Stealing Moments

It’s 11:30pm. Thursday.

Everyone is sleeping-the sick almost 4-year-old whose nose needed wiping every 2 minutes, and whose fever needed either Motrin or Tylenol every 4-6 hours; the 7-year-old who braved the psychiatrist’s office for the first time today to talk about his growing struggle with focus and attention; the 4 month old who isn’t happy unless he’s right next to mama’s heart or has her within his line of sight at all times; my husband who asked me to curl up on the couch and watch Scandal and catch up on New Girl with him.

They’re all snoring. I should be asleep but I’m sitting here at my work table in the living room typing this and watching the light from the candle next to me dance in the dark. I’m sitting here because they are all snoring soundly and I am finally unneeded. In two hours I’ll be up feeding they youngest and administering a dose of Motrin to the middle child, while trying not to wake the oldest and my husband as I tiptoe around our apartment. I’ll try to remember to grab something for myself from the kitchen before sinking back into my bed and letting my blankets envelop me for another 3-4 hours, until the next dose, the next feeding, until it’s 6am and the oldest is tiptoeing into our room whispering his requests for breakfast.

Rinse.

Repeat.

Stealing a moment. That’s what I’m doing here in the dark staring at a flickering flame and breathing in deep. I’m stealing a moment to take in and find myself at my center again while everyone is sleeping soundly and I’m unneeded. They are resting and I’m….stealing a moment to breathe. If there’s one thing being a parent of three has taught me these past 4 months it’s that rest when your children are this young is elusive. There is no time for rest. To catch your breath, yes, but to rest, no. There just isn’t. So you have to steal a moment to recharge from somewhere. For me it’s usually my bathroom and it only lasts long enough for me to actually sit down before someone (these days it’s the baby) is calling for me to come back. (Being a mother of three with a fussy baby in the late afternoons has also taught me it’s that using the bathroom while wearing your child strapped to you in an Ergo is 100% doable. And pants? Completely optional after that.)

But tonight…tonight I’m in my living room soaking in the only quiet and time to myself I’ve had in days…probably months. I can’t always make such a sacrifice with my sleep, but tonight it’s so needed because I realized to today I’ve reached my capacity. I’m at my limit.

Tomorrow I’ll start making some changes to address it. But tonight? Tonight I’m going to sit here for just a few more minutes and breathe deep, drinking in the soft glow from the candle.

It’s 12:09 am. Friday.

The Stories I Haven’t Told: Part One

*This was originally going to be a post for a link up titled “The Girls We Once Were.” However, it turned into something much different and became instead bits and pieces of the stories I’ve been struggling to write about since I discovered my love of writing at age 13. Stories only a select few know of-either because they lived them with me, were my therapist, or have been the closest of confidants…stories I’ve put off telling…until now. I’m sharing them because the girl I once was and the girl I was never allowed to be is begging me to let her speak so she can heal…so I can live outside of survival and not encased in it. So we can be free.

That’s all I ever wanted as far back as I can remember: to be free. This is Part One.*

*************

She has been waiting patiently, ever so patiently to come out of hiding.

Her eyes are always alert, silently taking in all that surrounds her in each environment she adapts to. They are always on the horizon, waiting. From infancy, her very life has always depended on their vigilance, observation being her shield.

Her ears are perfectly attuned to hear even the slightest shift in tone, pitch, and inflection. They can percept immediately if the shift will have an impact on her person.

Her breaths are light, slow, deep, quiet, and measured during the dormant seasons…heavy, ragged, sharp, and quick during the times of upheaval to help her body keep pace with survival.

Survival. Her whole existence has been about it.

**************

“Stop moving like that, stop singing-you sound awful,” he said when she forgot her place and danced and sang to Whitney Houston’s “Dance With Somebody” in the car. She was 4. She remembers how hot the intensity of his tone felt on her ears as his words rushed through them…her eyes had widened with fear and shock and clouded over with shame for her personhood upon viewing the disdain in the face reflected back at her through the rearview mirror. Her body grew heavy as the energy surging through her in those moments dried up like cement as the sharpness of his inflection consumed it. Her words became muzzled that day, the day she was reminded why silence was a protection. She felt her thoughts retreat quickly and her body stiffen like stone in an attempt to make the impending blows coming her way impenetrable to her core.

