A Year Ago Today

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today I sat on this couch and said goodbye.

The previous couple of days, after we found out, I’d been gung-ho, all action. Rationalizing that it was better to find out now, to spare ourselves the heartbreak of finding out later on in the pregnancy or even at birth. Making arrangements. Speaking to friends and family, reassuring them that everything would be okay. I put on a brave face, smiled for my husband and my son. I oozed bravado.

But somewhere in among all that noise, two wise women in my life shared what they did before terminating their pregnancies, and their words hit home for me. I realized it was time to go within. Time to acknowledge the sadness that was welling up inside of me, even if I couldn’t quite name it yet. Even if I wanted to believe was somehow strong enough to transcend it.

So I sat on this couch, alone.

Alone not because there was no one around me, not because I didn’t have support. Alone because it was time to be alone. Because there was no one who was going to be able to get me through the next day but me. No one else getting wheeled into that operating theater. Alone because I needed to go within.

I sat on this couch with my hands on my tummy and I meditated.

I took deep breaths and grounded myself into the present. I let myself feel what was going on right then. The visceral, emotional experience – not just the words swimming around my head trying in vain to make everything okay. I felt the sadness, the beginnings of grief. The incredulous shock that this was happening to me, to us. I didn’t want to but I did it anyway. And I sat there with those feelings, for a few long, heavy moments.

And when I was ready to say goodbye, the sobs came right up from that place. As I hugged myself I explained why we had to do what we had to do, in my heart. I didn’t know who or what I was explaining to. I’d been trying to convince myself that this was just a pregnancy, a fetus. Not a baby and certainly not my baby. Yet I spoke with the voice of a mother. About how this was the only decision for our family, for GG. How we’d meet again, if that was even something that I believed in, if it was meant to be.

And somehow I felt better, that cathartic calm that comes after a good cry. I didn’t know then that the worst was yet to come, that I’d crash a month later, and then many times during the pregnancy that followed. But for right now – right then – I felt better.

Now I sit here on this couch, a year later. The same couch but in our new home, with our new baby cooing in her cot beside me.

Would a glimpse into the future that night have brought any comfort? The knowledge that this is how everything would look in the not so distant, only a year later?

Could be. All I know is I’m happy to be on the other side of this year.

The Limbo Before Labor

The Limbo Before Labor

The last few weeks of pregnancy are such a weird time for me.

My hospital bag was packed weeks ago. Baby clothes are washed and folded. Supplies purchased and tucked away. We’ve met with our doula, planned a route to the hospital. My husband’s mother is on 24/7 alert to take care of GG when I go into labor. The house is clean and the pantry is stocked.

I’ve researched pushing techniques to prevent my pelvic prolapses getting worse, teas to strengthen my blood in case I lose a lot again. I take my prenatal vitamins every day like clockwork. I go to yoga classes and I feel relatively healthy. I’m resting as much as possible.

There’s literally nothing left to do but wait.

Now it’s all up to our little rainbow; whenever she’s ready.

The mindful mama in me knows exactly what to do now. It’s time to surrender. To ground myself, meditate, keep coming back to this moment. To practice patience and trust, reassured in the knowledge that every day snuggled up inside me is doing her good.

But I am not all mindful mama, not quite yet. I’m also a doer, a planner. A control freak. I like to research and organize. To know what’s going to happen when. And this limbo before labor is very tough for that side of me.

Every little twinge – whether it’s a Braxton Hicks contraction, a hunger pang or just that I need to pee – sparks off a spiral of “oo, maybe this is it!” thoughts in my mind. Who do I need to call? Should I start timing contractions? What’s traffic like on the freeway right now?

I’m so excited I can hardly sit still, and yet wrapped up in that excitement is also a whole stack of nerves that I’m only just starting to meet and name. The fear of feeling like crap like I did after GG was born. Of giving birth in  the car on the way to the hospital. Of something going wrong. It’s all wrapped in joy and anticipation, but it’s fucking intense and fucking exhausting at the same time. As if schlepping around this massive baby wedged under my rib cage wasn’t enough to tire me out right now.

