There isn’t a whole lot that separates me and my husband these days. I mean to say, the similarities seem to outweigh the differences. Aside from the obvious gender specified sex organs, we share a lot more in common these days than not.
Here, I’ll give you some examples of what I mean. For starters, we both snore like freight trains. We both complain about aches and pains. We’re both gassy as all get out! We both sneak junk food during the day, keeping it a secret from the other. We both have gotten lazy with working out. We’re both moody and cranky at times. We both have the appetite of a fat kid whose been locked in a candy shop.
Aj often looks at me in disbelief when, for example, like this morning I go to breakfast with a friend and then come directly home and immediately go out to second breakfast with him where I easily down a side of bacon complimented by a side of French Toast drowning in syrup. His astonishment is readily seen when I decide to throw off my lady-like persona and let it rip because, lets be honest, holding it in these days is just too painful. In all these moments I have of aggressive snores, giant sized appetites, and the gassy output of what resembles a grown man, he looks at me like ‘What has gotten in to you!” And often comments to me with, “What has gotten in to you??’ To which I respond with, “These are all the side effects of pregnancy. So what’s your excuse?’ To which he responds, “Stay off Google!”
Overall, and not because of these silly ‘shared symptoms’ this little mango inside of me has brought Aj and me closer than we already were. Aj is a ‘man’s man’…did you know that he has been and continues to build us the most beautiful home. Although, romance is not necessarily his style, building me stuff is. That’s him telling me how much he loves me. That’s why when I see him building the nursery and putting it together, with no request from me, it warms me through and through. That’s him telling me and our little mango how much he loves us. The sweetest moments have been on those occasions when he has touched or kissed my growing belly and whispered ‘I love you’s’ to our baby. And that’s why when we have left over chocolate cake later tonight…I’ll grant him the bigger of the two pieces.
I absolutely love my dog! I mean like, I. LOVE. HIM. I have become one of those dog people that other people roll their eyes at, it’s true. The funny thing is, I use to be the eye-roller in the face of (more like peripheral vision) all the other dog lovers. I just couldn’t wrap my head around people who talked to their dogs like children, or dressed them in ‘dog-clothes’ (to be honest, I still don’t understand that), or spent any time considering their ‘comfort’ and ‘feelings’ when it came to sleeping, lounging, car rides, or anything.
I remember as a teenager my parents had a dog, Casey. She was sweet and loving, but nonetheless, a dog. Casey got cancer and I’ll never forget my stepmother driving to and from Cortland a multitude of times for treatment, spending literally, thousand of dollars on a dog! All I could think at the time was, this woman is cuckoo-bananas, it’s a friggin’ dog! Get a grip lady! Never would I have believed in a thousand years that one day I would love the crap out of a 75 pound 8 month old German Shepherd terrorist.
I often think to myself, if I love my dog this much, I can’t even imagine how much I will love this baby growing inside of me when it arrives.
Like all mothers, I desperately want to be the absolute best mom I can be. And I have felt guilty at times over these past several months that I haven’t been able to do more to prepare for the arrival of this little sweet potato inside of me. Work is absolutely kicking my butt with time spent working in the evenings and on the weekends. On top of, we’re still in the process of renovating our what was once a run-down foreclosure in the woods. Day after day I think about all the things I should be doing to prepare: creating a baby registry, researching items for a baby registry, birthing classes, finding a pediatrician, finding childcare, creating a birth plan, exercising, maternity leave paperwork, reading baby pregnancy books, etc. The list is endless, and day after day it leaves me feeling like I am not doing enough to prepare for the arrival of our baby.
But, I had a thought this week that has changed some of my perspective. What if preparing for the arrival of our baby actually has very little to do with all the things I just listed? What if preparing for the arrival of our baby has nothing to do with nursery preparations, gender reveals, or finding the right breast pump for working moms. What if instead, preparing for the birth of my baby means orienting my heart, mind, and affections towards my Creator firstly, and secondly investing my time and energy on nurturing my marriage?
