Tomorrow I am officially "term," that is 37 weeks, and am considered okay to have the baby whenever. Everyone is assuming I'll have this baby early like the other two, but it doesn't really matter to me. I'm just glad I made it this far. (Though what I really want is to finish my sock yarn first. It is taking way longer than I thought and I fear if I don't finish it before the baby gets here, I'll never do it!)
Like I've been doing this whole pregnancy, I'm waging an endless battle with anxiety. I think the main reason was just how traumatic Michael's infancy was. Perhaps I didn't convey this at the time -- actually, I know I didn't, because I went back and read my blog posts and I can see I am putting a very bright face on it. Maybe I thought that if I kept the written record upbeat, I'd remember it better than it was. But no, I remember it very well. And when I think of just how bad it was, I cannot imagine why I thought I could ever, ever go through it again.
But I'm trying to remind myself, there is no reason to assume it would be this bad again. Sure, it might be. (For some reason every time I try to be hopeful and not scared, someone has to say "oh but you don't know it's going to be any easier." Shut up, okay? I also don't know it's going to be horrifying, and it does me no good to imagine the worst.) But it might, just maybe, just possibly, might not be horrible at all. Right?
I mean, to start off with, this pregnancy has not been noted for extreme amounts of stress. Last time, when we got pregnant, John was commuting four hours a day and somehow our money that was supposed to finally be breaking even, wasn't. And we had a matter of months till John's contract at work expired and we were unemployed. I felt pretty sure we'd find something else before then, but the pressure was intense.
Also, this time around John has not been suffering extreme anxiety and depression from the combination of life situation and his untreated gluten intolerance. Now, he likes his job, has a tolerable commute, has his life more or less where he wants it -- and simply cutting out gluten has had truly amazing effects on his brain chemistry, however that works. He's happy, and a happy husband is a husband who cheerfully does all the dishes and then offers a back rub. A happy husband is also one you don't feel the least bit guilty asking for favors.
This time, I don't have a barely-two-year-old, I have a 27-month-old and a four-year-old. I am not sure if it's the three months' difference or the fact that I have two, but it's a great deal easier. They entertain each other. Michael might not listen, but he does talk, and that means not really many tantrums. Admittedly he does not sleep even a little bit better than Marko did at a similar age, but he isn't really sleeping any worse either.
Maybe, labor will be as easy as with Michael, only I'll feel better supported by my midwife and John will bond with the baby right away and the placenta will pop right out like a champagne cork. It could happen.
Given the many, many conversations we've had on the topic and the kids' excitement, I think it's quite possible that maybe, when introduced to their younger sibling, they won't burst into shrieks. The might even like him or her.
This time, I might not have a baby who needs to be nursed 24/7. Maybe I'll even have one who doesn't spit up 75% of every feed. And if I do, I actually will know this time that I have an oversupply and that good burping and block feeding will help. I won't have to endure three solid months of basically doing nothing but nursing, hopefully.
And that might mean better sleep, or if it doesn't, I will use better tactics. Last time I didn't want to overuse Netflix to entertain Marko while putting Michael down for naps. This time, it seems clear that the long-term effects of a little too much TV on the kids are nothing compared to the long-term effects of a child who never ever naps because his brother keeps waking him. Bring on the TV, we are teaching this child to sleep. (Though who knows, maybe these two pals will entertain each other while I sneak away to put the baby down. It wouldn't be unprecedented.)
The immediate postpartum time will be no better, unfortunately, because I get the exact same amount of help: one week of time off for John, and then I'm all on my own. This scares me because I remember that one week postpartum is not a time when I am capable of anything. But, BUT: I'll tell you what is not happening. John is not moving to another state 10 days after I've given birth and leaving me utterly alone for four weeks (as he had to do when Marko was born) and he is not even going back to frequent business trips four weeks postpartum and leaving me taking care of two nonsleeping kids all night for a week at a time (as he had to do when Michael was born). He is not going to be gone overnight for the foreseeable future. Due to the campaign, he has quite a few evening and weekend events, but if worse comes to worst, we'll just all stay up waiting for him to help with bedtime. But I think we can handle it. Michael is insanely easy to put to sleep because he is still nursing, and Marko is big enough to put up with a change to his routine. I think I can put three kids to bed for the night. Or at least, I can put to bed the two who don't nap and need to go to bed at night.
This time, I am absolutely not flying solo across the country with a three-month-old and a toddler. And I'm not dealing with them for a week without their dad whom they're so attached to. We might go somewhere for Christmas, but if so it will be all together.
I suspect there will be some jealousy. I am pretty positive that Michael will get into scads of trouble when I'm not looking, because he currently gets into scads of trouble when I am looking. Probably I'll yell about that some. There may be tears from various individuals, and one of those individuals might be me. But, you know, I'm used to that by now. I'm used to knowing I'm not Perfect Mom, as I didn't really know when I only had one kid.
It upsets me knowing that I really did meet my own standards when I had one kid, and now I don't. I filled every one of Marko's needs that I determined was a true need, back when he was the only one, and now I very often don't. I don't feel like a very good mom nearly as often as I did then. But on the other hand .... he is happier now than he was then. He loves having a brother. It makes up for my deficiencies, apparently. I have two thriving kids, if at the price of getting to take all the credit for it.
I am terrified that if going from one kid to two downgraded me from "ideal mother" to "adequate mother," going from two to three will turn me from "adequate" to "wicked witch of the west." But who knows if that will happen? Maybe I'll be turned into "slowly becoming more relaxed and humble mother." Or maybe I'll find that going from two to three really doesn't change that much.
Maybe one thing will be the same. Maybe, years from now, I'll look back and my heart will hurt at the very thought that I ever managed life without this baby, that I ever thought our family was whole without them.
I certainly hope so.