***********

Don’t speak. Don’t move. Don’t look up. Stare out at the world, at the faces of others unhindered, unsilenced. Envy their movement. Envy the freedom with which their bodies move. Envy the freedom expression has to reign over their face. Envy the children who get to yell, ask, be seen and heard, play, explore…and envy the way they are loved.

Sit perfectly still. Make your face expressionless, leave your eyes void of anything that might betray life and independence of thought and will. Stay mute. Always.

***********

She is on her knees surrounded by darkness. The only sound her ears can discern in the dark are the heavy hums of the fans blowing back and forth across the room.  She’s been there for hours. Her body is tense from being still for so long and her muscles ache from fatigue. Hey eyes slowly begin to close when she notices movement on the wall in front of her; there are figures dancing in the dark before her eyes. She strains and squints to see them clearly, being careful not to so much as telegraph the slightest movement. Her eyes dart back and forth as they excitedly keep pace with the shadows dancing on the wall in front of her. She feels her vocal chords straining to keep sound from reverberating up and out of her throat and into existence. She can’t make a sound. Yet she must have, or maybe she fell asleep as she watched the shadows dance because suddenly she can hear his voice lashing out at her in the dark. She can’t see his face, but she can hear him growling the words, “You better fucking stay awake. Did I say you could sleep, bitch?!” “No Daddy,” her voice croaks. She can’t even remember what she’d done this time, why she was being forced to stay awake all night, sitting alone in a corner, on her knees in the dark while he got to sleep. She’s suddenly thirsty, and in spite of her fear of angering him further, she makes a request. He answers it with a punch to her back that sends her face into the wall where the shadows had just been dancing. “Sit up!” he demands as he grabs her face. Ice cold water sprays in her eyes, and down her face. The air from the fans meets the wetness now soaking her shirt, and she shivers as she gets back into position. “Maybe now you’ll stay awake. Every time I catch you falling asleep, I’m going to spray your ass with this water. Wake the fuck up!”

******************

She is crying under the heat of the New Mexico sun in the back yard. He finds her in the jungle gym, and climbs all of his 6 feet and 3 inches inside, wedging himself between her and the ledge for the slide. “What are you crying for? I told you she wouldn’t want you. She doesn’t need you. She has her son. She has her husband. Your mother has her own life now. The judge asked her if she wanted you to come live with her. She said no. Look, your mother doesn’t love you. But I do. It’s me and you against the world A’Driane.”

**********************

She could see he was yelling. Spit foamed white and bubbled around the corners of his mouth as words white-hot with rage spewed from his lips. His mouth was moving, but she heard nothing. She felt nothing, in fact, not even the lift of her chest cavity as her lungs filled with air. She was weightless. Breathless.  She wanted to stay in this moment where time wasn’t an entity and there was nothing for her ears to hear or her body to feel. Free. She could be free. He was screaming at her, but there she was existing in a space beyond his words where his wrath couldn’t touch her, and she was free. Boundless. As her eyes rolled to slip her even further away, she felt it coming-escape. This was it. She could be free. But then his screams found their way in, forcing themselves upon her with brute force. Sound synced with motion and her ears could hear him screaming how much he hated her for living. How miserable she made him. How evil she was. How the sight of her made him murderous. Death. She could feel it staring at her through his eyes, and feel its grip in his hands as they continued to squeeze her throat.

She was 13. That was the day she wished he had just done it. Killed her like he’d threatened to do every day of her 13th year thus far. She didn’t think 14 was anything special to see anyway.

