Achievement Unlocked: First Trimester

It's not always good weather when the stork comes.

Hello, all!

So, there’s a reason I’ve not been around for months. A Very Good Reason. Which is actually a number of very good reasons piled together into one general Good Reason, which can be summed up thusly: I’m pregnant with our third child.

Having just bumped over the end of the first trimester milestone, I now feel this is reasonable to share with the Internet At Large, though most people in our circle of family and friends know by now.

Aside from that announcement, I’ve had no time, energy, motivation, or interest in or for blogging since late June, perhaps (in case you haven’t noticed, ha). I was physically miserable for months: quite literally lying in bed or flopped in a puddle on the couch for the vast majority of hours in a day, barely able to open my eyes at times for the nausea, sickened by just about every smell in the world, and utterly overwhelmed by the task list involved with moving into a much bigger house. Not to mention pretty much incapable of dealing with my two preschoolers for a number of weeks. Friends and family volunteered to come watch them for several hours out of each weekday for a number of weeks; were it not for this, we would not have survived, at least not without toxic dosage levels of TV (I jest, but truly, it would have been horrific).

On top of this I discovered that we had a stomach virus running through the house, which hit me VERY hard and explained a ton of horrible digestive issues… mostly after the fact… and then we got Hand Foot and Mouth Disease for the third time in two years.

We have had, as you might say, a Rough Time.

Starting in about week 12 or so, though, I finally, SUDDENLY began to drastically improve on the physical health front. The nausea wore off quite a bit and my energy levels started to rise again. I was able to take care of the boys myself and handle a few simple house chores on most weekdays. Now that I’m through week 14, I *almost* feel like myself again.

Aside from the drastic mood swings, unpredictable and horrific bouts of depression and severe irritability, perpetual gut-killing anxiety upon waking every morning, constant sentiments of misanthropy directed at myself and my immediate family members, and a soul-crushing reticence to being touched. This following about six weeks of serious depression straight, thanks to the severe health issues and accompanying beliefs of personal utter worthlessness and invalidity.

Aside from that, you know, I’m almost normal.

So, all that to say, this has been (is being) the worst pregnancy I’ve experienced, by far, and yesterday I hit my wit’s end.

I’ve been doing Christian counseling off and on (though it HAS been quite awhile since my last session) for the past several months, and that has been helpful, but it doesn’t really get to the underlying problems I have with trauma and depression and a number of other things and address them. Especially since I know, from the past two pregnancies, that I have at least a tendency to prenatal depression (I tend to get much better after birth but struggle a lot emotionally during pregnancy), I know that given the severity of what I’m encountering this time around, I need some serious, specialized professional help.

So I requested an appointment with a local practice yesterday and hope to hear back from them on Monday. I’m also hoping to connect with some sort of perinatal mental health support group in the area, based on the advice of a friend. And, yes, I’m going to talk to my doctor about medication, which I don’t fundamentally like the idea off, but I have a higher value for doing due diligence and addressing a problem holistically, and I acknowledge that there are many qualified experts out there that know a whole lot more about how to handle this problem than I do, both medically and therapeutically.

So, there you have it: my Life Update of the past few months.

I want to say, too, that I’ve been rather hesitant to say anything on here about the pregnancy because I know several lovely folk here who have struggled with infertility and infant mortality, etc. And I know every birth announcement must, on some level, sting for you; and I don’t want to compound anyone’s pain. I see you and love you, people, and I am sorry for the ache this necessarily causes in your hearts. But I knew it wasn’t something I could fail to bring up for forever… and, if I mentioned anything, I wanted to be frank about how this pregnancy has not been a walk in the park. This just can’t be a “rub my happiness in your face” post because that wouldn’t be at all honest. Yes, I am VERY grateful for this baby; we wanted at least three children and I feel like, Lord willing, we’ll be blessed with a warm bundle soon enough. But this pregnancy has all but totally convinced me that I NEVER want to carry a child again. Ever. So I don’t want anyone to look at me and think, “Oh, lucky her, there’s yet another perfectly blissful expectant mother… it makes me sick!” Because I am so far from anything blissful, content, or happy, it’s wretched. And I know many of you might resent that, too, because dang it, I get to HAVE a BABY–why aren’t I just jumping up and down for joy?!??! Well, I feel sick over that fact every day, too. I hate that I hate pregnancy. I feel like a total traitor of what it means to be a mother on this point. It seems pretty dang ungrateful to me, too, and I feel ashamed.

I’m sorry.

