Amazing Love

Luke 6 month old hand

This week last year I was 38 weeks pregnant— full term. Somehow, Luke is already almost a year old. This morning, Zilla said: “I just realized that the first birthday party is really for the parents: We survived! We kept him alive.”

Survival was never on my mind. Waiting for Luke (which took a while—labor never progressed, induction failed, and he was evicted by cesarean when things got complicated, at 42 weeks) I wondered how this giant bulge in my belly would make life change.

Change is only something you can measure if most things stay the same, and nothing has. Having a new baby, trying to find time to work, negotiating child care, being a parent and a partner and still a child—and childish–myself, installing car seats, breastfeeding in public… It has been like moving to a new country, in a far-away time zone, with different hygiene standards and sleep customs and negotiation tactics and a new language and a very messy cuisine where eating involves putting food in your hair.

I am me. I am totally different. You really have to visit. A post-card or Facebook picture, your friends kids or babysitting, everything your mother ever told your, all the books you could possibly read—which I realize makes writing about parenthood comical if not fraught—don’t even begin to explain it.

Practically, friendships have shifted—people I thought would be there have disappeared and many new friends have arrived. I feel more connected to humanity that I ever have. I love people simple because they are someone’s mother or son. And yet, sometimes I feel lonely, but I am never alone: All exercise involves a baby stroller or pack. All sleep includes my little man. All toileting—you get the idea. The rare moment that I am without Luke, the dogs crawl in my lap, thinking that, now, finally, I belong to them. This can also be true of the husband.

My schedule has changed. I work whenever I can sneak in a minute and I guard that time like a rabid animal but feel less certain that it is time well spent. Even when I am so glad to be working, work does not have the same place in my life: being a mom has made me bigger. Work is a smaller part of who I am.

And even though I miss them, and have more time to think of them—while Luke naps, while I push the stroller, while I read Luke an old book my Mom read to me– it is hard to find time to talk to family or old friends. And equally hard to explain why: even though there is so much to say, so many changes in Luke every day, they are also imperceptible, huge and small. And sometimes I am so spent that I feel like I am unable to form syllables with my tongue, and I can’t listen, my ears just don’t hear.

I often hear people say that you need time away, time for yourself. This is true for me too. But it is also true that when I am with Luke, really with him, my problems seem to go away. I am able to let go of those knotted petty fears about the size of my jeans and the size of my paycheck, the state of my book, and everything I think I should do or want to achieve or become, I feel a kind of peace I have never known, and a confidence too. A friend of my recently said that parenting is a continuing education program devised for adults. This sounds about right. I have a lot to learn. But I think I am starting to get the idea: Don’t worry about what worries me. It’s summer! So what if I haven’t washed my hair or the car or the dog. So what if it’s been a year since I posted here and all I can think to write or talk about—oh, the cliché– is babies or motherhood? I have to remember not to try to understand everything or—my biggest temptation–plan too much.

For all its complications, the job can be pretty simple, if I let it: just love.

P.S. Thanks, Laura.

My Parents’ Child

When I told my friend Roxanna, many months ago, that we were expecting, she said. “You are becoming your child’s parent. You will forget how you were before.”

“How was I before?”

“Before you are your parents’ child.”

 

Last week my pregnancy reached full term. This means our child can be born at any time; that his lungs are developed enough to breathe air.

Everyone looks at my belly and says, you are about to pop, you must be so ready, especially in this heat.

Excited, happy, but also unsure. And a little scared. Right now, I know exactly where my son is, and that he is safe. Soon I will be mom for the rest of my life. I am happy to just be Beth for a few more days.

 

My mother says that there is a kind of love that you don’t understand until you are a mother yourself. This always irritated me. It seemed untrue. In ways, it seemed unkind.

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if she might be right.

Maybe that love includes some for the birth of your own new self.

Small Miracles

A can of chicken noodle soup

I’m not usually the person to write about the miracles of modern food science. I usually write about its opposites: food heritage, food history, and what has become the cult of fresh, local and organic. Today I want to take a minute to appreciate industrial food.