Universal Mental Health Screening for Pregnant and New Mothers is a MUST

Every mother. Every time.

pregnant mother of three drove her minivan into the ocean at Daytona Beach yesterday. She was reportedly incoherent when questioned by police and is undergoing a mental health evaluation at a local hospital. She is believed to be suffering from psychosis. 

Every mother. Every time.  

A mother in Chicago is being held on $1 million dollar bail today after she tried to kill herself and her 8 month old son by causing head on collisions with other vehicles, not once, but twice. 

Every mother. Every time. 

Out of ignorance I used to judge mothers who committed such acts. But during my second pregnancy, I started experiencing symptoms of antenatal depression and had fleeting thoughts of suicide. After I gave birth, I spent the first year of my son’s life crippled with anxiety, despair, and found myself planning suicide 2 months before his first birthday. I wanted to be free of what my mind had fallen prey to. I wanted relief from the intense mood swings, frenzied OCD, and graphic intrusive thoughts that flashed in my mind unwarranted and unwelcomed. (Full disclosure: Driving my car into a body of water or into oncoming traffic? I’ve had those thoughts. Learn more about intrusive thoughts here)

Thankfully I found hope and help after a google search led me to Postpartum Progress, and I read about the full scope of perinatal mood disorders and their symptoms in “plain mama English.” I sought and began treatment;  my diagnosis eventually changed to rapid cycling bipolar 2, OCD, and anxiety, and when it did, I began a medication regiment that included a mood stabilizer instead of just an antidepressant.

I don’t judge anymore. Instead I recognize and question if these mothers recieved adequate help and support. I wonder if they felt safe enough to reveal their struggles or if the stigma surrounding mental illness in motherhood choked them into silent suffering. I wonder if  their obstectricians were taking them seriously if they disclosed struggling with the mood swings hormone fluctuations during and after pregnancy trigger. I wonder if their obsetricians and children’s pediatricians screened them for depression and anxiety during pregnancy and beyond the 6 week postpartum check up. I wonder if they were told that depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy can manifest as rage, obsessive thought patterns and behaviors, and if they were made aware of the symptoms of postpartum psychosis, and told what to do if they began to hear voices or have delusions. I wonder if anyone told them that having an intrusive thought doesn’t make them a bad mother, and doesn’t mean they will harm themselves or their child. 

I wonder. 

I wonder what it will take for the medical community and our society to take maternal mental health seriously. I wonder when we’ll give just as much care to women’s minds as we do their bodies during and after pregnancy. I wonder how many more women and their children have to die because we aren’t making a mother’s mental health our priority when we care for and treat them.  

Every mother. Every time. 

What will it take for every obsetrician, every pediatrician, every insurance company to screen mother’s during pregnancy and their infant’s first year? Suicide is THE leading cause of death among women in their first year after childbirth, yet we stop screening for PPD, PPA, and postpartum psychosis after 6 weeks-if we screen at all. At least 50% of the 1 in 7 women who suffer from a PMAD go untreated, whether it’s due to lack of screening, or access to support and mental healthcare. 

What will it take to screen and care for every mother, every time? What will it take to offer our mothers and their babies treatment and hope? 

 

There is hope. Women don’t have to listen to the siren call of despair. Treatment makes recovery possible. We don’t have to leave women to suffer silently on their own, trapped in their minds, unable to free themselves. But too often, we do. Women are being missed and overlooked. 

Every mother. Every time. We must screen. We must be louder than stigma’s voice. We must enoucrage our mothers to seek treatment. 

If you believe universal mental health screening for pregnant and new mothers should be mandatory, please consider signing this White House petition. If you or someone you know is currently suffering, please know you are not alone. You are not a bad mother. There is hope and there is help. You can find information and resources at Postpartum Progress, and you can find a community of support on Twitter through the #PPDChat hashtag, and Postpartum Progress’ private support forum. 

