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To My Second Child


Second Child

I forgot to take your picture last month.

You turned six months old — a considerable milestone — and I didn’t mark the occasion.

I took your brother’s picture each month of the first year of his life, without fail. I even coordinated outfit changes and creative poses and extensive digital retouching.

I had a lot more time on my hands back then.

I confess this now because I fear someday you’ll notice. You’ll see the disparity in pictures and think it means something. You’ll look for the inconsistencies in how we were with you and your brother, and you’ll wonder if we feel the same for you both.

Let me address your feelings now, before you’re able to have them: The day you were born, I learned to love more than I ever knew I could.

On that day, I checked into the hospital fairly convinced that you were going to be a boy. Your dad and I decided to wait to find out, but I thought I knew. My second pregnancy felt so similar to my first that I thought the gender had to be the same. On top of that, I thought my doctor had slipped and accidentally revealed you were a boy.

I tried hard not to care whether you were a boy or a girl since it was so completely out of my control. I knew there would be wonderful things about either gender and I truly was just grateful you had been declared healthy throughout my pregnancy.

But secretly, buried deep inside me was a tenacious desire to have a daughter.

And yet, in that moment when you first came out and clung to my chest, I was so overcome with love for you that I didn’t think about gender. After a few moments with no reaction from me, your dad finally said, “Hon? Do you see?”

I looked down at you and could hardly believe my eyes. “It’s a girl,” said your father, and I understood he knew just how happy those words would make me.

A beautiful, dark-haired baby girl. A daughter.

We bestowed upon you a lovely, old-fashioned name that carries a measure of dignity and grace. We introduced you to your aunts and grandparents and great, whooping cheers erupted throughout the room. Tears flowed from everyone’s eyes and your brother climbed into the bed to get a better look at you. You: the perfect addition to our family.

I’ve learned so much from you already. Mostly, I’ve learned the love in a parent’s heart isn’t divided when another child comes along. Rather, my capacity for love grew when you came into my life. Like the fabled Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day. I love everything more because of you.

In my eyes, you aren’t second. You’re more.

Yes, more laundry and diapers and medical expenses. More spills and messes and Goldfish crumbs in the car. More sleep-disrupting cries in the night. More to worry about; more to support.

But more of the most wonderful things in my life, too.

If I forget to write down all your milestones and moments in a gold-lined baby book, I apologize. I’m a second child myself, and I understand how the smallest injustice or inequality can be perceived as indifference. So please know it’s merely that I want to spend every extra moment I have just being present with you and your brother, soaking in all the wonderful things about you both.

These are golden days in my life: you, at seven months old, pleasant, bubbly and cherubic. You offer a wide, toothless grin to anyone who smiles at you, but you seem to reserve your purest smiles for me. Your brother, at two and a half, funny and sweet and affectionate. Waving and talking to anyone he sees; ready with a kiss or a song or something to make his audience laugh.

Golden, precious days that will pass all too quickly.

I know there are slammed doors and stomped feet ahead. I know that, before long, I’ll be at the periphery of your universe rather than the nexus. And if I frustrate, irritate and enrage you, that only means I’m doing my job.

I’ll deal with all that when it comes. For now, we are kindred spirits, blood sisters, a mutual admiration society. We are connected in the most organic, intimate way possible, and I’ll hold you close for as long as I can.

Today, we’re outside together on a gorgeous summer day. You’re rolling around on the quilt that once lay atop my childhood bed and your sharp, observant eyes take in all that surrounds you in our garden green back yard. You turn your head toward the chirping of the birds in the trees and your wispy hair blows with the wind. Every few seconds, you look behind you to see if I’m still here.

Of course, I am. I always will be.

You travel to the edge of the blanket and your tiny hand plucks a blade of grass. You study it, turn it, feel it. And then you let it go, watching it fly away in the breeze.

Someday I’ll do the same for you. For now, you are mine and I am yours. Totally, utterly, completely yours.

