I cried for an entire week when I found out I was pregnant with M. But the initial shock soon gave way to near-unbearable sickness which after 6 months gave way to impossible excitement, delight and awe at the human body and nature and somehow my general memory of being pregnant for the first time is that it was INCREDIBLE.
And then she was overdue and the days were killing me because i just wanted to meet her. And then she was born and we started breastfeeding and all of a sudden my life as I had known it was over. It felt like it was without warning and it felt like no-one had told me this would happen and I remember having brief moments of thinking I would NEVER be my own person ever again. The days were LONG.
And then she was 1 and a half and I started to feel like myself again and our lives felt complete. I couldn’t imagine a life without her. And she stopped needing me as much and it felt pretty OK until it was time to stop breastfeeding and I cried and I cried and I worried that we would lose our closeness and that our special time together was completely over. But of course our time together just changed and now I watch her with pride as she makes her own smoothies and constantly reminds me ‘mama I can do it’. And when she comes into our room at night holding her tiny pink rabbit nightlight and crawls between us, I pull her as close to me as I can and the smell of her breath and the sound of her breathing and her sleepy smiles fill me with a similar delight that I experienced with breastfeeding and I realise that these things don’t necessarily go away, they just change, constantly, and that part of being a parent is that we quickly learn how fleeting these moments really are. The days are sometimes still long, but after 3 and a half we are very aware just how short the years are.
I never really look back and wish we were still in an old phase. I loved breastfeeding and then I hated it and then I cried when it had to end and now it has given way to so much more. I loved baby mika but now i love 3 and a half year old mika so much more and every day that she grows I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But that doesn’t make it easy – especially when the changes feel so large and significant or when they are marked by something like the end of breastfeeding or the start of preschool or, the real reason for this post, the arrival of a new family member.
Every day I am asked by someone ‘how are you feeling?.’ And for these past few weeks if you have asked me this question, you could have caught me in any one of the millions of feelings that I have been feeling because i have been feeling ALL.THE.THINGS. But as my best friend who always says the right thing says, as long as i am feeling all the things, then that’s just how it should be. I could write paragraphs about the sadness, paragraphs about the excitement, paragraphs about the sense of loss or the anticipation for what is to come.
And as each feeling arises, I sit with it and I try (and fail) and try (and fail) and try to not judge myself, or resist the feeling or change the feeling. And really only by sitting with it am I really experiencing it all. In a few days everything will change and I will never have this moment back again. Uncertainty, fear, sadness, excitement – all the unknowns of today will become known. I am usually addicted to these moments. I relish them. It’s why I would never want to know the gender of my baby before they are born. It’s these moments before starting something new, these moments where anything seems possible that feel so magical to me.
So despite all the concerns and potential outcomes right now; despite how much I cry because this is the end of our family of three and how excited I am because this is the start of our family of four; I will keep trying to experience every feeling as it arises and I will savour these last few days as the days of magical unknown.
The days of 80 degree heat are gone (when did Fahrenheit become normal for me?) and instead it is sort of just perfect. Some days it rains and rains and some days the sun shines brightly, but never hotter than 70, and that is actually just how I like it right now. I love it when I can’t take a sunny day for granted, or when the evening air is cold enough to really snuggle under duvets. (I also love it when the air is warm enough that I can sit outside in shorts til midnight, which DID happen this summer. So it seems Seattle is just perfect for me.)
M is at spanish school 3 mornings a week and we have been going swimming together twice a week in the afternoons. She has already moved up a level in her swim class and it amazes me how kids go from not being able to do something to being able to do it so well that you can’t remember what it was like beforehand. Things like walking and talking and getting themselves dressed. But also things like riding a scooter or a bike or learning how to swim. And I guess we’re always improving and growing in some ways, but it just starts out being such huge improvements and then gets harder to notice as we get older maybe. Anyway, it’s very exciting to watch her jumping and wriggling and kicking and floating and playing games in the water that remind me of when I was a kid and my brother and i would just play for hours in our cheap backyard pool.
