This week has been and will continue to be the end of sorts and the beginning of sorts. I turned in my last paper and final for the semester, closed out my client files and left campus for the last time until the end of August. The counters were installed yesterday, and the bathrooms are being finished these next couple days in our new house. We had our third and final sonogram to make sure baby girl is head down and getting ready to make her entrance into the world (all looks good!). Today is May 3- I’m due June 3rd, which means we’ve entered the last month of only being responsible for one little person’s life. I got offered an internship position for the Fall/Spring that I’m gladly accepting and looking forward to after my summer “off”. We’ll be moving into our new house hopefully this weekend, giving our incredibly gracious, hospitable, patient friends back their house, space and sanity. It’s been a good week. It’s been a busy week. It’s been a busy season. Between David and I, we’ve been in a 4 month season of 3 jobs, full time graduate school, studying for the 3rd and final CFA test, buying/renovating a house, living with friends, raising a delightfully strong, independent (read: strong-willed) 2 year old, attempting to potty train said 2yr old, growing a human, leading a life group at church, volunteering in the children’s ministry, and attempting to not let our daughter associate meal time with chicken nuggets being chucked backwards from the front seat into her car seat. We’ve had multiple ER visits, multiple car breakdowns, bodily fluids from various orifices at various times of utter inconvenience, family visits, hours of Veggie Tales songs in the car, a week vacation in CO, toddler meltdowns, sweet cuddles, tears, laughter, lots of ice cream, and little sleep. Like I said, it’s been a busy season. And while some of the busyness is coming to an end/winding down this week, a different kind of busyness is about to begin. The busyness that’s coming to an end- school and pregnancy for me (and work for awhile once baby comes), working late nights at the house for David- has been a busyness that’s physically exhausting and stressful at times, but is nothing compared to the busyness that lies ahead. The busyness of class and papers, installing flooring and painting and sitting in lots of traffic in between- these things can be done with dutiful preparation and a good work ethic. Which I can say David and I both have.
What’s coming is different.
What’s coming is a busyness- and with that- a tiredness that penetrates deep. What’s coming is a season I’ve been anticipating with a mixture of overwhelming joy and a knowing, nervous apprehension. What’s coming is something that can’t really be prepared for no matter how many onesies are washed and ready (currently none), or how cutely the nursery is set up (currently baby2 has nowhere to sleep…we’re working on it), how many bottles are washed (should probably try to find them…), or how many tubes of lanolin cream are ready (literally can’t even think about that right now).
What’s coming is a baby.
What’s coming is excruciating physical pain of labor immediately followed by an excruciatingly painful burst of love that causes the chest to constrict and arms to open. What’s coming is sleepless nights of diaper changes and feeding sessions that evoke a juxtaposition of emotions so intense it’s dizzying. Gratefulness that you have a baby and that baby is breathing, peeing and eating; anxiety and self-doubt from not being able to get the hang of nursing immediately even though its “so natural”; physical pain from said “natural experience”; exhaustion from lack of sleep; love for the tiny human you grew and now get to hold and comfort; fear that maybe you aren’t doing everything just right; hilarity from thinking you could ever do everything just right; delirium from lack of sleep and routine… all of these and more all in the span of hearing the first cry that jolts you awake until the babe is back asleep full and dry and you pass out from sheer exhaustion until the next cry.
These emotions. They are the busyness that’s coming.
They are what scare me. They are what cause my nervous laughter when people ask if I’m ready. They are what I think of every Sunday when my app says that somehow another week has passed and now there’s only a month left of this pregnancy that I thought I just found out about. When I feel my little love rolling around in my belly, those swarms of emotions start bubbling up along with my acid reflux. I’ve had people say “Well it’s your second so you know what to expect right? It’s not as scary?” Wrong. It’s the knowing what to expect that makes it more scary. When I was 8 months pregnant with Brynn, I had everything “ready”- all her cute onesies were washed and folded in her dresser that was carefully positioned in her cute little room complete with Etsy signs and blankets. But I was not prepared for the real work of having a newborn. The work of experiencing and dealing with emotions as I’d never experienced them before. I was smacked with them that 8th of November as I finally pushed that giant baby out and they handed her to me, with no instructions or textbook about how to handle them. They were just there. All over the place (just like all the other things in that delivery room). And it’s going to happen again in about a month.
I’ve been thinking though.
Because thinking is what I do when pesky emotions are involved. I’ve been thinking about this concept that I’ve been using to attempt to help my clients these past few months. I’ve been spending months reading articles and listening to TED Talks and podcasts to help formulate my treatment plans. I’ve been thinking that maybe the timing of this research has actually been perfect. I’ve been thinking that maybe I’m more prepared to deal with this impending emotional rollercoaster than I think I am. I’ve been thinking that the conversations I’ve been having with mom friends, reminiscing about birth stories, laughing about the horror that took place in those labor and delivery rooms/operating tables and the weeks of recovery that followed, have been adding needed tools of humor to my toolbelt. I’ve been thinking that David reminding me about how he “was convinced one of the 3 of us weren’t gonna make it out of those first couple weeks” has helped reassure me. I’ve been thinking that seeing my little baby Brynn transform from toddler to child in front of my eyes has been preparing me this whole time. I’ve been thinking that being unprepared is sort of what’s making me prepared. This thing I’ve been thinking about is self-compassion.
It’s one of the emotions that I had to learn last time as I was slapped in the face with all the others. One that I had to learn as I experienced Mom guilt for working and going to school. One that I had to learn as I had to pump for the first few weeks and feed Brynn from a bottle because we just could not get a latch that didn’t leave me bleeding and Brynn screaming. One that I had to learn as I realized that I didn’t “enjoy every minute” like everyone kept demanding I do as a new mom. One that I had to learn as I couldn’t get my year old to sleep through the night. One I had to learn as I got up because my 18month old still cried out in the night. One that I had to learn as I got up last night because my 2.5yr old still cries out in the night sometimes. One that I learned as I secretly relished getting up to sing her a song back to sleep because pretty soon it won’t be just her and I know I’m going to miss that specialness.
I’m not talking about self-confidence or liking myself- those I’ve never really had a problem with. I’m talking about being compassionate to myself in the midst of the emotions that aren’t the ones that are advertised on the diaper commercials. Of being kind to myself when feeling sad after dropping Brynn off at daycare when she says “I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay with Mama.” Not ignoring the sadness or pretending it isn’t there- but knowing its ok to feel sad in that moment because I’m human. I’m talking about extending the same compassion to myself when I get annoyed too easily because I’m 8 months pregnant and just don’t feel like lifting Brynn onto the toilet for the 4th time in a row when I know she’s just stalling going to bed that I would to a friend. I’m talking about acknowledging the fact that motherhood is not all butterfly kisses and smiling selfies – and that’s ok.
And I think that maybe this time I might need an extra large dose of self-compassion as I experience all those emotions of having a newborn plus the emotions that I’m sure will surface as my heart expands to hold both my little loves at the same time. As an added layer of pride and surge of love occurs as I see Brynn hold her little sister for the first time, after months of practicing with her baby doll and talking to her through my belly. As my girls start to develop a relationship formed by blood but hopefully bound by love and friendship. As our little family starts to make memories in our house that’s been prepared by the same hands that will hold our girls. So many emotions for this self-proclaimed “thinker” to experience and look forward to with knowing, nervous apprehension and overwhelming joy.
So maybe those people are right after all- maybe I am more prepared because I know what to expect. Maybe the fact that I’m expecting the unexpected with an attitude of compassion is what constitutes as being ready this time around. I think that’s really the only way to be ready for the anticipated busyness that’s coming.
And I think I’m ok with that.