I conclude this love letter to you, my second child, with a promise: I rescind all the hopes and dreams I had for you. I vow to let you be yourself, to follow your own path without judgment or disapproval. I’m already perfectly content with who you are; all you have to do is keep being yourself and I’ll be proud of you every day of your life.

I’ve only known you for seven, lightning-fast months, but I already know you’re a special, beautiful person. You have a happy heart, an easy smile and a quick and curious mind. I’ll move heaven and earth to keep the world from taking those gifts from you.

Thank you for coming into my life.

Love always,

Mom

Getting By with a Little Help

My two blonde-headed loves: Hudson and his amazing Aunt Stephie

My two blonde-headed loves: Hudson and his amazing Aunt Stephie on a gorgeous Ohio fall day

Taking steps is easy; standing still is hard
— Regina Spektor, “You’ve Got Time”

We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but coming home has been a lot more complicated than my husband and I could have ever predicted. Thankfully, nearly three months after embarking on our somewhat nomadic life, our state of limbo is finally nearing its end. We’re moving in to our new house in just one week!

Over Labor Day weekend, just when we tried to take a break from our exhausting search, a cute house in a nice neighborhood came on the market. Plus, the price was great. We knew it wouldn’t last, so we jumped in the car and made the two-hour drive back to town to try and beat the competition.

Sure enough, this house had eight showings and three offers on its first day out, but — for once — our offer was the best. After six failed attempts to secure a house, I’d like to say I didn’t weep great tears of relief when we got the news of our success, but that just wouldn’t be the truth.

A home! With this baby kicking inside me like a gorilla rattling its cage, the relief I felt was overwhelming. But, in real estate, a deal isn’t done until it’s done, and this one took us on more than a few twists and turns.

For starters, the inspection report uncovered far more issues than expected, and it took some serious negotiation by my husband to get what we needed from the sellers. Luckily, this is his forte. In the end, the sellers agreed to credit us the amount needed to fix the most pressing issues, but we would need to perform the work ourselves.

Coordinating the repairs ourselves was easier said than done, especially with less than two months left in my pregnancy. Somehow we made the crazy decision to crank up the heat and add a mind-boggling list of renovations to the list of must-do items.

And so, we’ve kicked off nearly four weeks of work that will end with a completely overhauled house. It’s a lot to juggle and coordinate with a baby providing a hard deadline in the not-too-distant future. If everything stays on schedule, (the baby included!), we’ll have approximately one month to get settled before our lives get turned upside-down again.

Meanwhile, our 2-year-old son, despite having held up amazingly well through all the changes thrown at him, has suddenly decided he’s no longer willing to sleep in a Pack ‘n Play at the foot of our bed. Days and nights are now punctuated by negotiations with a miniature terrorist who sobs and flails and scales the walls of his crib whenever we try to leave the room.

Our situation hasn’t been stress-free. This move has been much, much harder than either of us could have possibly foreseen.

If it weren’t for the incredible amount of help we’ve had from family and friends, we would never have made it this far. We’re logging our third month of living with my unbelievably generous sister, who has opened her two-bedroom condo to our loud and messy clan without a single complaint.

The three of us (plus a fetus! as she often has to remind me) together produce an effect similar to a hurricane or the Bumpus hounds: we eat a lot, we leave a path of destruction everywhere we go and one of us produces a shocking number of dirty diapers each day.

My dear sister’s warmth and generosity have provided more than just convenience: we truly could not have made this move without her help and hospitality. The only complaint I have is how she’s spoiled us. Once we move out, how am I going to live without all the extra cooking, cleaning and free childcare?!

We’ve also benefited from the generosity of my in-laws, who have been keeping our very large, very rambunctious Golden Doodles at their home two hours away. Certainly, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they agreed to this last summer. Our dogs are not the fade-into-the-background type: they bark, they jump on the furniture, they lovingly maul visitors and they may possibly from time to time destroy a throw pillow. Or eight. (Cringe.)

