I can put myself in the labor bed for the birth of my third child. I can see the scene unfold. I can hear the conversations with my midwife. I remember how, even at the height of contractions with delivery imminent, I still hadn’t come to grips with the fact that I was pregnant.
I remember thinking, but wait, I’m not ready. I haven’t reconciled this with myself yet, with the universe.
The universe didn’t care. Nature didn’t care. My body and the baby didn’t care. It was time – whether I was ready or not.
I think on a cellular level I knew that pushing out that child without owning the pregnancy would only lead to trouble. The basest parts of the body do not lie.
I grew that baby with the utmost care. Once she was this side of the womb, I was only attentive.
But my soul was squeezed by internal pressures; my own mind that couldn’t accept this path only because I hadn’t carved it.
And so, I was amazed by the wonder that accompanied an unplanned fourth pregnancy. Simply bowled over by the joy that flooded me when they placed her on my breast. While I had been afraid to plunge into the depth of my love for my third, for fear that someone would take her from me, it just happened with my fourth.
And yet, because any footprints make deep imprints on the psyche, a year later now, I look at my pregnant self and cannot believe that is me. Was that my life? Was that a mere year ago? How can I reconcile that exhausted, frumpy, wallowing-in-her-own-skin person with who I am just a year later? I hate that I look so miserable when pregnant. Because of my problems in the past, I look at any such photo and second-guess myself. Was I feeling that same way then? Struggling the same? So paranoid, scared, to fall into that trough – even on a timeline that has already elapsed – I doubt what’s right in front of me.
My grey matter muscle memory worries that if I have a hard time measuring this last year of my newborn’s life, that I look at this picture of me a mere year ago and see an alternate reality – am I not in just as much denial this time as the last? If I am still getting used to the idea of having a baby and she’s turning the corner to one year-old, doesn’t that mean I am putting up some of those same walls?
Will I forever be haunted by the dark feelings and stilted growth of my postpartum depression? Yes. Will it make me paranoid and second-guess myself? Right now anyway. Is it possible to have mind and heart blown during any childbearing and rearing experience – ‘normal’ or otherwise? Yes.
It’s so easy to let past experiences form new fears and worries. Just like losing it with the older kids or having a low day makes me worry I’m having a relapse. Knowing the signs and how to help ourselves is key; expecting perfection and punishing ourselves is crap.
So maybe I’ll just look at those pregnant photos of me and say, no wonder I look like rough; growing a kid is rough work. Maybe I’ll just seal them in her baby book and never look at them again. I certainly need to stop looking at them trying to find signs of trouble.
Notice, though, that I haven’t even begun to look at the newborn photos for this go-round.