It has been a very different summer from the one that I expected. Our trip back in May was fabulous but had some bumps in the road and didn’t quite go to plan, my husband was still traveling the end of May, my family went through hard times, and I have been going through some exhausting times as well. And now that we have shared our big news, I can let you all in on some of the REAL reasons I’ve been struggling with blogging and taking big breaks from social media. (Settle in because this is a long post… grab some wine. I’ll sip my cranberry juice and pretend I’m having wine too…)
They say no two pregnancies are the same. And by “they” I mean both in the general, conventional wisdom sense as well as some of my other mama friends who have already gone down the road of multiple pregnancies. I clung to that saying with the hope that maybe the nausea and morning sickness I experienced with my firstborn would not be the same this go around. Well… it certainly wasn’t the same, but unfortunately instead of having an easier first trimester, my morning sickness was much, MUCH worse. I am now on medication but still get sick. Luckily, as long as I take it easy, the meds have been enough to stop my weight loss and severe dehydration I was experiencing at the beginning of this pregnancy. It has been a stressful adjustment being unable to do much of anything and it has been a lonely time since I have not been able to get out of the house much.
Additionally, aside from all the genuine reasons I gave on my post about giving up social media for the summer, there are two more reasons directly related to my pregnancy I’ve been laying low online. The first I alluded to in my previous post. Being on social media- particularly Facebook more than any other outlet- heightens my anxiety. Especially with the charged political posts everywhere right now.
I wrote a very difficult post last year about my experience with prenatal anxiety my first pregnancy. I have struggled with some of that same hormone induced anxiety this pregnancy but in some different ways. Having been through it before, it was easier to identify and know to ask for help from my husband right away. It has been easier to use strategies I used last pregnancy to talk myself down in the moments I convinced myself that my pregnancy couldn’t end well. (Not a passing worry that I’m sure all women have when expecting but an all consuming TERROR every day even when I had no symptoms as a basis for that terror). I found that when I would go online and consume too much negativity or too many random articles posted I would begin to worry about other unfounded terrors (what if my toddler has cancer, my husband is fifteen minutes late form work what if he’s dead on the side of the road, nuclear war, etc.) All those are patterns I would never obsess over and could easily dismiss when insane pregnancy hormones weren’t involved. So avoiding triggers is a survival strategy for the moment. It’s part of how I’m taking care of myself. Especially because one of the ways I pushed through this kind of mental battle last time was keeping busy and with my extreme morning sickness this time keeping busy has not been an option so far. Which brings me to the other reason for my social media fast:
I can’t handle looking at food most days. Instagram is usually a pretty happy place for me. There tends to be a lot of beauty and joy shared there. But both instagram and Facebook are filled with pictures of delicious or exciting food that I’d usually love but has been enough to turn my stomach all summer. I have been slowly signing back on to instagram when i’m having a good day or when my medication has kicked in and I feel confident I can just scroll by or even enjoy beautiful shots of people’s dinners or desserts, but I think I’ll continue to avoid my Facebook feed and use it as sparingly as possible.
Being sicker than I can really describe in a blog post (I’m not going to subject you to that. You’re welcome.) isn’t the only thing different about this pregnancy. I had all sorts of pregnancy symptoms that I didn’t have the first time around. Like cravings. My last pregnancy I craved lemon but never in a NEED TO HAVE it way. Just in a that tasted good and I strongly preferred tart flavors and couldn’t drink enough lemonade way. This time around… I have not been able to eat much, but when something sounded good I suddenly HAD to have it. While I have not liked many sweets this time around either, there was one night I insisted my saint of a husband (who has picked up ALL the slack around the house) run out to the store just to buy me a chocolate pie. I once had a big bowl of pasta but couldn’t stomach tomato sauce and had to mix BBQ sauce and ranch to go with it (my Italian self is disgusted by this choice), and I finally had the stereotypical pregnancy moment of demanding pickles (not with ice cream. ew.) And other days it’s been a struggle to even look at a glass of water.