What if preparing for the birth of my baby means acknowledging God, who He is, and what he has done for me in the person and work of Jesus. Allowing my heart and mind to meditate on that daily, and out of that seeing my heart’s affections be changed and transformed. Reminding myself that any success to be gained in motherhood has everything to do with where my strength, patience, and wisdom come from today and every day. Because the truth is, any success to be had, in any of my horizontal relationships (marriage, motherhood, family, friendships, etc.) first needs to start with my vertical relationship with God. So what if one of the best ways for me to prepare for the arrival of this little orange ‘tater is by not forgetting who God is and what that actually means for me and my life on a daily basis.
Secondly, what if preparing for motherhood means focusing my mind and attention on being a good wife. It’s easy in the hub-bub of life to become too busy for our spouses, too busy to put the time and attention into nurturing a marriage. It becomes easy in the midst of conflict to only see one side, your own. To assume you’re right and your spouse is wrong. To make the excuse that you don’t need to be kind with your words, or gentle with your reaction to things, they just need to ‘toughen up buttercup.’ How easy it is to give our spouse only half of our attention, scrolling our phones while also ‘listening’ to them. What if preparing for the arrival of my little one means pushing back on myself in my marriage? Asking myself how am I best loving, encouraging, and honoring my husband this week, this day, this moment. And not just when I am getting what I want out of the relationship, but doing it without conditions, even when I am not getting what I want out of the relationship. What if preparing for my little one’s arrival means speaking to their father with words that build him up instead of tear him down? What if means realizing my own sin and selfishness that gets in the way of the relationship instead of being quick to point out his? What if it means praying regularly for my spouse.
The reality is, my love and affection for God, or lack there of, ultimately drives my beliefs and actions in every area of my life. And I will spend the rest of my life modeling that reality to my child in a multitude of ways. For example, I will either forgive others when they hurt me because I realize that I too am selfish and yet God forgives me over and over again. Or I won’t forgive people when they hurt me because I will have come to believe that I am better than them and they don’t deserve my forgiveness. My beliefs and actions will teach that to my child. Likewise, I will either model for my child what a loving and honoring marriage looks like even when life is hard. Or I will model to them dysfunction and selfishness. Those will become the beliefs and values that I will inadvertently teach my child through my modeling. And because of that, there is no registry item, no baby book, no pediatrician, no birthing plan that can ultimately prepare me for what it really means to be a mother to my child.
My thoughts and prayers this week have revolved around the simple truth that the seeds I plant today will be the harvest that I reap tomorrow. In my preparation and pursuit to be the best mother I can, I must plant good seeds today in both my spiritual life and my marriage. And then pray and ask God that those seeds grown into an abundant harvest for my little one to benefit from.
You know what I find amusing these days? When certain people tell me how tired they are. Really? I think.
Now, the people who are exempt from this sarcastic reaction by me are full-time working mothers. Or, mothers who have just given birth. Or mothers with toddlers at home. Every. Second. Of. The. Day. The rest of you, I’m sorry, but suck it buttercup! I know this is bound to piss some people off, but…as you’re told when you’re little, not everyone will like you.
See, here’s the thing, I know a woman who doesn’t work. Whose kids are well into their middle school and high school years of schooling who repeatedly tells me how exhausted she is with her schedule. And all I can think is, Really?Because as far as I can tell, you have the first 9 hours of the day to yourself. Uninterrupted.
I know another woman who only works a couple days a week with no children and she is one of the most exhausted people I have ever met! I know this because she is constantly sighing heavily and recanting her exhaustion. And all I can think is, How do I find me a two day a week job that I can live off of??
I know another woman, who works full-time with no kids who tells me that she can’t possibly do multiple house chores in one day because it’s too exhausting. And all I can think is, What the…?!?!
The thing is, I know a multitude of full-time working mothers, full-time working mothers with babies, with toddlers, with big kids, with multiple kids, with kids with disabilities…so when someone other than them tells me that their tired, I can’t help but inwardly pretend that with my magical super power I pick them up, crumpled them into a tight little ball and punt them as hard as I can, off the side of a mountain somewhere.
