Mom to Mom: Just Making It
I'm fourteen weeks pregnant now (FINALLY!!!), and the past two months were almost as difficult as I feared they might be, with surprise days sprinkled throughout where I felt nearly normal. I have a history of very, uncomfortable pregnancies. My first was awful. I'd gone into it expecting to be this happy, glowing pregnant woman, and I was nauseated for months, had terrible back pains, and ridiculous acid reflux to name just a few of my horrible symptoms. If I could pinpoint when the nausea ended with my daughter, I'd say around five months, though it had its moments in the third trimester as well. When we got pregnant with our second, I was really hoping the second would be easier. Instead, I dealt with bouts of hyperemesis gravidarum accompanied by various pregnancy related hospital visits for one awful reason or another. I was terribly ill with him to the point that I could barely function. When it was over, I felt that I had mild PTSD related to that pregnancy, so much so that when I accidentally got pregnant with this third baby, the memories of my son's pregnancy had me bursting into terrified tears a couple times a day for at least a week. It felt like I'd been given a prison sentence. I know I should have been happy, but I was so scared, especially as I watched my innocent children happily playing who absolutely had no idea their Mommy was about to become half-useless. Don't get me wrong, I wanted the baby. As soon as I knew he or she existed, I wanted it. I was just so afraid that the joy couldn't seem to break through my terror.
When the nausea hit, the crying stopped. Crying only makes things worse. It was time to just suck it up and accept things, remembering to breathe in and out from one day to the next and soldier through it. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the day to come when I wouldn't be able to keep anything down and I'd have to go to the hospital and get IV treatments. That day never came. I only vomited 1 to 2 times a day. I still struggled (and still do) to stomach water and fluids, but I was somehow keeping enough down that I was peeing 2 to 3 times a day. I was even able to continue nursing my son, though that was down to only once or twice a day. In fact, this pregnancy, difficult as it is, feels like a walk in the park compared to my son's pregnancy. On top of that delightful discovery, I have spent hours laying on the couch miserable this time around, watching him and my daughter display their delightful personalities and it's almost like I'm able to connect them to their pregnancies for the first time. I don?t seem to do that, really. I talk about my son's pregnancy as if it were something totally separate from him and what our life is now because of him. But they are one and the same. The joy he brings couldn't have come without those awful nine months. I'm miserable and I see my beautiful children who gave me so much trouble and I have clarity for the first time. I really see that this is simply the price I had to pay to have them in my life. They are priceless. I'd do it all over again. Which is what I'm doing. I'm doing it all over again in exchange for another priceless treasure with whom, Lord willing, I will create a lifetime of memories. When I think of it that way, I know I can trade nine months for a lifetime.
My parenting is definitely not at its best right now. My kids have watched hours of Disney Jr., Sesame Street, and What's in the Bible. They've been running around my house wild while I lay on the couch miserably, reading books, watching TV, or checking my phone. They're eating pre-packaged, processed, microwaved food in the living room while watching said television programs. My son's diapers don't get changed as quickly as they should and my daughter isn't getting her daily chapter of Laura Ingalls Wilder anymore. And you know what? We're surviving. We're getting through it. As I feel better and better, the TV isn't on as much, I play with my children more, my laundry is slowly catching up with us, sometimes the kitchen sink isn't overflowing with dirty dishes, and occasionally the table gets wiped. Sometimes dinner is salmon, rice, and vegetables instead of microwaved burritos and corn dogs. And sometimes I'm able to read an entire book to my son without running to the bathroom. As the days get warmer and warmer, my little guys are spending hours and hours outside playing, soaking in the sun, and getting deliciously dirty. During these difficult two months, I've discovered something: I'm noticing my kids more. I can't interact with them like I could, but I also can't be as busy as I normally am which sort of forces me just to be with them. As I lay on the couch with the TV on and my kids running wild, I'm able to see more of them than I normally do because I'm being forced to lay still and observe. In a weird way, I think I'm actually seeing more of my kids because the house is a wreck and the sheets haven't been washed in weeks and I'm not spending hours every week preparing whole food meals for them. I'm learning to appreciate them in a different way.
I don't know exactly what I'm trying to say here. I guess I've always been so obsessed with being a perfect parent. I want to give my kids minimal television exposure and maximum reading time. I want their experiences to be as educational as possible. I want them to eat only raw milk and organic whole foods because I want to set up their bodies for a long, healthy life. I want the house to be neat, and organized. I want to be able to keep up with my daughter's reading practice and her chore chart. Most of all, I want to be present for my children and I want them to feel that they are absolutely loved and safe with me and their father. But these past two months I haven't been able to do any of that and my children are still happy and healthy. They still enjoying life and full of unbridled creativity. They still feel loved. My son's language continues to develop despite the fact that he often plays without me far more often than his sister did. My daughter's spending less time with me practicing her reading and she seeks out reading and writing assignments on her own. She is extremely self-motivated to write little stories all by herself and sound out sight words now that I'm not forcing her to do it a couple of times a week. When the children are outside, I'm too tired to prohibit them from doing things I'd normally be wary about, or wandering to the far reaches of our little yard and they are learning so much more than they do when I'm trying to protect them from everything or when I'm too busy cleaning the floors to take them outside this much. I'm about to have three children which means that a to a degree, a messier house and independently playing kids will continue to be the norm. Maybe God is just using this difficult time to prepare us all for the new normal that is coming. Maybe He's using it to slow me down and allow me to reflect more on my children and to see what really matters. I don't know the purpose of this trial. But I'm realizing that being nauseated and suffering from constant reflux isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think there is a purpose behind it that has wisdom beyond my reach. I've always wanted a nausea free pregnancy, but God's answer to that prayer has consistently been no. Instead, He has always given me just the strength I need to get through today. He's sustained my children, my husband, and me, and despite the fact that my parenting is far below the standard I've set, my children are thriving.
So I've stopped worrying. One day soon, they won't be watching lots of TV anymore. One day soon their meals will be healthy again and I'll be able to add educational insights into their recreational time. But today, it's okay that the hamper is overflowing and we don't have any clean spoons. We're getting through it a day at a time and we are all going to be okay. We are going to be okay.