I’ve officially been back at work longer than I was on maternity leave. And ironically, if I were at my old job, this would be right around the time I would be returning to work. The end of maternity leave came out of nowhere this time around, which makes sense since it was 8 weeks versus 20 weeks.
Since this was my second time around, I was able to hit the ground running without the false expectations I had as a mom-to-be. Oh that silly naïve almost mom, thinking Maternity Leave was going to be this glorious and relaxing time. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Here are some maternity leave tips and hacks to help you survive
Leave the house at least once a day
Being stuck inside all day, every day, with a newborn is challenging, boring and lonely. Newborns basically do three things – sleep, poop, eat, and repeat. Of course, it is incredible to just snuggle all day with them because they can’t escape. Take in their smell. Enjoy the feeling of them laying in your arms. Because once they figure out how to crawl, they want nothing less than to break free of your embrace. And forget about getting a toddler to sit down for more than three seconds. That often ends with boogers on your cheek and a block down your shirt.
Everyday, make a plan to leave the house, even if just to go for a walk around your neighborhood. Too cold to go outside? Drive to your nearest mall or department store (or even grocery store) and just walk around. On both of my leaves, I spent countless hours wondering the aisles of Target. It’s during those times that I discovered just how many different types of organizational bins exist (and how badly I needed them for my house). Side note: You do not need those bins. If you’re anything like me, they are still sitting in your basement. I had such big goals of organizing the basement while on leave. Which brings me to my maternity leave tip.
Set one (realistic) goal per day
And by goal, I do not mean to clean your entire house or organize your garage. I mean, something that you can actually accomplish between feedings and diaper changes. My daily goals ranged from drinking one hot cup of coffee to actually making dinner. Neither rarely happened but at least I set them.
With my second leave, I went a little deeper with my goals and was able to actually put laundry away on certain days and take the dog (and baby) out on the trail. With my first, it was pretty hard to even leave the house. It took a while before I felt comfortable enough leaving without an entire department store piled into my diaper bag. The first time around, I was prepared with enough formula and diapers to be stranded for days. Abby was set for any and all circumstances. Because you never know when you’ll be stranded in suburbia and needing five different baby tutus. The answer is never. You will never need five tutus to get coffee. With my second, I was lucky if I remembered to pack clothes. Gregory often ended up in a public place just wearing a diaper after a poop explosion. But at least I remembered the diaper (even if one time it was his older sister’s diaper.)
Tell people to visit
When you first have a baby, people flock to see the new bundle. They bring food, stories from the outside, and often, coffee. But after a little while, the crowds lessen and you’re on your own again, wishing someone would come over to let you sleep or give you the opportunity to speak with another adult. It’s not their fault. People work during the day. Life gets a bit busy. And, in many cases, they think you’d prefer to be alone.
After my maternity leave with Abby ended, I often spoke about how lonely I would get during the day with no one to talk to except an infant who barely kept her eyes open and a pup who didn’t understand this tiny creature with ear-pinching noises. (The cat was rarely seen). And the most common responses I received were “Why didn’t you tell me, I would have been happy to visit. I just assumed you wanted alone time with your baby.” People believe you want space. And yes, in some cases you do want to be alone to enjoy your baby, but on some days you crave the outside world. Pick up the phone and tell someone you need a visitor. You just had a baby. A tiny human just escaped from your body and is demanding your attention constantly. You are allowed to be selfish and tell someone you need them.
Do something that makes you feel human everyday
It is really easy for the days to blend together. One minute it’s the early morning and your pouring yourself a cup a coffee, and the next minute it’s 6 pm and you realize you never even tasted it. I can’t tell you how many days John would come home from work and I hadn’t moved from the couch once. I’d find myself frustrated and surrounded by wet bibs and empty boxes of cereal (the only thing I was able to eat all day), wearing three-day old pajamas. I often felt outside of my element, exhausted, and often smelly.
My second time around on maternity leave, I made a plan to shower and enjoy one hot cup of coffee to myself each day. A small victory, but something that made me feel more like “me”. And once I was cleared to workout by my doctor, I would go for a walk (and later a run). I’m not saying these were easy to accomplish. It often involved waking up at 5 am in between feedings and diaper changes. And that hot cup of coffee usually happened at around 4 pm right after Gregory went down for a nap and Abby was at daycare. There was little chance of enjoying a hot cup with a toddler attempting to pull you away from a newborn.
