This week marks my 25th week of pregnancy — I’m just about six months along, and I’m starting to see the finish line faintly in the distance. The last couple of weeks I’ve really started to feel pregnant: I’m short of breath and get crampy sometimes when I walk a lot or walk too fast; it’s getting difficult to bend over to put on Jackson’s shoes or pick up something from the floor. I get headaches, heartburn, insomnia, and my favorite: constipation. Oh, it’s all good times! But, mostly, I’m grateful I get to experience all this unpleasantness, and I’m even more grateful it will be over in about 3 – 3 1/2 months and I’ll have a sweet baby girl to show for it. (And I’ll be done being pregnant forever!). I’m also grateful winter coat season is just about behind us because I seriously cannot zip mine up anymore, and I’m eager for the ease of simple sun dresses and flip flops, so bring on the heat, I say!
As the due date gets closer and closer, I’ve been thinking about life with a newborn again. Granted, those three months or so fly by — as do all the months after them — but, since this will be my last time mothering a newborn, I am hoping I am able to enjoy it somewhat. I did not enjoy it the first time around. In fact, much of parenting my first baby was more difficult than enjoyable, for a variety of reasons (which, of course, have nothing to do with my love for Jackson), and I am hoping that this time around some of those variables will be different enough that the experience will be a more pleasant one.
The first time around, I felt such a crisis of identity and put so much pressure on myself to be, like, this super mom right out of the gate. And since there are so few ways to measure your success as a parent in those early weeks and months — basically, the kid just needs to be fed, clothed, and kept alive — I obsessed over breastfeeding, which I was unsuccessful at, despite trying so hard, due in large part (maybe even entirely) to the breast reduction surgery I had when I was 19. I rented a hospital-grade breast pump and pumped at least six times a day, for 30-40 minutes each time (in addition to the hours I fed Jackson a bottle and bounced and swayed him as he cried and changed his diapers and soothed him as best I could). It was painful and degrading. I was lucky if I pumped three ounces in a 24-hour period (which is a fraction of what a baby needs to survive; obviously, we were supplementing with plenty of formula). I felt defeated and exhausted, and was losing valuable time I could have been bonding with my baby or getting some much-needed rest.
This time, I am not going to rent a breast pump. This time, I already know I’m a good mom. I don’t need to prove anything to myself or anyone else. I just want to enjoy my baby, enjoy the experience, and do the work needed to ease Jackson through this big transition so he continues to feel safe and loved and like his place in this family is as secure as always. Giving myself the permission to actually enjoy myself — whether that’s a realistic goal or not — feels like the best way to be a good mother. It feels so good, actually, that I have to stop myself from telling other new mothers to do the same. We’re all on our own path, after all. I just think about where I was and what I went through with Jackson in his first few months — honestly, I was kind of depressed (which turned out to be a symptom of my then newly-diagnosed thyroid disorder, which is now closely monitored and under control) — and I hope that other new mothers who might be experiencing similar feelings know that they have many, many years ahead of them to measure their value as a mom. “Just enjoy this,” I want to say to them. But it’s not my place, so I’ll say it to myself: Enjoy your baby when she comes. She’ll be your last.
It’s April now and early hints of spring are popping up around the neighborhood. This time next year, I’ll be pointing out new buds on the trees and the first of the crocus flowers to my daughter. We’ll pick up her big brother from school and go to the playground and she’ll take her first ride on the swing and I’ll tell her how much fun we’re going to have, she and her brother and her daddy and I. “Enjoy this,” I’ll say. “It’s your first Spring. And we’re so happy you’re here to share with us.”