Thursday, September 29, 2016

Unsettled

Yesterday morning, I went to Coffee Break.


(Coffee Break is a Bible study for women that is pretty universal across the Christian Reformed Church, which is the denomination Mark and I both grew up in. We have yet to settle on a church here in our new city, but we still have strong ties to more than one CRC in the area, so I happily accepted an invitation to join the group. An hour and a half to be something other than a mother every Wednesday morning? I'll take it!)

As I sipped my coffee after sending Isabel off to nursery, someone sat beside me and asked the question I've been getting whenever we see one of our friends, family, or acquaintances: are we settled?

The answer is difficult. Technically, I suppose we are. the boxes are all unpacked. We've bought ourselves a new couch. We've tried out different furniture arrangements in our living room and master bedroom. We've hosted a few guests. We've painted a room. We've even done some of the expensive, necessary, but not glamourous maintenance and renovation jobs - knob and tube replacement, fixing some plumbing. Our house has become comfortable, and the more time I spend in it, the more I fall in love with it, the more it feels like home. 

Yes, I told her. More or less, we are settled. 

Our new town is even starting to feel like home. Isabel and I have found some fun playgroups and have settled into a routine that gets us out of the house and around other caregivers and kids. Our neighbours are all friendly - yes, all - and many have gone out of their way to welcome us to the street and the city itself. They've gifted us homemade bread, 15 year old, mint condition, hand-me-down toys, and pitch forks. They've helped us clear out the intense amount of shrubbery that overwhelmed our house when we first moved in. They've brought our dogs back when they've gone wandering - twice now - exploring the neighbourhood without a leash. Our neighbourhood feels safe and with each wave and pleasant exchange, it feels just a little more like home. 

It's different than Toronto, but yes, I suppose we''re settled.

Except, I don't feel settled yet. 


I expect it's obvious why. Today, I am 37 weeks. "Full term", far enough along that Baby Girl can come any time she wants, though not yet far enough along that she's likely too. I still have a list of things to get ready, not the least of which is my own mental preparedness. I have spent so much time and energy over the past few months getting settled in this new place and so little time on working through what it will look like to bring another life into our family that I feel like the whole event is working on creeping up on me unexpectedly. 40 weeks is not enough time to get ready for this. 

Did I feel this way when Isabel was born? I expect I did, but I remember very little about the last couple weeks of waiting for her. I remember knitting contentedly on the front porch. I remember reading - though I couldn't tell you what book. Instagram or this very blog might be able to fill in some of those holes, and if it can, I imagine the life I lived in those three weeks following the start of my maternity leave and before Isabel's arrival looked very different than the way I'll spend my next few weeks. I imagine it will look far more settled, even if I didn't feel like it was so. 

Perhaps, in hindsight, I felt more confident bringing Isabel into the world.

Perhaps, more naive.

I don't know when this baby will join us. Any time now! So they say. And even more unsettling, I don't know how I'm going to fit her into our life. I know we will figure it out, and we'll figure it out with the same level of confidence and certainty with which we fit Isabel into our life over two years ago - we will do what we have to do. But, until I am in the depths of motherhood times two, I know this unsettled feeling with follow me.

Not long now. 

Three more weeks.

Or five.

Or tomorrow.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

35 Weeks


Today, I am 35 weeks into my second pregnancy.

On Monday, I realized that not only did I have no idea where our crib hardware was, I also had no idea where to even look since our move. All the major parts are leaning up against the wall of the nursery, but the hardware to put it all together was not with it and I couldn't remember seeing that little baggy of bolts and washers during the packing or unpacking process. Ultimately, this was a small problem: the base of the crib had a whole list of the hardware that we needed stuck to it. We could have solved our problem with a trip to Home Depot. Failing that, we could think of at least two people who might have a crib we could borrow for a while, and failing that, IKEA sells a decent crib for $100. Failing that, I have a perfectly good play pen with a bassinet sitting in the baby's closet that would work just fine in a pinch.

Losing our crib hardware was really not that big of a problem.