Give yourself a break
If you can swing it, take a few hours off one day. Ask a family member or a close friend to watch your baby and take yourself out. Grab lunch alone. Go see a movie. Get a pedicure. Go for a walk without a baby in tow. During my time with Abby, John took an entire day off of work, giving me the opportunity to just worry about myself for the day. Since my time was so short with Gregory, John took an evening with both kids and I went out to dinner with a friend. Another day, I went out with just Abby and John spent the day with Gregory. Having even just a few hours to do something other than taking care of a newborn (even if it still involves the responsibility of mom) rejuvenates you like you wouldn’t believe.
So go make the most of your maternity leave. And remember, you’re a Rockstar! You got this!
One month ago, our lives completely changed (again). We welcomed our brand new baby boy, Gregory, coming in at 9lbs 3oz (just like his sister). I’m still learning how to wear this new skin as a mom of two. I barely figured out how to get the previous one to fit and now I’m wearing something entirely new. Despite absolute exhaustion and utter chaos that is life with a toddler and newborn, we are surviving. And while nothing can really prepare you for welcoming a new baby, there are a few perks to being around the block for the second time. A big one is knowing how to better survive your second C-Section. Here is Gregory’s Birth Story along with tips to help you survive your own C-Section.
Interest in seeing baby photos only? Skip on over to the
photo section of this post!
Abby’s C-Section (First) Vs. Gregory’s (Second)
Leading up to delivery
First Pregnancy – March 2017
Because Abby is stubborn by nature and follows her own drum, she decided to make her appearance late. In addition, she was measuring 2 weeks larger. Being overdue with a large baby showing zero signs of labor, we scheduled a C-section as we neared 42 weeks. I spent the days leading up to delivery absolutely terrified, I barely slept and worried constantly. Was I rushing my baby girl? Did she need more time to develop? Would I survive major surgery?
In between the worries and fears, I’d remember another “important” item to put into my already over-stuffed hospital bag. It’s incredible how the human mind works, or at least how mine works, when you’re entering the unknown. I had zero idea what to expect – despite doing a hospital tour, despite researching for hours about packing tips, and despite even having a sister who delivers babies for a living!
Second Pregnancy – March 2019
Once again, Gregory was showing zero signs of actually wanting to come out, and measuring larger than his sister. While my doctor was open to a vaginal birth, I only had until my due date. We scheduled my repeat C-Section just 3 days before his due date. And while I had fears about the surgery, mostly recovery remembering to the last time, I was more overcome by fears for my first born. Would she understand that mommy wouldn’t be able to pick her up? How would she react to seeing mommy hooked up to an IV and stuck in a hospital bed? Would she understand that mommy and daddy still love her?
I spent the days leading up to Gregory’s arrival, attempting to prepare my two year old daughter for this life-altering change. And leading up to this, she couldn’t care one ounce. She wanted to play with her toys, read a book, and dance to crazy music. And despite pointing to my belly and saying “baby” she could in no way imagine what was about to happen. If I could go back, I would have thrown out the playbook and simply spent more time playing with her.
First C-Section: March 8, 2017 – Midnight
It was right around midnight that the pain had reached the point that speaking through it was impossible. We had five and a half hours before we needed to leave for the hospital for surgery prep. All I wanted was one last night of sleep before we introduced a newborn into our lives, but the world had different plans. I tried every possible position to sleep through the pain. I felt the contractions getting stronger and coming faster. Finally, we called the doctor and decided to head to the hospital hours before the surgery.
I barely remember arriving at the hospital and talking to admitting, terrified about the next steps. And the journey to delivery is still a blur. My mind raced. Are we ready? Will she be okay? But, I still remember that car ride that brought us there. The pain each time a contraction came on. The terror knowing labor was upon us. The overwhelming anxiousness that we would be meeting our baby girl soon! And the worried, yet strong smile from John as he drove, holding my hand.
A few hours later, my water broke. A few more hours, I was pushing. And in between the pain, there was a sense of relief knowing that I hadn’t scheduled the surgery too early. This was the day she was meant to come. She was ready. And I was ready to push her out. But, once again, she had other plans. Despite my best efforts and my strong will, Abby was unable to arrive the “proper way” as I’ve had people tell me. As I was wheeled into the operating room, I felt defeated, alone and beyond exhausted. I remember crying and apologizing for my inability to deliver my baby.
