During my last pregnancy, it felt as though the whole world slowed its spinning just for me. I moved into a new house with plenty of time to get settled before my belly got too much in the way. My husband was working minimal hours and mostly from home. My job easily faded into the sidelines with an almost reflexive reduction in pressure from my boss and all the previously overwrought demands on my time. I had time to cook, to meditate, to watch every single Giants baseball game of the (losing!) 2011 season. I went to yoga, went for walks, went to farmers markets (yeah, remember having time to curate a grocery list based on seasonal farmers market produce?). My whole life revolved around nurturing the new human life inside of me by way of nurturing myself (and decorating the nursery, of course).
And then came the second pregnancy. This time around, I’m in a job where the only thing I can count on every day is a new layer of stress and another reason to work late. This time around my husband is working as many hours as I am, and traveling almost as much as he’s home. I haven’t so much as yawned at my desk let alone gone to a yoga class, and the only meals I’ve cooked are those that involve removing plastic film from the container before placing it in the oven. And this time around, of course, I spend every last free moment (and unfree moment, because what would modern motherhood be without multitasking) caring for my child – that incredible, radiant and oh so demanding creature that all my first pregnancy nurturing managed to produce.
And yet, despite spending six months in this state of near chaos and near collapse, it’s only recently hit me that maybe, just maybe, I really do need to figure out some way to slow down.
One of my greatest skills in life is my ability to minimize my problems and deny what’s wrong. Am I feeling tired? It’s because I’m not exercising enough, not because I’m six months pregnant and still skating by on the same sleep I got pre-pregnancy. Am I feeling stressed? It’s because I’m not being productive enough at work, not because I actually have an incredibly stressful job.
Physically and emotionally overwhelmed? Well, that just means I’m being a drama queen, not that it’s been just a plain old-fashioned really hard week.
Right around the time I got pregnant, my husband made the move from freelance to full-time employee. The new job has done wonders for our financial stability, but at the very high expense of our domestic stability. He now has to travel a lot, often at a moment’s notice, and always, it would seem, at inconvenient times – inconvenient meaning, for example, in the middle of moving to a new house with a toddler and an uncomfortably pregnant wife.
Last Tuesday, he left for the second time in two weeks, this time to a shoot in a remote part of the world with no access to phone or internet. This was his second trip since we moved two weeks ago, and anyone who has ever moved to a new house with a sleep and transition averse toddler knows the level havoc this sort of disruption can create. The first two nights weren’t awful – I managed to cajole my angel into going to sleep only ninety minutes after her regularly scheduled bedtime (which is to say, ninety minutes after my regularly scheduled catching up on work time).
On the third night, she was angry. Very very angry. Life was not good. By the time sweet Koukla gave up fighting, there would be no night left for me. No catching up on work. No quiet unpacking in the new baby’s nursery. Just total collapse into depressing dreams, then rallying myself for work six hours later.
But it was Friday! The Friday before a big, fun, weekend full of fun toddler things scheduled well in advance with fun toddler parents! The Friday before her cold turned into a cough turned into a fever turned into a Saturday morning spent at urgent care. And so there went the weekend. Poor Koukla – daddy out of town, scary new bedroom, and nobody her own age to play with for a full forty-eight hours.
It was harder on her than it was on me. By Sunday afternoon she was naming her pillows like someone who’s spent too long in solitary confinement, while I, on the other hand, had eventually just thrown in the towel on accomplishing anything remotely productive (so much for work, and so much for this new baby’s bedroom). I decided to soak up as many snuggles as possible, because the one and only upside to my daughter being sick is her return to a baby-like need for extra hugs and affection. Or at least it used to be an upside. I woke up Monday and could quite literally not quite walk. Apparently the bigger I get the less able I am to carry her around the house like the baby she no longer is. Lesson learned, sick day taken, or my version of a sick day at least – which, if I’m honest with myself, is basically no different from a regular day, except I’m at home and wearing sweatpants. Maybe this is part of the problem.
My husband is due back tomorrow. Just in time for Thanksgiving and actually sitting down as a family in our new home, just in time to slow down and give thanks for everything good that’s come to us. It’s okay that my nursery is still a pile of boxes, and it’s okay that I’ll probably use my days off to actually take a day off. This baby needs nurturing. This family needs nurturing. This mama needs nurturing. So here’s to working hard at learning how to not work at all.