I saw a woman the other day more pregnant than me at the grocery with a belly almost out of reach of her arms, her 5 year old in the front seat, and a cart full of groceries. I just stood there looking at her, literally my feet planted in place just staring at her, while the rest of Wegmans zoomed around me. And, all I could think to myself was…how does she do it??
The thing is, I’m not one of those working moms quite yet and these days I am so…exhausted. I wake up anywhere between 330am and 5am every day of the week. That’s after having been up half the night, tossing and turning because I can’t find a comfortable position to sleep in longer than a half hour. And, I’m on the go attending to, mostly, other people’s expectations until 830/9pm. I haven’t taken a nap in weeks, partially because I feel guilty not attending to tasks and because I have a puppy who simply just won’t let me. Not to mention, there are certain things that if I don’t do them, they just won’t get done.
I broke down one night this week as I was taking Dexter out to play ball because all I want is one day for myself. One day where I don’t have to attend to anyone else’s expectations. No my dog’s, not my student’s or employer, not my parent’s/family’s, not even my husband’s. All I want is to be left entirely alone, to myself, to do whatever I do or don’t want to do, without the expectation or pressure of having to do anything at all.
The thing is, feeling this way makes me feel worse. Because in 5 months, when the onion inside of me is finally able to be compared to a picture of a real baby (what’s up with the fruits and vegetables What to Expect app??) it will be a permanent expectation that I will not be able to escape. And what if….I fail at it? What if I’m too tired to give it all of me? What if there are days I just don’t want to do it anymore? See, even that right there, that thought makes me feel bad
This week a friend said something to me, as I was weighing the pros and cons, contemplating whether or not to get the flu shot this season. Something that has stuck with me all week. She said, ‘This is just the beginning of your mom-guilt.” I’m glad she said those words to me, because she’s right. There will be a thousand things to feel guilty over in this next new phase of life. I guess the trick will be figuring out how to go easy on myself, extend myself grace, and know that my best is good enough.
After breakfast this morning I noticed that my soon to be eight month old German Shepherd Puppy was MIA. Generally, that would be cause for alarm. Someone once told me soon after we got Dexter, “silence with children is golden, but NOT with dogs!” Man, have I learned that the hard way. It means something in the house is in the process of being destroyed or already destroyed. It means my favorite flip flops have seen their last sunny day. My favorite sweatshirt will never be worn again because “Dexter the Molester” got to it. It means he has decided to eat a whole bag of glitter and transform into the Glitter Monster. It means he’s found my underwear and is off in a corner somewhere having his way with them…that “Dirty D!!!”
This morning, though, my gut told me otherwise. I took my last sip of tea and quietly made my way down the hallway. There he was, exactly where I thought I would find him. In his dog bed. I had a hunch he wasn’t feeling well this morning. So I did what any loving dog-mom would do, I got down on all fours and crawled into his hairy, stinky dog bed, taking the position of the small spoon next to him. And sure enough, two seconds later my insides felt warm as he wrapped his left paw around my shoulder and the two of us lay there listening to one another breathe. Dexter isn’t a big cuddle-er. I always wish he would be, but seeing we don’t let him in our bed or on the couch, I think his silent protest to us has been banning cuddles from us. So far he’s doing a marvelous job.
That’s why these mornings are rare and beautiful to me. In a lot of ways I assume having Dexter has been preparing me for some smaller version of what it will be like once this little avocado inside of me makes its big debut. We got Dexter when he was eight weeks old. And boy, I had NO idea what it meant to have a puppy. All I thought was, “Cool, floppy ears!” I had no clue. My parents have had a couple dogs over the years, but that doesn’t even rival what it means to have a puppy. I remember when we first got him, every night my husband and I would take shifts waking up every two to three hours to take him out until he was potty trained. I was dead tired those first two months we had him. I’ll never forget when he started losing his baby teeth all over the house, I was fascinated and disgusted all at the same time. I saved them all though!