Caring for our high-maintenance dogs is just one of countless acts of kindness my in-laws have performed for us. They find a way to be there for us whenever we need them and they’ve helped us in more ways than I can count. To them, family is more important than anything and their generosity and selflessness amaze me. Finding them and being welcomed into their loving family has probably been the single most fortuitous event of my life.

We didn’t make this decision for the short-term benefits and we wouldn’t have made it this far without our families. We’re truly blessed to have so many people who are helping us make this happen.

In the grand scheme of things, all the trouble we’ve seen is just a minor bump in the road on our path to a really good place.

What we have here is what we were missing in North Carolina: our family, our friends and a generous stretch of sparkling Ohio fall weather. This is why we were able to leave Charlotte’s beauty and grace and clear, blue skies behind. This is what we hoped to find at the end of our rainbow.

We are home. (Well, almost.)

Goodbye

Charlotte, NC

Beautiful Charlotte, NC (Source: Flickr.com)

Dear Readers:

I’ve been strangely lax on publishing this post, which I wrote more than two weeks ago. I can’t really put my finger on why, but something has kept me from clicking that “Publish” button. I guess it can only be my hesitation to bid a final farewell to this most recent chapter of my life. Bear with me as I’m muddling through the transition, and thanks for your support.

*                 *               *               *               *

For five years, my family and I called the beautiful city of Charlotte, NC, home. Now, after a hectic fews days of moving, the time has come to say goodbye. How do I begin to express how much I’ll miss this place and the people I’ve met here?

Given the challenges we encountered while trying to buy a home in Ohio, what I expected would be a week or so spent away from Charlotte to house hunt turned into three. That left just one whirlwind week to wrap up my life in this city and say my goodbyes.

I didn’t get to see everyone I hoped to, and I definitely wasn’t able to bid farewell in the way I wanted.

I’m a pretty sentimental person. I don’t like change and I don’t like goodbyes. I didn’t want to leave grade school for high school, I didn’t want to leave high school for college and I certainly didn’t want to leave college for the real world.

Throughout this move I’ve reminded myself of this many times. I know it’s largely the change that’s making my heart so heavy.

The change. The goodbye.

In my last week, I met friends at playgrounds, went to sendoff dinners and attended our last neighborhood party. In these moments, I was light and carefree. I didn’t think too much about last times or last looks. I gave out hugs and promised I’d see my friends again.

But the reality is, I don’t know when.

My goodbyes to this city and its people have to be good ones. I have no work trips to bring me back, no unfinished business lingering to be completed. It may be a long time before I see this place again.

One of the hardest goodbyes was the one I had to say to our beloved first house. After we toured it together and declared our mutual love for it, my husband covertly secured it for us while I was out of town. When I returned, he surprised me with a picture and note, thanking me for my patience and welcoming me home.

First Home

We spent the first years of our marriage here. We brought our son home to this house from the hospital. We had first baths and first words and first steps here. We gave our oldest dog his first yard after a lifetime spent in apartments and brought home a puppy to join him shortly after.

IMG_0210

We ripped down wallpaper, renovated bathrooms, painted walls and installed an antique mantle in the living room. I hung light fixtures and ceiling fans with my own two hands (yes, I’m the handyman around these parts) and never knew how proud I’d feel once the jobs were done.

Living Room

This was our house and, to be honest, I had a hard time letting it go. During the week I had to say goodbye to it, I came to terms with just how strongly this house had gotten to feel like home.

I didn’t handle it well when the first pieces of mail addressed to the new owners started arriving. But, in truth, I’m happy for them. I hope they love the spectacular fig tree in the back yard as much as we did. I hope they strap young children into the tree swing and watch their little legs stretch toward the long, leafy branches. I hope their children color on the walls and that someone learns to ride a bike in the driveway.

And, selfishly, I hope they don’t cover up the Giving Tree I painted on our son’s nursery wall.

022_Bedroom

It doesn’t help that we don’t have a new home to go to. Despite making an offer or being close to doing so on five different houses, we’ve come up empty-handed. We have to start from square one and hope our new house finds us soon.

