Monday, December 3, 2012

December: Reflection & Reflection

Oh, November, the Month of Gratitude. I should start by focusing on the positive, such as the fact that I am so thankful we had so many friends rotate through our home this month: Andy and Beth at Thanksgiving, Andrew and Libby, Matt's brother John, and the band Naytronix

But I struggled a lot this month, mainly with physical illness that wiped me out and opened up big, wide spaces in my emotional life for sadness and uncertainty to sweep in. First we got some kind of stomach bug, which, at one point, left me sitting on the bathroom floor at 3am, with my arm stretched up to hold Henry on top of the counter in the middle of a diaper change, calling for Matt because I was about to faint (he was in our bathroom dealing with his own gastrointestinal issues). Those intense days of sickness pushed Matt and me to the very edge of our parenting. With no grandparents in town, we had to cobble together what felt like "coverage" for Henry. I am so thankful Henry wasn't also sick. We already felt like we were at the edge of our capacity.

After that blew through, a different kind of sickness entered in a couple days later. Stuffy noses. Sore throats. Coughing. Those symptoms--coupled with setting the clocks back--threw Henry's 6:30pm-7am sleeping schedule off-kilter. I haven't taken medicine since I was preparing for Henry's conception (around Fall 2010). I've mainly be able to prevent illness proactively, but when I do get sick, I try to sleep it off and drink a lot of liquids.

With this sickness, I tried the same strategies, but they weren't working. After seven days and no signs of clearing up, I went to the doctor. In under five minutes he had already prescribed a litany of medicine for me, which was different than the litany of medicine Matt's doctor prescribed him at his 5-minute appointment. For example, apparently his watery/crusty eye was pink-eye; mine was sinus blockage. 

I expressed my concern with taking any medication while in the first trimester, and I asked if it was absolutely necessary for me to take anything. He said he doesn't personally let himself suffer past one week, but if I wanted to go on longer, I could. I really just wanted to give the baby the same environment that Henry had had--one that was free from potentially dangerous chemicals. 

I waited another week and things started to look a little better, even though I was essentially still in sick mode: coughing, needing to rest constantly, and feeling generally awful. I started to realize that I was wreaking a different kind of havoc on our baby by subjecting my body to so much stress from illness for so long. I just kept thinking, "I've been sick so long and it feels like it's tapering; surely I'll be better any day now." 

But then my intense sore throat returned, and I decided it was time to try and wipe it out completely. I started antibiotics right away. Here we are in December and I am finally starting to feel better. In retrospect, I realize that I could have prevented a lot of suffering by taking the medicine earlier; I just didn't know that this sickness would persist in ways that others usually don't. 

The worst part about being physically tamped down was that it really affected my mental state. I wish I had mustered more optimism and focused on gratitude for what was going right, but I didn't. I worried a lot about whether this pregnancy is developing as it should or whether it's like the last one (which ended in miscarriage). In many ways, I still feel betrayed by my body for the miscarriage I had. I don't feel betrayed because the miscarriage happened; I trust that miscarriages are natural and happen for important reasons. I felt betrayed because it happened early in the pregnancy and I continued to feel very pregnant for many more weeks--almost to the end of the first trimester. 

So this month, as I struggled with some first trimester symptoms (but not with what seemed like enough), I had immense uncertainty about whether or not this pregnancy is progressing. I am going to the midwife tomorrow, and we should be able to hear the heartbeat if everything is going well. This spot was the exact one I was in last time when didn't hear the heartbeat and realized the miscarriage was happening. 

All sorts of other doubts swooped in this month, too. At one point late in the month, I was talking to my best friend about it and he said, "You know, you've gone through a lot of change in a really short amount of time." 

And that's when it all hit me. That's when I realized that my quest to "make dreams happen" with so much urgency--while exhilarating and empowering--is also completely exhausting. In less than two years, we gave birth to our first child, I wrote a book, sold our house without a realtor, moved to a new city, tried to get cohousing going, found land, started building a house, wrote and published another book, started a new job, worked on starting a new school, got pregnant again, had a miscarriage, and got pregnant again. 

No wonder I've been sick for a month. 

Although you may think I'm completely neurotic at this point in the post, may I at least try to explain myself? At the risk of sounding delusional? 

I just want the major elements of my life to fall into place relatively soon. I'm on the verge of turning 35. I've spent the past 15 years of my working life at various jobs that have inspired me to want to  start my own school. I'm ready to make this dream happen for myself (hence the need to sell our Houston house and move to Austin). I don't want to spend any more years working on other people's dreams. 

At the same time, I'd really like to grow our family to two children. It makes sense to do this before the school opens and it requires intense focus. It also makes sense to do this before my age potentially makes fertility more difficult. 

And the third piece--the house--is related to my intense need to feel settled. As a child, the longest I stayed in a single spot before high school was two years (for 5th and 6th grade). I want Henry to grow up in a single neighborhood. I want him to consider the park and the creek dear old friends. I want to celebrate birthday parties with the same families year after year. I want to plant a garden and return to it season after season. 

My best friend warned me, "Just make sure that once you've got everything in place that you actually feel content instead of feeling like you need to go and change everything again." 

I absolutely hear that concern. I think it's easy to become too goal-oriented. Pushing and striving can become the end rather than the means to an end. 