All that to say, while I am insanely excited about adding to our family and I have been praying to get pregnant, this pregnancy has been kicking my butt and it has been an extremely hard season filled with many tears and feeling extremely isolated. I know it will pass and I know all the sacrifices will be worth it. But it is HARD right now. And I think too often in life, and with motherhood in particular, women are meant to brush off or downplay extremes- especially when things are hard. The superwoman complex right? Have it all together or at least look like you do? So I’m about to list some things I’ve learned or grown from during this hard season, but I don’t want to do so at the expense of people thinking that made it less hard or thinking that you have to have a positive side. Sometimes things, even miraculous things like creating new life (maybe especially those things?) are hard and painful and downright suck. OK? OK, so that being said here’s a few things this season is helping me learn or remember:
*I definitely can’t do it all. I have to learn this lesson over and over as I try to drown my perfectionism. But when your body says NOPE to every item on your to-do list, you can’t even pretend like you can keep it all together. Not even for a day or two at a time.
*This will probably not be the last time my body fails me and so I had better come to terms with that fact. It is usually easier for me to just ignore my body and live in my head when I’m not thrilled with my physical limitations. But since having a baby and starting yoga, it is impossible to deny the mind/body connection that we all have. I have also had to come to terms with the fact that I am more than what I do. I get very depressed some days because I feel worthless when I can’t do anything more than struggle to keep my toddler alive and the house from being set on fire. I get very anxious when I think other people will think I’m lazy or worthless and having this time to examine those thoughts and where they come from has helped me build up a lot of compassion and for people with chronic pain or illness. At least I know my suffering should come with an amazing payoff at the end! I could write a lot more about that, but my friend Owen already wrote a beautiful post on this subject where he talks about how Health is not a Virtue and I urge you all to check it out if you haven’t read it.
*I really love reading. It’s been a while since I’ve read for “pleasure” and not some sort of specific club or purpose. I listen to audiobooks on commutes but since I haven’t had commutes and I could read in bed and get my mind off how crappy I felt, I’ve been reading and re-reading a great deal.
*All the rosaries I’ve been drawn to this year were probably leading up to dealing with this. I can’t tell you how much structured, formal prayer has been an anchor and a way to calm myself during this time and I am so thankful for this mindful, meditative tradition.
*People can go on without me. This may sound like a depressing thing- and in some ways it is definitely a blow to the ego, right? We all want to be irreplaceable. But on the other hand, it is also an incredibly freeing thing. I have a tendency to say yes to so many things out of guilt, or else that guilt lingers when I say no because I think things are going to be a lot worse without my help- then I say those kind of thoughts out loud and I’m horrified by the egotism. I am hoping that being in a place where I have HAD to say no and seeing everyone survive and thrive anyway, can free me from making decisions out of obligation as my family deals with the changes that having two kids will bring. Saying no right now doesn’t mean saying no forever. That’s a big one because the other end of this point and this fear I have is that people will stop asking all together once I AM able and do have time or health to help or to work again. It’s especially scary in the arts where it feels like if you weren’t working last season it is certainly hard to get some work next season and I’ve had to confront my own fears over my career and what having another child will do to that, or how long this season of taking a break will have to last. But having SO MUCH TIME in my head this summer has also made me realize that there are other avenues to stay creative in the meantime. I can always sharpen my theatrical skills whether it be by reading plays, thinking about writing them, or just getting to know myself and my body a little more.
So that was a VERY long post and congrats if you managed to read it the whole way through. I want to close with a poem that a fellow mama sent me who had also been through borderline HG (HG is the extreme morning sickness I’ve been talking about… you may remember is from Princess Kate’s pregnancy) and it really helped me feel more OK with how little I’ve been able to do all summer.
Ordinary Miracle- Poem by Barbara Kingsolver
I have mourned lost days
When I accomplished nothing of importance.
But not lately.
Lately under the lunar tide
Of a woman’s ocean, I work
My own sea-change:
Turning grains of sand to human eyes.
I daydream after breakfast
While the spirit of egg and toast
Knits together a length of bone
As fine as a wheatstalk.
Later, as I postpone weeding the garden
I will make two hands
That may tend a hundred gardens.
I need ten full moons exactly
For keeping the animal promise.
I offer myself up: unsaintly, but
By the most ordinary miracle.
I am nothing in this world beyond the things one woman does.
But here are eyes that once were pearls.
And here is a second chance where there was none.