But still, there’s nothing to do. Nothing but coming back to the present moment, over and over again. Acknowledging the fears as they come up and the excitement as it bubbles around in there, too. To rest and enjoy our last few moments as a family of three.

To breathe as much as my poor squished up lungs will let me.

In and out, all the way to the delivery room.

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Waiting for our rainbow baby
Something Instead of Whining

Something Instead of Whining

When the inspiration strikes to write at the moment, all I want to do is whine. About how tired I am, all the time. About needing to pee from about 5 minutes into my 1 hour plus commute, every day, twice a day. About how GG always claims he needs to pee 2 minutes after I put him to bed. And how hard getting him dressed and undressed is when I can barely touch my toes and he thinks running away in the middle is hilarious. About stomach viruses at 9 months pregnant…

But I don’t want to write that post. This is not a whiny blog.

Instead, I’m gonna force myself to write about the things I’m grateful for right now. Because really, life is fucking sweet.

We just moved into a beautiful new home. Yes, we have a massive mortgage to pay off, but most people don’t have access to that sort of loan, so I’m truly grateful for it. And for the supportive family that helped us get here.

And that squirmy toddler I mentioned? In between the bahhhh moments he is the light of my life. Hilarious and cuddly and  unbelievably smart. And obsessed with Goldilocks, but that’s a story for another time.

And that kid’s father, he deserves the lion’s share of my gratitude. He cooks and he cleans, mainly while I lie on the couch doing pelvic floor exercises and practicing Hypnobirthing breathing. He takes care of all our paperwork coz dealing with bureaucracy over here is hard for me. It’s a pain in the ass for him too but he does it anyway. He listens when I whine about how he doesn’t communicate properly with me and tries so hard to rectify it that his emoticon text message replies warm my hormone-riddled heart. And somehow he fits in a full-time job and a side job, too. He’s the best father I could ever want for my kids, and I’ve got a feeling he hasn’t even warmed up yet.

Ok enough mush.

I’m grateful for the breeze blowing through the door as I write this, a gentle reminder that the humidity of the Middle Eastern summer has finally broken. I’m grateful for the Internet and all the information, entertainment and connection it brings daily. I’m grateful for my girlfriends, old and new. I’m grateful for fresh fruit and vegetables, and for dark chocolate. I’m grateful to have a voice and the power of expression. To share the shit going through my head and connect with other people as a result.

Thank you.

Aside

Babe, You’re Gonna Need a New Yoga Block

I’m on the way to work, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on my new one-hour daily commune, when my husband calls to update me on drop off. He sounds uncharacteristically defeated.

“Babe,” he says gingerly, “I think you’re going to need a new yoga block.”

I’ve got two options – laugh or cry. This week I’m choosing laugh. Last week was mostly cry.

It’s been a tough month. GG finished up at the daycare he’s been at (and loved) for two years. My grandmother passed away back in Australia. At 33 weeks pregnant I wasn’t able to fly over for the funeral and to be with my family. We moved cities. GG started a new kindergarten. And did I mention I’m a bit pregnant? Between my hormones, my husband’s exhaustion and our two-year-old’s emotional reactions… I don’t even know what words to use.

Last week the language that came to mind was pretty harsh. Now it feels like we’re a cartoon family. Toddler running out onto the road and peeing on things around the house to get attention (like my yoga block), me groaning and holding my lower back when I have to bend over to pick things up, the husband staying up late to get extra work done so we can cover our new mortgage. Oh so textbook and mundane.

When I’m my best self, which is only for fleeting moments right now, I remind myself that it’s all impermanent. That we’ll get used to our beautiful new house and all the arrangements that come with it, and GG will settle into his new kindergarten. That this testing behavior is totally normal for a toddler at the best of times – let alone during a month like this. That my pelvic floor will get better (right after it gets worse). That this too will pass….

And hopefully we’ll have a few days to enjoy the calm before I go into labor and we get to meet #2.

