Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just in case you wonder, son ...

My kind, sweet, brilliant son,


The last letter I wrote to commemorate your monthly birthday was when you turned 19 months old. Since then, you've experienced a million tiny milestones I should have captured immediately, like turning two, peeing in the potty for the first time (not that it meant anything like actual potty training, as it turned out), graduating to a "big-boy bed," starting your first formal instruction of any kind (your once-a-week music class, which you adore), sleeping through the night, feeding yourself reliably with a teeny toddler fork or spoon, choosing the restaurant where we had dinner as a family ("French toast restaurant, dad! Want french toast restaurant! No barbecue!" And so of course we went to Denny's), and so much more.

As important as all of them were, as big as they felt and as much as we hooted and hollered and celebrated you and your amazing development, we're about to find ourselves in the midst of an even bigger one, son -- your baby brother or sister is scheduled to arrive on May 14, just a couple weeks away, and may actually show up even earlier. As it is, I find myself wondering whether each shampoo will be my last before the baby comes, or whether I'll have time to finish ALL the laundry before my water breaks. It seems so very close now. Once the baby arrives to join us, I have the feeling that I won't have a chance to tell you what I want to say, so I wanted to get it down tonight.

We've talked a great deal about your sibling's impending arrival, son. We've talked about how the baby won't be able to say what he or she needs, how there'll be crying, how we'll handle it, how you can help get us diapers for the baby or share your toys. We've talked about how it's ok that the baby will be noisy sometimes, and that mommy will have to hold the baby a lot because he or she can't sit up or crawl or walk like you can. There is so much you seem to understand about what will be changing, and yet I know for a fact that I can't expect you to grasp it all, of course. I know there will be rocky days, and times when you just want me and I can't scoop you up right away that very second, and that there will be days when we all wonder what, exactly, we've gotten ourselves into.

That's ok, son. I'm telling you now, and I'm telling myself the same thing. It's ok when it gets hard. It won't be hard forever. We'll figure out how to get through it, and then how to make it work, and then eventually we'll wonder what we ever did without the baby around.

You've told me a few things in the last weeks that I know are a sign of your two-minds-about-this-baby-thing. When you saw me swaddle your little friend Z, who was 11 weeks old when he came to visit us, you said, "Mommy wrap ME up. I wanna be baby too." When we talked about the baby in my tummy, and how it would soon emerge the way Z had from HIS mommy's tummy, you demanded to be the baby in mom's tummy, too. So we pretended. I swaddled you, I cradled you, I rocked you on my lap and buried my nose in your hair and hugged you tight to me, just as if you were a baby again.

And here's the truth of it. I told you this the other day, have been saying it silently since you were born, as a matter of fact. You will always be my baby, son. Always. It doesn't matter whether you're learning to ride a tricycle or starting preschool or rolling your eyes at me or driving off to college. You will always be my first, my beautiful boy, my heart. There's going to be a lot of attention on the new baby soon, I know, but never for a second do I want you to think that it means you are any less to me than you ever have been. It will always be you who taught me that yes, indeed, I was able to be a mother (something I always doubted about myself while I was growing up), and that as a matter of fact, I was naturally inclined to adore the job. It will always be you who helped me learn how to give myself completely to you, my son, but still be enough of me for your dad and myself. It will always be you who turned my parents and your dad's into grandparents for the very first time, and our brothers into uncles. And now -- now we get to watch you learn how to be a big brother, and it's a transformation we are eager to witness, because we're so sure you'll do it so well, just as you've handled the changes in your life to this point.

You mean so much to me, to your dad, to all of us. There is no me without you anymore, child. So know this -- you have made me who I am. The new baby will help me do it all over again too, and I'm excited for it now, because you helped me see that it was a beautiful metamorphosis to become a mother, not a scary thing (well, it WAS scary, but you made it so much easier).

I love you. I have loved you since I first learned you were coming to me. I will always love you, more and more all the time. You make my heart grow in so many ways, my life better for so many reasons. No matter how crazy it gets around here, remember that.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'm having a "glass is half-empty" moment. Bear with me.

Being pregnant is a special time.

It's a time when you can feel amazingly confident in your body's ability to adapt and change in ways as old as humanity. It's a time when you can revel in your inherent ability to bring about new life, to nurture a brand new person. You can rejoice in your strength and unique gifts as a woman. You can enjoy the glow of happiness and serenity that all of that knowledge gives you, and finally understand your true inner beauty.

That is, if you're someone else.

Before I proceed, let me assure you that I am fully touched by the blessing that pregnancy is, I really am. I have dear friends who struggle with fertility issues, who would give their right arms to be in the kind of temporary discomfort in which I find myself right now. I have never been happier or more fulfilled in my life than I am right now as a mother, and the knowledge that I'm getting to experience the journey again is heartbreakingly, profoundly beautiful to me.

But as all of us know, blessings are rarely brilliant gems of purely gorgeous beauty. They can sometimes be cloaked in some pretty off-putting stuff, as a matter of fact.

I have never been one of those lucky women who loves to be pregnant, who adores her fertile body in its new rounded shapes, who sees lushness and life in her added weight and contours. I've never been one of the women who feels empowered by the experience of pregnancy, or who finds her mind at its sharpest or her strength at its peak while she's carrying her child within. That's probably because I've never been one of those women who never had morning sickness, either. In my snarkier moods, I could probably call those women some imaginative names.

Who am I? I'm one of the women who loves motherhood but finds pregnancy 10% amazing, 10% "interesting," and 80% distinctly uncomfortable. I'm one of the women who spent the first 19 weeks of her pregnancy either having just thrown up or preparing to do it again. No exaggeration. I'm one of the women who was almost crippled by bone-deep fatigue in the first and third trimesters, one of the women who, just weeks away from delivery now, finds her child's movements more painful than pleasant. (Seriously. What are those elbows and knees freaking made of, anyway?) I'm one of the unlucky women who has and continues to battle postpartum depression or anxiety, who now understands the full meaning of the compound word "heartburn," who (though previously a huge fan of food and eating) has to make herself consume some food-related item several times a day since absolutely nothing sounds appealing, who hates the fact that she's resigned to frequent mild incontinence, who cannot imagine ever being in control of her bladder again, who lays awake in bed for up to two hours in the middle of almost every night for no good reason except for the fact that her hormones tell her she should be awake and worrying about something, who regularly sweats through her pajamas and awakens hot, damp and annoyed, who can fall asleep at 10:15 p.m. and be up to pee at least four times by midnight.

I am that woman.

In other words, I'm a mom-to-be.

And when I think about it, when I really reflect on it, the only truly important word in that last sentence is "mom." That's why this isn't my first time down this path. That's why I'm not at all sure it will be my last.

Because moms? They do what they have to. Not because they're martyrs, and not because they're heros, or superhuman, or different than anyone else.

It's because there is NEVER, EVER a question of whether or not it's worth it.

AH. NOW I get it.

What people say to pregnant women:
"You look gorgeous!"
What pregnant women think they really mean:
"I'm supposed to say this to be nice to fat women who are going to have babies."

What people say to pregnant women:
"You have a glow."
What pregnant women think they mean:
"Your skin is actually shining. A blotting paper wouldn't hurt you."

What people say to pregnant women:
"It's such a special time in your life, isn't it?"
What pregnant women think they mean:
"How could you not love losing total control of your body in every way imaginable, for three quarters of a year, and then losing total control of your *life* for the next two years at least?"