In between contractions, they prepped me. Tears overcame me. As my limbs became immobile, I kept thinking about how I was failing at this mother-thing already. An eternity passed before John was allowed into the room. And I kept falling in and out of sleep from exhaustion. And being wrapped in so much self-doubt, I didn’t even hear her first cry. I can’t even remember what she looked like the first time I saw her. And as they took her out of the operating room, it would be another few hours before I even got to see her again.
Second C-Section: March 29, 2019 – Midnight
A few hours before, we had said our goodnights and goodbyes to Abby (and our pup), leaving them both at my parents’ house for the next few days. We reminded her of the sleepover she would be having at “Mama and Papa’s” but that she would see us soon. I remember the multiple kisses I gave her forehead, wishing to hold onto this moment for a just a minute longer. The last night she would ever be an only child.
As midnight approached, we rushed around our empty house to ensure each hospital bag was packed – my own, John’s, and Abby’s hospital entertainment bag. I found myself stuffing as much as possible into Abby’s bag, and completely ignoring my own. What does a two-year old need to be occupied in a hospital room? How can we best distract her from the constant attention her brother would be getting? But as we packed, we spoke about the baby boy we would be meeting in just a few hours. Would he have hair? Would he have a little yet wide nose like his sister? What would his first cry sound like? I barely slept that night in anticipation. In just a few hours, this little boy who had been spending months using my bladder as a punching bag would be in the world.
It was still pitch black out as we drove to the hospital at 6 am. It’s crazy to think how different this felt. I grabbed for John’s hand most of the way, with tear-filled joyous eyes, exclaiming “We’re going to meet him soon!” The admitting process was smooth, and we spent most of the pre-surgery hours joking with the nurses. Three other delivery rooms were already occupied by women in labor (all first-time moms, I would later find out). It was hard to admit that I’d never be able to experience delivery without recovering from major surgery. Based on my previous experience, I wouldn’t get to hold my baby right away. I would barely see him until hours later. Silently, I wished them good luck in their own journeys as the nurses started checking my vitals to prepare for my own.
I was in the operating room just a few hours later. The biggest improvement from last experience, besides not being completely drained from lack of sleep and laboring for hours, was the anesthesiologist. She talked me through everything I may feel this time around, as last time I could barely keep my eyes open so had no energy to fully experience what a C-section might entail. She spoke openly about her past births, her three children, and distracted me from what may be happening to my insides. John sat beside me as we waited anxiously. It felt like an eternity between my doctor’s “He’s almost here, Lisa” and the moment he cried the most powerful and beautiful cry I have ever heard.
I took a deep breath, begging John to rush over to snap a photo and show it to me. And then, the most amazing moment happened. The nurses handed him over to John, and laid him near my face. I couldn’t move my arms or legs. I couldn’t hold my new baby. And with every minute passing, I felt the intense pressure as my organs were being put back in place and any minute, I thought I might vomit from the intensity. But it didn’t matter. I could smell his sweet hair, kiss that warm cheek, and see his beautiful eyes staring back at me. And he was my baby boy.
For the remainder of the surgery, he was there, staring back at me. And as I entered my post-operation room, he was there again, in his daddy’s arms. And as I began to regain movement in my arms, they put him on my chest and helped me hold him. I will always remember the feeling of kissing his forehead, and the sweet smell of his peach fuzz hair. Even now, I tear up knowing I was given these moments that I was far too exhausted to take part in last time.
10 Things I’ve Learned as a C-Section Mom
People will judge you for your decision
Despite what people may say (and some will say it), a C-Section is not an “easy way out.” Being able to schedule your birth does have it’s benefits (ensuring your doctor will be there, having child care set up for your older child, not enduring painful labor, etc.) but it is major surgery. And people will tell you that you aren’t a real mom. Screw other people. You are a superhero! Anyone who rids the world of that much crap must be a superhero!
Advocate for yourself
You can have the skin-to-skin experience you’ve seen on television or heard about from your friends who delivered vaginally. You can have your baby in your post-op room. But you have to advocate that you want this (and that you select a hospital that allows this). And you have to be prepared that you’ll need help to support your new baby. But it is possible. Speak up. You got this!