Until then, we’ll live with friends and family members, biding our time until we once again have a place to call home.

After the hectic week we spent packing, organizing and erasing our lives from this home, my husband and I took one last look and headed for the door with a little toddler hand clasped in each of our own. As we reached the front door, my husband stopped, put his arm around my shoulders and said, “This will always be our first home.” I promptly burst into tears.

Tears continued to roll down my cheeks as we stepped out onto the stoop and closed the locked door behind us. Our house was no longer ours.

As I held my son’s hand and took the first steps toward the car, the perpetually blue Carolina skies clouded over and a couple of fat raindrops fell from the sky. I looked up in disbelief: after two perfect days of moving, rain was moving in at the very moment we were moving out.

What did it all mean? Was the rain trying to compel us back through the locked door behind us? Should we race to the realtor’s office and call the whole thing off in a dramatic, last-minute change of heart?

No, I decided. That wasn’t it at all.

Here was Charlotte’s parting gift to me: a little touch of rain to make me forget just how lovely it usually is outside. The two perfect days preceding, the ease with which we sold our house, the rain moving in at just the last moment: everything was telling me that this was meant to be.

Still, I will really miss this place.

To all of you I met here, thank you. It’s been a great five years in Charlotte.

It’s time to say goodbye.

Going Home

Ohio

Ohio illustration courtesy of Mollie Mattin (click to visit Etsy page)

Excitement, heartache, optimism, angst: just a few of the complicated feelings that have been rattling around inside me for several weeks now.

You see, my husband and I have made a huge, life-changing decision for our family.

We’re going home.

After five wonderful years in North Carolina, we’ve decided to return to our roots in Ohio. The call of family and friends and the place that’s always felt right finally became too loud to ignore. Our decision was not easy by any stretch and, although it seems like the safe choice, in reality it’s been far from it.

When you consider the great weather and natural beauty of our town, how much we love our house and neighborhood and, of course, the fact that we have our second child coming around the first of December, this course of action seems nothing short of insane.

And, unfortunately, insanity is what we’ve encountered so far.

I intended to write about what motivated our decision and how powerful a thing it is to return home, but I’ve been too stressed and exhausted and on the verge of a nervous breakdown to be able to focus on those things. Of course, if I could get myself to focus on those things, I’d certainly be dealing with this other stuff better.

Three (two? four? I’ve lost count) weeks ago I packed our two large dogs and 22-month-son into the car and hightailed it out of our house just in time for our first showing. While not easy, the journey to Ohio felt like a piece of cake compared to the two weeks that preceded it.

In those two crazy weeks, we made our life-altering decision, hosted a dizzying array of family members and contractors to help fix up our house (including a bathroom renovation) and got the place staged, photographed and put on the market.

Who could have guessed we’d get a cash offer within 24 hours for nearly our entire asking price? Great news, certainly, and a huge relief. But we didn’t have any idea what we’d be in for once we started looking for a new place to live.

Thanks to a wild home buying spree that’s left our new (old) city severely lacking in inventory, I’m engaged in some sort of crazy game of musical chairs with every other homebuyer here. So far, I’m losing. The chairs are all taken and the music is ending. My family has no place to sit.

Finding a rental home hasn’t turned out to be any easier and the clock is ticking — we have to be out of our North Carolina home in less than two short weeks.

Oh yes, and (I nearly forgot), I’m having a baby in four months.

Just the other day, while pleading with a doctor’s office over the phone trying to get them to accept me as a transfer patient, I was asked how far along I am. I responded that I had no idea — the past few weeks had been a little busy — and would have to check.

I carefully counted the weeks once over, twice over … could that be right?

Twenty-two weeks: more than halfway through my pregnancy.

I still can hardly believe it. Where has the time gone?

This pregnancy has been a far cry from my first. I haven’t spent a minute thinking about my growing belly, my swollen feet or my fears about being a mom to two human beings. I haven’t written any letters to the baby or pinned an ultrasound to the mirror or even had a single conversation with my husband about what we’ll name this child.

