August 13, 2006

Hormones and stress and dreams about fish

This has been a crazy week.

Many unwritten blogs have come and gone, fluttering into my consciousness, and then away just as quickly. Hummingbirdlike.

Some were funny. Some were poignant. There was an angry story in there, but I couldn't bring myself to write it.

What a week.

Sam gave the baby a nickname. Thanks to one of my myriad pregnancy books, I discovered that in the eighth week, the embryo is about the size of a small raspberry. Hence, Rasbaby.

That would have been my fun blog... but, Rasbaby notwithstanding, my heart was too heavy to write.

This week, I learned a few things about myself.

I learned that I'm not nearly as good at my job as I thought I was.

I learned that some powerful people at work have some powerfully unfavorable opinions of me.

The worst time to learn this sort of information is shortly after conceiving a baby, while one is slowly digesting the realization that one is, indeed, about to become accountable for the financial, emotional, and physical care of another, completely helpless, human being.

Toss in the fact that my bloodstream contains more hormones than an episode of The Facts of Life, and you can guess what happened.

A lot of tears.

A lot of nausea.

Some ice cream.

Some heartburn.

Some antacids.

A lot of tossing and turning.

Significant difficulty getting out of bed.

More tears.

Some chocolate.

No blogs.

They say that stress is not good for unborn babies. This fact just stressed me out more.

By Wednesday, I was certain that Rasbaby was done for.

I had recurring nightmares in which I kept wandering through my house, discovering an endless supply of aquaria which I had taken into my care and then forgotten about. They were all filled with fish at various stages of miserable, neglect-induced death. And it was all my fault.

I woke up and checked on the aquarium in my living room. Just in case.

Of course, I knew what the dreams were really about.

Even through my nauseous, fatigued, hormonal haze, I saw something real and scary on the horizon. A kind of anxiety that I have never experienced in my life. I identified it as the anxiety of parenthood.

I discovered a new part of my psyche that worries if my car is large enough to withstand getting rear-ended by an SUV.

It's the part of me that suddenly cares about supplemental life insurance, the folic acid content of leading breakfast cereals, and my local school board elections.

I wrestled with this new anxiety, deciding that maybe things could be no other way.

My lifelong approach of trying to stay mellow and trusting that everything would work out fine in the end... suddenly seemed naive and outdated.

Had I doomed myself to a lifetime of constant stress and misery?

I asked some of my more maternal friends, "When does the heartburn stop?" referring to the discomforts of pregnancy.

"It gets a little better after they move out of the house," was the deadpan response.

Doomed. Good-bye, easygoing Monica.

On Friday, I took a few much-needed hours away from the office, and enjoyed my first medical checkup as a pregnant woman.

Keeping with the week's theme, I was nervous. Anxious. Terrified. I kept remembering the aquarium dreams and hoping they were not prophetic.

Sam was there, and he helped me stay reasonably calm - at least on the surface.

The nurse positioned the ultrasound apparatus, clicked around on the screen, and told us what we were seeing.

"That, right there, is the baby. Do you see that area that's blurry, like it's fluttering?"


"That's the heart beating."

I grabbed Sam's hand. It was real. We had created a distinct entity, complete with its own heartbeat. And, at least for eight weeks, I had managed to keep that little blob alive. I hadn't completely screwed up.

I looked at the screen and silently apologized to Rasbaby. All the stress. All the sleepless nights. It wasn't about the baby; it was about me. I was being selfish and overly sensitive. So what if I'm mediocre at my job, and I didn't realize it? Now I know, and I can work on getting better. Good parents don't carry massive piles of stress on behalf of themselves and their children. They decide what needs their attention, take care of it, and let go of the stuff they can't control.

At least, this is my theory.

I don't know if I'm a good parent yet, but I hope that I will be. I hope that I will be balanced and sane, yet still attentive to my little one.

For now, I'm cautiously optimistic. My fish are still alive. I'll take it as a sign

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