Do not look up!
During the procedure, do not (and I repeat DO NOT) look at the light above you, unless you want to see a mirror image of the surgeons cutting you open. I made the mistake of glancing that way. It’s best to keep your eyes on your partner.
Spend the days leading up to your C-section enjoying the last of your pregnancy. If it’s not your first child, take time to enjoy your other children. Spend time with your partner. Yes, recovery will be hard. Yes, you may have some negative side-effects to the anesthesia, but keep in mind that at the end, you’ll have your baby.
Take time for you
Take the day off the day before and do things for you! If you’re working, take the day off. If you are a stay at home mom, get a babysitter. Take advantage of knowing your delivery date. Utilize the day before to do things for you. Get your hair done. Get a pedicure. Read a book in peace. Take yourself out for lunch. Treat yourself to a movie. Whatever will make you happy – do it!
Aim for the early surgery
Schedule your surgery for first thing in the morning. Depending on your doctor and hospital, you may not be permitted to eat or drink anything for 8 hours leading up to the surgery. And as a pregnant woman, it is much easier to withstand from eating or drinking, if you are sleeping.
Talk to your anesthesiologist
Tell your anesthesiologist EVERYTHING you are feeling. Do not try to “tough it out.” If you’re feeling nauseous, say something. If you’re feeling cold, say something. Feeling pain? Want to just talk about your baby? Say something! By the end of my surgery I was wrapped in about 10 heating blankets and being pumped full of anti-vomit medication, all while asking my anesthesiologist if she thought my baby looked like me. Talking made the procedure feel more human. I felt more apart of it. Talk! It’s okay!
Be wary of early visitors
Ask visitors to refrain from coming until you are a few hours out of surgery, if not for an entire day. With my first, I was out of surgery by 9 am, out of post-op by 11 am, and visitors arrived before noon. Between exhaustion from laboring all night and the effects of the pain medication, I honestly have no idea who actually visited that first day. All I remember is wanting to hold my baby and sleep. Neither happened. The second time around, we asked that no one show up until 3pm or later. That gave us almost 4 hours (after post-op) to simply enjoy Gregory (and for me to get some very important food).
Get out of bed as soon as you are medically allowed.
It WILL hurt. You may cry. You may wish to stop trying to stand. Push through that. And trust me, each time you stand it will be less painful than the last. But it will take time.
And that leads us to the most important one –
Recovery will hurt
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It is extremely painful. Simple tasks, like sitting, standing, even laying down may hurt. It will be painful for a little while, but then it will get better. You may feel lost or discouraged or downright saddened by the fact that you need to lean on people to help you do the easiest tasks. Let your body recover. Forgive yourself for not being able to do things right away. Breathe. It will get better!
And most importantly, remember that you rock! You got this!
It’s been a while. And honestly, I could sit here and up come up with a million excuses. A few of them would actually sound forgivable. But, to be completely honest, I stopped because I found myself wanting to spend those moments I could have been writing, with my family.
The truth is, juggling a new job while halfway through a pregnancy has been harder than I could have imagined. I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t realize in what way. Of course there are the expected hardships – learning a new environment, working diligently to prove myself, a new routine, and trying desperately not to get lost each day.
And ironically, every part of my new job has been a welcome blessing compared to my previous one. John’s noticed that I’m happier, less stressed, and generally excited about the projects and adventures waiting for me each day. But, it’s the emotional obstacles that I didn’t expect. And, on top of that, we lost my Grandmother a week after I started. The emotional toll of that experience was far more than I could imagine. One day I’ll put those emotions on paper. The realization that this was the only Grandparent still alive when Abby was born. Hearing the news when I was 8 hours away from my father’s side. And experiencing loss while a child grows inside of me. It was an entirely new side of loss for me.
I think one of the biggest challenges about this new job, aside from the aforementioned, is being so excited about it. When I was pregnant with Abby, my mind was focused on her — on the tiny baby girl kicking me during meetings, the thoughts of what her first laugh would sound like while I completed filing, and creating a maternity plan so nothing would go unchecked while I was off enjoying motherhood.
