Hello all! Happy New Year! May 2018 be a year full of happiness, health, compassion and love for you, yours and everyone.
For my little family, I am hoping 2018 will be a year far different (in a positive way) than the past two years were. My little family so far includes my husband, me and our two cats (of course, the past two years were fine for our kitties minus some stressed, grieving humans). Within the next six months, we should have one more human among us – a very tiny one at that. We are expecting a healthy, baby boy in summer 2018.
After everything we went through with a previous pregnancy, this new pregnancy has been overwhelming on so many levels. I feel joy and love so much more strongly this time. And… I am still grieving and traumatized from everything that happened last spring and summer. It was only a few months after I’d been at an oncology hospital because of my miscarriage that I learned I was pregnant again. It all happened so quickly.
The first trimester was particularly difficult. I still missed my other baby-to-be, which made me feel guilty as I thought of the new life developing in me. I still experienced an emotional earthquake when I saw women who were further along in their pregnancy. I continued to think ‘That is supposed to be me now!’ But also knew I wanted nothing more than this new baby. The nausea was constant and I wondered if I was going through it all just to be heart-broken and traumatized again. And yet my heart swelled with happiness when I thought of my new pregnancy.
As the pregnancy went on and I got past the eleven weeks of pregnancy I’d done last time, I started to feel a weight lifting off me. Because I’m an elderly pregnant lady, we were able to do the NIPT and learn the gender of our baby and that he had no syndromes while we were still in the first trimester. That was amazing and so surreal.
There are still hurdles. It feels more real now but I’m still so scared of something going wrong. I know most expectant parents are but, for me, there’s been a real shift in how I view pregnancy. The trauma of the last experience brings with it a shattering of security and innocence that I wouldn’t have had if not for the miscarriage. I was scared last time but assured by the fact that more often than not, things go well with any given pregnancy. Now I expect everything to go to hell at any moment. That’s the impact of the trauma and over time, it will lose its acuity and I will keep healing.
We have the 20-week fetal scan coming up in a few weeks. We know the baby doesn’t have any syndromes but the scan will check that his organs are developing well. I’m so scared. Yet, I know that with each bridge we cross, I do feel better and I also know that for all parents, there will always be something to fear. We can never know what the future will bring, both in terms of joy and pain. It’s hard when you’ve been so hurt before to accept the uncertainty and yet when you want something, the only way to get it – really get it – is to feel the fear and go forward.
So I am letting this baby in and when the surge of love comes in, I feel it, scary as it is. As I let in the reality of bringing a child into this world, I also start to feel the importance of setting a precedent of boundaries and self-care.
I’ve always been a HUGE proponent of maternal well-being and self-care. And now that I am embarking on this journey, I am trying to practice what I preach. The further we get into this pregnancy, the more pressure I feel to start “readying” myself (whatever that means!). I feel guilty when I sleep in (or sleep at all) because I’m going to lose that “luxury” over the next year. I feel like I should get used to it now. I feel like I should be setting up the nursery and reading baby books and… well it doesn’t really end. And the baby isn’t even here yet!
In December, I realized that I was doing my usual thing of getting WAY ahead of myself. I thought about the past two years, of my husband getting laid off twice in 2016, of a shithole president taking office and of a pregnancy-loss-turned-cancer-scare in 2017. To say it has been a journey is to make an understatement of epic proportions. So I took a moment and thought, ‘What do I need right now?’ The answer was certainly NOT to rush into things I could be doing several months from now. Instead, I decided the best thing to do for myself, and for this baby, was to take January as a time to rest. To do whatever the f- I feel like (I mean within reason – I am still pregnant, after all!). But if I want to binge-watch a show or binge-read, I am going to do that. I am going to sleep and sit with the feelings of guilt instead of succumbing to them or fighting them off. I am going to reflect and process and maybe, just maybe, continue to heal.
As soon as I made that decision, I started to feel anxiety creeping in again. I read that a developing fetus can hear the voice of the parent carrying it starting at 16 weeks. So pregnant parents can start talking to their baby as a way to bond and foster language development. I started to succumb to that guilt, thinking ‘I can’t just sit around reading and journaling and BLOGGING, I need to be talking to this lil guy! I need to foster his language development… I need to, I need to, I should, I should…’ At the root of all this was a belief that I was a selfish mom, a bad mom if I took time for myself… when pregnant. And while I recognize that I have extreme perfectionist tendencies and am exceptionally hard on myself, I also exist within a larger society that monitors and judges women’s decisions around parenting – from if a woman becomes a parent and if so, absolutely every little thing she does once she starts trying or learns she is pregnant.
