Halfway, and keeping up

Hello kind souls,

Since we last spoke, about two months have passed… which means (and as of today, officially) I am halfway through my pregnancy with Baby Number Two! We are so excited. The new nursery is taking shape: lighting is installed, the crib is ordered, the changing table is on the way, and the colors are chosen. We are over the moon and I am starting to get really excited. It’s very real now, passing the empty space that will be Baby’s room, analogous to the little space in my heart that is opening and broadening as my bump grows and becomes a prominent feature, a person in its own right.

However… I have got to tell you, it hasn’t been easy. Briar is developing in leaps and bounds, continuing to be her precocious, ever-ahead of the curve self (she knows all her colors suddenly, and is counting??? Unprompted???) and we’re starting to consider our options for, believe it or not, TWOS programs. My parents hadn’t even heard of such a thing. The Northeast has a way of at once being a cornucopia of opportunities and applying so much pressure by their very existence that you feel remiss if you’re not taking advantage of all of them. Who ever heard of “school” for a 20 month old?! Well… now we’re researching, visiting, and applying for them. And now, I have just discovered (for the second time, and with no less surprise) that I can’t reach the floor now when I’m sitting: my bump simply won’t allow it. Try explaining that to your toddler who wants the thing in front of you… not easy! Of course, the simple day-to-day responsibilities are still extant: keeping Briar safe, making food, cleaning house, caring for our dog, and trying to find some quiet time for myself in between the action.

I’ve written before about the unspoken pressure and guilt the mom culture around here makes for us, and this is one of the many ways it rears its head on a daily basis. We’re not actively in competition with other moms about being busy, not exactly, but anecdotally it is always a one-upping game among mom friends you run into at the coffee shop. How packed is your schedule? How much are you enriching your children’s lives? What kind of program? Montessori? Reggio Emilia? Quaker? (No, this isn’t a list of fancy cheeses at a cocktail party. These are teaching styles for our toddlers. Cue tremendous eye roll… I think I saw my brain this time!)

I keep trying to cut myself some slack, but I operate in a zero-sum game with myself: I’m either doing it all very well, or I’m not cutting it as a mom at all. We’re all running at a breakneck pace at… something. I’m not really quite sure what, but we’re using our busy-ness as a yardstick to measure our success around here. A dear friend recently posted a now viral quote telling all of us that we need to slow down and consider that we’re doing a great job, but it omits telling us HOW. I want to know HOW to slow down, not just be given permission to do so. That’s crazy. Who even is giving us permission, and do they have the rule book to this game while we are left to flounder?  We were all told to lean in, but when we did, we weren’t told how to lean out again. There’s no self-help book that tells us how to disentangle ourselves from the structural guilt that comes from not enrolling our children in expensive childcare (because, to call a spade a spade, that’s what it is, Emilia Reggio or not) and there’s certainly no graceful way to tell your mom friends that your schedule is pretty wide open during the week; that sounds negligent and careless and frankly sad when we’re surrounded by constant opportunity to provide for our children intellectually.

I feel like I’m constantly chasing this theme in circles, because that’s how this feels: a circle with no break, No Exit Γ  la Jean Paul Sartre: hell is other people, but it is also the complicity between people, unvoiced. And indeed, the majority of the time, it doesn’t feel hellish, it just feels busy, and that can feel gratifying. It is really only now that I’m pregnant again that I realize how absolutely exhausting keeping up with the Joneses actually is, and what a toll doing so can take emotionally.

So, here I am halfway through my pregnancy, and with all the happiness it brings, there is the pressure of being the best mom still hovering. I’m thinking, based on my experience up to now, that this is going to be a constant throughout motherhood. The only thing I can think to do is to take a giant step back in the next few months, allowing myself to rest, however abbreviated with a toddler, so that when I reach the postpartum lull, I don’t feel vagrant in my responsibilities. I’m hoping that I can use this moment as an instructive one, and by taking stock now, I can feel better about not committing and committing until there’s no time left to relax.

Of course, there is nothing more thrilling than pregnancy, and I don’t mean to make my motherhood experience sound any less magical than it actually is… and it really is. Briar really seems to be connecting to the new baby already: she understands on some level that Mama is housing a baby physically in her tummy, and that the new nursery is for that baby. She is becoming much more affectionate as the pregnancy progresses, and is also becoming autonomous at the same time: she is helpful, kind, and sweet; there is nothing more gratifying than having my independent little girl climb into my arms in the early morning hours to cuddle, a relatively new phenomenon. She still asks to watch Peppa Pig or Elmo, but she presses up against my baby bump and holds my fingers in her little hand. It boggles the mind: if I have this much love for one, how in the world will I be able to conceptualize it doubled when I have two? The prospect is amazing, terrifying, and exciting. I can’t wait to cuddle them both.

So maybe that is the answer to the unbroken circle? To love your children quietly, to make time at the margins to provide gentle support, to sip coffee in bed while they snuggle up to you for comfort before the busy day begins. To me, that sounds like, if not the perfect solution, the perfect salve. 

Until next time, 

Taylor

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