And yes, I worked hard while I was pregnant with Abby, but it was a different type of hard. I knew the job I was doing and I was good at it. I knew the upcoming deadlines, who would be best to lean on for support in case I ended up out earlier than expected, and how to handle any obstacles that may come. It’s to be expected after two years. Being on autopilot allows you to daydream a bit — the sound of her first cry, laugh, word; the scent of her hair; and the feeling of her head on my shoulder.
But now, I’m 26 weeks pregnant and have been at my new company for a month. I just stopped getting lost going to the bathroom (which being 26 weeks pregnant, means I frequent often so that’s an entirely different kind of blessing). I’m still in the onboarding phase and learning the ropes, so there is no time to think about the baby boy inside of me, or the deadlines coming up (as I’m still trying to learn all of the acronyms). I find myself forgetting that I’m pregnant and, nstead, focusing on the interesting program I want to implement.
At this point in my pregnancy with Abby, we had put the finishing touches on the nursery, complete with her name, which we had finalized months before, in wooden purple letters above her crib. I spent every morning talking to her, excited for the day I would get to hold my baby girl. This time around, I can’t even think of a name, his crib has been sitting in a box in our basement for a few weeks, and the only time I find myself talking to him is when Abby points to my belly and says “baby.”
With Abby I would daydream about the day she would be born, the day we would bring her home, if she would look more like me or John. My mind would wonder constantly, imaging how incredible it would be to finally be a mother. Now, when my mind has a chance to wonder, it’s usually about Abby. How will she handle needing to share mommy and daddy? Will she resent him because she’ll have to give up half her room? Will she understand this tremendous change?
The fear and self-doubt plagues me. I start questioning everything. How will I be able to handle two kids when my house looks like a bomb went off with just one? Will I do right by my children? Am I good mom?
And then, that beautiful baby girl who is no longer a baby runs to me screaming “My Mommy” with her arms spread wide open waiting for a hug. And all is right with the world. Somehow she knows I needed that extra bit of encouragement. She is my greatest adventure and my best example that I can do this. Of course I’ll make mistakes. The house will never be “perfect.” And probably, one day this baby boy will too lick the cat just like his sister, I’m sure of it. But through it all, we will do our best. We will survive. And both of themall of us will be just fine.
As someone who has always tried to follow a path in life and prides herself on staying three steps ahead, when I do something out of my comfort zone, my heart pounds and my anxiety boils. So, of course, this means, parenthood has been a constant struggle of not being able to control life. The positive thing about it all, though, is that I’m learning to live outside of the path I thought I needed to stay on. And all of this brings me to yesterday and what it represents. [Busy working mom/mom to be and need advice? Jump to “Things to keep in mind for accepting a job offer while pregnant.”]
Monday will mark 20 weeks into this pregnancy – halfway there! During my first pregnancy, I meticulously planned every aspect of our lives in order to feel in control. I strategically saved money to account for maternity leave AKA unpaid leave. I alerted my supervisor and coworkers early and created a plan for my leave, in case it started earlier than expected. I closed out all of my projects in plenty of time. And I stopped traveling once I entered into the third trimester. (Of course, nothing about Abby’s delivery went to plan, but that’s an entirely different story.)
When the test rang positive this time, I started planning out my time and money with even more diligence. I had a better idea of the aftermath of delivery and having a newborn. I worked out our budget. I put extra into savings to account for unpaid leave (and was excited to learn that New York State would pay part of my leave this time around). And I planned for the paid 18-20 weeks of leave I was entitled to based on my employer’s policy. Everything was going to happen according to plan once again. And then, something came along to shift everything and interrupt my perfectly laid out plan – an incredible job offer. And after debating it in my head and with John for what felt like years, I decided to jump at the chance.
That’s right – the planner, the one who stays on the path to ensure she’s always three steps ahead left the comfort of her job in the middle of a pregnancy to start a brand new one.
So what does leaving my job and accepting a new job actually mean?
What am I losing?
It means that I’m giving up job protection under the Family Medical Leave Act (and putting my faith in my new employer). I will no longer be eligible for paid New York State leave (which was recently passed). And those 18-20 weeks home with my baby boy have now vanished.
But what am I getting?
The chance at my dream job. The chance to try something that scares, challenges, and excites me all at once. I’m terrified and thrilled all at the same time.
