This may sound silly coming from someone who writes a blog called Mom at Work, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about motherhood – or baby motherhood, to be more specific. My daughter has grown now almost entirely out of the baby phase, with just a last few little holdouts from infancy, like the swaddling blankets she still likes to snuggle or the way she still asks me to rock her to sleep (even though she’s now practically big enough to rock me instead). For the first time, I miss having a baby. For the first time, my husband and I are actually talking seriously about whether and when we might be ready to climb onto that time-suck chaos-making crazy-train of another child.
When I think about the possibility of bringing a second child into being, though, the conversation I keep having with myself is not so much how I would handle twice the laundry and twice the tantrums (not that my daughter ever has tantrums, of course), or how I might go from six hours of sleep a night to three, or how I might manage to still be effective at my job while maybe, just maybe, managing to be an okay mother. Instead, the question that keeps rolling around in my head is: remember what it was like pre-kid? Remember when there was time? When there was planning and there was dreaming and there were mysteries?
Remember eating chocolate ice cream all by yourself?
I don’t miss those days like I used to. I’ve come to love the claustrophobic love that surrounds me ALL THE TIME. Maybe my focus on those final pre-baby moments has more to do with throwing up my hands and saying fuck it, I give up. To hell with claustrophobia – there’s always room for one more, especially if that one more is one more of mine.
So with that in mind, I thought now a good time to post this profile from a new mom and an old friend. Justine wrote this for me right at the peak of her own final free hours of quiet and rest and anxiety and unknowns. We love Justine, and I think you’ll love her too.
And if you happen to be somewhere near Toronto next week, go see her perform at Second City!
(And try convincing her to move back my way, because California is just oh so drab without her…)
Introduce yourself: What did your life look like before you became a mom, and what does your life look like now?
Right now, I’m 34 weeks pregnant, so I’m almost a mom! Or I’m a mom of a baby that I’ve only seen on an ultrasound screen and felt pummel my internal organs. As of a week and a half ago, I’m on modified bed rest due to pregnancy-induced hypertension. This is probably the best kind of bed rest (not that I’m happy about having high blood pressure) because I can do short, non-stressful activities outside of the house as long as I spend most of my day resting. Let me count the many hours that I spend leaning on my left side! I have to get my husband to help me a lot around the house, which he’s been great about. He also spends a good amount of time reminding me to sit down.
I’ve been a pretty active pregnant person up until now—working full-time at the University of Toronto as an administrator, studying and performing improv and sketch comedy at the Second City Training Centre’s Conservatory here in Toronto, squeezing in time with my husband, going to prenatal yoga, and, you know, living an adult life. But without the booze.
How do you define work/life balance? (Or, in other words, how much do you sleep?)
If I had answered this question a week ago before I was put on bed rest, you would have heard something very different. I have no work, and my life has been reduced to things like short walks around the neighborhood, working through my long-neglected reading list, crocheting a baby blanket, and spending way too much time online.
My sleep, like my work/life balance, is in flux. My husband functions well on 6 or 7 hours of sleep, but I need 8 or 9. It’s harder to clock a full night’s sleep in bed with my giant baby belly, teeny bladder, and sore hips. I get up two or three times per night, and have about an hour or an hour and a half in the early morning where I just kind of lie there and may or may not fall asleep again. I am grateful that I can now take a nap in the middle of the afternoon if I need to.
What are the biggest challenges you face and how do you cope with them?
Heartburn, acid reflux, crotch pain…shall I go on? But those challenges will only last another six weeks or so, and then begins the adventure of parenting a newborn.
I thought that it would be so nice to be on bed rest, even modified. But it’s easy to get anxious about little stuff when I don’t have work to distract me. When is the right time to buy a nursing bra? Do I have the bassinet set up in the right place in our bedroom? And I’m supposed to actively try and not be anxious to keep my blood pressure down. My job was not without stress, so I’m grateful to not have to worry about it for the time being. But it’s been odd adjusting to being on leave without a baby to take care of yet.
I’ve been trying to get a writing habit started up again after neglecting it while I’ve been pregnant. My first trimester was challenging, and so if I had kept a journal, it probably would have just said something like, “Help. Someone bring me a pizza. Oops, now I’m throwing up.” I have this huge drive to write Something Important during these weeks before my baby comes, but I have to make peace with relearning my writing habits rather than knocking out the first draft of a screenplay.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about being a mom?
I’m really proud that I’ve been able to perform at Second City throughout my pregnancy. I have to drag a chair around with me now during class and on stage, but I’ve kept on truckin’. There were people in my life who were unconvinced that it was good idea for me to keep going, but it’s something that’s important to my soul—being creative, being funny, performing with my friends. Being a mom doesn’t mean that you have to subsume yourself to just being a mom—unless of course you want to. I’m super excited about my tiny son, and he’s going to join a very busy, artistic family.
How did you learn how to be a mom?
I have a great example in my own mother, who made sure that my childhood was filled with many trips to museums, healthy foods, and creative adventures. She’s pretty much the world’s greatest grandmother to my two nephews, and I’m really grateful that she’s going to come stay with us for three weeks when the baby arrives.
I have many wonderful friends with kids, and I look to them as role models. I’ve also spent a lot of time reading pregnancy and parenting books and blogs. But I’m sure that most of my education about being a mom will come from this little baby that I’m carrying.
What’s the best thing that happened to you in the last twenty-four hours?
Oh, this is going to sound so cliché, but I had incredible, organic, super-rich chocolate ice cream this afternoon. And now I want some more.
Drop some Mom at Work wisdom: What else do you want us to know?
Pregnancy has been a lesson in being in the present. I have to be on bed rest? Okay, then. Time to catch up on The Good Wife. Nauseated all the time in the first trimester? I’ll stuff an airsickness bag in my purse and hope for the best. Every plan that I’ve made while pregnant has had to be flexible, and I’m sure that mindset will continue once my son arrives.
And one more thought: I’ve performed well at my job and at Second City throughout this pregnancy, and so I don’t believe there’s such a thing as “pregnancy brain” wherein pregnant women get somehow stupider as their babies grow. We have a lot on our minds—coping with unusual pregnancy sensations, prepping for birth, figuring out what’s “must-have” baby gear—in addition to everything we were thinking about before we got pregnant. I think anyone who adds a full-time job like being a mom on top of a regular full-time job is bound to be a little distracted.
Also, I’m really serious about wanting more ice cream.