Don’t let the smile plastered across my puffy, pregnant face fool you, being pregnant was not fun! And to anyone who says otherwise, please keep it to yourself; you’re making the rest of us look like whiney, complaining weaklings.
Toward the end of my pregnancy, every time someone asked me when I was due, I’d say “soon.” Ah, if only proclaiming that he was coming soon translated into an earlier due date; it was wishful, possibly delusional, thinking at its finest.
While my aches and pains weren’t unique to me, I certainly felt somewhat isolated when I heard how much other women LOVE being pregnant. “I love feeling the baby move, knowing that I’m carrying this life inside me,” I heard many women say. I wanted to counter with, “I love when the baby decides to stop moving for a moment; my internal organs need a break from the constant beating.” Another one I heard a lot is, “I don’t really feel all that different; I’m just so excited to be a mom I guess I don’t mind the minor discomforts.” Don’t get me wrong; I was looking forward to meeting baby Oliver, but at that moment it had as much to do with wanting to get rid of the nausea, fatigue, stomach pain and pressure, back and leg pain, and constant need to pee as it did with holding him in my arms. Does that make me a bad mother? Was I the only one who yearned for her pre-pregnancy body to come back so she could finally feel “normal” again?
Like most trying life situations, at least I can say I walked away from it with some valuable life lessons:
1) My body has limitations
Silly me, I used to think I was invincible. I believed I could do anything if I tried hard enough: overcome any obstacle, become stronger, faster, work harder, push past my limits, because heck, I don’t have limits. I was a walking, talking Nike ad on steroids. But when I traded in my workout attire and running shoes for maternity jeans and nursing bras, it was time for a reality check. Sometimes, despite my wishing and willing my body to do one thing, it had its own agenda for the day and would not cooperate. No amount of mind over matter powered me off the couch and to the gym when sharp pains were shooting down my back and legs. No amount of determination and will power enticed me to do the laundry or clean the apartment after a sleepless night and a mid-morning bought of nausea. Sometimes, I am limited. Sometimes I have to accept that instead of trying to make my body cooperate with me; I need to cooperate with my body. But that doesn’t make me weak.
2) Things don’t always have to go according to plan
When I was younger, I was fairly inflexible. I believed rules were meant to be followed, schedules adhered to, and organizational systems maintained. Tell me something was going to happen, be it a trip to the dentist or a trip to Disney World, and if it didn’t happen, I became distressed. Yes, I was that kid. And that kid’s attitude still has a way of popping up from time to time in this adult’s life. What can I say, I like when plans are made well in advance, I know what to expect, and I can adjust accordingly. Becoming pregnant set my world off balance a little. In my mind I planned to get pregnant in July, not October, and have the baby in March, not July. By the start of the third trimester I’d be an established free-lance writer with a decked out nursery, and all my little baby booties in a row. Upon Oliver’s arrival I did not yet own a single pair of baby booties. Our nursery was still strewn with shower gifts and little outfits waiting to be washed, and my career as a freelance writer is still a wish simmering on the back burner. I’m guessing like his arrival, most things surrounding our son will not happen on a set schedule, and I’m learning that I can adjust.
3) Becoming an adult isn’t about hitting some arbitrary milestone
Growing up I kept waiting for that magical moment when I would transform from a pimple-covered, pigtail wearing, lunch box toting little kid to a sophisticated adult. When I hit a certain age, say 16 with license in hand or 18 when high school ended and college was on the horizon, then certainly I’d be a grown up. Or perhaps when I land that first “big kid” job, buy a house, get married, or, like my mom always told me, become a parent, then I’m an adult. Well at 28 years old with many milestones under my belt, I’ve come to realize becoming an adult has more to do with an attitude than the number of candles on a cake. It comes from the wisdom gained through life experiences and the new perspectives those experiences offer.
4) Putting someone else’s needs ahead of my own does not mean forgetting entirely about my own needs too
Raise your hand if you’ve even been on a plane. Now raise your hand if you actually pay attention to the preflight announcements. Let me refresh your memory. If the plane cabin looses oxygen all adults are instructed to first place the oxygen mask over their own nose and mouth before assisting young children. There is an important life lesson to be learned here. I bet you didn’t realize there was free advice that went along with those peanuts. How many times have you heard a parent say, “I have no time for myself anymore?” What they’re really saying is “I forgot that I am a person too, and I have needs.” When we forget to meet our own need and focus exclusively on our children, it’s all too easy to become drained, and in my experience a drained parent is also a crabby, irritable, impatient, ready to lose her marbles parent. This isn’t in the best interest of either party. One of the best things you can do for your baby is to take some time for yourself so that you have the ability to be the best parent you can be. That is, to meet your child’s needs it is essential to also take into account your own–to put your oxygen mask on first so to speak.
5) Never underestimate the value of a support system
Toward the end of my pregnant, while I was carrying around a bunch of baby weight I relied on my family to carry much of the weight when it came to….well everything else. Their support then was invaluable, and the same holds true in parenthood. I find in trying moments, when I am at my breaking point, my husband will step up and offers the strength and support I cannot muster. When I am in desperate need of some personal time, my dad or mom will show up at my doorstep ready to take over baby duty. They weren’t lying when they said it takes a village to raise a baby. What they need to add to that though is it also takes a very large, very supportive village to keep a new mom sane.