To read some more about my experience with PPD & Bipolar Disorder during pregnancy, you can type “ppd” in the search box here to find some older posts, and you can read guest posts I’ve written here and here

 

(addyeB)

A Prompt Response

 

One of the writing communities I’m a part of holds weekly write-ins via video conference. While I’ve been a member of this community since early last year, tonight was my first time participating in one as it was happening. By the time I joined the conference, everyone was reading their responses to the first prompt “When do you feel heard?”, and blowing. my. mind. like. WHOA.

We were given 30 minutes for our 2nd prompt and here’s what I finally word vomited after wanting to throw my paper, pen, and laptop out my back door. 

Prompt: “Show Me Your Brave”

I hold them in the palm of my hand never knowing if they’ll be enough to keep me through the next 24 hours. I stare at them intently, as if my gaze alone can make it so that they do. I tilt my head back, close my eyes, and pause as this unknowing whispers my own doubts back to me, louder than the why I must in spite of. It’s in this nanosecond of a moment that fear always roars its loudest, reminding me of what exists within, and its capacity for destruction. I feel the darkness, I smell the fire, I hear the frantic call of madness, the hollow wail of despair and I wonder if 150mg is enough for 24 more hours. My hands shake as I swallow each one and bring the cup to my lips to further assist them on their way down. 

It’s the only way to find out. 

 

*to learn more about The Story Unfolding & Story Sessions writing community, click here*

My Dear Addye, With All My Love, Susan

Hello, dear readers of Butterfly Confessions. Lauren of My Postpartum Voice here. I’ve recruited some of Addye’s friends to write posts for her blog while Addye babymoons with hear new little one. This letter is the first guest post and it’s written by the fabulous Susan of Learned Happiness. If you’d like to submit a guest post to be published while Addye is babymooning, email me at mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail with “For Butterfly Confessions” in the subject line!

Without further ado, I present Susan’s lovely words for Addye…..

 

My Dear Addye,

You and I have been friends for 3 years, now.  And in that time, I have watched you transform into a wholehearted woman.  You took chances with your life and made huge leaps of faith – faith in yourself more than any one person.  You have learned to be honest with yourself about who you are and who you want to be.  Your integrity has been hard-fought and is well-deserved.  You honor me with your friendship.

You said when you married Bert and took his name that it was the beginning of a new life – one written by you and you alone.  One that speaks to all you hold sacred and points to a fulfilling life with your family.  And this baby?  Is a part of that new life.  I can see it in your eyes – in the way you look at him and hold him.  I have experienced the hope brought by a new baby birthed in joy and a sense of calm.  It renews the spirit.  And I couldn’t have wished a better birth experience for you.

SusanQuoteRemember that no matter how good your birth (or how much you love that amazing tiny man), having a newborn is a special kind of torture.  The nights are long and the days are even longer.  And no matter how happy you are, it’s okay to be exhausted.  It’s okay to be emotional.  And it’s okay to still need help.  This is not a test of your spirit.  You are not being graded on how gracefully you weather the fourth trimester.  There will be beautiful moments and there will be unbearable ones.  And your tribe?  Will be standing beside you for both.

I hope with all of my heart that the darkness you fear is blotted out by your joy.  But if it’s not, if it all becomes too much, you are armed and you are never alone.

With all my love,
Susan

11/12/13

It took six hours & 15 minutes exactly.

I went from six to nine centimeters and ready to push in under forty-five minutes.

There were only four pushes: two big, one half strength, the last more like a deep exhale.

There were three precise turns and deft movement of experienced hands during the third push to unwind the cord from around his neck.

He was placed on my chest as my OB called out his time of birth with a smile on his face: 12:15pm.

I wrapped my arms around him, and sat still for a few breaths just looking at him as he lay there quietly alert. “He’s perfect,” I thought, and “Well hello,” I said softly, a gentle laugh escaping from my lips.

There was fuss about pictures and cord cutting as Bertski wiped tears from his eyes, and the staff murmured in amazement at how quickly he arrived, and how calm and peaceful I was as he did.

There was no anxiety. No stress. Even without the epidural, and despite the extra jolt Pitocin gave them, I spent the hours and moments leading up to his birth laughing, smiling, exhaling, and goofing around through each contraction.

