly (and only my cute little belly) grew and my face became all aglow with pregnant sunshine.

No.

Once we returned from our unplanned Christmas in Michigan, I think we were both ready to get back to “regular” life. Turns out that when you’re pregnant, regular life isn’t really a thing anymore—Once we confirmed via ultrasound that our little prune (or, “Prunella”, as baby was known in week  10) was indeed very much alive and IN THERE, I went from questioning her existence to feeling it. Not in kicks and jabs yet, but in extreme fatigue, bloating, and a nagging feeling of ick that never quite went away.

*A disclaimer here, before I go any further in my complaining and alienate/irritate women who had much more difficult pregnancies than mine:  I promise I’m aware of how lucky I was not to be puking all day every day, or at all. This is especially true because I truly, truly hate vomiting. I’m still a little worried that karmic retribution of some kind awaits me in labor after a completely puke-free pregnancy.

Anyway, the fatigue was probably the worst part of it all. I had long harbored lofty goals for pregnancy…I was going to be one of those women who never let up on her 6am workouts, minimizing unnecessary weight gain and breezing through labor and delivery because of all those squats she did while pregnant.

No.

Instead, I made it to the gym on average once a week for the entire first trimester (and now, the third, for the curious) and ate more pizza and Thai food than is recommended for “healthy weight gain.” The unfortunate thing was, nothing else sounded good. On more than one occasion I’d come home from work, collapse on the couch, and contemplate whether I could stomach whatever I had put on our dinner menu that night. Often I’d get through it, but a few times I’d just tell Ryan, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” And he took the calling of the audible in stride, every time. He often ate whatever we were supposed to eat for dinner on a Friday night for lunch on Saturday. I’d come home from work or my lone trip to the gym for the week and find him watching college football on the couch, eating a gourmet lunch of roasted pork tenderloin or pesto salmon. He’s the best.

The other fun little oddity was my superhuman gag reflex. Our very clean, normal refrigerator became formidable. The garbage can, even worse. There was a long stretch of weeks during which I would ask Ryan to fetch everything I needed from the fridge, and then return it when I was done. Any trash that I accumulated in preparing breakfast/coffee/lunch for the day would be left on the counter next to the can so that he could dispose of it when I was at a safe distance. Just a whiff of either would instantly have me dry-heaving. See? He’s the best.

And, not surprisingly, my old pal anxiety followed me through those weeks. Toilet paper checks remained routine, and on the two occasions they turned up the smallest of spots, I called the midwives and jumped at their offer to come in and “check things out”. Thankfully, things were always fine, and I was okay with surrendering my original plan of being all Zen and collected (you know, my typical demeanor) in favor of slightly neurotic if it meant having a little extra peace of mind. The midwives were not bothered by this, and though my ever-patient husband would have preferred that I remained calm, he supported my need to just make sure. Every two weeks.

In the last days of that first trimester, before I could feel baby move and know for certain he/she was okay in there, I had to do a lot of praying and scrawling into my notebook, trying to relinquish my worries.  I was not always successful, but on the days I was, it was perfectly clear: This little one was meant to be mine, from the very beginning of time. I didn’t need to see or feel baby to know that his/her life was in the best of hands…much better hands than mine, though I will forever  be grateful that He chose me to carry this child here on earth, in every possible way.

As He always seems to do, God was telling me yet again:

When have I not taken care of you? When was it not okay in the end? Relax. Eat your Phad Thai. I’ve got this.

A Pregnant Pause: Week 9, and Forever.

My father in law passed away on Christmas Eve, 2014, succumbing to complications from his illness after a long, hard battle. We were there to say goodbye, and there to lay him to rest.

Filed away on this laptop, there is a long and detailed post about his final days and hours. It tells of all the sadness, the tears, and the grief. It also tells of the abundant love showered on and around our family in the days that followed. I talked a little about my husband and his incredible strength, continuing to support me and take care of me, even when his world was falling down.  I am always proud to be married to that man, but that week in particular, I got to see the kind of strength and grace he possesses. It was, is, and will always be my honor to be his wife.

I thought about sharing a little more about that week here. In general, I do want to become a little more transparent in my writing.  Accomplishing this was much easier when I was twenty-two, and had much less shame in regards to sharing my many exploits. My experiences felt proprietary then—they were mine and mine alone, and the people (well, men) involved in them were typically inconsequential, or deserving of a good public airing of grievances against them. At 29, life is a little different. I’ve also chosen to make my blog accessible to people like my mom.  And grandmother.  I’ve hitched my wagon to this man, and my life is now his too. There is much more to consider now in regards to what information is really mine to share. That said, I have always felt that my best writing (anyone’s best writing) is done without regard to personal privacy or potential embarrassment.  Going forward, and with blessings from any real life loved ones featured in my posts, I plan to be much more vulnerable.

In this case, though, the vulnerability I’d be volunteering isn’t necessarily mine, so I will simply say that we miss him. We missed him on Father’ s Day, and on his birthday. Sometimes we miss him just because it’s Thursday.  As the days tick down to our little one’s arrival, we miss him. As every “first” in our first full year without him comes and goes, we miss him. We’ll miss him as his grandbabies grow, as life changes and as life stays the same.

Rest in Peace, Dad. We’ll see you when we get there.