The street where I live...

The street where I live...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Stumbling our way through

J. and I are not big planners.

We kind of negotiate our way through life leading with our hearts and our gut instincts guided by the general notion that if something seems right, and feels right, it might be right, so let's do that thing.

But having kids is a great, new, enormous frontier of not having a clue.  The idea of suddenly being responsible for other people is a crazy big concept.  And although we wanted it badly, and worked hard to achieve it, our pregnancy was not peaceful - at all.  My fault.  Entirely.  A few weeks in I kind of lost my mind.  We had spent so many years in a desperate state of trying to conceive, and I had gotten used to that.  The feeling was familiar, and the fight it presented to me was actually, now that I think back, a perfect scenario to facilitate me at my best: "we can't get pregnant, you say? - watch me!" I have a contrary personality, and when I am told "no you can't" I feel a massive wave of "screw you and stand back" churn up inside me.  So I fought hard to get there, to be pregnant, and then once I got there I lost my mind.  Terror of the reality of parenthood crept in like Winston Churchill's "Black Dog" and I panicked. Here I was, over 40, financially insecure, living in a one bedroom rented attic apartment, driving a hand-me-down from mom and dad car, and I was pregnant with twins! After six years of struggle, heartache and intense fertility treatments my honest thought upon successfully achieving a very planned pregnancy was: I don't think I really thought this through.

So, I spent the pregnancy in a sort of icy panicked haze of semi-denial while J. tried to experience  a small amount of joy without freaking me out too much.  Sometimes he spoon fed me bits of reality, like when he quietly went out and bought the car seats we would need to bring the babies home from the hospital.  Other times he tried to snap me out of it with tough love and firmly reminded me that I was "ruining this" for both of us.  Eventually I gathered myself up and admitted to my doctor that I was having trouble finding any joy in the experience.  She encouraged me to get help and found me the number for insurance approved counselors.  I went to talk to a nice old Irish lady who reminded me of a combination of Bea Arthur and that lady named Sue who used to give frank sex advice to kids and became sort of a celebrity (I can't recall her last name, but hopefully you know who I mean).  The counselor was great, and quickly said, matter of fact: "You are having an identity crisis."  The diagnosis sounded so 70s.  But she was right.  She helped me understand that of all the things I knew I was: artist, fighter, writer, actor, wife - "mom" was not one of them. She kind of helped me snap out of it, and get on with it.

The problem was, by the time I saw Bea/Sue the pregnancy was well in and we still hadn't done much planning.  J. knew I went into a semi-coma of stress if we even looked at cribs online or walked near the baby section of a department store, so by the time I was too pregnant to think about it we realized we'd done none of the expectant parent cliche manouevres like decide the sleeping arrangements, pick out names, buy stuff for the kids, etc, etc.  Near the end of my pregnancy things started to get dangerous for me - gestational diabetes, hyper tension, etc., so now I was essentially bed ridden and told not to move too much or stress too much.  So there would be no eleventh hour scramble of nursery set up or parenthood classes for us.  We moved straight from denial about the pregnancy to the reality of making sure it didn't kill me.

We had, without necessarily meaning to, set ourselves up for one option of parenting strategy: as with most aspects of our life to this point, we would be winging it.  Luckily we had some experience there.

So, on the appointed evening we left our apartment and headed to the hospital for our next morning C-section.  I recall, as we were leaving, looking back over our little home and thinking: "the next time I walk back in here, I will be a mom."  The apartment looked just like it had for the past two years.  Nothing in that space would give any clues to the fact that this was about to be home to newborn twins  - no cribs, no bassinets, no toys, no cute outfits waiting to be filled by real life babies, no swing or bouncy chair. It was just our home, same as always.

When I think of that time now, three years into parenthood, I understand a bit more of what was actually happening to me when I was pregnant.  I have always been a person who could only deal with things when I could deal with them.  As a child I resisted doing things because someone told me I had to.  Although I was always one of the highest achievers in the class academically, I dawdled when it came to learning to tell time, tie my shoes, ride a bike. I always did these things when I felt ready.  I didn't get my driver's licence until I was 28 because I didn't really need it until then.  And now, I needed to find my own way into parenthood.  I needed to have the babies there and present so I could actually see what was going on, what needed to be done, bought, set up.  I was doing it my own way.

J. and I are very good parents, but we are not completely conventional parents and we freely admit it.  Parenthood is fraught with immense pressure to "do it this way." But we are a couple of people who often do it a different way because the usual way doesn't fit, or feel right.  Gut instinct and improvisation seem to have emerged as our parenting style, from how we sleep to how we play, laugh and learn.  So, this is how we came to be a co-sleeping, dancing, laughing, happy, bluffing our way through with love and guts family.

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