But, panic set in a little bit this week anyway. It wasn't just about the crib, I know. It was all my anxieties about this baby, about adding a second child to our life, about change on top of change coming to the surface. As our life flipped upside down with our move, I've found myself with barely any time to think about the baby's arrival as it creeps ever closer. People ask me how far along I am and I draw a blank, sometimes even finding the question odd. I'm pregnant? Oh yeah. I guess I am. 

When Isabel was born I was deep in baby mode. I feel like I thought about it every day. As soon as I started showing, I never missed a week of taking my picture in front of my office's mirror, almost always making sure the overflowing garbage was shoved out of the way. I spent hours researching things - cloth diapers, baby carriers, cribs, baby registeries, breast pumps. I had opinions on everything. Breastfeeding, home birth, epidurals, hypnobirthing, soothers, placenta encapsulation, deli meats, sushi, stretch marks. I felt so ready for our new baby. I was going to be Invinsible Mom.

You might think that I'm now going to tell you how much of a reality check I got when Isabel was actually born but I'm not. For the first six months of Isabel's life, I was so relaxed. She and I spent hours lounging on the couch, cuddling skin to skin, blissfully breastfeeding, or walking - and eventually running - for hours along the trails close to our house. I was lucky to have a baby that napped well, that nursed well, that adjusted to life on the outside well. We hit a few hiccups along the way, but for the most part, Isabel was easy, and I just went with her flow for the first 18 months of her life.

But now, we're firmly entrenched in toddlerhood, and I am firmly installed at home full-time, at least for the next six months or so, since no public libraries in the area seem at all interested in hiring a newly-graduated-but-pregnant librarian. And toddlerhood? It's not nearly as easy. I have all the normal complaints: I never get to pee alone anymore unless I wait until nap time; reading the same book over and over and over again has me bored out of my mind; the playroom is always a disaster and she never wants to help me pick up her toys; going anywhere has become a huge task; and really, I just want 30 minutes without my little ankle biter so I can make dinner in peace. 

And then, there's the anxieties that almost every mother seems to have, but that most don't necessarily talk about outside the circle of motherhood. Is she talking enough? Does she have enough words? Is she actually acquiring language, or should we get her some early intervention like, yesterday? Is she getting too much screen time? Am I on my phone too much when I'm with her? Is she playing appropriately, learning how to play independently? And socially? Am I getting her out around other children enough? Has she eaten enough today? Were those chicken nuggets healthy enough, because they're the only thing she'll eat a sufficient amount of and she already seems to so thin? Have I put enough sunscreen on her legs? Is SPF 30 ok, because that's what I bought accidentally last time and I can't find the SPF 60 and is that a freckle is she going to have skin cancer when she grows up now and on and on and on.

I actually manage all these questions and anxieties pretty well. We have hard, long days some days, but I'm with her nearly 24/7 and it's manageable working through them on a day-to-day basis and feeling confident in my ability to mother my daughter.

But now, with only 5 weeks to my due date, I'm starting to think about how those early years will go for my second daughter. I'm worried, worried in a way that I was never worried with Isabel. I fear that she will find herself neglected, tucked into a baby carrier and nursed and changed as needed, but not nurtured in the same way Isabel was. Will I sing to her? Will I lie down with her under a play mat and read her Dr. Seuss? Will I stare at her, unable to take my eyes off of the beautiful creature we created and brought into this world? 

I know my relationship to my second daughter will be different. I don't believe there's any way to avoid that. In fact, I think it's important that my relationship with her is different; it is one of the things that will make her different from Isabel, unique in her own way. And, I know that she and I and Mark and Isabel will figure all of this out together when the time comes, that I will continue to go with the flow rather than letting my anxieties get the best of me. But, as the time gets closer, and I begin to face how different her start of life will be from the life I provided for Isabel, I can't help but think and worry and panic over crib hardware.

I found the crib hardware on Wednesday, after two days of worrying about where it might be. It was one of those epiphany moments as I swept around a little IKEA entryway table by our front door. We had never actually unpacked it's little drawer in the move, just loaded the whole piece onto the truck and, sure enough, as I slid open the drawer on a hunch, there was the little baggy, each bolt and washer still safely inside. This weekend Mark and I are having a date day and night, and together, we'll put the crib together, and then maybe go out and pick up some artwork for the baby's room. I will continue to worry, but we will be ready, or at least as ready as one can be for a new life.