After such a physically awful pregnancy, my delivery turned out to be what I least expected: FUN. Yes it was fun. And joyful. And peaceful. And soothing. It was beautifully goofy and fulfilling all at once, and it gave me HIM.

*********

Austin Andres Nieves was born on 11/12/13 at 12:15pm at 39 weeks.

My greatest joy since his arrival has been watching how his brothers have instantly accepted him as their own. No jealousy, no anger, no lashing out. They are just as much in awe of him as Bertski and I are, which has eased the fears & concerns I had on this front prior to his birth.

Thank you to everyone who has joined us in celebrating his birth the past two weeks, and a very special thank you goes out to my tribe-an amazing group of women who have heaped love on me all year in various ways. Thank you for being my rock and reminding me that all things can be made new despite what’s happened in the past.

I’ll be taking a bit of a break from this space for a few weeks and will instead be letting some of my favorite writers share their words & thoughts here.

Until then, PICTURES! And Happy Thanksgiving you jive turkeys :)

20131126-174056.jpg

20131126-174135.jpg

20131126-174210.jpg

20131126-174240.jpg

20131126-174304.jpg

20131126-174348.jpg

20131126-174404.jpg

20131126-174506.jpg

20131126-174516.jpg

20131126-174608.jpg

20131126-174617.jpg

20131126-174656.jpg

Confessing

I’m approaching week 38. Still contracting. Still not progressing much. As of Wednesday, after 15hrs of contractions? 1 1/2 cm and 50%. I startled my OB with my exclamation of “FUCK!” as he finished my cervical exam.

Distraction has been my focus-anything to take my mind off my body, and keep edginess away. Last night’s distraction wwas season 2 of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. This morning’s was scrubbing the grout between the tiles in kitchen til they were white. I found the rhythmic motion and sound of the scrubbing brush and soapy floor sparkling in the sunlight from the kitchen windows soothing as I went about it.

Bertski came back from the run I practically pushed him out the door to take, and we took the boys for a bike riding lesson on their newly acquired bikes at the middle school track down the street. They rode, they ran, I sat and soaked in the sun before making way around the track as Busta Rhymes & Talib Kweli blared through my headphones.

Just now, while laying here listening to my family snore the afternoon away, confessed these words via text to a dear friend who’s worried about how quiet I’ve been lately:

“I keep telling myself once I have the baby I’ll feel sane again. And not this anxious desperate person with thoughts that are too loud & too fast and who wants out of her body. I think that’s half the reason why I want to have him already. I haven’t felt like myself much of this pregnancy and that unnerves me. “

I know it’s normal for women to feel like they’re going mad with the waiting and anticipation of baby’s arrival and from the physical strain of the final weeks. I do. But I don’t like it. It’s unsettling. My mind can’t take it, it’s not wired to handle such things very well without help. (Meds, YAY!) I’m also an impatient person by nature and while my pain threshold is relatively high, being in pain and under physical stress daily is triggering for me mentally & emotionally.

I just want it to be over and have him in my arms and my own physical space back. I want my hormones adjusted, my mind off the hamster wheel and fully engaged with living and learning as a mother of three. I want newborn snuggles and laughter and to not be consumed with the obsessive, compelling need to have everything in its “right” place internally and externally, from my house to the cluttered corners of my mind. I want to feel like myself more often and be consumed with the goodness that’s taking up residence in life as the year prepares to close. I want to be present, not lost traipsing the corridors of my mind waiting for them to empty so I can breathe freely again.

I want to run. Not away to escape, but toward. To freedom. To the woman waiting for me on the other side of this. She’s fully enjoying the season that’s ahead and I’m desperate to join her.

But it I have to wait and somehow make patience my virtue until it’s time.

My body shakes with the hope that it’s soon. Very soon.

Operation Get Dilated

Today I’m 36 weeks pregnant.