And the decision to accept was not an easy one for me. Even after putting in my notice, I went back and forth in my mind if it was the right decision for my family and the baby boy growing inside of me. My husband, the optimist, told me I should stop worrying about all of this as he believes I’m doing the right thing. I’m hoping that positive attitude rubs off on me, especially as I near closer to the end of this pregnancy and the thoughts of spending a limited amount of time home fill my mind.
Questions and thoughts that plague my mind
Will he suffer entering daycare earlier than his sister?
Will he resent me in the future if he finds out that I waited 20 weeks before leaving her but far less with him?
Am I bad mom for changing our structure for my own career?
It’s hard to put that type of pressure on yourself. I’m not sure if it’s my own anxiety fueling it or society telling me that as the mom, you worry about the family and nothing more because me choosing to take on an entirely new job is (mostly) for me. Of course there are perks that my family will benefit from but it is my career, not their career, so you question it, every step of the way. I had someone ask me why I didn’t just stick around at my current job and then stop working afterwards. How does one explain the importance of their career but also not make her family sound like the second string? It’s a fine balance, even today, to figure out how to be a mom and have a career, but appear to be successful in both (even if you’re struggling every day).
The reason I was able to take the leap
Every step of the way, when attempting to figure out if choosing the new job was the right decision, I thought of my family. I thought of my baby boy growing inside of me, of his needs during the rest of the pregnancy and following, of the weeks after his birth and the new life we will have with two children. My family (and my new employer’s positive attitude towards this pregnancy) was a huge factor when I finally said yes. So yesterday, as I drove away from my office for the last time, I smiled at the fact that I actually did it. I took a huge risk, something I honestly never thought I would, and right before I turned on the ignition, I smiled at my growing belly and thanked my baby boy for giving me the strength to do it.
Thinking of accepting a job offer while pregnant? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
You may not be entitled to job protection
The Family Medical Leave Act (US) entitles you to job protection after the birth of a child, however, there are some stipulations to this as well. For example, you are only eligible if you have been at your employer for at least 12 months. Despite the fact that the last month of pregnancy feels like a year, you are only pregnant for about 40 weeks. For more information on the Family Medical Leave Act, visit the US Department of Labor. Please note that after you have a baby, you will not want to / probably wont be able to go back to work just a few days later. You will need time to heal and bond with your baby. In addition, most daycares will not accept a child who is under 6 weeks old.
You may be entitled to some leave
Before accepting a job, look through the benefits policy, or speak with Human Resources. In my case, I’m entitled to Short Term Disability from day one. Depending on your policy, this can entitle you to 6-8 weeks depending on your delivery. In most cases, this is also paid (either through the employer or your state). Look into all of this before accepting any offer as you will need time after you give birth.
You have many doctor appointments while pregnant
In my case, I go to the doctor every four weeks until I’m 28 weeks along, then it will be every two weeks until I’m 36 weeks, and then every week until I deliver. In many cases, these appointments happen during typical working hours. You will need to be prepared to take unpaid days off, or work something out with your new employer to attend doctor appointments.
Your insurance coverage may change
If you will be using your own insurance policy (and not on your partner/spouse’s policy) look into everything about what is covered and what is not covered, and how long it will take for it to go into affect. You never know what may happen during your pregnancy so having a lapse in coverage may be a determent to accepting a job. In addition, check with your doctor to ensure they accept this new insurance carrier. If you will need to change doctors or practices, it is important to know that in advance of accepting an offer.
If the new job will make you happier, then it may be the best decision for your family
For me, this was a difficult thing to keep in mind. There were many reasons to stay at my previous job, but the biggest motivator to leave was the regret that I might feel for not taking an opportunity that could make me happier. While you grow a child, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Honestly, your mental health is ALWAYS just as important as your physical health (not just during pregnancy). So, if your new job will make you happier, give you less stress, and overall improve you, then it is probably the best decision. If, for some reason, the new job will bring you more worry, more stress, and more anxiety, then perhaps it isn’t the best path. Ultimately though, you need to figure out what is best for you and your family.
Are you thinking of making a switch while pregnant? What are your biggest fears? Did you make a switch while pregnant? Tell me how you survived. I will take any advice I can get.
