Symptoms and Sacrifice

I have never been the poster person for pregnancy. While being tall I’ve been told, “I carry it well”—I have yet to be spared a single symptom including: hyperemesis, migraines, daily headaches, dormant asthma resurfacing, dormant allergies resurfacing, insomnia, vomiting, high blood pressure, acid reflux in the form of GURD, melasma, and PPD. I officially surpassed uncomfortable right around the time my once rebelliously pierced innie became a Cabbage Patch outie. I recognize none of these symptoms are tragic and I do feel grateful every day that I created life, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Like, really, really hard.

This last week my kids were hit with a cold and then croup and now another cold. One night, Maddie climbed into bed with me coughing so hard I thought her little lungs would burst. I pulled her in close wanting to somehow absorb all her discomfort so she could heal and in doing so she spewed phlegm directly into my open mouth—guaranteeing my fate that there was no escaping this illness. What I couldn’t anticipate was that the combination of pregnancy and croup would resurface my 12-year dormant asthma and I’d develop a wheeze at night that sounded like a seal was slowly being deflated by an angry mouse. Before this, I was waddling along feeling like I could conquer the next piece of large fruit the baby would grow into and now all I want to do is throw a 1.85-woman-pity-party.

There comes a point in pregnancy where a thought begins to creep in and like inception, it can start to take over the last few ounces of rational, and you think, I don’t want to do this anymore. Your body becomes a claustrophobic foreign-territory. There is no escape or pause button and what makes it worse is it’s the only thing people see when they look at you—or rather, look through you. I could have just won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for literature and all anyone would say is, “Yes, but when’s your baby due?” And I am just as guilty as the next, because when people I love create tiny people, I want to know every detail. But sometimes as a pregnant woman you want to scream, I am in here too! Somewhere buried under this watermelon-sized-belly and dueling circus act of boobs, is my individual identity. I have sacrificed over 30 months of my individuality towards creating my girls and I know how that sounds—this was a purely selfish, miraculous act and yet I’m asking for it to be viewed as noble? Take it however you do, just believe that I know the truth; every mother I know is a warrior. No one else can truly comprehend the sacrifice of a mom, except for another mom. We can whisper together in those dark corners of motherhood the secrets that are hard to say out loud, without feeling judged, or harder still, without judging ourselves.

I took my girls to the Sacramento Zoo and Gunther’s Ice Cream the other day and it was the perfect afternoon right up until our minivan pulled into the driveway and the girls fought over who would get to close and re-close the automatic sliding doors with the magic button. To them, somehow the memories of monkeys and the dessert disappeared and were forgotten as they both entered the house in a hysterical fury that is reserved for silly squabbles between sisters. But I hadn’t forgotten. I hadn’t forgotten the way they reached for each other while the lions circled restlessly in unison and when their little tongues reached up towards their noses to retrieve those last drops of ice cream; that’s how I know it’s all worth it. It’s worth everything.


Minivan Mafia

In high school, I stood around the periphery of the cool kids. I was an athlete, invited to parties, but too tall and unsure of myself to ever win Homecoming Queen. I remember, one time my sister and I were driving to Starbucks and we saw a group of girls from her grade and I offered to roll my window down so we could shout hello.

“Don’t you dare, I am driving a minivan. This is so embarrassing!”

I was confused. My older sister was, in my eyes, the coolest, most beautiful licensed driver on the road, what did it matter what she was driving? She could drive! I noticed a shift happen that day, suddenly it could matter what other people thought.

Several months ago, one of my best friends made the leap from SUV to minivan with the impending arrival of their 7 year-old-daughter from China with Down Syndrome (who is now here safe and sound!). For Allie, she was sold because, unlike her giant boys, June would need easy accessibility in and out, with a vehicle that sat lower to the ground in order to accommodate her smaller stature. We took it out for a spin the night she got it and I suddenly felt something as surprising as me having the energy for a 3rd child; I had minivan envy. I needed those dual automatic sliding doors almost as badly as I will need a stress-free last labor with the world’s most effective walking epidural.  

During the transition between 2 to 3 kids the driving lines get divided into two categories; those in an SUV elegant enough for Obama’s presidential motorcade and those in the soccer-mom-minivan. Let me be clear, there is nothing sexy about a minivan. You will never again get checked out at a stoplight unless it is by another mother admiring your passion for safety and sensibility. My move to a minivan, the very definition of a first world problem, manifested as the 5 stages of grief—the last stage occurring at the Honda dealership. I felt the wave of acceptance embrace me with the pillowy bosom of leather seats and the sound of radio silence as my two children watched The Little Mermaid with headphones; seated far enough away from me that I happily cannot hand them anything in our newly implemented snack-free spaceship. The decision was clear—I no longer held onto any lingering thoughts of the cool vs the uncool, it can only be about the practical vs impractical. And there is 0 room for impracticality with 3 kids under 5.

Since obtaining our 2019 Honda Odyssey EX-L I have done my duty to recruit as many moms as I can to join our Minivan Mafia. It is not a tough sell since all of my mom friends, like me, give exactly 0 pieces of French toast about what other people think, and pay each other compliments like, “What a smart decision for your family.” So I went ahead and programed NPR into my preset stations, while still not cutting my hair, and I recognize that the only people whose opinion really matter call me Mom and think I am simply the coolest.


In this Together

I got into the habit of rubbing my belly every time I got up in the night to use the bathroom, which is often. It started with my first, as a means of disbelief that there was someone inside me and even in the depths of the night I wasn’t alone. I continued to do so with all 3 pregnancies and now I recognize that with each loving pat and every grunt and lumbering sleepy step, it’s my way of telling them, we are in this together.

What a beautiful thought, this is, to hold in our hearts lately. I try and carry it, share it, and pass it to my girls where I can. It feels like my sunshine state is bleeding and when we look to the orange "leader", he offers nothing but hate, lies, and more toxicity. I recognize that in the past we were able to rely on our President for sensitivity and most importantly hope, but believing that Trump is capable of this is like begging for a drink from a well that never contained water to begin with. If I wanted to choose resentment, I could make myself sick over it; like stepping outside and taking in a breath of this contaminated, smoky air and screaming aloud in frustration when I can only wheeze and choke. It is tempting to feed into the negativity and sit in anger and fear because these feelings are so large they feel like actions, but they aren’t helpful and those flames don’t need to be fanned any bigger.

I know a lot of people have quoted Mr. Rogers during our country’s string of relentless tragedy after tragedy. But its simplicity and belief in the human spirit is something I can grab hold of and most importantly, I can translate to my own children. He said, “When I was a boy and I’d see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people that are helping.”” Instead of looking to someone that has shown time and again he is incapable of empathy; I have found that those around me whom I’ve loved all along, have chosen to be the helpers and thus inspired me to do the same. I look everywhere and see grace and giving. My best friend, has finally reached her daughter on the other side of the world—and they view her extra chromosome as an enhancement, providing a better life not just for June, but for all that are lucky enough to love her. Others are offering their homes to displaced families from the fires, working to change gun legislation laws, or simply saying thank you in the form of chocolate chip cookies we made for our local firefighters and first responders. I’m hoping that my words somehow drift out into the darkness and people can reach up and pull from them a small nugget of needed good and recognize that we are still in this together.