Madeline has been enjoying two days over at my parents’ house to allow me to catch up on housework, some homeschooling prep for our preschool curriculum, which we’ll begin in August, and of course, sleep. The latter is a pipedream. My nightly catatonia is continuously interrupted by the urge to pee. I’ve also been having some fairly intense Braxton-Hicks contractions. Then there’s the lovely varicose vein traveling down my right leg from my groin. At my prenatal appointment yesterday, I learned this is a common, if uncomfortable and unsightly, malady during subsequent pregnancies. Apparently, our little one is putting a lot of pressure “down there.” Did I mention I also have a hemorrhoid? I’d never had one until after giving birth to Madeline. Now I haven’t even popped out a baby and my butt is already under pressure. If only I was a panda... (You do know that the Giant Panda gives birth to a baby about 1/900th of its size. So this 200-pound mama has to squeeze out a cub about the size of a stick of butter. I bet she doesn't get any inflamed buds on her butt.)
Even though I'm not a panda, I feel really happy. I told Diane, my amazing midwife, I was really starting to dream about holding our baby for the first time and seeing Madeline interact with her little sister. We briefly talked about my birth plan and it all started to sink in: We will soon be a family of four! For so long, it’s been surreal. Sure, my belly is growing and I feel the baby thumping around, but I’ve just been so busy with Madeline and life in general that I haven’t had much time to anticipate having another child. It’s not like in my gravida 1 days when I was completely and totally consumed by the thought of having a baby. I voraciously read parenting and pregnancy books. I wrote lengthy journal entries about how my pregnancy was progressing. I'd just sit, waiting with my hand on my bump to feel the slightest movement. I made dozens of trips to baby stores whereas I went to Babies R Us for the first time yesterday for the sole purpose of buying a maternity belt per Diane’s request, I didn’t even glance at the shelves and shelves of baby gadgets (more than half of which is a waste of moula). This isn't to say I'm not in awe of the miracle taking place inside of me, but I have so many other things pining for my attention that it's sometimes easy to forget I'm even pregnant - except for the fact I pee about 17 times a day.
I’m also thankfully over my mom guilt that engulfed me on Friday. All weekend long the Mommy Monster kept her distance even though we had another rough night on Sunday. Admittedly, I ended up just crying out of fear and frustration that night. Fear that I’d never sleep again. Frustration because I felt like I’d tried everything to get my nocturnal love back to sleep. On Monday morning (around 5:30 a.m.) I combed parenting books and websites for nuggets of information I’d somehow missed. Nothing. I am going to make a bedtime chart that should help speed up our never-ending bedtime routine, but everything else I’ve tried – from Dr. Sears’ advice to gently parenting a child back to sleep (on Sunday, I cuddled with her for over an hour and her eyes were still wide open, staring trance-like at the ceiling, as she nibbled on her nails) to repeatedly putting her back to bed until she gives in…but she doesn’t give in. Oh well. Dave and I feel refreshed and renewed after having two quiet nights. Yesterday we sat down for a nice dinner and couldn't get over how strange it felt to have all this idle time.
“We used to have so much time to just do nothing,” Dave said. He was not wistful at all – it was simply a statement of fact.
“I know. I miss her a lot, but it’s so nice to just sit here and to not have to get up and get more milk or to worry about cleaning up quickly so we can get her ready for bed,” I said.
But in the next moment, we were worshipping our little cherub, talking about how we'd soon have another child to care for and feeling pretty darn special that when we called to say goodnight, she asked, “Mommy and Daddy come get Ma-Ma now?” She loves us, she really loves us!
Of course, when she sees me pull up today, she might change her mind. Gaba is far more fun than boring, old Mom. Madeline has enjoyed going on endless beach walks (my parents live on the lake), collecting rocks around the shoreline, having picnics outside, marinating in clouds of bubbles in my mom’s garden tub, chasing Ivy (my parents’ yellow Lab) around and around the house (Ivy loves a good game of tag) and curling up in bed with Gaba to watch the Cubs. (My mom has been indoctrinating Madeline since she was in the womb. I hate to see her to have such a burden to bear – loving a team that just can’t seem to ever win – but it sure does seem to make both of them happy.)
I suspect Madeline’s probably been eating a tad more junk, too (my mom’s a healthy eater, but she does love her chocolate) and perhaps watching a bit more TV. But as my parents once joked, “What happens at the grandparents’ house, stays there.” I know she’s in good hands and feel blessed that Madeline has a strong bond with two wonderful sets of grandparents - her Gaba and Papa and her Nana and Pop. I also know I needed this break. I feel guilty saying that. How can I possibly not want to be with my beautiful child every waking (and non-waking, in our case) hour? But sometimes in order to be better moms, we have to take care of ourselves. So I’ll be off to a dentist appointment today and after my pearly whites are gleaming, it’s back to full-time mommy duty. I’ll pull down my parents’ long driveway and Madeline, Gaba and Ivy will be there to greet me. I’ll hear, “Mommy!” and scoop Madeline into my arms and shower her with a tempest of kisses, which she’ll probably wipe off. “Wet kiss,” she’ll say and then she’ll be off, frolicking in the backyard, searching for ladybugs, chasing Ivy with the confidence of knowing that her mommy always, always comes back.