Baby Firefly is a Girl! (And other thoughts)

My second pregnancy sure has been different than the first. I was anxious and worried for every step of the way when I was pregnant with James. Every single step. I constantly wanted to get to the next step. When will I show? When will we know the gender? When will he kick? When will he be here? But this time around, things are moving much slower and much faster at the same time.

We found out we were expecting a baby girl when I was 21 weeks along (I’m now 24 weeks). You can find out as early as sixteen weeks (I think we found out at week 17 or 18 with James), but I wasn’t anxious to know this time. More than likely, this is my last pregnancy. Two kids seems like the perfect number for our family. (Disclaimer: If a third baby comes along, we will be overjoyed! But as of now, we’re not planning on it.) And because this is most likely our last pregnancy, I’m in no hurry to hit milestones, because the anticipation can be so lovely and magical on it’s own. We went in for the ultrasound hoping for a healthy baby Firefly, and left with the unbelievable news that not only was baby Firefly healthy and whole and looking great, but also a girl!

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Needless to say, I was over the moon excited about this news! I always said I’d like a boy and a girl (though two boys would have been just as great). But unlike when I found out James was a boy (which I was also over the moon excited about), I waited a day to announce this news. It wasn’t that I was less excited or anything, it was just that I wasn’t so anxious. I could let myself experience the knowledge and bask in it without sharing it right away, which is new for me.

As I’ve said many times, my first pregnancy was an anxious one. Is he OK? What was that feeling? Am I eating too much? Too little? Will he be healthy? Am I healthy? Should I do this? Do that? Do anything? But this pregnancy has been much calmer. Chasing James helps, knowing (sort of) what to expect helps, and knowing that this is probably our last pregnancy helps, because I want to savor everything instead of rushing to the next thing.

Even though it’s been calmer, this pregnancy has also been harder than my first in a lot of ways–more severe nausea, lots of gastrointestinal issues, sciatic pain that won’t quit–and then all of December I was sick–first a cough that became bronchitis, which caused  a torn intercostal muscle, then a sever sinus infection (which meant two rounds of antibiotics back to back, which I hate because they make me so very sick on their own), then a migraine-strength headache that lasted about a week, which was finally followed by a stomach virus (and that cough never went away and still hasn’t that still irritates the torn, slowly healing muscle). I’m heavier than I was with James (because I started out heavier than I was when I got pregnant with James), which has caused me no end of mental anguish. And I feel guilt this time around–guilt that my sweet, perfect, wild son will somehow feel less than once we bring a second baby home.

But this pregnancy has, in other ways, been much easier. I’m not worried all the time. The idea of a natural labor doesn’t terrify me like it did with James (I planned, and had, a medication-free labor with James, but I was absolutely and completely terrified of what it would be like). The fear of bringing home a whole human to care for isn’t scary at all this time around. (I’m proud to say we’ve successfully kept James alive for nearly two years! We deserve a medal or a trophy or a cake or something.) As a couple, Vince and I have both just settled into this pregnancy more calmly and it’s been really nice. Plus, I remember how awesome having a sibling was, and I know that in the long run, we’re giving him a playmate and friend for life, which is such a great feeling.

Part of me misses the excitement, the fear of the unknown, all the firsts we experienced with James, and part of me is enjoying just being along for Firefly’s ride. When I hear her heartbeat, I tear up (every time). When we see her in ultrasounds, and when we found out her gender, I thought my heart would explode with joy. But it’s nice to just experience it this time. It’s nice to look at James and see what two years of love can help grow and know that we have that to look forward to with our sweet Firefly girl.

James will be two in February, and I know that means that before I know it, Firefly will be here. And then she’ll be one and he’ll be three. And then they’ll be in elementary school. And high school. And college. And have their own lives. And in that way, things are moving too fast. James should still be swaddled, not walking and talking and playing and laughing and making his own little jokes and games up as he lives his life. Firefly should still be a tiny pea-sized idea, not a baby big enough to kick me and startle me and make her powerful presence known. Time is moving too quickly. So I’m trying to enjoy the moments, the breaths, the times when James wants to sit in my lap quietly and drink his milk while he watches morning cartoons and the times when baby girl is doing flips all around while I watch James chase Vince around the house and laugh as his daddy plays in the ways only daddy can. I’m trying to freeze these moments so that one day when I’m comforting James after his first break up, or moving Firefly into her first dorm, or helping both of them figure out how to have independent lives, I can remember these snapshots in time and re-experience them no matter how much time has passed.

As I sit and type this, Vince and James are in the other room laughing like wild men and Firefly is gently kicking toward my belly button, and all I can this is how wonderful this time is, how difficult this time can be, and how fortunate I am to experience every single second of it.

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On Being a Writer and a Mommy

Before I had James, I was working on the first draft of a novel. It wouldn’t be the first novel manuscript I’d completed, but it was going to be the first that wasn’t absolutely ridiculous. I started it before conception, and as soon as I announced my pregnancy, all my mom-writer friends said, “Finish your book before the baby is born!”

Honestly, I thought they were being overly cautious, but I did finish the rough draft pre-baby! I felt so accomplished. And because of the type of writer I am, I didn’t plan on revising for a few months (I can’t revise without some distance). So, I waited. I had James. I didn’t sleep. I pumped for the baby (for more info on that lovely period of my life, click here). I ate whenever I was hungry, which was often. I cuddled my newborn. I cried. But I didn’t write, or revise, or even think about my story.

Until one day, I did. Months and months after the rough draft was done and my son was born, I decided it was time to polish the very rough story I had churned out. So I did. In stolen moments while James slept or played, in moments when I could have been doing laundry or sweeping, I revised.

It was a small revision and I knocked it out relatively quickly, but man, did it take it out of me! Suddenly, I couldn’t just sit down for twenty minutes or two hours and write. I had to make sure the baby was OK, dry, fed, happy, and then I might get five or ten minutes in broken intervals. But, I did it! I revised (sort of), and I got through every page of my manuscript.

Well, as any writer knows, one revision is just the beginning of the beginning. So, I started a second revision–this one to be more in depth, more brutal, than the last. Only now my baby (who was immobile the last time around) is a toddler, and he is into E V E R Y T H I N G. If I thought it was hard to steal a minute before, now it’s nearly impossible. Nap time is mostly off limits, because I have an online job with Signature HealthCARE that I have to cram in there (oh, and showering every now and again is kind of nice). I could work on it after James is in bed, but that’s really the only time my husband and I have to talk without being interrupted every few seconds by sweet (and sometimes not-s0-sweet) toddler sounds. I could get up early, but…sleep!

So, how does one be a good mother, which I really hope I am, and still pursue her writing, her art? How does one maintain her identity in a sea of diapers and dried bits of food and tantrums and spoiled milk stains? By getting creative. While he eats, I sit with my computer open, and between giving him handfuls of cereal or torn up bits of veggies and chicken or spoonfuls of yogurt, I revise a few sentences. If I have to go to the bathroom, the laptop goes, too. If he’s playing happily for a few minutes in the floor, the laptop is out and the fingers fly until I have to get up to make sure he doesn’t pull the TV down on his head.

I may not have the time I once did–I used to stay up until three or four in the morning, writing until my fingers ached joyfully–but having to fight for the time to work on what I’m passionate about somehow makes it more real, more substantial.

So, mommas and mommas-to-be, don’t give up on what you love. Whether it’s writing, playing music, something super athletic and amazing, painting, other arts and crafts, whatever, you can find time for it, even if that time looks nothing like it did before. Be an amazing mommy and still maintain that beautiful, unique identity! If I can do it, even in bits and pieces, anyone can.

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