So I wanted you to see me struggle authentically, and not pretend to be anything else. I’m a pretty poor excuse for a mom, and a pregnant mom, at that. But I also hope you’ll see that I’m not content to stay there. It’s not worth it to wallow in physical or mental dysfunction when there’s help available. When there’s a better status quo that can be achieved.

So I will keep you posted on how my pursuit of that goes… and in the meantime, please pray for me. I need it, too.

–GM

 

Concert Attire–Suitable for Whom?

I’ve had the pleasure of singing in the chorus of Verdi’s Requiem with two different orchestras this spring. Both of them have had performance dress codes. The first one was nothing more specific than “all black, from ankles to wrists,” across the board for men and women, given as a verbal statement by the choir director during rehearsal.

When I asked this director if my cap-sleeved choir gown from old college choir days would be acceptable (does it literally need to go to my wrists, or is that an expression?), he explained that, in his words, “As a boy teacher, I have very limited capacity to answer this question–in fact, I had to google ‘cap sleeve’. You’re probably fine, especially if you’d have to scramble for another option. The idea is that if everyone is in all black, there aren’t one pair of arms or legs to draw attention. My guess is that some of the college students won’t be entirely strict on this, so I think it wouldn’t be just you.”

 

As it turned out, plenty of the college singers and others among us had widely varying sleeve lengths, including some just like mine, so it wasn’t anything to be concerned about–and I very much appreciated the director’s attitude to the whole affair. 🙂


 

Now, contrast that with the written instructions received from the director of the second chorus I’m singing with. This is word-for-word:

CONCERT ATTIRE

Men’s Guidelines: White long sleeve tux shirt, black tux pants, black tux jacket, black tie, black socks, black polished shoes.

NOT ACCEPTABLE: Plain white shirt, brown socks, brown shoes. No perfume or heavy hairspray or deodorant scents.

Women’s Guidelines: Please wear black concert attire made of dressy fabrics such as chiffon, velvet, or rayon. Wear a dress or skirt floor length or mid-calf. Dress pants are ok (polazzos). Black suits ok. Sleeve length should be three-quarter length or long sleeve. Please wear loose fitting outfits that are flowing and drape freely. Make sure outfit is black. Keep it formal! Keep it modest! Undergarments should be black if there is a chance of showing. Wear black shoes and black stockings. Peep toe is ok.

The following things are NOT ACCEPTABLE: Garments made of heavy cotton, denim, corduroy, twill, leather, or chino. Low cut gowns or tight fitting slacks. Anything that is “see-through” in nature. Purple, brown, or dark blue outfits. Heavy black belts with big buckles, jewelry made of twine, rope, or beads, extra large earrings. Sandals or clogs. Tan or beige stockings. Sleeveless or shortsleeved tops, tank tops, spaghetti straps, bare midriffs, bare shoulders, skirts above the knee. Plunging necklines. Long slits in the skirts front or sides. Long dangling earrings or excessively shiny rhinestones in either earrings or necklaces. Perfume or heavy hairspray or deodorant scents.


 

…You might suppose, given the level of detail this director supplies with regard to the women, that perhaps there are many youthful, body-image-confident college-aged women populating our numbers.

In fact, no such thing could hardly be further from the truth. I’d be extremely surprised if he actually believes any of the grandmas among this obviously very conservative group of ladies (judging from conversational snippets in between singing) have any inclination whatsoever to wear midriffs and spaghetti straps to the concert.

I do, however, have a bit of wardrobe advice for the author of this handout, as he seems to be in need of it:

misogyny is showing

At least this fellow didn’t think to google “cap sleeve”… well, not that it would have mattered, really. It’s been an extraordinarily tiring last few weeks, and I have already given all the bothers–including any that might have gone toward finding a second performance outfit that checks ALL the copious boxes.

But even if I had any bothers left to give, I probably wouldn’t, anyway, on principle.

I’d much rather stand on mine than his. 🙂

Keep it gritty, lovelies!

–GM

 

I always believe the ideal is waiting just over the horizon.

Escape From the Ideal

I always believe the ideal is waiting just over the horizon.

 

All the places you ever wanted to escape to

are always

Here

in the end.


 

I published this poem on my “professional” blog a week or two back just to demonstrate that, yes, I actually am a writer… in the unlikely event any of my “serious” work is ever accepted for publication by any (established) journal. But I also wanted to talk about it here on this blog, which is much more interactive/conversational.

First off, a shout-out to valdelo of Silently Screaming for the simple encouragement to keep writing. That little nudge prompted me to see if I had anything in me tonight… and voila. (More about the power of nudges in a future post!)