And yet, this baby grows and thrives inside of me. It’s a reminder that I need to just let go and have faith that everything will work out okay.

Tomorrow, my husband, son and I will be reunited here in Ohio. After weeks of being apart and in constant transit, it’ll be a relief to be together at my sister’s house — so much family, finally in one place. We’ll have approximately two days left to find a house before we have to head back to North Carolina to say goodbye to our life there.

That’s never been an easy word for me to say.

Back south, the tree swing that hangs from an impossibly high branch has sat unused for weeks. Soon, the fig tree in our back yard will start to yield fruit, and I won’t be there to collect its gifts. I long to sleep in my own bed, wear clothes that didn’t come out of a suitcase and watch my dogs chase each other in our big back yard.

Goodbye: It’s a word that’s almost as powerful as another one taking up a lot of space in my heart these days: home.

Almost as powerful. But not quite.

Beating the Jelly Doughnut

Jelly Donut

How could I ever have found this guy attractive?

It’s been about two months now since I started following my strict anti-inflammatory diet. The biggest challenge to this new way of eating is my monstrous sweet tooth, which has only gotten more insistent as this kid inside me grows.

During my last pregnancy, I subsisted mainly on chocolate croissants, sugary cereal and jelly doughnuts (which I usually find completely disgusting). Despite the huge, everything-you-could-possibly-want cafeteria spanning the entire first floor of the Fortune 50 company I worked for at the time, I recall leaving the building to drive to Dunkin Donuts and buy a jelly doughnut. More than once.

Eating whatever I wanted was how I got through my first pregnancy. When I felt crappy, I ate. When I was scared or tired or fed up with being pregnant, I ate.

This time around, I’m missing both the amazing smorgasbord of food all hours of the day and my sugar-laden support group. So you can imagine how excited I was yesterday to have something akin to a treat: homemade granola.

Homemade Granola

Store-bought granola doesn’t hold a candle to this stuff

The recipe I followed is from the beautiful cookbook, “The Sprouted Kitchen,” by Sara Forte, and it’s been republished on the blog, Delightful Crumb. The recipe was simple and so much healthier than the store-bought stuff — not to mention much, much tastier. I don’t care for raisins so I substituted dried cherries (with no added sugar) and decreased the amount of maple syrup called for in the recipe. I also found mine was plenty brown after 25 minutes, rather than the recommended 35-45.

Another perk of making your own granola is having more than one serving — as long as you can keep yourself from eating the entire batch warm out of the oven. (It was not easy.) This morning, I made Angela Liddon’s Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal from her amazing blog, Oh She Glows. (If you’ve never visited this blog, you must do so immediately. Her recipes are mostly free of meat, dairy, gluten, soy and processed foods, and everything I’ve made has been delicious.) I topped it off with some of the granola and it was pure heaven.

If you’re following an anti-inflammatory diet, don’t mistake this stuff for the perfect food. Although the ingredients are all pretty wholesome (oats, pumpkin, spices, olive oil, etc.), I’m still careful not to eat it on an empty stomach. I start every meal with protein — especially first thing in the morning — and save anything that’s higher in sugar or carbs for after I’ve eaten something more substantial. This prevents a rapid rise in blood sugar, which is widely considered to be pro-inflammatory.

Since I’ve been following this dramatically healthier diet, I’ve made some crazy discoveries. I’ve been shocked to find that my taste buds are rapidly expanding and widening their world view. Whereas I used to just melt cheese over everything I ate, now I’m seasoning my food with interesting spices and flavors from nature. Foods I didn’t like before — such as pumpkin! — are suddenly tasting wonderful to me. I’m loving ginger (a great anti-inflammatory food) and can’t get enough spicy mustard. Is it possible my tastes are finally growing up?

