Grief and My Pregnancy

I woke up this morning with the realization that one year ago today, while my grandma was dying from cancer, I found out I was pregnant again. It was technically my fourth pregnancy, and my second in just a handful of months. At the time, I had a seven month old baby at home, too.

I honestly didn’t know if I wanted another baby. I’d had a very early miscarriage in August of that year, which had left me feeling relief, because my youngest was still¬†so young, but I was finding myself looking at the possibility of another baby again, and I was anxious about it. The option to not have a baby was on the table, but the decision was initially put on the back burner because I had other things to worry about. In the end, I knew I wanted the baby, but it did take me time to get there.

The next few weeks were a blur, and sometimes I feel like I got cheated out of enjoying that first trimester. I was so focused on my grandma’s health, and then my grandma’s death and learning to get through the holidays without her, that I didn’t really get to think much about the growing life inside of me. By Christmas, however, the excitement was there, although it still didn’t feel real. It didn’t really feel real to me until almost the third trimester, and it certainly felt like the shortest of my three pregnancies.

Recently, I discovered that the only things getting me through the months following my grandma’s death were my kids. The first morning after she was gone, things were hazy, and that fog didn’t lift until many weeks later. It was hard to get out of bed most mornings for a while, but I did because I had to; someone had to take care of my kids, after all.

We got through the holidays and the new year, and then I was able to enjoy and focus more on my pregnancy. My older kids had birthdays, we bought a house, we had two big trips in the spring, then I had a birthday, and the baby was born. After that, my mom got married, we went on vacation in August, and once September came around, I realized that I hadn’t thought of anything else to look forward to. I had been so focused on making it through the baby’s birth, trips, weddings, and then our yearly vacation, that I was blindsided by a feeling of emptiness. In my head, there was nothing else after that.

Anxiety is a constant in my life, but depression comes and goes, and I think I spent most of the first year after my grandma’s death trying to battle it. The only thing that kept me going was having something to always be looking ahead to, and now that those significant dates have passed, I have to find new ways to cope.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, that pregnancy was probably the best thing that could have happened to me then. It gave me something to focus on, and something to hope for, in a time when I had lost one of the most important people in my life. Life really is all about finding the silver linings, I suppose, and I found mine in my pregnancy.

This is a hard time of year for me, but I know I can make it through. I’m so thankful for how far I’ve come and for all those who have been there for me, and I’m grateful for the support I had from friends and family this past year. I’m so glad that my son is a part of my life, and truly, without that pregnancy, I don’t know if I would have pulled myself up from my depression enough to take care of myself and my older kids.

There really is a silver lining on every dark cloud if you look hard enough.

Rules for Visiting a New Mom

I’m obviously not a “new” mom, but I did just have my third baby a couple of months ago, and I’ve learned a thing or two that I’d like to share with some of you who might need the advice.

There’s an etiquette to visiting a new baby. There are rules. Follow these rules, or suffer Mom’s wrath (which would be well-deserved):

  • Ask about hospital visits well in advance. Don’t just show up and expect to be able to see the baby right away. Birth is hard no matter how it goes, sometimes some of us may not want visitors.
    • …and always ask before showing up at home. Don’t just show up at my house once we’re home and expect me to host for you. Ask me first or wait for an invitation. Let me tell you that it’s okay. We both need to settle in, and I’m probably still recovering.
  • Wash your hands. Every time you plan to ask to hold the baby, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. The last thing anyone needs is for a newborn to get sick because you were being lazy.
    • …and just don’t visit if you’re sick. This one should just be common sense. No matter how much I love you and may want to see you, I don’t want you around my newborn if you’ve got germs.
  • Bring food. Or offer to do my dishes. Vacuum for me. Mop my floors. Feed my cats. Offer to change the baby’s diaper. Take my older kids off my hands for the afternoon. Not only will you get my undying love and gratitude, but you will get thanked in newborn cuddles.
  • Don’t comment negatively on my baby’s name. You hate it? I don’t really care, I don’t need to hear it. You can tell me how much you like it, you can tell me all about your great-grandfather’s brother’s niece’s step-daughter who used the name, you can even just say “oh, how nice,” but don’t criticize it. I’ve already filled out the birth certificate and you’ll just annoy me.
  • Leave the advice at the door. Unless you’re being asked for your input, chances are that it isn’t wanted or needed. I’m tired. (And I’ve done this before!) If you’re coming to visit, just let me do my thing, I’ll let you know if I need advice on something.
    • …and don’t be judgmental about my parenting choices. I don’t really care how you parented your kids, whether you diapered with cloth or disposable, whether you breastfed or formula-fed, whether you had a C-section or a vaginal birth, whether you had an epidural or not, etc. It doesn’t matter. Don’t judge how I chose (or am choosing) to do things.
  • Be nice. I just pushed a baby out of my body, it makes me feel good to hear nice things about my baby – or me. Keep it positive.

I Dropped the Ball on Preschool

I messed up.

And I’m mad about it.

Earlier this year, people started asking me if R would be going to preschool this fall. I said no, I didn’t feel like she was emotionally ready. My biggest fear was that I would send her to school and she would be difficult and stubborn and that she would defy the teacher… like she does with me, all the time. It’s no secret that my oldest is extremely strong-willed.

However, over these last few weeks, I’ve noticed a big change from five or six months ago. Honestly, I’ve noticed a change even from just two months ago, when her brother was born. I’m realizing that I was probably wrong on her not being ready for preschool, especially since I have seen this strong-willed child actually¬†listen to people who aren’t one of her parents or grandparents. This is completely new and, actually, unexpected.

To add to it, she’s been asking about where the neighbors’ kids have been lately. When I tell her they’re at school, she asks me, “Can I go to school too?”

I had looked around a little bit at potentially sending her to preschool earlier this year. I emailed someone back in March and she had given me a list of places I could look into. I sort of did, but then I kept putting off doing more work on it. Part of that was because I didn’t feel like R was ready, and the other part was because I had a busy summer: my best friend got married, I had baby number three, my mom got married, and then we went on vacation. Only then did things seem to settle down, and by then it was the end of August.

Realizing that I’ve dropped the ball on getting her enrolled somewhere, I’ve started the process of trying to find her a spot at one of the preschools near us, but I only started that this week. We can’t afford to pay for a spot somewhere so I’m trying to find an opening at a free program, and that’s been proving difficult. Programs are either near capacity already (and giving preference to certain kids using criteria that wouldn’t fit my child) or not calling me back. I’m finding myself feeling frustrated.

Preschool should really be provided through public school for free, in my opinion. It’s not, though, so I’m stuck trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to do.

Lesson learned: don’t wait until the last minute with the other two.