Clinging to the Pride: Fake It Till You Make It

I have always tried to make this blog an authentic representation of my shenanigans. Sometimes that has been easy — like when recounting a tough race or discussing a nutrition plan for a long run. But, sometimes, that has been hard — when things get messy, like a potential hysterectomy or dealing with preggo emotions. I struggle with the feeling of oversharing, but I feel like I don’t do my readers justice unless I am honest. Color me crazy, but it seems wrong to gloss over the hard stuff and only publish the shiny photoshopped version of life. That is what Pinterest is for.

This is a tough post for me to write, and I worry about what my son will think if he reads it one day — but, I need the therapy that comes from the purge of posting.

Being super pregnant and parenting a toddler in the summer was not a walk in the park.

Okay, in this case it was literally a walk in a park.

All summer I have just felt a little off. Sprocket has been at the height of the opinionated and irrational terrible twos. Add the heat and preggo fatigue, and it has been downright miserable at times. On top of that, B has been working a second job, which often left me feeling overwhelmed, fat, and isolated. As I struggled and vented to B late at night after toddler bed time, I often said, “I feel like I am just managing him…not enjoying him or our time together, but just surviving and placating.”

Then, that exciting moment happened — my water broke and we made the stereotypical middle-of-the-night trip to Labor and Delivery. I proudly pushed my little girl into existence and was completely and utterly submerged into the baby bubble. I held and cuddled and nursed my little chubby baby and was suddenly overwhelmed with guilt for not having missed Sprocket while I was away.

B brought Sprocket to the hospital Friday afternoon and I had everything planned for their first meeting– I had snacks, and a camera, and I even had “gifts” that Spark had gotten Sprocket (a couple garage sale Sesame Street toys). But.things just felt off. It was like I wasn’t comfortable. I was antsy and anxious and nervous and unsettled in my own skin. I remember being impatient for B to take Sprocket home and then feeling immense guilt for feeling that way. Everything just felt all wrong.

I got home Friday night and started my life as a mom of two. I was tired and adjusting…we were all tired and adjusting. I suddenly realized that the things Sprocket did just didn’t seem as overwhelmingly cute anymore. He was a big-shoed rough-and-tumble toddler that I felt like I didn’t recognize anymore. Something had changed in the 36 hours I was in the hospital and I knew it wasn’t Sprocket. It was me.

Every parent worries about having enough love for baby #2…but who forgets how to love baby #1?!? It took me several days to figure out my emotions and even be able to articulate what I was feeling. I talked to a friend on the phone and was able to explain that it was like the cliche “I love him, but am just not in love with him.” I just wasn’t enamored with him.

So, I did what every 21st century parent would do — I googled it. And I found this article. And it took me 2 hours to actually read the article because I would just start bawling every time I tried. Abrams hit the nail on the head. She so perfectly described the way I was feeling.

Like this quote about her hospital experience:

The little girl who walked through the door nervously holding her father’s hand, who scrambled up on to the hospital bed and threw herself on top of me in a wholehearted embrace, was not the child I’d said goodbye to just two days before. A bizarre metamorphosis had occurred. Crazy and irrational as it sounds, she suddenly seemed huge to me. No longer a little girl at all, no longer my baby – but an enormous overgrown child I barely recognised.

And this one:

It was acutely distressing to find our relationship so radically and horribly altered in this way. It was like walking into a favourite room to find everything in it had been rearranged. Nothing was where I expected it or how I wanted it. I wandered through this skewed landscape in a state of agonised disorientation, lost and mapless.

It was comforting to know that someone else had felt this way, but overwhelming and hurtful to admit these feelings to myself. The feelings themselves were terrible — the admission of the feelings was even worse. I bookmarked the article and had B read it. I knew the first step was to rally the team and get help to figure this out. I didn’t want to be like Abrams and look back 12 years later with regret. I wanted to figure out how to get past this.

B was great. He acknowledged my feelings and helped me talk through it. He siad, “Boss, I think you are just going to have to ‘Fake it Till You Make it’ — the more that Sprocket picks up on your frustration, the more he is going to act out, which is just going to make it worse.” He also pointed out that Sprocket was in a very trying time in his development and that all parents probably feel a little distance and frustration with their two year old, regardless of the arrival of a new baby.

The next day, I went on a walk with the kids and Sprocket was riding his bike. He has really just realized how to glide on his Strider and I was marveling at his progress. I felt my heart beaming with pride — and realized it was the first authentic and true emotion I had felt toward Sprocket in a few days. So, I clung to it. I held on for dear life to the one emotion that could pull me through the fog of numbness that I had been feeling.

I spent the next few days trying to find pride in things that he did. It felt like the pride was an invisible string that was attached to the adoration that I knew was there, but just couldn’t find.

Then, about a week ago — a full 2 weeks postpartum, I was putting on Sprocket’s shoes and he said something that made me laugh out loud. I then found myself giving him a big ol’ bear hug and feeling like no hug could ever help him feel how much I loved him.

It was back. I had found it — the primal, no-holds-barred, so-overwhelming-my-heart-could-burst love for my son.

I will admit, on trying days, it is hard to find again…but we are on our way to being back to normal. In fact, I think I am probably back to the level of adoration that any parent of a crazy, demanding toddler would be.

I don’t think I will ever know the why behind all this — but my scientific mind focuses on two things. Huge fluctuations in hormones and the intrinsic mammalian need to protect my most vulnerable chubby offspring from any threat, even when the threat is in the form of a toddler who thinks bear hugs are an appropriate way to show affection towards a newborn.

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