And I have not been sleeping very well but I don’t feel surprised by this. I’ve gained a measly 11 pounds during this pregnancy – which no-one has really commented on at all, so I suppose it’s not an issue – but I definitely don’t feel like I’m waddling around as much as last pregnancy. At our last scan (last week) they predicted that baby weighed only 4 pounds, and at about the same time with M they predicted she weighed 7 pounds. I feel a little nervous, but hopefully baby will do some extra fast growing over the next week or so.
We have finally accumulated almost everything we need for baby’s arrival. I’ve been high-fiving myself for being the master of craiglist finds after finding a $40 dresser (my budget: $100), a baby bed for $150 (my budget: $300) and a futon/couch for guests (my mum) for $100 (my budget $400). In theory I’ve saved like $500! Totally in theory though..
And wow baby clothes are tiny. And wow M is excited. When she saw the bassinet we bought she asked ‘is baby here?!!’ and so we have been going over the timeline of events for the next few months and it is so cute because I love how she says ‘exciting’ instead of ‘excited’ so she runs around the house going ‘i’m so exciting! i’m so exciting!’
And one last thing: Last night she was really itchy and Ivan had to leave in the middle of the night to go buy her some medicine and so she was cuddling me tightly around my neck to try and stop herself scratching and she sort of drifted in and out of sleep and I started crying! Because her world is about to change and she doesn’t even really know it. And I am not scared about having enough love for another child, but rather I’m scared because this sort of love can make me feel so fragile sometimes. And I start thinking about all the people I love and how they are just out in the world and I can’t protect them or keep an eye on them and so it feels like my heart is out there totally unprotected and it is so open for being hurt. And here I am creating more little vessels who will take my heart into the world and obviously i do not think about this all the time, but right in this moment of holding M tightly and feeling her cheek against mine and hearing her gentle snoring, it all seemed so wonderful and unbearable at the same time.
it is very difficult to trust my instincts when there is a strong medical voice in my ear telling me every single possible worst case scenario. and i know that it is just their job and that it is so marvelous and wonderful that we have the ability to deal with so many potentially bad outcomes. But it is one thing to think ‘oh i will take their advice and listen to what they say, but then at the end of the day i will consider what they say and trust my instincts’ and it is another thing entirely to actually know what those instincts are after hearing only one big medical opinion for so long. are my instincts not to just deliver a healthy baby at any cost? at what point am i making a dumb decision to try and hold onto an experience that i might want? we’ve all seen the business of being born, and doesn’t it feel like the hospitals are not the places for bringing life into this world? they are places for sick people and i do not feel sick and i do not feel as though our baby is sick. will i make our baby sick by letting these doctors worry over every heartbeat and every measurement? or will i be doing the best thing for our baby?
but so it seems that we have ended up in the hospital anyway. and it is hard to know how much to question it/the doctors/the process and how much to trust it. i wonder am i fighting hard enough to keep myself out of this system? and then i wonder should i even be resisting it at all? i wonder if i was in New Zealand instead of America, would things be different?
and i feel stupid for feeling so scared and helpless and worried because there are much more scary and worrisome things that people deal with. and i want to feel confident that everything will be AOK and in order to really connect with this baby i feel like i need to feel 100% confident, but then too much confidence in everything being ok makes it even more confusing for me to trust the doctor’s concerns. if i could be so confident that everything is ok then why let them take control of the situation? so what does that leave me feeling? i have no idea, and it is exhausting.
it is one thing to say that we are designed to birth babies and to trust in the process and it is another thing to be told all the possible bad outcomes for your baby and have to make your own decision in the midst of teams of medical professionals and large hospitals. i want to hear the confident voice with an alternative recommendation. but even that is proving very difficult to find.
one thing is for sure though – by the end of october we will have a baby in our arms and i want to picture a healthy and strong and gorgeous little newborn. please picture that with me.
Finding the good books is a process. Finding the books that we are willing to read over and over and over again. Finding the books that have good messages, great pictures, are enjoyable (for us) to read outloud and that are loved by M, is actually a harder task than you might think. The library is filled with awful children’s books. It is truly astounding.
