Aspect Ratio

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 IMG_20160430_150358162person 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?

NO.

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.

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Stirring up a Hornet’s Nest

Today, I am unhappy to say that I know what Katniss feels like when she unleashes that nest of mutant killer wasps.

It all started innocently enough. My three girls had joined forces with two neighboring boys for a game of Cops and Robbers. As our little vigilantes sought justice in the woods behind the house, their mother and I watched from the patio. Alas, the true offenders would not be brought to justice.

The youngest boy suddenly started screaming. At first, I thought a branch had broken on him or he’d gotten caught up in a pricker bush, but the screams got louder even as he exited the woods. Two of my girls started screaming and crying and the older boy started yelling. His mother ran to the youngest to assess the situation and calm him. That’s when we both noticed the several yellow jackets swarming around the top of his back, head, and neck. My girls swatted and pulled at their skin as others attacked them. In a frenzy, we all ran in different directions, swatting, swinging, crying, and pulling. Even almost to the front edge of the house, the yellow jackets followed and continued stinging. We ran to the street to escape. My neighbor and her boys went the opposite direction, around and eventually into their house. My only daughter who had escaped the assault, stood well away, no doubt petrified watching what befell her sisters. We all ran to our house a few doors down, where I stripped clothing as needed, applied witch hazel, baking soda paste, and benzocaine, administered antihistamines – all while trying to ignore the stabbing pain in my own thumb where one had gotten me and not start sobbing and repeatedly tell my daughters to stick out their tongues to see if they were swelling.wasp-nest_1592591c

After checking in with my neighbor (her sons were okay – thankfully), comparing notes, and sharing some antihistamine, I settled my girls in front of the TV with ice packs to take their minds off the emotional and physical trauma (yes, soma for the masses). By the time my husband arrived home from work, I was a limp dishrag hunched over the laptop researching for the next best bee sting remedy. I recounted how I couldn’t tell if I was shaking as a reaction to the venom coursing through my veins or the surge of adrenaline. In any case, the adrenaline had left its host a quivering mass of nerves and worry.

I don’t know if it was the unexpected nature of the event, the anguish I felt for my children’s pain or my own, the dreaded anticipation of an heretofore unknown allergic reaction – or simply the mama bear effect, but the whole experience sucked. I watched the snot run down their faces and mingle with their tears, heard their wails of distress, even ran to their aid to take those striped demons out, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. The one yellow jacket I saw bent and broken, its bright yellow in contrast against the black of my cell phone on the ground where it got thrown, was only dead because it had already driven its sharp stinger into the precious flesh of my children.

My one daughter who didn’t get stung didn’t want us to open the windows. My neighbor said her sons didn’t want to go outside. I myself had shuttled them up the hill and into the house as quickly as I could, slamming the door behind me. Trying to catch my breath in the aftermath, the only words I could form for the helpless feeling I had watching my children in pain was, ‘parenting is scary.’

It’s a wonder any of us want to leave the house, a host of dangers lying in wait. Unexpected. Uncontrollable. Unwarranted. Oy vey.

I decided to pack a more comprehensive first aid kit to keep in the car or in our backpack on hikes. I’m trying to come up with a plan to keep my children from being afraid to explore outside. I’m trying to take away the positive that when the stinger hits its mark, I can and will step up to the parenting challenge.

May the odds be ever in our favor.

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