The amount of attention that he requires has been unparalleled to anything else I have experienced up to this point. He’s constantly on ‘play-time” mode. He’s like the friggin’ energizer bunny, except his battery never gets old and stops working. Instead, it’s “Hey mom, can we play ball?? Can we play tug?? Will you chase me now?? Ooh, what’s that? Can I see?? Can I have some? Mom, come on, get up…here let me help you with my nose.”
Early mornings to myself, where I get to sit, sip my coffee, relax and read don’t exist anymore with Dexter. I give him a toy to play with, he drops it and it rolls under the couch. I get up from where I just got comfortable, get down on my hands and knees to retrieve it. I give it back to him and the whole process starts all over again. Drop, roll, retrieve. Drop, roll, retrieve. I go to the bathroom he comes with me. I take a shower he waits on the bathmat ready to lick my wet feet when I get out. I try and put my socks on he wants to help. Even now as I write this, Dexter lays right here beside me. My only reprieve at times comes at night when he’s asleep and I think: Finally, me time! The problem is, by that time, I’m too tired for me time and ready for bed myself.
Aside from all that though, he is the cutest, goofiest, fun-loving dog ever created this side of Heaven. That’s a fact! My husband says that the only reason I think that is because he’s our dog. He says all dog owners feel that way about their own dog. But I’m like, dude, have you seen the other dogs?! No seriously, I’ve seen the other dogs. With their rat faces, narly hair, and annoying barks. They ain’t got nothin’ on Dex. Aj just rolls his eyes in amusement.
All of this calms some mom-to-be anxieties within me though. It makes me realize that all moms love the crap out of their kids while at the same time being annoyed as hell with them. It’s normal. All moms think their kids are “the cutest” when in reality the other humans of the world whisper back and forth to one another, “Did you see the size of that kid’s head. What a freak. Man, I hope my kid doesn’t turn out looking like that!” That’s normal too. When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing how God instills in moms and dads an undying love and loyalty to a child that other grown adults in the world can’t stand! It makes me realize that God is preparing me, even now, with 5 months left to love and protect this precious gift that He is in the midst of forming and creating inside of me.
I’ve entered that awkward stage. You know, that stage where I don’t quite fit into maternity clothes but I certainly don’t fit into my own clothes anymore. It’s that stage where people who are familiar with you look at you quizzically like, ‘Is she pregnant, or…did she just eat too many cheeseburgers over the summer?’ But they’re too afraid to ask because of the sensitive nature of a woman’s weight. I’ll admit, for me, it’s a little bit of both…
Earlier this past week, as the result of a particular event, I found myself sitting in my car sobbing. And when I say sobbing I mean sobbing! Not teary-eyed or crying, but sobbing. You know, those deep heart-wrenching convulsive gasps where you can’t catch your breath.
Sitting there, hunched over, weeping so deeply my chest hurt, I had a most remarkable experience. All I could think in that moment, through my sobs was, ‘Chocolate ice cream! I need chocolate ice cream! Chocolate ice cream will make everything better! So I did what any rational pregnant woman would do in that moment. I drove myself, through tears of blurry eyes all the way to Byrne Dairy. Mascara smudged and puffy-eyed I got out of my car, sniffles and all, walked into the store and up to the counter where I ordered a small chocolate ice cream. I sat in my car and ate it, stopping every other bite to wipe the tears from eyes as I continued to cry a little. Just as I thought I might be starting to feel better, a new assault of fresh tears rolled down my cheeks as my spoon hit the bottom of an empty cup. At that moment, a tear rolled down my cheek and I literally cried out loud, ‘I should have ordered a large!’
Too embarrassed to go back inside and order a second chocolate ice cream from the same dopey eyed, acne faced, teenage boy behind the counter who doesn’t know how to count simple change backwards and has as much personality as this plastic keyboard in front of me (as if I’m the one who should be embarrassed), I instead decided it would be much more sensible, practical and of course rational for me to drive myself to a different Byrne Dairy and repeat my order all over again as if it were my first time. So, that’s exactly what I did.
