The Minutes Before Waking

Written 7/18/22

There was a stretch of five minutes this morning where I didn’t know yet that I had a body. I didn’t feel or think anything yet. I didn’t yet call into consciousness that I’ve been lying in bed with horrible COVID symptoms for the last however many days (what day is it?) or that my husband had it for days before that and that I had a stomach flu the week before that (which I thought was COVID but wasn’t). I didn’t yet remember that I’m 27 weeks pregnant with my second child deep into a pregnancy that’s been hard and wracked with sickness and struggle and anxiety. I didn’t yet sense our 3 year-old son on the twin bed next to mine; he somehow – by the grace of G*d – hadn’t woken last night and still wasn’t awake, which was a rare situation. None of the discomforts of living in my body had traveled to my brain yet – the heart palpitations, constant heartburn, back pain, the forceful and random kicks of the baby forcing me awake. My incessant cough hadn’t started back up nor could I yet sense the level of congestion in my head yet. Even after I came into my body, I was granted the greatest bliss of all – going to the bathroom alone in the morning. 

Besides the physical heaviness of all I am carrying, my brain felt empty for the first time since I can remember in the last stretch of time (like it is for most of us, time is warped now, living in a world with a young child while pregnant and still navigating COVID after more than two years). I’m used to being up random hours of the night, even when our son is not, trying to drown my dark thoughts in episodes of Blackish (this show is so great) or other sitcoms. There’s never a lack of topics for my brain to suggest to me in the categories of worry, doom, what should we do about ____, and the calculation of how many more hours there are until Jonah will probably wake up or I’ll have to pee again.

Besides this just being obviously not an ideal state of mind and experience, one that people love to assure me is temporary, there’s another layer to it. There’s a deep sadness underneath this reality. Perhaps if I just accepted this all as reality, it wouldn’t have the grasp on me that it has. But I’m me – in all my complexity and sensitivity – so of course there’s another layer. There’s always another layer. The grief and sadness runs deep now and piles on top of each other, never quite getting processed no matter how much therapy I attend because there’s always something more pressing. Tangled in its roots are the loss of so much of life in the last two years, not to mention the lives actually lost of many loved loves, but also the time, the normalcy, the standing on any kind of solid ground – especially with a young child (the week after his first birthday, lockdown began). The gatherings and milestones missed may not seem like a huge deal in comparison to a lot of people’s experiences and yet, they matter. They matter deeply. The friendships and family relationships torn apart from differing pandemic views and behavior, the added layer of stress and thought that everything has required in these past years, the weight on a family already struggling with anxiety on a daily basis and a fragile marriage just in the early stages of navigating parenting.

The grief weighs heavy now with another child on the way, wondering what I’m bringing this child into and why. I always wanted my kid to have siblings, and here I am, a couple months away from that, wondering how in the hell I’m going to care for another human being at this point. The vitality hasn’t even returned to my eyes and my body fully, and my body feels older than its 37 years. My heart feels heavy, unpure. 

I remember being pregnant with Jonah in 2018 and feeling more alive than I ever had. I relished the feeling of life growing inside me, and I felt a deep bond of connection with him before he was born. I was working as a kindergarten teacher and loved being around children all the time. I felt the hope and excitement of what was to come, and oddly, I had less anxiety and worry than I had had my entire life. It was borderline bizarre how much unyielding faith I had in my body, in myself, in my choices and path forward. I had never experienced such little self doubt before. I was immersed in the birth world, having worked in that arena in the past, and my passion for my home birth and cozy, healing postpartum time I prepped for were palpable. I felt magic. All the time. I felt like I was the magic.

Now, I worry about how this next child will change all of our lives, and having the wildcard that is Jonah to navigate feels really overwhelming. Jonah is such a sensitive and truly sweet soul, and I’m scared what this next child needing from me will take away from what Jonah and I have. He’s starting preschool this fall as well, another huge milestone and transition, and the anticipatory anxiety and unknown keeps me awake at night and distracted during the day. I worry about how having another child will affect my marriage, a relationship I so badly want to repair in so many ways and fear the survival mode required in the early days and in navigating this huge transition. Where is a little bit of magic? The hope and resolve? Where is the unyielding strength I felt before? I’ve been through more hardship than I ever have, and yet, I don’t feel stronger in this moment. I feel scared. I know that fear can be part of being courageous, but sometimes it just feels like paralysis. May I find the strength I crave in this vulnerability. May I find it deep inside myself and buried in the hardship that’s making me who I am now. May I step bravely into a new role as a mother of two, a wife who knows more this go-around, and a capable, beautiful, centered human being.

I don’t write any of this to victimize myself or stay in a place of negativity. I actually think writing it takes the sting out of it and helps me accept that this is the reality – pregnancy doesn’t feel just one way, relationships are hard – even and especially with myself sometimes, and the future is truly unknown. I just hope my family falls into a rhythm and can all find some magic together somehow – no matter what else gets thrown our way. Along with these feelings, I’m still also pretty proud of us all.

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