And those jelly doughnuts? They’re kind of like that boyfriend you used to think was so hot, but now you cringe when you see old photos of the two of you. This time around, I haven’t thought about eating a jelly doughnut for a single instant. At least I hadn’t before I started writing this …

Here We Go Again

Baby On The Way

Hello, world!

Friends, the bump is back. Baby #2 is on the way, due December 2!

Now that all the initial feelings of fear, anxiety and nausea have (mostly) passed, I feel incredibly blessed to be expecting again. My son will have a brother or sister, and I know from experience that’s a wonderful thing.­

The first few weeks of this pregnancy were tough, which is why I’ve been underground for a little while. I’ve been dealing with a couple health issues, one of which is an autoimmune disorder and both of which cause fatigue and general malaise. Adding pregnancy exhaustion on top of that left me feeling pretty awful overall.

In those early weeks, I ignored what my body was trying to tell me and went into full indulgence mode. Like the first time around, I completely abandoned my healthy eating plan and started stuffing my face with whatever sounded delicious: cereal, toast, ice cream, waffles, pasta, butter, bread, sugar, bread, sugar, sugar, sugar …

As a result, I started feeling worse and worse. I was dragging myself around the house, barely functioning and not at all being the fun, attentive mom I wanted to be. I found myself feeling pretty negative about the whole pregnancy experience.

When life gets hard, nothing soothes the soul like a conversation with a good friend. For me, a simple phone call from a friend turned out to be a beacon of light in my time of need.

My friend reminded me that I can’t take care of this baby without taking care of myself. My autoimmune disease means that I have inflammation throughout my body, which flares up when I’m not following a healthy lifestyle. The most reliable trigger is unhealthy eating and — although I’ve been following an anti-inflammatory diet for the past couple years — I finally had to admit that I never fully committed to it.

Most importantly, I learned that my autoimmune disease can have a serious impact on the baby. That was enough to make me turn things around for good.

The morning after my friend’s pep talk, I went back to the anti-inflammatory diet I’ve been casually following, but this time with a vengeance. No wheat, no dairy, no rice, no corn, no sugar (!), no pasta, no cereal, no bread, crackers or cookies and only a limited amount of lean, organic meat. Processed foods, snack foods and even gluten-free substitutes are out. And, hardest of all: no coffee.

Despite the difficulty of coming off more than 15 years of unconditional love for coffee, I felt instantly better after quitting cold turkey. After feeling bad for such a long time, it was like coming out of a dark cave into the light.

This is not to say that pregnancy is all light and joy, of course. I’m not a terribly disciplined person and I fall off the wagon from time to time. I’m haven’t completely figured out which foods are best to include or exclude from my complicated diet, and my energy level is still pretty low. But there’s no question that I’m doing better than I was, and that makes it all worth it.

So you may be wondering after all this, what do I eat? Lots of fruit and veggies, beans, quinoa, green smoothies, salads, goat cheese and many cups of tea. I’ve found some incredible cookbooks and food blogs that have helped me and I’ll share the recipes I like over the next few weeks.

Hopefully I’ll continue to feel pretty good. Maybe I’ll even stay within the recommended weight gain this time around instead of blowing right past it. Just the other day my husband told me how good I look, cheerfully remarking, “You don’t even look pregnant from the front or the side. Just from the back.”

Friends, you win some, you lose some.

Pound of Flesh

Shiny, Happy Baby

My boy, back when he was still all shiny and new

Now that my son is 18 months old, I’m starting to get “the question.”

So, are you ready for another?

Another? My god, I feel like I just got done creating the one I have. People, I fabricated a human being out of thin air, and now you want me to do it again??

And yet, I do think about it from time to time. More than the little twinge I get when I see a mom cradling a shiny, new bundle, I think of the incredible bond between my sister and me and how I want my son to have that with someone.

Then I start remembering pregnancy.

The main thing I recall about being pregnant was feeling like my body was playing one humiliating joke on me after another. I had kept myself blissfully ignorant of the trials and tribulations of pregnancy, mostly so I would never be too chicken to attempt it. The downside of this approach was that I was completely caught off guard for all its inconvenient truths.