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Stay tuned for updates 🙂

Staying Present on a Rough Day

Staying Present on a Rough Day

Wow, that was a really tough afternoon.

Granted, I’ve been kind of off all day. The afternoon probably never stood a fighting chance. I woke up feeling weird, with shooting round ligament pain up my sides and a general blurgh feeling. The heat has been getting to me this pregnancy and last night was particularly humid.

I kept it together okay at work, with only minimal breaks in concentration to neurotically Google things like “stitch-like pain in right side 27 weeks pregnant” and to brush up on the signs of preterm labor. And then it was time to be a good mama for the afternoon.

I knew there was no way I could deal with taking GG to the park in the 34 degree heat. I also knew that the chances of my mood not eliciting a reaction from him were slim to none. I braced myself.

The first part of the afternoon was fine. We walked to the car slowly, stopped to get petrol on the way home (one of GG’s favorite activities), then made fruit ice blocks on the kitchen floor. I started to relax and we seemed to be in sync.

But something changed in the energy a few minutes later, and he started to lash out at me. Hitting and kicking and pulling my hair. Grabbing at my stomach and trying to bite me. Seriously this shit is hard to handle at the best of times but I’m fucking pregnant and hormonal and in pain and yet I so badly do not want to yell at him. I actually never have, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt closer to it than I did this afternoon.

Summoning up my best self, the mother that I want to be, felt almost impossible. Oh – and did I mention he was laughing hysterically this whole time, more and more when I told him sternly that he was hurting me? My words were doing nothing. At least I had enough awareness to realize that. And I had no emotional energy to tap into how he was feeling, either.

So I used my hands. I sat next to him on the floor and I held him down, physically restraining him from hurting me. I told him I wouldn’t let him touch me like that. He tried again a few times nonetheless, and then gradually his cackles started to die down, his breathing calmed, and he asked me, “are you happy Mama?” This is what he asks whenever he can sense that I’m not.

“Not really,” I told him. “I’m annoyed that you hurt me just now and I don’t feel so great.”

After that he got up, tried to run off, tripped and hit his cheek on the carpet. He burst into tears, sprung up and melted into me. I was his mama again and he was my baby. We were no longer adversaries in some strange, uneven battle. We hugged it out. I thought all was solved.

But this cycle continued over and over the next couple of hours, right up until bedtime. Everything would be fine and then he’d start testing me again. He threw my phone across the room, watching me with an expectant grin to see how I would react. He tipped a glass of water on the floor during dinner with the same glint in his eye. Lobbed pasta in my shoes. Tried to pinch my nipple once or twice. I dealt with each incident as calmly as I could. I willed myself to stay in the moment, to react to each outburst as though it was the first of its kind today. Because I knew that GG was just reacting to my low energy, and I honestly didn’t know how I was going to be able to take care of him if I strung this series of events into a horrible story and started feeling sorry for myself.

So I did the best I could, for today.

Ultimately, I just had a hard day, and it continued into a hard afternoon – no surprises there. GG reacted to my vibe, on top of just being a two-year-old. Nothing to do but accept it and move on. To make sure I get a good night’s sleep and hopefully feel better tomorrow. To wake up a stronger, more energized mama, so my little son doesn’t have to test the boundaries quite so much tomorrow.

Night, all.

Not All Sunshine and Lollypops

Not All Sunshine and Lollypops

A few weeks ago I heard some feedback from an old friend of my husband that kind of stopped me in my tracks. “Elana has a great blog,” he said, “but it makes me so sad.”

Damn.

So not what I’m trying to do here.

Since then I’ve felt this pressure to keep things light. I mention miscarriage and pregnancy loss in my posts, but I’ve shied away from really going into my grief. Pushed myself to write about other topics. Given a stronger voice to my optimistic side.

But there’s a darker voice that wants to be heard every now and then, too. An internal struggle. Even if it’s hard for others to hear.

The grief from those two pregnancies didn’t go away once I got pregnant again. It stayed and brought with it an old familiar friend – anxiety. And I know every pregnant woman has her worries, but those based on trauma seem to hold a little more clout.