I’ve been contracting with minimal relief since the end of week 29. After my second trip to labor and delivery I was basically told my uterus is irritable and my cervix is soft but stubborn-it’s like one of those broken garage doors that only opens an inch or so off the ground and then gets stuck.

Back at the beginning of my third trimester, this was a good thing-necessary as neither my OB nor myself wanted to see my baby boy in the NICU or worse, not make it. So I was given magnesium, a couple of steroid shots, and a host of other meds that didn’t work in an attempt to keep everything at a standstill. My cervix didn’t open any further, but the contractions refused to leave. So I’ve been living with them, each one eating away at my sanity like a zombie feasts on brains & flesh.

As I mentioned previously, I  went in to see my OB last Monday after a weekend of particularly brutal contractions that were practically on top of each other. That’s when he gave me the “hang in there old sport” pep talk, checked my cervix and told me it had changed just a tiny bit, warned me that much like my labor with Alex, this one is starting off at a snail’s pace, and told me he wouldn’t try to make it go any faster until at least week 37. He also told me it would be a good idea to at least start doing some walking to help get things “ready.”

So I’ve been walking every day, and honestly resisting the urge to sprint down the street in spite of my symphysis pubis being as wide as the Grand Canyon at this point. I pretty much try to waddle-walk as fast as I can without splitting my pelvis in half. So far thanks to my SI belt, I’ve remained intact, and while walking has helped baby boy drop it low (very low), he hasn’t fallen out on the street yet, so we’re good.

I would, however like him to fall-er come out within the next two weeks though. I started labor with Alex at 36 weeks and had him at 37. I normally would be all “oh let’s just have Nature take its sweet ass time,” but when you’ve been contracting for over a month while keeping up with two other children and running a household, AND experiencing early labor symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and losing weight for the past two weeks? You start thinking of how you can get Nature to get her ass in gear and end her tyrannous reign over your body.

Even if you’ve had one of those disgustingly goddess-like pregnancies where unicorns met you every morning and you glided everywhere you went in your pre-pregnancy skinny jeans held together by a single rubber band, weeks 36 & 37 are the weeks women start googling “how to get this f—–ing human out of me on time.” That will lead you to the seedy underworld of pregnancy message boards where you find women desperately seeking not Susan, but ways to (safely) help the body get a move on.

Yes, I’ll admit it: I’ve read all the boards. Repeatedly. I’ve asked friends who’ve studied midwifery for tips. I’ve asked my OB’s nurse for suggestions. (Evening primrose oil, in case you’re wondering). I spent all last week trying to tone my uterus via raspberry tea leaf like I’m training it to swim against Michael Phelps in the next Olympics. And again-I’ve been waddle-walking.

One thing that’s struck me though when I’ve read these boards and asked folks for suggestions is that there’s an obvious method that no one is mentioning. It wasn’t until my friend Lindsay jokingly mentioned that I should just twerk it that it hit me: DANCE.

No one on any of these boards has mentioned dance as a way to get dilated & softened. Sure you could spend your time being all namaste in a squatted yoga pose till the pressure built up on your cervix causes a blowout, OR you could just throw on some “Pop, Lock & Drop It,” by Huey.  At least the asinine lyrics will distract you from how uncomfortable and claustrophobic in your own body you feel.

So, I’m here at week 36, telling you that maybe instead of giving yourself the runs and worse via castor oil, destroying your mouth eating legions of pineapple, and having sex when the LAST thing you want at this point is to be touched by the one who DOESN’T have to get up every 2 hours to go the bathroom-try busting a move. Put on some music and pop those hips. Twerk it. Shake it. Drop it like you’re 23 and in the club.

I just did. I did at one point drop it low and stay on my living room rug, but hey, I’m 9 months pregnant, that’s to be expected. I didn’t say doing any of this would look pretty-I’m just saying it might prove effective and will probably be MUCH more fun than chugging some nasty drink concoction or just sitting in misery.

If you’re looking for songs to pop, hop, drop, & shimmy it to, I’ll help you out and give you my playlist. You’re welcome.