Anyway – I really want to share our favourites. We have a few, so I will start with just 4.
I say these are books for a 3 year old, but really we have been reading them since she was 2 and I imagine they will stick around for a long while yet. If you are looking for new books, I can NOT recommend these books enough.
The Lion in The Meadow
A little boy sees a lion in the meadow but his mother doesn’t believe him. The pictures in this book are so great, I remember being read this when I was little. The fine line between reality and imagination is blurred – making this book feel magical and sweet.
The Worst Princess
I’m not sure if M fully understands this book yet, but she still loves to hear it read (it rhymes). It is about a princess who is rescued by a prince and then when she realises she is about to be forced into a traditional fairytale (dresses and castles) when she would rather be riding horses and doing ‘fun stuff’ she befriends a dragon who helps her get rid of the prince. It’s cute.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Another magical book that plays with reality/imagination. A tiger comes to tea and eats everything in the house! So when Daddy comes home from work there is nothing left to eat, but Daddy has a good idea and takes everyone out for ice-cream and sausages and chips. I love the way that no-body seems very stressed out about the fact that a tiger just cleaned out their home. Both the mama and daddy are very calm and sweet and the images throughout the book reflect that.
Jesse Bear, What Will you Wear?
Oh this book brought me back to my childhood. We go through Jesse Bear’s day with interesting rhythm and rhyme asking each time ‘what will you wear?’ M knows most of it by heart now, which makes it such an easy and delightful read.
I was sick in bed and I woke up at midday. I checked my phone to see a bunch of missed calls and some text messages saying ‘they just tested the house, it’s all lead’. And just like that it felt like our lives got thrown into a big whirlpool.
Our landlord had been doing a bunch of (illegal) paint work to the house and had power-blasted lead paint chips and dust into our gardens, through our windows, onto our driveway, our front and back porch and all through our lawns. He got fined by the state, and then we started to see what sort of legal action we could take but the system and processes are overwhelming to say the least and after a few days of headaches and phone-calls and doctors visits, we decided that for the safety of M and baby we would just need to move house.
So I was sick in bed and was advised by my doctor that considering I am pregnant, I should get out of the house as fast as possible. We spent 2 weeks crashing at our friend’s (amazing) house and I have no idea what we would have done without them. But although I was trying very hard to count our blessings, we were crashing with no real idea of what would come next. The uncertainty is something that might have excited me a few years ago, but being pregnant and with a 3.5 year old, I felt overwhelmed, frustrated and super depressed. It was a very hard mindset to pull myself out of. I felt like we were at an extremely low point and I knew that this was the time I needed to be the strongest. It so easy to be strong when things are going well but I knew that a true test of character is always when things are hard – but that didn’t make it any easier.
We really thought that our time in America was up. The cost of renting something else in the area was outrageous. Outrageous. We would have been in a much better position if we could buy a house here (we can’t) – the rental market is so expensive. We weighed up our options of moving back to NZ. Of moving to Mexico. Of moving to Canada. And all the while I was thinking ‘what if this was happening in November? What if was about to go into labour any day?’ I guess life doesn’t consider convenient timing. It just happens.
And then, as if by some crazy stars-aligning act-of-god miracle we ended up finding a home we could afford. It started with a phone call and through friends of friends and chance encounters ended up with us signing a lease within days.
We started packing (with help from the most amazing friends) and driving and unpacking and a part of me relishes the cleansing feeling that comes from sorting and packing and giving away. Trying to make sure that we always have just the right amount of stuff and never more, is a task that I take great pleasure in.
And there is still some sorting that needs to be done but we are more or less settled into our new home.
I am meant to be 30 weeks pregnant today but things are not going so well. There is a hospital visit scheduled for this coming Wednesday but that is another story in itself.
It was been such a challenging month and I wanted to write this down to remind myself. I’ve felt less present, less happy, less me than I have felt in a very long time. But I keep reminding myself that I already have so much. I want to remember that I felt so awful so I can know to keep moving through each day and seeing the great things and people in our lives. Light always wins over darkness right?
“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” – Eckhart Tolle
“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit
The lights in my life.