07 November 2014

pregnancy and stress

I feel like pregnancy is an inherently stressful, anxiety-inducing experience. First and not least of all, there is a human being inside of you who is dependent on your growth. And yet, it seems, besides avoiding obvious things like smoking and drinking (and you only really have to avoid doing them excessively, the research seems to say), there's very little you can do to control the outcomes. Many pregnancies end in loss, especially early on. It always feels tentative somehow. Early on, I was quite worried that I would miscarry. My first prenatal visit had me calculating my due date based on my last menstrual period (pretty accurately, I thought) for December 5. When I had an ultrasound, the embryo was too small for those dates and the heartbeat was slow. The midwife seemed to expect fetal demise. It was a relief to go back nearly two weeks later and see growth consistent with the measurements taken the first time, but it was depressing that my due date was dialed back more than two weeks (December 23)! Now I have nothing but positive indications of life to come, but it all still seems up in the air somehow. Even though I have gone through pregnancy before, I can't really imagine how my life is going to change when my womb child (a foreign concept) becomes my child on the outside. I can't imagine how fragile life, especially one that is somewhat dependent on my choices, can become stronger. My life is about to change in extreme yet unpredictable ways.

I was having a chat conversation with a friend who told me fairly recently that I consider contingencies more than anyone she knows. I don't think it is a good thing. I am the sort of person who considers the worst case scenarios, you might say, and my conception of how things will work out is quite nebulous. I worry that they won't work out well. My vision of the future often feels a little dreary. I worry about the adjustment to two and how this girl's brother is going to adjust to life with a baby sister. I already feel inadequate as a mother (I especially blame the ways in which pregnancy has made me feel limited--Shepherd has been watching quite a lot of TV lately), and I'm sure I'll be even more limited once I have to actually manage a newborn's needs. It seems odd to make such a life-altering decision to bring another life into this world. Like being caught  on a tremendous wave, you have to see it to the end and discover where it takes you, because you can't move back from it. I don't feel like I have the intuition to guide me through such things, perhaps because I want to see the end from the beginning too much.

The stress of anticipating such a big change to my life combines with a biological basis for not coping with day-to-day life stressors, it seems. And nine months is a long time. About nine months ago, I quit my full-time work-from-home job and entered the world of  staying at home with my first child. I had a fair amount of freelance work on the side at first, but that quickly dropped off to a slight trickle. A series of unexpected or unusual expenses took the place of my income: in April Shep had ear tube surgery that we paid for out of pocket (Relief did come later--we got on Medicaid and were eligible for reimbursement, but actually getting the money back from the various agencies was a months-long hassle); Tim had a few classes during the summer to take through SLCC for his teaching license and tuition was $1000; we lent money to his mother one month so she could pay rent and haven't gotten paid back (and probably won't); we owed a lot in taxes this year; we've had car problems and more car problems; compelling reasons to upgrade from a queen-size mattress to a king-size forced us in that direction; we've been trying to prepare for the birth of a new child by paying for prenatal care, baby equipment, clothing, etc. The list could go on. When we went from two incomes to one, we knew we wouldn't be saving a whole lot, but we thought we could stay within our means. It's been a struggle to do so. We haven't been able to put any savings aside, and I worry about that.

Then there's life with a two-year-old. I love it and hate it at the same time. It is really fun to see Shep developing language, imagination, and a sense of humor, and it's fun to embark with him on this discovery of his personality and the world around him. It is really not fun to feel constant antagonism. It seems he's always resisting my will or I'm always resisting his, and usually he wins because I don't have the energy for a battle. I suppose life with him has sort of always been that way to a degree, but now it's more pronounced because of the emotional force behind it. Instead of being a helpless infant who has no decision-making power, his demands seem almost maliciously designed because there is some amount of negotiation and reasoning surrounding them now. Little mister is sleeping in the bed as I lie on the other side writing this and his innocent state of unconsciousness has me feeling a bit guilty for complaining (complaining? I don't mean to complain, exactly) about his wakeful behavior. He really is a sweetheart and I honestly can't regret his existence, even though I'm constantly doubting whether I'm doing the best by him.

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