Getting pregnant, I’ve realized over the last few years, is not always something in your control. It wasn’t in ours. I’d spent so many years trying to avoid getting pregnant that it seemed like it pregnancy would be inevitable, with the precautions removed. It was not. And there was not a lot I could do about it. Well, we could do it, but it, did not always help. I began to feel like something was wrong with me. Maybe I was not healthy enough. Maybe I would get pregnant, and stay pregnant, if, somehow, I was healthier. I decided to eat more kale.

Being healthy is important, but this kind of magical thinking is the result of believing I can control things that I can’t. I didn’t get pregnant, but I did eat lots and lots of dark leafy greens. And omega-3 filled sardines, and beets and tomatoes, and salmon, and organic grass-fed beef. Foods high in good fats and folic acid. Nuts and berries and legumes; delicious, healthy, fresh, local and organic things. I shopped and cooked for my desires and my hopes and myself.  Surprisingly, it didn’t help.

Last fall I’d almost given up. We’d been trying for nearly two years. It was time for more invasive action, or adoption, or a different plan. Maybe I this motherhood thing wasn’t meant to be: I began to taste that thought. I gave up on kale and started eating burgers, and dessert, and put on 5 pounds.

And then, that month, I was late. And then still the next week, and the week after that. But being pregnant—I’d learned—did not mean I was going to have a baby. Things happen, and after everything that happened, I was too afraid to test, or talk about it, or tell. But, some things you can’t hide. I am happy to report, more than happy actually, and also scared as hell, that it is now Week 15, and things are still going well.

Fresh, local and organic are still a great thing, and a good goal, but until a week or two ago, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup was all I could keep down. No kale, absolutely not sardines, nuts, berries, or fruit. Everything I thought was healthiest made me violently ill.

The doctor said this was a good sign. My hormone levels were high.

“And the Campbell’s Soup?” I asked. I was worried I might not be getting the nutrition I needed plus some kind of industrial poison. This was not the perfect nutrition I had in mind. “How hard do I need to push the kale?”

“Not at all,” he said, “just eat what you can. If you’re body wants you to eat kale, you will.”

That afternoon, I ate another can of Chicken Noodle Soup.

I’ve never loved the stuff. It was industrial, commercial: I only ate it when I was ill. But when I could not eat anything else, I could eat Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. It tasted the same way it always had, and it was safe, and sanitary, and I knew I could find it wherever I went.  And that seemed like a miracle as well.

Again

Baby in the Park
I am two days late and the owner of two urine covered sticks, with two very faint lines. If I am still pregnant tomorrow those lines should be getting stronger. Being pregnant, I now understand, does not mean always that you are going to have a baby.

As a woman who is in her 30’s whose has already had a miscarriage, I am at a higher risk for having another. I am happy. I am pregnant again. But I am scared. So scared of loss that I almost want to stop trying.

This is not a good way to live. It is not a good way to parent. Although I cannot yet speak from experience, I am coming to believe that faith in the face of fear may be a mother’s truest job.

The first time I shared the news of my pregnancy because I was so happy I could not contain it. I did not believe miscarriage could happen to me. I felt settled. I felt calm. I was going to have a child. That was all in my head.

After the loss, I told myself that the next time I was late I would not test. I would wait, and wait, until the risks of miscarriage were lower.
The idea was to protect myself. Not to stress. My doctor concurred. You are relatively young. May women have miscarriages they never know about. There is nothing to worry about until three losses have occurred.

But.

But. What if something is wrong? What if something needs to be done? We’ve been trying for over a year. What if I’ve already had a handful of unknown miscarriages before… So I tested. And then again. Two tests. Two faint pink lines. If the embryo was attaching, the line should have gotten stronger.
I decided to call my doctor.
Whether or not I’m pregnant, I thought, I will think and wonder and worry that something is wrong.

Little Girl in the park
The same will be true with my child, whenever and however, he or she arrives. At 6 weeks and 12 weeks, at 20 and 37 and 42; at 4 months, 4 years, 14, and 40—it is out of my control.

I will never know for sure if they are safe. I can ask about their lives, their world, their work, their loves and hates. Maybe they will be happy. Maybe not. Maybe they will tell me. Maybe they won’t.
There is little I can do but love them, either way.

I can hurt about that forever.
Or I can let it go and keep trying.
Pain is married to the possibility of happiness.
I am pregnant today.

And today I’m not.