Anyhow. This poem popped into my head as I was contemplating my pronounced tendency to look to the horizon for salvation. I have the *worst* time practicing mindfulness–i.e., focus and attention fixed on the present, experiencing and appreciating all it has to offer, not lingering in the past or endlessly planning out the future. The Yercoviches refer to this tendency as “reviewing and rehearsing,” a behavior practiced by vacillators (such as myself) who tend to devalue or idealize events (this is just the link to a summary of the “core pattern” handout where they describe these tendencies, which you can also find available for purchase on their site). I.e., I tend to feel that the past could have always played out better, so I rehash it endlessly trying to “troubleshoot” for future improvement–or I believe that a future event can be perfectly managed if I only plan it out carefully enough, so I overthink constantly (and heavily).

This leads to endless annoyance or discontent or discomfort with a new place or relationship or experience or accomplishment once I’ve finally arrived at it and it has become familiar. All of a sudden, my daydream of freedom and hope and life and possibility has been replaced by obstinate reality grounded in simple, uncomfortable, less-than-ideal facts. It’s not even that reality is really that bad–it just doesn’t match up completely with my daydream. For a vacilator, this loss of the ideal is crushing.

So I have to learn not to value the ideal so darn much.

This is made easier when I realize how many downright stupid, unimportant things I idealize (like not having crumbs on the floor, or having clean bathrooms [honestly, isn’t it far more significant to realize the incredible blessing of HAVING a fully functional bathroom–or even more than one?!], or keeping runny toddler noses off all the furniture)?

It’s harder when I’ve idealized things that *seem* more important, though–like having firm, stable, relationships with loved ones. But firmness and stability don’t look or feel exactly like my imagination tells me (since I don’t have a lot of experience in those areas compared to some, idealized imagination sets my hopes and expectations–not reality). Letting go of these imaginings and finding the courage instead to emotionally experience the reality I’m in–good, bad, and everything in between–is a huge challenge.

It’s deeply intimidating particularly because the reality I experienced for so long taught me *not* to trust, feel, or seek communion with others when relationships have even a whiff of going south about them–in large part because it was never demonstrated to me that doing so *could work*. I also had basically no idea where to start: what does trusting, feeling, and seeking communion look like in a relationship that’s actually worth it–where it’s safe, advisable, and even necessary from a mental health perspective?

However, finding myself in truly worthwhile, long-term relationships has shown me that the old way of relating isn’t going to work here; I need to develop a new skill set.

Fixing all my hopes for happiness and security on the imaginary ideal place, situation, or companion will only leave me despondent when I finally reach my destination–and realize it’s not *everything* I made it out to be.

It will always end up being the experience I’m left to engage with in the present–the current, immediate moment–the one place I’ve had small confidence and found little comfort in for so long.

I will continue to do just that–as long as my expectations are that my ideal *should be* the reality.

The truth, however, is that I can’t change the reality in front of me–but I can, gradually, change my perspective on it and how I interact with it.

The details of this elude me constantly, but I’ve found one mantra from the How We Love website quite helpful. To paraphrase:

“It’s not as bad as I think it is, and it’s not as good as I want it to be.”

Accepting this as unchangeable truth helps me to regulate my expectations and, thus, avoid getting too working up one way or the other. It requires me to let go of my own demands upon reality and exchange them for trust, instead, that my needs will be met–perhaps not how I’d like them to be, but they will be met–by the people who really *do* love me, as they have tangibly and consistently demonstrated over an extended period of time, through the providence of a God who has demonstrated enormous care and love for me over a much longer time frame.

This is the proper way to reflect upon the past: to search it for all the good and love I’ve received, practicing a new, unnatural approach to reflection–rather than picking through it for the parts that didn’t match my original skewed ideals and ruminating over the uncomfortable bits.

And it’s the proper way to envision the future: with calm, simple confidence that my idealized plans will not come to fruition, and are not worth the time I spend on them, but that whatever else happens instead will still be manageable and even full of blessing from a divine agent I can’t possibly anticipate or control–which terrifies me, which reminds me that I need to sink deep into reflections of his steadfast, unshakeable love once more. Because “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18, NKJV).


 

Lord, well over a decade ago I wrote about this, seeking to experience the unfathomable love you have for me, because I needed to be free from fear. I still do. I fear constantly–big things, little things, imaginary things that feel too much like the actual reality of times past to be ignored. Lord, please–free me from torment. Free me from fear. Cast me into perfect love: love based in reality and well-founded expectations, that it may cast out every fear caused by unmet, idealized expectations. Exchange my broken mindset for your healing way of thinking. Help me to be patient with the process (avoiding unrealistic expectations yet again!); lead me to all the tools I need, and bless them with your presence. Thank you for loving me, even when I can’t fully sense it. Especially then. Amen.