Thursday, December 10, 2015

If I had it to do over again

Looking back to this time last year, I've been thinking about the whole pregnancy and childbirth thing.  I keep reading blogs from other people who are having babies in the near future and I find myself wondering if there are things I'd want to do differently if I had it to do all over.  Like anything, hindsight is 20/20, and I know that if we were to have another kid at some point, there are a lot of anxieties I wouldn't have to deal with.  I wouldn't have to constantly question whether I was cut out for this, because this past year has proven that I'm ok at it.  Not the best, probably, but certainly not enough to cause her any permanent psychological damage just yet.  Those are things that only experience can really help you settle, and while I'm sure that if we were managing another kid, I'd be worried about my ability to handle two kids at once, I don't think I'd be as distraught over whether I could be considered "good" at this.

There are things, though, that I think about as I read other blogs or see other people's photos and wonder how I'd handle differently if I had it to do again.  I think, first of all, I'd be less focused on proving to everyone that it was no big deal.  The first time around, I was really committed to not losing my identity.  I didn't want to be "the pregnant lady", even in private.  I was so focused on it that I was on the edge of just pretending it wasn't happening most of the time.  I didn't get excited about anything.  I compartmentalized all of it.  The pregnancy things were firmly in a box that was labeled "Do not open" in my brain.  Looking back, I sort of wish I had appreciated the first time she kicked, or the times she was wiggling around.  I just put those things in the box in my brain and walked away.  My fierce need to not romanticize the process also robbed me of my ability to appreciate it.  I'll never be that mom who says things like "Sometimes you miss them kicking around in there", because I honestly don't.  But, while it was happening, I wish I'd acknowledged it and appreciated it since I don' really intend to do it all over again.

I'd probably be more willing to talk about things a little more if I did it over again.  Again, I was highly focused on keeping everyone at arms length.  I didn't want to be the whiny pregnant lady.  I didn't even want my husband to view me differently.  I think, looking back, it would have been ok to talk about a few things every once in a while.

I'm also not sure that I'd be so focused on hiding the whole thing if I had it to do over.  I hid everything from everyone at work for as long as humanly possible.  A few people knew, but very few.  I didn't talk about it.  I tried to wear clothes that hid everything as much as possible.  I was really unhappy with the whole body image thing that came along with growing a human, so I didn't want anyone to notice or talk about it.  It was like they were highlighting all of my insecurities.  Looking back, I still don't love how I looked while I was pregnant.  I don't think I'd ever be that celebrity mom flaunting her little baby belly for everyone who wants to see it, but I do think I might handle it a little differently.  I refused to buy maternity clothes last time, and largely I didn't need them.  But, I think if I did it again, I might be willing to buy a few pieces that made me feel pretty.  I think that was my big problem.  In trying to hide it and whatever, I just felt gross and frumpy.  I bought oversized cardigans to wear over a few select tops so that I wouldn't have to worry about sweaters, and now I have a hard time convincing myself to wear those cardigans because I associate them with being frumpy and unattractive.  I think if I'd dressed in a way that made me feel pretty, despite being in a physical state that made me feel the opposite of pretty, it might have helped.

In the aftermath of actually having a baby, I would have slowed down and taken the time to appreciate that I had a baby.  Our first days home were a blur of medications, exhaustion, visitors and activities.  I think, in retrospect, I probably should have slowed down.  Again, it all comes back to being highly focused on keeping everything the same, even though life had changed.  The house had to be cleaned.  The dishes had to be done.  The laundry had to be done.  I had to get up and get dressed and be a normal human every day.  I had to keep moving.  As a result, I lost a lot.  I lost the appreciation of how new she was.  I lost the times when she was content to just be held and loved, and now I have a girl who grew up to never want to snuggle.  I won't get those early days back when she would have been completely happy snuggling in with me.  I also didn't give myself enough time to ease into my life.  I didn't expect to be as rocked by the hormone crash as I was, so I found myself on the verge of tears for no reason multiple times throughout the day.  Did I take some time and give myself some space?  No.  I pretended it wasn't happening and entertained visitors and went to family gatherings and pushed myself further than I really needed to.  I remember there was a moment when my husband's whole family was over and I was sitting on the couch trying desperately not to burst into tears, trying to smile and participate in conversation.  What I probably needed to do was step out and let the tears fall.  I needed to just let things happen, but I kept fighting for control and in the end I don't really remember much of the visit because I sat there uncomfortably trying not to sob.  As much as I wanted to show my daughter off to friends and family, I think maybe I needed more time.  I think I needed to give myself the space to breathe and actually feel normal again instead of pretending that everything was normal.  And, maybe, I could have let the house get messy.

I also fell into the trap of people asking if they could do anything to help out, where I would just smile and say "Oh no, we're fine thank you".  Would it have been better to say yes?  Absolutely.  It would have been nice to have someone cook dinner, or do the dishes, or vacuum, or do the laundry.  It would have been amazing.  But it would also have been admitting that I didn't have everything under control, at least in my mind, and I couldn't do that.  I look back at the few kindnesses we accepted, like my friend bringing over meals for us to keep in the freezer so we didn't have to cook for a few nights, and that was an immense blessing.  The problem is that when you ask "Is there anything I can do?", it puts the burden of asking for help on my shoulders, and I can't bring myself to do that.  It's not who I am.  I'm the sort of person who needs someone to say "I'm coming over in an hour to do your laundry and look after the baby while you nap.  You don't get a choice".  Taking away my say in the matter is part of what forces me to accept help.  It's so hard for me to admit when it would be nice for people to do nice things.

So, here I am, a year later, reflecting on how I might do things differently if I had to.  I don't think I'll get a chance to do things differently, since I don't plan to have more biological children, but maybe some day I'll see someone who is a lot like me, who wants to keep things as normal as possible just like I did, and I can offer some words of wisdom.  Or maybe this is just for me to reflect and understand that it's ok to admit things are changing sometimes.  And it's ok to want help.  I think my big lesson here is to understand how to find a balance between the way my personality is wired to handle things and the way I wish I would have handled them when I look back.  I hope I don't have as many times in this next year where I think "I wish I'd spent more time appreciating her as she is now than washing dishes".


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