As I realized this, I realized that my belief I should be talking to my baby was no different than my belief I should be setting up the nursery yesterday. The tasks were different but their meaning to me was the same – I am not good enough. So I took off the should. And when I did, an amazing thing happened. I started to want to talk to my baby. So in the mornings as I get ready, I speak en espanol to my little one and tell him about what I’m doing. “Pongo mi pan en este plato y pongo crema de mani por encima del pan. Oh, y aqui hay uno de nuestros gatos…” And I enjoy it. I don’t tell myself I have to. But if I think to do it as I’m getting ready or driving in the car then I will do it.
I know that in six months when the baby is here, I will have to shift even more. Many things won’t just be “if I think of it.” Feedings will need to happen, attachment developed and diapers changed. And yet, there is always something you have control of, some way you can set boundaries with your family, with society and with yourself.
This is something I learned in doing DV work. Not that I’m saying having a baby is the same thing as experiencing domestic violence. I just mean that the empowerment aspect of DV work can be applied to other areas of life. Part of the empowerment model is to encourage survivors to consider what they do still have control over and how they can capitalize on that. As many survivors have children with an abusive partner, I learned a lot about the ways society is really not supportive to parents – especially to moms (or parents who aren’t cis, straight men). To women and folks outside the gender binary, society is downright degrading and oppressive in its treatment of them as parents. The experience of a survivor parenting is one of the more extreme examples, as their partner (current or former) not only does not help but typically just makes everything worse and also dangerous. And yet this experience is far too common, especially for people who are not cis, straight men. And while looking at the extremes intensively, I came to see the way this plays out in average relationships where there is no abuse. Even in these relationships, one partner still tends to do the lion’s share of the work and, you guessed it, in straight relationships that person is typically the mother.
At first, I felt guilty when I thought of how much I was prioritizing my own self-care right from the start. As though self-care should be an after-thought, something attended to after absolutely everything else has been taken care of. What a set-up that thought process is though, huh?! And I realized that after all the work I’d done for women’s empowerment and rights, it made sense – and is a POSITIVE thing – that self-care is one of the first things I’d think of. It’s important to do this for myself and to support other parents, especially parents living in the intersection of oppressions, to be able to do the same.
This means that YOU also need to do this. I’m not going to say should – cuz I don’t think that’s helpful. But you probably do need to. And I say that because our culture is not good at self-care overall and makes it particularly hard for women and much harder for moms to focus on self-care. So for me, reminders are helpful. Hopefully they are for you too. You probably have your own internal struggle, whether like mine of perfectionism and anxiety, or something else. And this will make it hard to do. But you can do it. I believe in you.
It is interesting to see what happens when women start to acknowledge the hardships of parenting. I came across this post last night about women who regret motherhood. What is interesting is that most of them do not regret their children or parenting in and of itself. But rather, they regret becoming moms given the restrictions, judgment and oppression society continues to place on moms. And with every advancement of women’s rights, there is backlash and more pressure added on moms to fit into an increasingly glossy and rigid definition of motherhood. I am starting to think that it may not be a coincidence that there became such a cult around breastfeeding after the 80s, powersuit-wearing, formula-feeding (granted, typically white) mom had her heyday. I plan/hope to breastfeed and I do not mean it has no benefits (obviously, it does). But it does seem we have hit a point in our culture where we are extremist about it. I’m going to do some research on this trend and perhaps will have another post on it soon.
On a tangent, I also predict there will be backlash to the #metoo movement. It should not happen and we shouldn’t have to be two steps ahead of our oppressors and at the same point, if we are, we will be better prepared when it does come. So get fired up. And ready to go. More on that later.
The final thing I want to say in this rambling post is that as I start to acknowledge the challenges of pregnancy and upcoming parenthood, I have to grapple these too with the feelings of anguish I experienced after my miscarriage. In the weeks after I lost my first pregnancy, I would have given ANYTHING to still be experiencing nausea and exhaustion if it meant my baby would have been born alive and healthy. I knew then like I’d never known before that I would be able to cope with sleepless nights because almost anything was better than what I was going through then. It’s not like I was sleeping then anyways, the grief keeping me up at night.
But I want to be careful there, too. Because if I go too far in that direction, I may feel like I can never acknowledge the challenges. But that’s not true. I can speak my truth, which is that after having gone through TWO first trimesters and nausea within a six month period, I would DEFINITELY rather go through that and have a healthy baby then go through it and lose a pregnancy. And while my nausea has dissipated only to be replaced by rib pain as my little one has decided my left side is the cool side to hang out on, I also know there are worse things in life than pregnancy aches and pains. AND. It is okay to acknowledge that I don’t feel physically comfortable right now. It’s okay to look forward to sushi and a glass of wine when I’m again able to enjoy those things. What I went through before was extreme, or as a good friend said “just so unnecessary.” And it’s valid it’s changed my perspective and it’s okay to talk about that. And it’s valid to talk about the difficulties, that I wish my baby would move to the right, to the right so I can get some relief – and more than that, I wish and hope that he is healthy and well.
In inclusive solidarity,