{on pregnancy} home stretch

Only two more weeks until the due date of baby no. two, and I've officially entered that strange, liminal precipice where you know life is about to forever change, but you don't know any of the details yet. Friends text to check in, I receive multiple "so, are you ready?" questions a day, and I'm giving my mother a panic attack every time I call her. On my end, it feels more surreal. I have split second moments where I sort of forget another babe is coming, and then move into a rush of Must Do All The Things in light of knowing A BABY IS COMING OMG.

Physically, I feel good. Which probably means hanging out for a bit longer. No contractions, no major signs of labor potentially on its way, just lots of pokes and shoves from this little person and a million trips to the bathroom. Some days my body seems lumbering and slow and can barely make it through a 15-minute walk around the block; other days, I'm full of energy and power through a ton of work only to mentally remind myself to sit down on the couch and relax. I recognize that I'll miss this big belly eventually, all the roundness and curves that helped me carry a life. 

Emotionally, I'm everywhere. I'm sad about this marking the end of an era with E. It's hard to wrap my brain around the fact that there will be another baby who is not him, if that makes sense, even though I'm obviously grateful and thrilled and excited to get to know this new addition to our family, too. I'm nervous about childbirth. Despite going through it once, I also know nothing can be predicted and anything can happen. I'm anxious about all the post-birth things, like navigating breastfeeding again, general healing and recovery, sleep deprivation (!!!) and this time around, balancing two kiddos with work and home and marriage and friendships. I'm already pondering what writing will look like down the road, knowing I'll have to adapt to yet another new normal and won't necessarily be able to sustain the pace of this year.  I'm eager to wear regular clothes again, drink an ice cold beer, and lay on my stomach in bed. I cannot wait to step into this new place of parenthood, and at the same time, I kind of want everything to stay the same. 

It's been a big year. Lots of career growth, a bigger team at my day job, hustling beyond measure with freelance work, the book, house projects, trying to stay connected with friends and family, trying to stay relatively active throughout pregnancy, trying to increase my own activism against the relentless WTF of daily news. Life feels very full. And if I'm being really honest, I'm looking forward to the last part of 2018 being much slower. Of course, a new baby is by no means relaxing, but in a year of endless go-go-go (that I chose, and I benefited from, and provided so much value!) I just want to be present with my little fam during this next phase of life. 

Other things I want to remember . . .

How to hold fast to a commitment of self-care once a new baby is here, too. When you're pregnant, you're blasted with messages about treat 'yo self and taking care of yourself and napping and eating right and taking it easy. Then you have a baby, and it's easy to forget you need the same damn things to survive, otherwise you end up completely depleted. 

The sweetness and sass of a 2.5 year old, who kisses my belly and asks if he can push the baby "back." Who is every bit baby himself, but also stretching into this new version of toddler who can say full sentences and comprehend requests and help me put dishes away and sing made-up songs and tell me wacky stories every morning on the way to daycare. Who, in a singular second, will tell me to "go away, don't sit here!" and then "hold me, Mom, please."

That friends are crucial, whether they have children or not. It's nice to be known by a fellow mama, those people who can respond to your stories with their own. Who make you feel a little less alone in the struggle of the daily grind. Who understand how your children can take your breath away, the power of that love and light. But I also need the people who remind me I'm an entire person outside of the title of mother, too; who, through their own life choices, represent different paths and choices and possibilities outside of the box of parenting.

To protect my marriage with kind words and assuming positive intent at 1 a.m. feedings and carving out date nights even though we're both exhausted and making eye contact after a long day and hugs that linger and trips just the two of us. Above all, being on the same team and appreciating all we've been blessed with, while asking for what we need.

And to utterly enjoy this new baby. It's such a cliche, but damn, it goes too fast and I want to soak up every second.

cheers to 32

I've heard about people asking themselves the same questions every year on their birthday, or around the start of a new year, and it always sounded like something I'd enjoy. So here's a birthday reflection:

What did you do this year that you'd never done before? I pitched a lot of freelance concepts to big-name publications, even if I wasn't entirely sure if I had a good idea or not, and I practiced saying no regularly in a social sense, which was uncomfortable. It felt extremely hard to put myself out there creatively, but the thing is? You really can't predict where or how an idea will be received, so you might as well try. As far as saying no, I mostly had a big case of FOMO - because I really like doing things and meeting people and going places, but I knew I needed to buckle down if I wanted to achieve any of my writing goals. Another interesting result: I was honestly kind of disappointed to realize how many friendships and relationships were based on a massive amount of effort on my end, which was a hard pill to swallow.

Did you keep your new year's resolutions? I think so. I do this exercise every year, and my priority words for 2018 were family, mindfulness, solitude, generosity, humor. I stayed home, focused on quality time with my nearest and dearest loved ones. I worked on cultivating a morning routine involving writing and yoga and meditation. I got super intentional about where I wanted to give back, and how. And I made a genuine effort to laugh every day - something that wasn't too hard with a funny, sweet toddler around.

Did anyone close to you give birth? My cousin had a baby, and I knew tons of acquaintances who had babies. This next year will be more major since I'm having my second and my sister slash BFF is having her first.

Did anyone close to you die? My husband's grandfather, unexpectedly.

Where did you travel? Within the past year, I went to NYC (for the first time, and loved it!!), Santa Monica/LA and Charleston and Raleigh. All wonderful trips with fantastic memories. This year will be light on travel due to a new baby joining the family, so I'm glad I prioritized seeing some new places on my list.

What would you like to have next year that you lacked this year? More confidence. Less interest in complaining just for the sake of complaining. More local mama friends who I spend time with on a regular basis. Less debt.

What was your biggest achievement of the year? Paying off almost 20K in student loans, hands down. I have a complicated relationship with debt, and this was the first year where I really witnessed some movement based on a lot of financial planning and hustling. And it felt damn good. Also, building up my writing portfolio with pieces at BRIDES (first print piece!), SELF.com, Lifehacker and BuzzFeed. 

What was your biggest failure? All the times I was on my phone instead of being present with someone I love. 

What other hardships did you face? A miscarriage. Figuring out how to manage people for the first time. And I wouldn't call this a hardship, but I spent a great deal of time this past year reading, listening and learning about how to face and use my own privilege for good.

What was the best thing you bought? Airplane tickets!

Where did most of your money go? Probably groceries, Amazon Prime or traveling, outside of student loan payments. This is one year where I can't say coffee or drinks, haha, because I spent most of my time working and trying to get pregnant or being pregnant.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? A potential book deal . . . (!!!)

What do you wish you'd done more of? Reading actual books.

What do you wish you'd done less of? Scrolling.

What did you want and get? Health, and a baby on the way.

What did you want and not get? Therapy.

What kept you sane? Yoga, hands down, and my family.

What valuable life lesson did you learn this year? Nobody is going to do it for you - your self-care, your mental health, your career objectives, your growth, your boundaries, your prioritization, etc. - but it's okay to ask for help in any of those spaces.

What is a quote that sums up your year? Here's two. "Take criticism seriously but not personally," by HRC. And, "If you're not a leader on the bench, then don't call yourself a leader on the field; you're either a leader everywhere or nowhere. The fiercest leading I've ever seen has been done between mother and child. Parenting is no bench. It just might be the big game," by Abby Wambach.

What did you do on your birthday? What I intend for today: drink an excellent iced coffee, go to the farmer's market, hug my mama and son, feel the baby kick, get a massage, eat dinner with my husband and sister and brother-in-law, and get a good night's sleep.