Every time I go in for an ultrasound I’m half-expecting to get bad news, even though I feel her moving around all the time now and there’s really no reason that anything should go wrong. The odds are solidly in our favor. But those statistics don’t mean shit once you’ve been on the other side of them. One in 1500 doesn’t sound so comforting when you know what it’s like to be the one.

I went to the doctor earlier this week and he was making small talk. Asked when we’d be taking the baby to Australia to visit, and I was suddenly like – holy shit! He actually thinks there’s gonna be a baby! Maybe this time it’s gonna be for real. I keep getting surprised anew at how I’m still holding myself back from getting excited, at the mechanisms of denial at work in my head.

Talking about the pregnancy is hardly ever fun. I find myself looking blankly at gushing faces, wondering how weird they think I am for failing to make the proper high-pitched noises about having a baby girl. Trying and failing to explain why I feel no urge to make a stop motion film of my blooming belly this time. Mentioning the past pregnancies and watching people screw up their faces uncomfortably, with this “shouldn’t you be over this by now” look.

It’s not just the anxiety that something will go wrong and the hesitance to let myself get hopeful. That’s fading. It’s this weight of expectation on me to get excited. To let go of the past losses. To let this pregnancy replace them.

But I don’t want this baby to be a replacement. I want to properly grieve the pregnancies that didn’t work out, so I can separate this one out and experience it in its own right. And the reality right now is that there are moments when this pregnancy is just fucking hard. Full of mixed emotions and baggage and hopes and fears.

The good news is – thanks to good friends and therapy and even this blog – I’m working through it all and I know that when it comes time to push this baby out, I’ll be well and truly ready. There will be a rainbow after the storm – she’s just not quite here yet.

 

 

First and only pregnant selfie so far this time ’round
Pregnant Priorities

Pregnant Priorities

I’m 19 weeks now, and I’ve realized that the only way to get through this pregnancy without feeling like absolute crap all the time is to prioritize. If I want to get 8 hours sleep every night – which I do – I basically have no option but to give my family, my job and my health top priority. Everything else has to take a back seat.

The truth is, I learnt this lesson a while ago. That if I wanted to live a conscious, intentional life – which I do – I can’t do everything. I can’t even attempt it. I learnt that in order to make space for quality time with my son and my husband, there needs to be blank spaces in my schedule. Time to listen to each other, to prepare healthy food, to do what we feel like at a given time. Time to be.

This way of living doesn’t come naturally to me. My gut tells me to go go go, all the time. To fit in catching up with friends and seeing family and chatting on the phone and going out and making it to three yoga classes a week and however many hours my job demands. My motto was always “I can sleep when I’m dead.” And it was a lot of fun for a time there – but that time has passed. Maybe it’ll return one day, who knows, but this life we’re building now requires a calmer pace.

Back to now. To be honest, my life right now is pretty repetitive. Wake up around 6am, spend a couple of hours with my boys, head to work. Come home, couple of hours with GG, get him to bed. An hour with the husband before I crash if we’re lucky. Repeat until the weekend.

On the weekend there’s a bit more room to breathe. I can generally make it to a yoga class, maybe catch up with a friend, and fit in plenty of slow family time. I do everything I can to take afternoon naps, in the hopes that they’ll fuel me through that urge I have at 2pm every other day to curl up under my desk and take a long snooze.

I also started eating a bit of meat (for the first time in over 10 years), which has made a big difference to how I feel overall. As an ideological vegetarian I still struggle with this decision, but it’s the right one for me for now. I was totally exhausted and suffering from two-day long headaches before I tried out the meat and now I’m feeling so much better. Again, it’s a matter of conscious priorities.

There are things that I miss. Time with friends, relaxing with my husband at night and jogging to name a few. But there’s a special feeling building at the same time, an excitement, anticipation. And slowing things down a bit gives us a few extra moments to really be in it. To honor this in between time before the addition of the next member of our family.

Even if I’m passed out on the couch for a good chunk of it.