  • Anything by Missy Elliot. Seriously-ANYTHING.
  • Shake it Out by Florence + The Machine (for the hippie in you)
  • Show Me What You Got-Jay Z
  • Bring Em Out-T.I.
  • Hips Don’t Lie-Shakira (c’mon, it’s obvious why)
  • Party Rock-LMFAO
  • Runaway Baby-Bruno Mars
  • Locked out of Heaven-Bruno Mars (I suggest grabbing a hairbrush and just belting this out)
  • You Make Me Feel-Cobra Starship (remember-23…in the club…don’t GAF about NOTHING-let loose)
  • Anything by the Black Eyed Peas. Begin with “Let’s Get it Started”, perhaps?
  • Jump Around-House of Pain (I can’t jump, but I waddled and bobbed)
  • Square Biz-Teena Marie. (6:40 of absolute funk & soul to lose yourself in. Spin, twirl, snap fingers)
  • Get Up-Ciara

If you’re feeling particularly fearless and REALLY want to get into it, I suggest heading to YouTube and finding some Unk (“Walk it Out), Ester Dean (“Drop it Low), and another “Drop it Low,” by Kat Deluna. Song is annoying but the moves might help things shift around down below.

I’m off to go get checked. Hopefully Operation Get Dilated is in full effect. I’ll let you know :)

*By the way, I’m not a doctor. So talk to yours about what’s safe for you to do and get clearance before you wind up having to search YouTube for ways to do an emergency home birth. Don’t sue me. Thanks.*

 

In Between

I woke up at 5:24 this morning and stumble-waddled my way through the dark for yet another trip to the bathroom.

I sat there, on the throne, looking at myself in the bathroom mirror through vision hazy from sleep, and whispered out loud, “It’s almost over.”

As soon as the words left my lips and drifted off into space, a mix of varied emotions weaved their way up from my toes to my belly where my hands were interlaced. My fingers tensed as each emotion swept through and around me, each one squeezing tightly and then releasing me much like the contractions I’ve been having the past six weeks.

So many contractions. 2 trips to L&D. Body pumped full of medications to stop them but they’ve refused to surrender. They are tenacious and stubborn, insistent on being present. Stronger and more frequent than Braxton Hicks, but not productive enough to fully initiate labor. They last for hours, pulsing and squeezing, tightening and releasing me sometimes one to two minutes apart, at others three to five, and at their slowest every twenty to thirty. They are overwhelming and tiring at their most frequent intervals and annoying at their slowest.

They are altogether frustrating, and their constant presence since week thirty have taken a toll on my psyche. At times they are all I can think about, my nerves on edge, trying to decide if I should call the nurse line and go in or just ride them out. Confusion and doubt often set in, intermingling with the pain, setting my OCD senses tingling and on high alert. My thoughts often ruminate during the more intense rounds and I often can’t tell if I’m losing my mind, responding mentally and emotionally as any pregnant woman in my situation would, or just being melodramatic & hormonal.

The past two weeks they’ve been accompanied by nausea, cramps, back aches, loose bowels, loss of appetite and a drop in weight-all of your textbook signs of your body preparing for birth & early labor. “Your labor will most likely be very slow in the beginning, much like your last,” said my OB last week. “Which we want, because we want to keep him in just another week or two longer. Your cervix is stubborn, which we need it to be right now. Hang in there. Let’s see what happens-hopefully next week we’ll start to see some big changes!”

So here I am, sitting on the toilet at 5:24am, at 35 weeks and 7 days, staring at the start of week 36 with an aching back and pulsing thighs…nauseated….exhausted yet mind abuzz with energy….body contracting physically and emotionally….forcing myself to whisper words to counteract the anxiety that has separated itself from the emotions pulsing around my belly and wound its way up to my chest, squeezing my heart until it feels as though it will burst from the constriction.

“It’s almost over.”

“Hang in there.”

“Pregnancy is a shitty and invasive force of Nature that always biologically beats my body into submission, but it’s worth the end result.”