I think the hardest realization that has come from my time as a parent has been discovering I’m not superwoman. When you spend your life having the world deem you as the fixer, or the problem solver, or the one with all of the answers, you spend every minute trying to exceed that expectation. It’s a thrilling feeling – to be needed, for people to look to you for answers. Being able to stand on a pedestal and let the world know that you’ll solve anything and that no problem is too small or too big is all that matters, until the day you crash. Suddenly, its obvious that you’re not invincible, that your strong exterior can’t deflect every hit, and that there are problems that you cannot solve. And the biggest downfall is that I’m the one who put myself up there. I’m the one who spent my life convincing myself that I needed to hold this title because it’s what made the most sense. A need to be needed is only valid if you, yourself, never need anything.
As a mom, I’ve felt the crash on more than one occasion and each time it still feels like the first time I ever fell. You never know when it’s going to hit. It could be when your husband finds you crying on the bathroom floor after the fourth failed pregnancy test. Or when your being wheeled into an operating room after your body failed to deliver your baby the way the world said you should. Or when you’re crying in the corner of the bedroom as your baby begs for food but your mental state will not allow you to keep breastfeeding. Or maybe it’s when your entire family is taken over by the stomach flu and while your baby girl just wants you to make her pain go away, you can’t because you, yourself, are trying to get the world to stop spinning. Or perhaps it’s when you find defeat when attempting to put your 20 month old into her crib but your body can no longer cooperate due to the bulging belly and lower back pain that seems to accompany pregnancy.
That last one, even though it was most recent, has been the hardest one to comprehend. My daughter is in a constant daddy phase, so when she allows me the opportunity to hold her, to cuddle her, or to be the lucky one to lead bedtime, I jump at the chance. But when it became apparent that bedtime routines may no longer be an option, I crashed, hard. I remember mentally crossing off the list of things I could no longer do as I progressed while pregnant with Abby – no more lifting heavy objects, no more sleeping on my stomach, no more long runs. And I guess, to a point, I knew this would happen again this time around, however, I thought I’d have more time. And I guess I thought I’d never actually end up as a mom who could no longer lift her toddler, even if my toddler is nearly 30 pounds. I assumed that I would be the mom who could go through this without having to change any routine, but now I’m slowly realizing that my list of no mores will soon include no more laying on the floor playing blocks, no more letting her sit on my lap as we read a bedtime story, no more jumping and dancing with my baby girl to her favorite songs. It’s hard to imagine that the next five will include missing out. I know once her brother is here, I’ll need to spend more time with him and less time with her, but I thought I’d have more time before I’d miss out.
I can’t blame anyone besides myself for assuming nothing would change when I became a mother. I remember hearing or seeing mothers struggle during parenthood and thinking, I’ll have it all sorted out, I’m a planner so I’ll be able to foresee any obstacle in my way. And then reality set in. But before I had Abby, I was naïve. Now, as a mother, I should know better now, but I still keep convincing myself after each downfall that I’m still a superhero. And that I need to be that superhero for my family – it is my title and my place in our lives. If I lost that title, then who am I? Where do I fit in our dynamic?
I just hope I’ll learn to compromise and find new ways to engage with my baby girl over the next few months before we officially welcome her baby brother home and we become a family of four. In the past, after I’ve crashed, I’ve learned to adjust and to come to terms with the fact that sometimes you need to fall, if only to teach yourself how to get back up. And through this, I’ve learned to trust even more in my husband. When I gave myself the impossible title of Superwoman, I was setting him up for failure because in order to do everything you have to assume no one else can do anything. I had to learn to be comfortable in trusting him and trusting in him. Allowing him to pick me up when I couldn’t bear the thought of going through another month of failing to become a mother, or putting my fears in his hands as I couldn’t push our baby girl into the world, or giving him the power to feed our baby formula so I could finally bond with my child. And perhaps soon it will be letting him take on the physical demands of a toddler when my pregnant body is unable to and understanding that neither of us are truly invisible and being a true superhero is asking for help instead of allowing yourself to feel defeated.
If you have been following along, or are within 100 miles of my mother, you’ve probably heard we’re expecting a boy this time around. I’m officially 18 weeks along and, it has felt like the longest 18 weeks of my life. For some reason, with Abby, it felt like pregnancy rushed by (except for the last month which lasted a year on it’s own), but this time around, everything is painfully slow. Maybe it’s because I already know what to expect at the end of this marathon, or maybe it’s because motherhood has made me even more impatient, or, more likely it’s because I honestly cannot remember what milestone I’m supposed to be at and I’m constantly worried that I’m missing something. That last one sounds more like me.
