Guilty Pregnancy Parenting

Lessons in Parenthood: Week 10

Most of the time, my focus in these weekly blogs is centered on something that my child did that gave me cause for thought or change. I take some time for reflection on what happened during the week that I should write about. This week I figured I would write more about myself than my child. So much of parenthood is an inward journey anyway. At least, for me it is. There’s an incessant dialogue going on in my head at all times. Constant evaluation and judging and measuring, weighing the costs, the consequences, putting it all under a microscope, is the daily experience of being a parent for me. Then, every now and then, it all comes crashing down and I feel like a terrible parent and it’s a reminder that, indeed, I am normal.

This week I am 39 weeks pregnant and have officially given up on life. If I could do anything, I wouldn’t even want to. All I want to do is lie in bed and feel sorry for myself that I’m still trapped in this body. Some women love being pregnant. I do not. Not at this stage. I’m desperately trying to hide from people’s comments.

Haven’t had the baby yet?

When are you going to have that baby?

You still have time.

You don’t look at all ready to give birth, it will still be a while.

You should have the baby on {this date} because…

Don’t have the baby until {this date} because that’s so-and-so’s birthday.

All these unwanted comments only succeed in my absolute emotionally demise. I know that they aren’t said maliciously and that the perpetrators really have the best intentions. Still… I hate it. And all I want to do is hide from it. If you want to know good things to say to a pregnant woman you can read here about all the best suggestions. I don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone until this baby comes out. Then with a glorious triumphant cry, I’ll shout from the rooftops, “I DID IT!” Until then, I want to hide. And avoid any further agony.

This hiding has taken its toll. I feel internally conflicted. I need to take care of myself, but I also have a little person who is wholly depending on me as well. In our world today of high-functioning civilization, taking time to be home and do nothing doesn’t fit in well. We are expected to carry on as we normally would despite whatever is currently happening to us. We look at pregnancy and birth as a regular ol’ part of life and that women should just continue on with business as usual even when these things are happening to us. As mothers, we place these expectations of normalcy on ourself. We expect ourself to continue on in our everyday life and do all our parental tasks with the same speed and efficiency as usual. When we don’t meet that expectation, we meet with our own disapproval. In reality, it’s a major physical, emotional, psychological undertaking. We cannot be “normal” while going through that. We have to adapt and change our lifestyles to accommodate this life event.

This whole pregnancy I’ve expected myself to be just the same mother for Olivia as I was when I wasn’t pregnant. Whenever I didn’t uphold this ideal, I felt the weight of guilt lowering onto my shoulders. When I was intensely fatigued in that first trimester I would put on a movie for my toddler and feel guilty. Now I’m so physically inconvenienced that doing anything is enormously difficult. Just feeding my toddler can feel like climbing Mount Everest. Going out of our home at all is incredibly demanding, both physically and emotionally. One day, after trying for 15 minutes to get Olivia to focus long enough to get her shoes on, I finally said, “Never mind. It’s not that important. We’re staying home.” Then I felt guilty. “This poor kid needs to get out,” I thought to myself. It was even more evident when Luka would come home from work and he was met with squeals of delight at the door from Olivia. They would spend the next 2 hours jumping on the bed, running, playing. and laughing. It was as if Olivia was saying, “FINALLY! Someone who isn’t so boring!”

I don’t take it that personally, but as a parent we’re invariably attached to our children’s feelings and emotions. We have an undeniable urge to provide for every single one of their needs. When we see a need that we could fulfill and don’t… it isn’t easy. We want to be the best. The best parent, the best woman, the best man, the best boss, the best employee, the best human there is. Especially for our children. If we see ourselves falling short of this (and we know we can do better) guilt takes over. I’ve had to think about it a lot. How do I provide for my child’s needs and when do I stop sacrificing my own? At what point do I need to say, “No, now I have to take care of myself.” I really do believe that at a point you sacrificing yourself for your family becomes detrimental for everyone. Not only are you hurting your own wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of your children. It isn’t noble to be less of a person in order to “help” others. It’s noble to become the best you you can in order to help others become their best.

A simple example of this was when I started ignoring my child in order to feed myself. A typical mother move: you don’t eat for hours (or days) because you’re so busy taking care of your babies. This is more understandable when your child is a helpless infant. However, when Olivia got to the age where she wasn’t so dependent I started drawing a line. I was a MUCH better mother if I wasn’t hungry. So when Olivia was screaming or whining or complaining, I literally ignored her until I ate. In reality she waited about 15 minutes and she didn’t always need me, however, the point was that I needed to take care of myself in order to take better care of her. If we sat down to eat together and she finished first then I ignored whatever she wanted until I finished eating. After I finished, I made an extra effort to play with Olivia or give her some 1-on-1 attention. Once I started this practice then I really never felt guilty for ignoring her because I knew that I was a more patient, caring, calm person for her when I first took care of myself.

So why did I forget this concept? Pregnancy brain. I’m kidding, but it could also very likely be true. Also, this is a different kind of taking care of myself. Everything is changing for us now and for our family as we wait for our new member to decide to come into the world. One thing should remain the same and that is that as the changes come I keep taking care of myself. One thing that Luka and I promised each other when we got married was:

“I’ll take care of me for you.”

And I think this is the best thing we can do for ourselves, our spouses, and our children.