I'll definitely continue to be a pusher and a striver, but my hope is that those things happen within the context of the three big pieces in my life that will already be in place: work, family, and home. I hope that the job I create for myself will allow me to continuously take on new and exciting projects. I hope that my family and I take on new challenges like building a birdhouse and learning how to raise pygmy goats. I look forward to developing our homestead--getting it more organized, planting more fruit trees, meeting more neighbors.

I'm in a much better place as we head into December (and almost into the new year!). My intention for this month is to be more patient with this process of making dreams happen and to immerse myself in gratitude for what I have right now, even as I work urgently to create what I hope to add to our lives.

Photo Courtesy of the Nikki McClure Calendar

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Kelsey said...

I feel like my blog post today on December goals is echoing some of what you are voicing here. I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with being so busy and facing lots of change soon. I too am only giving myself one December goal to make room for what really matters. I'm so sorry you were so sick!! As much as possible, let other commitments go and give yourself to be well, which includes uncommitted time that's just for you and your family (which I always find easier said than done!). Hugs friend.

ALICE said...

I read your other blog while wedding planning... And in particular took away inspiration from the ceremony. And then I stumbled upon this one while researching mobiles I believe for our son's room and I was so surprised to see the author was one and the same! I just wanted to say... That pregnancy after a loss (or two in my case) is incredibly trying emotionally. Even at 30 weeks, it's hard to trust my my body. And I think that makes everything Incredibly stressful. Ive spent much of this pregnancy sick and each illness lasts 3 times as long as it would normally. I don't have much advice but take it easy! Oh and FYI a home Doppler continues to save my sanity.

ALICE said...

I read your other blog while wedding planning... And in particular took away inspiration from the ceremony. And then I stumbled upon this one while researching mobiles I believe for our son's room and I was so surprised to see the author was one and the same! I just wanted to say... That pregnancy after a loss (or two in my case) is incredibly trying emotionally. Even at 30 weeks, it's hard to trust my my body. And I think that makes everything Incredibly stressful. Ive spent much of this pregnancy sick and each illness lasts 3 times as long as it would normally. I don't have much advice but take it easy! Oh and FYI a home Doppler continues to save my sanity.

Aurora said...

Sara, I don't think you sound neurotic with this post, at ALL! Truly, it sounds very real and grounded and like you're seeing both sides of your own feelings, which is healthy! I am appreciating this post myself, because I'm a super striver, too, always trying to set goals and make things happen. This is a reminder that even while you set goals and fulfill dreams, you should use moderation (too much of a good thing?). It's also a reminder that it's not always easy to take on challenges and make things happen... I think being of this nature can be a bit lonely sometimes (you always want everyone else to come along with you on the road to self improvement and adventure seeking), and acknowledging the downsides and the need to be realistic and easy on yourself reminds me that I'm not alone in these feelings.
Here's to a good December!!

Annalisa said...

I just had our 2nd baby last week and I have to say this was a MUCH harder pregnancy physically and emotionally than my first. Forget pregnancy sickness -- I had about 4 good colds (haven't been sick previously in maybe 3 years?) thanks to our 18 month old. We also had the family stomach bug -- pretty much as you described it except our fun started in the car! Anyway, my point is 2nd pregnancy you sort of know what to expect and I think the body handles it way differently. Pampering yourself is also non-exist. My hardest part? Not having my baby girl sit on my lap for the last 3 months to read a book. In some ways, the distance worked out since she's used to me not doing things making tending to the new baby easier. Try not to swallow the whole elephant at times and spend more time in the moment -- knowing how fast time flies I am really savoring being a mom since I can't do this later.

katharina said...

Good luck at the midwife tomorrow. I hope the baby is fine and you will find time to rest and get back on your feet.

Anonymous said...

I hope you continue to mend and that the appointment tomorrow brings some reassurance. I was not pregnant at the time, but last year our family endured a terrible season of sickness (with our daughter, who was an infant at the time). I know exactly what you mean about the emotional drain this can cause. It is very exhausting to nurture others when you yourself are not well. Hang in there!

Sara said...

Sara, I'm sending you much love for a healthier and more relaxed December!

BB said...

I don't know how I could have done it, with three little ones, without a couple family members near enough for emergencies. I have volunteered more than once to cover single moms from my church in situations like this.

I hope you can make relationships so that you have the backing to deal with this kind of thing, and it is no longer an emergency. At a minimum, a working mom has to have paid back-up emergency options, as you have now found.

Carrie said...

Sara, I hope you feel better soon and can get to a happier place in your head after some processing and time. You don't sound neurotic in this post at all. You sound like you've finally come to some realizations that so many of your readers have observed time and time again, yet some have not been able to articulate without sounding rude. You are SO. VERY. BUSY. that many of us worry about your health/sanity and that the little things may be passing you by in your quests for the big things. As you said, I really do hope once you have the three big things somewhat under control, that you can kind of step back and enjoy smaller projects (and NO projects sometimes!) and be satisfied with what you have. Don't get me wrong, achieving is great, but just be sure to stop and recognize what you have done/have along the way. It's like pulling over at the scenic vistas when you're cruising your way up a mountain. Hang out at those for a while periodically. :)

Lauren said...

I always read your blog - I can't quite remember how I stumble on it - but I always read it. I am always pushing for "more" and so I can relate. I recently had the same revelation you did's nice to have days where my goal is just "relax." So I hope you relax, focus on your family and everything else will happen as it should (which might mean that it doesn't occur as you planned it...but the uncertain/change can be a joy in life!). All the best!

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