With Abby, I checked the calendar constantly, counting down to my next appointment. I looked forward to Wednesdays because it meant I got an alert for the new week – what size fruit was she this week, what was developing, what mommy may be experiencing. This time, I honestly have no idea what is happening. I almost missed my last doctor’s appointment because I put it in for the wrong week in my phone. It’s times like this that I’m so happy for automatic reminders from my doctor’s office. Those must have been built with second-time moms in mind. And then, at my last appointment, my doctor asked how my AFP screening went earlier. Zero idea what she was talking about. Apparently, I was supposed to get blood drawn before my appointment. And, obviously, that didn’t happen. And when I went to reschedule that, the sweet receptionist attempted to comfort me by saying it was a newer screening so of course I wouldn’t remember it from the last time, as I probably didn’t have it. And of course, then she remembers my daughter isn’t even two years old yet, so I definitely had it with her.
And none of this is because I don’t care about this baby or this pregnancy. Quite the opposite, actually. I’m constantly thinking about this baby, just in many different ways. With Abby, I thought about what was developing this week, when would she start to hear and recognize my voice, what color eyes she would have, and how painful labor would be. This time around, I think about how will we afford a second baby, what impact will this have on Abby, will they get along, and how will I explain to Abby that mommy cannot play right now as she has to take care of her brother. And, this time around, I worry more about the baby’s health and well-being. I’m older now, if only by two years. But for Abby, we were trying desperately to conceiver her. I changed my diet, I worked out everyday, and I focused on my mental health as much as possible. This time, we were lucky to have this unexpected surprise. I expected another painful year of negative tests and tears once we officially started trying for another child, along with the preparations for this baby. For this to happen so quickly, I was thrilled but also anxious. I didn’t have time to plan, to get my health back on track, to focus on clearing my mind from the negative space. And, I worry if all of this will effect my baby’s development.
And then I sit here, starting my 18th week (thank you to my husband for doing the math in his head as I had no clue what week we were in), wondering what this little baby boy is doing in there. Is he happy? Is he comfortable? Will I feel him kick soon? Should I have already felt that? When did I feel that with Abby? And the questions go on and on. And as I glance over at Abby playing with her blocks desperately trying to build the tallest tower and constantly bumping into it causing it to collapse and her to exclaim “oh no” as she begins to rebuild for the fifth time, I wonder if that little girl has any idea what is in store for her. Soon she’ll be sharing toys, her time with blocks, and her mommy and daddy with a stranger. Will she understand? Will she resent us? Will she love him? And, out of nowhere, she rushes over to me, hugs my belly and says “baby.” Maybe on some level she does understand that life is about to change entirely for each of us, but she doesn’t seem to let that bother her. She isn’t worried about tomorrow, the way things will change, or the new adventure ahead of us. She is only focused on rebuilding her tower, over and over again. And when her masterpiece falls apart, she only worries for an instant before starting again to build something even better. And maybe she’s oblivious to everything. Honestly, that is probably more likely, but I do hope I can learn from this tower building business and learn that everything may fall apart but there is always the opportunity to build it back up even stronger.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from all of this is to adjust. In some ways, having this pregnancy feel slower has given me the opportunity to pause. We only have a few months left as a family of three and while these memories may not forever stick within Abby’s mind, I’d like to make as many as possible and soak them until my brain is overloaded with her giggles and her smile versus my anxiety and fear. I find myself not opening any of the baby books or searching on the internet for answers to these pregnancy concerns, but instead playing dinosaur with Abby or sitting down to dinner without the distraction of my email alerting me that I have yet another unread alert from one of the many baby apps I redownloaded. And maybe soon I’ll stop worrying completely about how this addition will drastically impact our current routine but instead focusing on how our baby boy will add to the memories. Another dinosaur to run around the house. A longer bedtime story snuggled in the oversized chair. Another hug at daycare during pickup time. Life is going to get messier and more complicated, I know that. But, hopefully I learn that those messes and obstacles are what will make each moment worth it in the end.