Surprisingly, as I sat in my car for the second time, at a second Byrne Dairy, eating my second chocolate ice cream in 30 minutes, all I can say is, the tears stopped and I felt a hell of a lot better.
As I write this I have to admit that I’ve been struggling this week with the changes in my body. I bought my first pair of maternity jeans, which for some women is a joyous day for their growing baby bump. For me, it was just a reminder that physically things are changing and just going to get harder. It makes you think all of those things that as a woman you hate to think and even get made at yourself for thinking in the first place…‘Will my body ever be the same again? Will my husband still find me attractive? Am I getting too big too fast? Why is that woman 20 weeks along and is just as big as me at 14 weeks? Will I ever lose the weight I put on, especially at the age of 40?’ The thoughts can be endless.
It’s been a real challenge coming to grips with my lack of energy, which impacts my motivation for almost everything, but especially going to the gym. When I do manage to get myself there my work outs suck because running has become much more difficult and I’ve had to back down on weights. Accepting the fact that I need to (and will continue to need to) make modifications to my workouts, and accept the slowing down of my energetic rhythm in life has been really hard for me this week. It’s that constant tidal wave of guilt for not having the energy to do anything active (and eating a whole sleeve of Oreos!), and complete awe that life is growing inside of you and that is hard work! And that is what I have to remember in those moments when I have to change my run to a walk, or say goodbye to my favorite pair of jeans, or down a whole bag of potato chips in the car on the way home from work INSTEAD of going to the gym (which I am embarrassed to say was another happening this week) …there is a life that is growing inside of me, so throw off the guilt and revel instead in that privileged and gift.
I’m 39 and pregnant with my first baby. For some who are reading this, please don’t find a rag doll somewhere, name it Stephanie, and stick needles in it, but the truth is…for the most part, my first trimester was a breeze. Aside from my sleep sucking and the fatigue (my god the fatigue!), it really has been a walk in the park. I feel a little guilty (just a little) saying that out loud because I have known so many whose first trimester was their Hell on Earth. I guess that just means my Hell will be found where I least expect it…great…something to look forward to.
The problem with being 39 and pregnant for the first time is well…I’m old! Do you know, when this baby is 10 years old I’ll be 50. And when it’s graduating from high school 60 will be peeking its head around the corner, taunting me. That means by the time they marry and have their own children, well… I’ll be lucky if I can even still see by then! The other problem is, the majority of my friends are either done having children, their children are already in middle school, or several others have just seen their oldest off to college this year!
To make matters worse, do you also know that because of my age I am what is considered a geriatric pregnancy?! Did you hear that??…G.E.R.I.A.T.R.I.C…who on God’s green and beautiful Earth came up with that appalling title… and what is their home address?! I get the fact that the term is meant to highlight the increased risk of complications that can occur with women who are ‘older’ when they conceive. But, as if having a baby wasn’t scary enough, especially as an ‘older’ woman, they have to come along and throw that whammy in there? Thanks medical professionals!
To be honest, there is something a little isolating in my pregnancy when I think about all that. As a 40 year old first time mom, with an infant and eventually a toddler, where will I find my ‘community’ in this journey? And if you tell me it’s at the nearest Starbucks with those yoga pants wearing, Cardi B listening, Gen Z…iGen… Centennials… or whatever the hell they’re called, I am going to find a rag doll with your name and a whole shoe box full of pins!
The truth is, although I’ll be 45 when my little terror enters kindergarten for the first time, and all the other moms will be at least a decade younger with metabolisms that can outrun mine and skin that can out bounce it…I’m still thrilled at this little lemon that is growing everyday inside of me (even though it is stealing my sleep). Motherhood has been a private personal prayer of mine for a very long time, and just when the doctors had me convinced that infertility may be my lot in life…I feel like God was like, “Give me a high-five Steph!”