Everyone knows the pregnancy basics: your emotions go haywire, you gain a bunch of weight, you feel insanely tired and you barf from time to time.

I certainly wasn’t prepared for everything else.

You start off with the first few weeks when no one knows you’re knocked up. Despite your crushing fatigue and the fact that your clothes are getting tight, you pretend like everything’s normal. You don’t really look pregnant at this stage; you just look chubby. Most likely your co-workers have observed how many doughnuts you’re downing out of the community box and they just chalk up your weight gain to that.

Next, your sense of smell is heightened to a point where it could be considered a superpower, which would be cool if the person sitting next to you would stop eating curry for lunch and then throwing his leftovers in your trash can. Trips to the grocery store become unbearable. I don’t know who decided to put the fish display right next to the cheese aisle at my local supermarket, or if the d-bag responsible had any idea what he was doing to pregnant women, but it all seemed like a cruel joke at the time.

The only respite to the heightened sense of smell is the fact that your sinuses clog up, but your allergies go wild at the same time. And, as a possible result of all this, your nose gets bigger. I had actually forgotten about this one until my husband reminded me of it the other day. Thankfully, he was kind enough to clarify, saying, “It wasn’t so much that your nose got bigger, it was that your whole face got kind of puffy.” Ah, yes. Add puffy face to the list.

There’s your sudden hatred of foods you formerly loved, and your overwhelming urge to eat foods you would usually find disgusting, like a shriveled gas station hot dog or some slimy lunchmeat. Not to mention these are the very foods you are supposed to avoid thanks to the repulsive presence of listeria, which somehow doesn’t deter you from wanting them.

Let’s move on to bathroom time. Either you can’t go, or you can’t not go. Let’s just leave it at that.

Then there are all the wonderful things pregnancy does to your appearance. There’s the hormone-induced acne that pops up on your cheeks and along your jaw line. There’s the hyperpigmentation called melasma, also known as the “mask of pregnancy,” which causes dark patches on your skin. Mine conveniently showed up most prevalently on my upper lip, just where a lady likes to have a nice, dark shadow. Your constant sweating makes it impossible to keep your makeup in place. And, finally, your body hair starts growing at an impressive rate, which just feels like the icing on the cake.

What’s next? Ah, the constant crabby personality. During the time I was pregnant with my son, I’m confident most of my co-workers were humming the wicked witch song when I’d lumber past them on my way to the bathroom. God help the person who got in my way or asked me if I, too, thought the air conditioning was turned up too high.

As the months roll on, you start experiencing new and fascinating things like leg cramps, body aches, restless legs (not that you can sleep anyway) and lightning crotch. That’s right, lightening crotch. It’s real, and it’s freaking awful. Look it up.

Did I miss anything? Oh, your feet will get bigger, your skin will start itching like crazy and you will experience a complete and total loss of personal dignity.

Why on earth would I put myself through all this again?

Well, there was this one thing my son used to do when he was still shiny and new. He would look up at me like I was the most spectacular thing he’d ever seen, and then he’d blink this long, mesmerizing blink. His full lashes would fall to his cheek and linger there for a moment, and then he’d slowly raise his lids to reveal his stunning, bright blue eyes. He’d smile and gurgle and coo and stare into my eyes, and I would feel like the most magnificent woman on earth.

I guess when I think about the result, when I think about what a unique and funny and charismatic boy came from all that hardship, I realize that maybe there’s a reason pregnancy is so hard.

Perhaps, to receive such a mind-blowing gift, the recipient should be charged a pound of flesh, even if that penance is being applied rather than taken. It is a pretty miraculous outcome, after all.

Now, I hear my little miracle stirring in his bed and I realize he’s still pretty shiny and new, all things considered. He makes it all seem completely and totally worth the trouble.

But to go through it all again while chasing after a rambunctious toddler instead of lounging in bed with a bag of marshmallows? Now that’s a whole new consideration.

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