I adored this three-ish month check-in with newborn Finley session — I mean, look at this radiant mama and what her body created. Especially because it is my hope that I’m smiling in wonder at my babe like she is here, and my babe is smiling back at me in a few months. And that a photographer can capture my fleeting, growing, aging too-quickly family in a graceful way that helps me remember my baby with tenderness and be grateful for a time that I’m told by many slips quickly away from mothers’ hands. But my very present fear is that I’m not or don’t have enough ______ (insert all the things) to be a fully present, always-loving, ever-kind, educational, and patient parent. This pregnancy has me feeling insecure. That’s partly because I am also running a twelve-year old business that’s expanding, finalizing four years of intense pre-medicine studies, acquainting myself with parenthood, learning to navigate a new and healthy marital relationship, seeking a psychology research position, starting and managing a new business, and preparing to nurture a newborn baby. All the while I’ve been attempting to maintain self-care routines throughout a challenging pregnancy at advanced maternal age (hellooo, research suggests that 7-8+ hours of sleep significantly reduces labor time (11 hours less) and makes women 4.5 times less likely to have a C-section) and achieve — often without overwhelming, obvious, or instant success — some resemblance of personal growth. So parenting with mindfulness has become my New Work. James came as a packaged deal with our 4 year old, Liam. And I love this kid to pieces and can’t imagine loving him more. I love my husband’s ex-wife as my own family — after all, we are in this together for life. I cherish my family greatly, and that’s no exaggeration intended to coerce you into thinking we have a perfect life. Our love is, however, perfect. We are broken people, but we all show up for each other and for Liam. But being completely honest — the idea of allowing another tiny helpless human take every ounce of my body as he is now and every joule of energy as I know he will … feels scary. Having Liam as a surprise gift was 1000% enough for me before I ever knew a baby was a possibility, even though James and I had talked about #adoption numerous times, and still plan on adopting. But now my heart must expand further. Maybe if I was twenty years old, this pregnancy would feel different. If I hadn’t waited so long, it would feel normal (whatever the eff that is). I’ve had roughly seventeen years of an adventurous solo life and I believe I took my retirement thirty years early. Having another person keep me so grounded, full-time, for the rest of my life seems limiting. I’ve never been one to walk the straight and narrow path. I don’t mean that in a self-focused way, but in the way that I have so much I want to share and worlds I want to open up to these children. I just don’t know how I can do it as one person in one lifetime (thank God for a partner who encourages big dreams). So I must expand. I must accept and trust. And even if turn out to be a somewhat decent parent to this baby, perhaps being a mom will not be my ultimate life’s work and joy. So I must now let go of societal expectations, self-doubt, and shame so I can be free to walk in love and self-compassion every day of this journey. I still cannot comprehend how I can remain whole, yet give so much of myself to another, yet I hear most moms say that fear goes away naturally once your newborn baby is in your arms. I wanted to express this before baby Fountain is born because I don’t hear many new mothers talk about these kind of things. I feel isolated, but I know I cannot be alone. Let me explain.
Infertility was emotionally excruciating to face for over a decade, watching woman after woman become pregnant and lovers start their families. All the while, I silently squirmed and my heart quietly ached. It’s one of those things that I truly feel you have no idea what it’s like unless you go through it yourself. It made me question my identity and adequacy as a woman and a partner. That’s why I am mentally hugging all you amazing women and men out there who have struggled with this. You may know the double-edged sword of convincing yourself to feel happy for someone, but simultaneously suffering at the same time. Nannying other’s babies (what a fulfilling job, let me tell you!), I held them as close to my heart as I possibly could and yet felt the ever-present and stinging truth that this would be as close as it gets, honey. I coped with the emotional pain of fertility by mentally practicing, every day, acceptance that I would never have this specific version of life that I longed for; it simply wasn’t my destiny. Other things were. Stab. You don’t deserve it (obviously). Stab. You’ll never find a man you can trust. Stab. You’ll be too old. Stab. Your body hates you. Stab. It’s. too. late. But despite these destructive melancholy thoughts, the fulfillment of a promise I never knew was made … was fulfilled. While I was busy training my heart to let go of the idea of finding a partner or having my own baby, stopping fertility meds, saving up and preparing for adoption as a single person, applying for medical school in my late thirties, this wondrous thing happened. I met James. I “adopted” Liam into my heart. I got pregnant naturally (see also future post: #keto). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful. I’m in shock. I still feel and watch this very active baby move and flip inside my core and wonder if this is reality. Am I making this up? I’m not used to things sticking. I am not used to staying. In moments of complete surrender and true acceptance, I rub my belly and inwardly wrap my love around my treasure, “I adore you, tesoro mio. Thank you for existing. You amaze me.” In most other moments, I’m in denial. This really is happening.
(Upcoming posts: keto diet and fertility healing, research regarding first-time mothers and “it takes a village,” self-perceptions of identity, and sailing into the unknown without fear.)
More from this session here: https://thiswildway.com/gallery/families/
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Referenced scientific articles about sleep in pregnant women:
- Inadequate Sleep in Late Pregnancy May Influence Labor and Delivery
- Sleep in late pregnancy predicts length of labor and type of delivery
I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments!