Happy Holiday weekend, Squeezers! Whether you celebrate Easter, Passover, or ‘Eastover’, I hope you are enjoying it with family and friends!
Nothing tires out a toddler more than a day at the beach and now that Maya is down for the count, Rocco and I have our Belly Buds on (http://www.bellybuds.com/) and we’re doing a little jammin’ while I write this week’s post. Belly Buds are one of my pregnancy must-haves. I started using them with Maya when I was four months pregnant (that’s when a fetus’ hearing starts to develop) and loved that she and I could listen to music together. I really do believe these buds are a big reason why she loves music (and actually has rhythm) as much as she does. I played everything for her- Coldplay, Gloria Estefan, Iron and Wine, Frank Sinatra, Amy Winehouse, Vampire Weekend, and even 305’s finest, Pitbull. Watching her kicks and grooves through my belly was really an awesome bonding experience for me.
Welcome to 17 weeks! Happy to report that I’m still feeling pretty darn good. Minus exhaustion and my sciatica coming back for round two, I would say I’m about 85% human. I had a check-up this past week with my OB, Dr. Roselyn Bonilla, whom I simply adore. Not only is she a NY transplant, but she also happens to have the most incredible bedside manner. Bedside manner is HUGE for me. It was one of my top requirements when I started shopping for an OBGYN when I moved back to Miami. And because I live minutes from the beach, I wanted to deliver at Mt. Sinai (I have major anxiety about delivering my baby in a car. But that’s a post for another week) and needed a good doctor affiliated with the hospital. Thanks to several recommendations from friends, and friends of friends, I landed a winner.
I showed up to my appointment with a post-it full of questions. Ladies (and daddies too)- do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to! There is no such thing as a stupid question (actually there is but ask anyway), and pregnancy and childbirth are an endless abyss of mystery and wonder, so ask away! And every woman’s list will be different. Here’s a preview of my queries for the week:
– Is it normal that I’m out of breath this early in the pregnancy? Being out of breath is normal, especially in the heat, which I’m not used to. Drink lots of water.
– Should I freak out that I’m tired all the time? No need to freak out. Being tired is part of pregnancy. And guess what? If you’re running around after a toddler/toddlers the second time around, chances are your level of exhaustion will reach a maximum high.
– Let’s talk vaginas. What’s Rocco’s cut-off size for vaginal delivery? You can deliver vaginally as long as he is not bigger than 8lbs 12oz. Your superwoman vagina can tolerate it (sweat drops).
– Can I really not eat turkey? No. You can’t have deli meats unless you cook them first on a pan or in the oven to make sure you kill any potential bacteria.
– Should I take supplemental B6 vitamins in addition to my prenatals? B6 vitamins help with nausea and morning sickness, but if you’re not experiencing either, you really don’t have to take them. You can if you want to, but you’re fine if you don’t.
– I take hot baths all the time, so does that mean I CAN go in the jacuzzi? The answer is no. It’s like 1000 degrees in a hot tub.
– Now that I feel better, can I have sex (guess which of these was Coco’s question)? Husband rejoice! Sex is back on the table. Or the bed. Whatever works for you.
I knew the answer to most of these but I guess I was hoping my doctor would surprise me and say, “Of course you can eat turkey and go into the jacuzzi! You can even do both at the same time!” Wishful thinking. We listened to Rocco’s heartbeat, (nice and strong), she took my vitals (great BP and weighing 120. I’ve gained four pounds), and checked my growing belly. Quick and painless and I was out the door.
Now that we’ve finished with the diagnostics portion of the post, it’s time for some Oprah realness. Last week, I very briefly mentioned how I was relieved to find out we were having a boy and how becoming a mother to a little girl, helped me grieve my mother’s loss in a whole new dimension. Today I want to share a little bit about that with you.
When I was 16 years old, I lost my mother in a tragic car accident. That day, I was forced to grow up and navigate through life without her by my side. My mother and I were extremely close- so close we would often sleep together with our legs twisted like a pretzel, spooning each other before dosing off. I can still remember what she smelled like when I would brush up against her back- a faint hint of leftover Paloma Picasso perfume that stayed on her skin even after her bath. It’s one of those odd things that always stays with you. Yes she was diligent and strict, but with me, she was overtly affectionate, loving, encouraging, and protective too. She was my role model. I wanted to be like her in so many ways and then unexpectedly I was faced with the challenge of going through life and reaching milestones without her by my side. She would not be there when I graduated high school or college, she would never help me move into my first apartment in New York, or meet my husband or help me get dressed at my wedding, and she wouldn’t be there during my pregnancy or in the delivery room when I would hold Maya for the first time and realize in those initial moments as a mother, how much my own mother loved me. In all those times that I needed her, she wasn’t there. And while I know she was there in spirit because I constantly felt her presence, she wasn’t physically there to help me or talk me through all my motherhood anxieties, and that was painful for me. Here’s the funny thing about grief. It never ends. And when you least expect it, it comes back to consume you even in your happiest moments. I thought I had worked through all the issues connected to my mother’s loss in therapy, but nothing prepares you for the grief that new motherhood brings. When I found out that I was having a girl, my first reaction was to run to the restroom at the sonogram office, shut myself in a stall, and cry. I was overcome with happiness, fear, and great sadness. There was an electrifying mother/daughter connection that I instantly felt. I would finally get to have again what I once lost.
I’ve been reading this amazingly cathartic book, Motherless Mothers, by writer Hope Edelman (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/motherless-mothers-hope-edelman/1100553378?ean=9780641958601) and through it, I have been able to learn more about these unique fears and anxieties I’m experiencing as a new mom to a little girl. Through the experience of other motherless mothers, I’ve been able to relate on an emotional level to some of those behaviors that stem from losing my mom at such a crucial age. I no longer feel alone. I’m 34 right now- and for most women that’s just a number, but for me it means that I’ve lived half my life with my mother and half of it without her. It means that I have the same fear for Maya and eventually Rocco, but more so Maya, because she’s a girl and closely parallels me. Maya will only know her grandmother through stories, photos, and home videos. I’ll tell her how her grandmother loved to salsa dance and failed miserably at teaching me, how we would spend our weekends at the beach- her tanning and me making sandcastles-, and how she embarrassingly fed me until I was 12 years old because I was such a horrible eater. I would tell her how she was always so impeccably dressed with the perfect shade of Barbie pink lipstick and how I would sneak into her closet and try on all her five inch heels because we were both a size 6.
Being a motherless mother means that I’m not weird when I take a million pictures of Maya and I (it’s not purely narcissistic) because God forbid if something were to happen to me, she can’t forget what I look like. Or if I obsess over how Coco dresses her or does her hair when I’m out of town, it’s because I want to make sure that if I weren’t around, she won’t be that disheveled kid at school with mismatched pants and tops (and not in a cool way). It means that I’m extra tough and encouraging when she’s testing her independence, because I want her to know that she can do things on her own and overcome, like I had to do when I was teenager. Helicopter parent, I’m not. You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Wow, that’s a horrible way to think.” You’re right. It is. Welcome to the mind of a motherless mother. But everyday, I work extra hard at letting go of those unlikely fears and enjoying every moment with my little girl in the now, letting her live her tiny life, promising to be there for her through triumphs and failures, to tell her how much I love her when she gets her first heartbreak, tell her how proud I am of her when she gets into the college of her choice, and constantly reassuring her and myself, that I’m not going anywhere. I plan to stick around.
Becoming a mom has made me more compassionate and forgiving towards my own mother. I now appreciate the sacrifices she made in her own life for me. I would do the same for my own kids (and they’ll thank me later). I have a better understanding of those unreasonable curfews, dating rules, and academic expectations, my mother put in place for me. My kids will happily suffer through some of the same (and they’ll thank me later). And while there isn’t a day, a minute, or a second that goes by that I don’t wish she was here with me- whether it be a phone call away to ease my worries when my Maya’s fever isn’t breaking, or a plane ride away to celebrate Rocco’s first birthday- her death has given me life and a deep appreciation for motherhood that I never expected.
And that is why I’m relieved to be having a boy. Having a little girl as my first, reawakened that mother/daughter connection that I was terrified to lose when my own mother passed. It is why my introduction to this new found grief tied to being a motherless mother, was more profound and powerful, that it has made me more emotionally raw and more sympathetic to Maya because I see some of myself in her. Having experienced all that initial heaviness, has me over the moon-excited for Rocco to join our clan. It feels like some of that pressure is off me. It won’t be as overwhelming or terrifying the second time around. Don’t get me wrong- my level of obsession and infatuation with a little boy will be something transcendent. It gets me excited when I hear other moms tell me how boys love their mommas to no end and are so much more attached than girls. It’s a different connection and one that I am looking forward to embracing. I have no idea what awaits me. I have zero experience in boy territory, but I expect it will be less emotionally charging and more emotionally relaxing compared to all the grief baggage that came along when I had Maya.
I always say that I lost a piece of my heart the day I lost my mom. But when Maya was born, she made it whole again. And now with Rocco, my heart will beat twice as hard and twice as strong with unconditional love.
Squeezers, this week’s post was a special one for me and I thank you for being a part of something so significantly monumental! I hope I didn’t make you cry too much! I promise the next few will be more lighthearted! I’ll see you all again next week where I’ll be talking about my apology to SAHM (stay-at-home-moms).