There’s no other way to put it: I floated through this year. You know those dreams where you’re running, but your feet aren’t touching the floor? It feels like you’re flying ever so slowly, desperately trying to ground yourself, but you have no control over your body? That’s what 2016 was like for me.
I was pregnant for most of it. I hadn’t anticipated being completely knocked on my butt, but that’s what I was. My days were only tolerable if I was able to take a nap, and even then, I was usually in a daze. Playing with my toddler was far from easy. I felt like I was drugged and told I still had to function like a normal human being. And pregnancy fatigue, constant Braxton Hicks contractions, and caring for a two-year-old during what is referred to as a “geriatric pregnancy” don’t allow you to even remotely function like a “normal” human being.
I carried an immense amount of guilt on my shoulders – perhaps that contributed to the heaviness of the year. I agonized over the quality of my mothering, or lack thereof, while I grew another baby inside me. I was, after all, having a second kid so that my first son would have a sibling—someone to share stories with as he grew older, an ally, a confidant, and a playmate. I wanted him to have someone who knows him after my husband and I are long gone. I wanted him to have someone to call when he sees something that reminds him of his childhood. I wanted him to always have someone to grab a burger or a drink with, when no one else will pick up the phone. The ultimate gift for a little boy. But the pregnancy was nothing short of agony for me. The ultimate sacrifice for a mother.
There were times when I would lie awake in bed in the middle of the night, thanks to my pregnancy-induced insomnia, and I would ask myself what the hell I was thinking. How could we bring yet another baby into this world? The election from hell was upon us, and I feared so immensely for my little boys. With racism and sexism running rampant, and the potential for a global warming disaster, the future wasn’t looking so bright for my guys.
On a smaller scale, I feared for myself and my husband. Raising one child had proven to be challenging. What would two do to us? Our parenting experience was and is no different than anyone else’s, I’m sure, but it threw us for a loop. We love our toddler so much that it hurts. My heart aches when he falls (and since he’s a climber, runner, and a backwards walker, he was bloody more than I would have anticipated.) Our son has an immense spirit – he is incredibly sweet and happy (he kisses our booboos to make them better), but he is also the type of child who sees every rule as a dare to be broken. He gives you a knowing smile, and holds eye contact while doing the exact opposite of what he is being asked. This goes for eating (or not, as the case usually is in our house), relentlessly chasing the dog with his toy trucks, or climbing onto his bookshelf. Being a parent to him has been no different than riding one roller coaster after another. Every day presents a greater drop than the one before it, and we experience a simultaneous burst of joy, love, and sheer terror at the never-ending challenge of trying to stay one step ahead of him. Sometimes you want to scream because you can’t contain all of the emotion, and other days you do scream because someone who is under three-feet tall has learned how to push every last one of your buttons. You don’t know if the tears streaming from your eyes are from fear or from love, but you decide to take the ride over and over again just to see what happens next.
But back to 2016. After a relatively short renovation and then a nearly devastating burst pipe that tore through three floors of our newly purchased home, we finally moved in. It has proven to be one of the best and scariest decisions we have made so far. We stop every now and then and look around at the warm, cozy, beautiful place that we chose, and we feel nothing but gratitude to call it our own. And then a pipe starts to leak or the gutter needs cleaning or the driveway needs shoveling or the oil tank needs filling and we curse our ever-shrinking bank account as one contractor after another fixes the problem du jour in our 126-year-old Victorian beauty. She has a ton of character, but man can she be a bitch.
For the last two and a half months, I have replaced my pregnancy fatigue with fatigue from sleep deprivation. Talk about sleep-walking through life. Once again I find myself trying to get traction – to grab hold of the ground under me so that I can take stock, celebrate, mourn and plan. But most of the time I’m too damned tired to even put on makeup.
Not only did 2016 take an absurd number of celebrities from us, but it also took our dear friend, Jeremy. He was the honorary uncle to my son, and one of the most thoughtful and caring people we had in our lives. 2016 also gave us a president-elect who seems more and more like he’s ushering in the apocalypse. But 2016 also gave us a home, and another son. It gave our toddler a brother. And every time he insists on kissing his head with his wet, snotty face and uttering, unprompted, “I wud doo,” we can’t help but melt a little bit and think that perhaps we did something right.
So while I may continue to float indefinitely, I am awake enough to know that even hard times give us a little relief. While there is death, there is also birth. Where there is despair, there is the seedling for positivity and growth.
I hope 2017 allows me to become grounded again (and maybe sleep more…)– that is my wish. I don’t do resolutions. But I can get behind hope. Let’s do this.