It’s been a year. Almost. Both of my girls were conceived on my birthday. Mia came on her due date of June 21. Coraline showed up five hours after hers had passed on the 16th. They both came so fast. Mia in four hours, and born at home. Coraline came in a quick, white-knuckled hour, and just barely at a birth center. In the next week, Cora will turn one and Mia will turn eight.
A friend asked me once what my biggest fear was with having a second daughter on my own, and I said the exhaustion. I feared being emptied out to the point I wouldn’t be able to scrape together enough to be a good mom, or be good to myself. This morning we all sat around our kitchen table eating from a bowl of apricots, blueberries, strawberries, and plums. We all laugh a healthy amount, the baby smiles all the time and exceeds most developmental milestones, and Mia is advanced in reading, writing and math. I worked over 30 hours last week at three different freelancing gigs. From an outside perspective, it looks like we’re skating through, sailing smooth, and accomplishing life without a hitch. But a few things have become normal in the last year that I probably wouldn’t have been paid enough to do without them if you’d asked me a couple of years ago:
- I no longer eat dairy. Yup. I went from eating almost nothing but dairy before Coraline was born to feeling like I’d throw up if I ate any. I’ve tried bringing it back by sneaking it in here or there, but I always regret it. My diet was already limited by a lack of wheat flour, but since Coraline, I’ve removed all dairy (including chocolate), peanuts/peanut butter, pineapples, onions, garlic, bananas, most cane sugars, eggs that aren’t organic (expensive) and I think that might be it. The only explanation is a known grass allergy, so eating any plant that begins by shooting a single blade out of the dirt first doesn’t jive with me. I asked an allergist about this, and she shrugged, said that could be a good hypothesis, then added, “pregnancy fucks up your system.” Thanks.
- I don’t have sex. I don’t have sex with myself. The thought of it makes me nauseous. I have a hard time kissing Mia on the lips. I tried to overcome this last fall, and it was pretty exciting and great for a week or two, probably because I really really wanted it to be. I wanted Coraline to know some sort of male figure. I wanted Mia to have someone to play with. But having a horny, hairy man in my bed was not worth the trouble. He decided I wasn’t, either, pretty quickly in one conversation a week before Christmas, which totally sucked. But I’m pretty happy doing this gig with as little amount of boy drama as possible.
- I am always (besides one saving grace day of daycare) in a three-foot radius of a baby who cries if anyone else tries to hold her. Coraline is attached to me. She is my sweet, happy, cuddly monkey. Mia was a completely different baby. I was her caretaker and a point of reference in the wide radius that was her world to explore. By the time she was a year old, she’d mastered several words, had started walking (often away from me in large distances), and we spent a lot of time apart. She visited her dad and went to daycare. She slept in her own bed. She didn’t like to be held close. Coraline doesn’t like to lose eye contact with me. She sleeps on my chest or in my armpit. She’ll fall asleep in her car seat, but I haven’t had any luck getting her to sleep without touching me in some way otherwise. At near one-years-old, she still seems like a baby to me, when Mia was already on her way to being an independent toddler.
- I rarely drink alcohol, quit smoking, and don’t miss them like I thought I would in those times I said I should give them up. I also eat primarily organic, cook all my meals at home from ingredients and not a box, and, due to the recent acquiring of a dog, walk about two miles a day. I still haven’t gotten back into rock climbing, but it’s hopefully on the horizon.
- I don’t sleep. I mean, I do, but hardly. I stay up past midnight working most nights, and get about three hours of good sleep before Cora wakes me up to nurse or my back wakes me up because it’s in varying degrees of pain.
- I don’t give a shit what other people think. I don’t have a problem saying “no” to social things. I love, love, love spending a quiet day of just me and Coraline, which I often get to do.
- I work from home. Like, actually work on a computer, getting paid to write. People send me paychecks because I wrote something they liked. Okay, maybe this one will never be normal.
- We live in a two-bedroom apartment with our own washer and dryer that we can afford. Again, another thing that was beyond my wildest dreams.
- I don’t go out to eat. I don’t sit on patios to have a beer with friends. I don’t go out past dark. I am usually either working, taking care of kids or a dog, eating, sleeping, showering (sometimes), or watching a show on Netflix or scrolling through a Facebook feed until my vision gets blurry. I don’t read. I hardly write my own stuff. It’s a rare moment that I sit, relaxed, with my eyes closed and face pointed to the sun.
- I’m happy. Sure, I get grumpy, mad, sad, stressed to the point of anxiety attack, and whatever. But for the most part, I am possibly the happiest I’ve ever been. Maybe it’s the work-load. Maybe I’m just one of those people who’s only happy if she’s working all the time. Possibly. I am surrounded by laughter, ridiculously cute moments, sweet sighs, snuggles, and cute, comical antics. How could I not be happy?
It’s weird to be this healthy. I’m 36 and fitting into pants I never thought I’d be able to get past my thighs again. I’d love to get a vacation. Or even a staycation. I’d love to go out to eat with a friend. It’ll happen. Coraline, sadly, won’t be a baby forever, a thought that gets me through the frustration of not getting a break. I have years where I’ll be able to sit on patios over brunch and mimosas. But this time right now will be the minutes I’ll wish I could get back.
This piece was originally published on the author’s blog.
Hear Stephanie Land in The Mamalode Podcast, Episode 1, from March 2016