The end result being my third child, another boy.

*************

After the anxiety passes my interlaced fingers tighten their hold on my belly and I feel the other emotions that remain creating a sense of heat around my womb, both inside and out.

Yes it’s almost over and there is excitement. There is anticipation. There is a desire for joy to meet me at the end when I peer into his eyes and behold the mystery behind them for the first time; the first glimpse into him, this tiny stranger, an extended combination of my husband and I that has been growing and squirming restlessly within me for nine months. There is hope. There is an eagerness to begin this new season of my life as a mother to him and his brothers, a mother of three. There is a shout wanting to shoot it’s way from my soul and burst forth from my lips in exaltation at what a year it’s been for me, for my husband, for the boys individually, and for our family as a whole. This child, this boy,  is the culmination of the new life we set out to build for ourselves back in April of 2012; when my husband and I sat in an IHOP in Philly, allowing restoration to heal our broken relationship. He is the embodiment of our new life as a whole unit, and the cairn directing our steps towards yet another new way forward for our family.

I’ve had each of my children during life altering transitions and significant periods of growth in my life, and timing of this child’s birth will be no different. What he embodies and signifies in my life at this moment are special to me, just like his brothers. Brennan healed my heart from my past, he is my empathy, my reincarnated self given another chance at a peaceful and full childhood, he showed me that I was good, and clean, and capable at motherhood and life. Alex is the one who challenged me in new and painful ways that were unexpected but oh so necessary. His entrance into my life dug itself deep into my core and unearthed in me things I had yet to see, and shone a harsh light on what I need to face and finally deal with. He shifted me as a woman, a mother, a believer…with him I was forced to throw all I thought I knew and carve out a new way of living and thinking. Alex taught me how to take care of myself and make my well-being a priority-a first for me. Alex pushed me out of the stagnant, boxed up life I had been living and out into a world I hadn’t let myself explore. He pushed me up and out of the rubble of the past 29 years and into wholeness-into my real self. I am the woman I am right at this very moment because I gave birth to him.

And here I am with this one. I know what he means to me personally, as a mother, and our life as a family in one sense…but he remains a complete mystery to me in another, which I find exciting and my being twinges with eagerness to learn and explore the world through his eyes as I have through his brothers.

*****************

And yet there is also fear of what’s to follow once we make our way back out through the hospital doors, and back to our home where the adjustment and shift of our family dynamic will begin to take shape; permanently rooting itself in our lives, our family.

Will I relapse? Will I catch it before it sucks me in?  What if I can’t get appointments or calls in to my therapist and psychiatrist because of how slow and overbooked the VA appointment system is? How will I handle the hard and the overwhelming task of meeting the needs of three children, who are all at very different stages and seasons of life? My husband being unavailable due to work obligations? Fluctuating hormones and fatigue?

And the boys: how will Alex adjust to the change and new presence, both as a three year old, and as a child who struggles with change and disruption of routine on the sensory level? Will his ABA based preschool be enough of an outlet for him? How will Brennan feel, as the oldest? So much of the focus has been on Alex and his therapies these past months, I often wonder if I’ve given him enough attention, and now with a newborn….

There is fear…despite all of the knowledge, support, and awareness I have, despite knowing that I’m at a much different place in life than I was when Alex was born and suffered through that first year…there is a lurking fear that sits and stares me directly in the eyes, making me all the more aware of the reality of my illness and how stress, change, and motherhood trigger it.

**********

So I am here at 5:24 in the early dark of morning, with foggy eyes squinting through the bright bathroom lights at my pregnant self, fingers tightly interlaced across my belly. Body and mind are engulfed in emotions that jar against each other, breathing deeply and staring back at what has been, and into what lies ahead. Feeling new life roll and jab in a space that is becoming too cramped and ready to be birthed. Ready but yet not ready. Craving for it to be over, yet continue on because what’s on the other side is still dark and unseen in a few areas. On the brink yet still stuck in the space and feelings between old and new. Waiting.