Well, you might have noticed that I haven’t been sharing many tasty recipes here lately (or posting much at all). That’s because we’ve been busy cooking up something in particular…
After years of trying literally every option under the sun to start a family, we’ve finally got a bun in the oven! He or she will be baking away until early March, and our joy is indescribable. Some of our happiest moments as a couple have been hearing our baby’s heart beating and seeing a squirming alien on the ultrasound screen. It feels like a dream: that’s our squirming alien with a heartbeat as strong as an ox.
Cholula knew about our little doodlebug before we did. A week before we received the positive results from my blood test, she started hovering over me constantly. Laying her head on my belly. Sitting unusually close to me, following me from room to room, and watching my every move. Sneaking in extra licks and snuzzles. She already takes her baby guard dog duty very seriously.
Confession: the last three months have been a struggle. I imagine that every pregnant woman who struggled to conceive has sworn the same thing that I did: I’ll never ever complain about being pregnant. I mean, we worked hard- unbelievably hard- to get here. It’s what I’ve dreamed of, prayed for. I must enjoy every millisecond of this experience because it is a gift. Well, I’m here to tell you that pregnancy is no joke. Despite the massive doses of hormones I’ve been injected with over many, many months, nothing compares to what the human body does on its own. Whoa. Extreme fatigue, inexplicable emotional breakdowns, super weird body changes, complete food aversion. My mommy readers are nodding their heads; none of these things is abnormal. But for a first-time baby mama, the changes hit me like a Mac truck.
Entering my second trimester and feeling a little less wacky, I can laugh about certain moments now. There was the morning I sat at the kitchen counter, literally sobbing, watching birds visit the completely empty bird feeder outside and not having the energy to get up and fill it. My poor starving birds. Or the day my husband so sweetly made me a smoked salmon and fresh dill omelet before he left work. One sniff kicked my nausea into overdrive and sent me to the upstairs bathroom “just in case.” (Salmon remains on the NO list.) There was the afternoon I spent 10 minutes wrestling with our mailbox key before realizing I was in the completely wrong section of boxes, or the day I lost my way in Whole Foods (where I shop a few times each week) and had to ask someone where the dog food was. I could smell the fresh lilies on the dining room table from two floors away, washed a load of bath towels twice because I was sure I detected the smell of mildew, and made John take out multiple bags of hardly-full trash because I smelled “something rotten.” I’ll forever be wanting “Best Wife” credit for joining John for not one but TWO Grateful Dead concerts, sober at 5 weeks pregnant. And no matter how hard I tried to fight it, afternoons at 3pm found me deep in exhausted slumber on the guest bed, where I stayed until John found me there when he came home from work. Under the covers.
It hasn’t been easy. In the back of my mind, I believed that since we had such an emotionally and physically tortuous time actually getting pregnant that I might be gifted with an easy nine months. Wishful thinking! After giving up my body to science for almost 3 years, I’ve now surrendered it to the baby, and the little body-snatcher has already changed everything. It’s been Summer, Interrupted. The things I adore about this season have taken a back seat to my symptoms. My daily hiking routine has been on hold, much to Cholula’s dismay. I missed the wildflower explosion on my favorite trails. The thought of hosting our big summer fiesta made me laugh AND cry. No dinner parties, no dining al fresco. Writing for this site or elsewhere didn’t even enter my mind. But probably the most disruptive change has been the food thing.
It’s clear that I love food. I love to eat it, experiment with it, shop for it, learn about it. But Baby says NO! I haven’t been nauseous enough to lose my cookies, so to speak. The worst of it was a constant, gnawing empty kind of pain, like when you feel sick because you’re hungry… only eating food didn’t help. In fact, I’ve had no interest in food at all. For someone who cooks as often as I do (and LOVES it), that’s weird. Farmers market? Yuck- no thanks. Experiment with new recipes? Not a chance. A walk around the grocery store has been semi-torturous, but even if I’m not eating, John has to. The poor guy has been living on pre-made store-bought meals and freezer food. My appetite is slowly returning, THANK GOD, and I’ve even ventured into the kitchen to cook once or twice (but keep the salmon away from me).
I’ve heard a lot about “Mommy Guilt”- moms judging other moms for the way they do things, like how long a woman breastfeeds or how soon they go back to work. Examples: What a horrible woman to get an epidural! A good mother would never let her baby sleep with them! It baffles me that women do this to each other. For the record, my feeling is that parents have to do what is right for their own children regardless of what others think is “best.” But what I wasn’t prepared for is how hard I’ve been on myself. Even my simplest to-do list gathered dust, and my own new-mommy guilt was staggering. I’d look around at the things I couldn’t accomplish on any given day and beat myself up. Thoughts like: I should be able to do this. Other moms didn’t seem to struggle with being so tired/so sick/so emotional. I must be lazier/weaker than other women. I can’t even take a shower, let alone do any writing, exercising, or chores. Maybe I can’t do this. Did any of my friends ever feel this way? Am I already failing before I even become a mother?
I’m generally a positive person, and I’m still working to stop those destructive thoughts. When I get down on myself or feel my energy fading into oblivion, I remind myself that I’m growing a human, for Pete’s sake. If I don’t feel like my usual self, it’s because I’m not my usual self. I’m a miracle-incubator and a life-giver! John tells me often, “You’ve waited your whole life to feel this bad.” He means that this is what we’ve always wanted together, we went through a lot to get here, and it’s all worth it. The rough spots of these last few months (and actually, the last few years) are already fading in my mind, but there will be plenty more ahead. His words are a good reminder to embrace it all. To cut myself some slack. To stop comparing my pregnancy to anyone else’s and stop judging myself for not being Superwoman. He tells me daily that I’m doing an incredible job, regardless of what actually gets done. And he’s right. Every day that I feel like absolute crap means that little alien inside me is growing and dancing and becoming amazing. And really, there’s nothing more blissful than that.
Take a peek at the dance party I hosted a few weeks ago!
Baby Howe crashes the party in March 2016!