When I was growing up, I quickly became that kid who worried every minute about my image. I can still remember avidly campaigning for the role of 'teacher's pet' in second grade and in junior high, choosing an outfit for a school dance could be paralyzing while potential snide comments about how I looked in each would run around in my head. Into my college years, I would silently size up any new acquaintance before determining the best way to proceed in order to win their approval.
It was exhausting.
Fast forward to 29th year. I honestly believed I had grown past these juvenile tendencies...though often I relied on the power of my finely tuned charm to win over the occasional crotchety patient.
I found that the genuine smiles and heartfelt congratulations that followed the news of our first pregnancy were like a warm blanket where I could wrap my anxieties and take shelter from any fears about diving head first into parenthood. Everybody loves a woman pregnant with her first child. I basked it the acceptance and affection of nearly all of society. It was lovely.
When our son arrived 9 weeks early, I quickly realized I had apparently evolved very little since that 7-year-old version of me who ran around at the heels of her teacher, begging for approval. I was suddenly fixated on every passing comment I'd heard from friends or coworkers, questioning my decision to keep running and lifting through my pregnancy. I couldn't stop replaying the conversations I'd overheard or been a part of regarding an acquaintance who's baby came early, in which everyone sat around speculating about what she'd done wrong.
When we announced we were expecting our second baby a month before the first turned one, the enthusiasm level of the responses was dulled slightly and I knew people were wondering why we had decided to transform our lives into a circus sideshow by indulging in two babies under two. And naturally, I fretted about it.
Most of us would probably agree that the second baby's arrival is generally met with less pomp and circumstance than the first child. In our case, we found ourselves greeted by a familiar team of NICU doctors and nurses tasked with caring for our second 31-weeker in a mere 15 months. You guys again?
The outpouring of support that had come with our first tiny preemie was (at least in my mind) in part dampened by conclusions drawn that this situation must be somehow self-inflicted. Or maybe it was just the result of the usual growing apathy for the arrival of second children, no matter what the situation. Whatever the reason, it would seem that fewer people are compelled to bring a casserole to a woman who is perceived to be unable to figure out birth control or how to carry a full term baby.
Luckily, the free time I had to spend brooding over everyone's opinion was cut short by the more pressing need to care for a newborn in the NICU and a young toddler at home. I was either evolving, or just plain exhausted. It's difficult to determine which, even in hindsight.
Now I stand before you with an announcement.
Put on your judges garb and grab your gavel because even the most righteous among you will most certainly pass immediate judgement on my next statement.
I am pregnant.
Yup, our little family sideshow will balloon into a full-on three ring circus sometime before the end of January. And yes, statistically speaking I run about a 70% chance of experiencing pre-term labor again. But in my heart, I know that my husband and I are thrilled that our family is about to grow, and we found the best MFM in the bi-state area who will stop at nothing to keep me pregnant to term.
Was I initially terrified about what you might think or say behind my back? You bet. In fact, I spent the first few weeks of my pregnancy loosing precious sleep over it.
When we announced our news to close friends at our son's first birthday party, my friend was snapping pictures and I was a little alarmed to note that my face looked somehow apologetic. What was I apologizing for? I'm sorry we will soon be a family with three children under three and making plans with us might become next to impossible? I apologize that I've given you a really interesting piece of gossip to take home with you along with your beach pail goodie bag? What gives When will I finally evolve to a state where I just don't give a shit?
And remember, these were our friends. Friends who have shown us nothing but un-conditional support during the past 27 months of insanity. Friends who's reactions to the news were genuine smiles amd congrats and one delighted exclamation that 'you guys are machines!'
Now, at 12 weeks, we are going public and announcing our news to the entire cruel world. All of Facebook (and the handful of you who actually read this terrible blog) is/are now free to raise eyebrows and drop jaws in genuine surprise and come to whatever conclusions may arise.
After scrolling through the photos from my son's party and being appropriately appalled by what I saw on my face, I think I am finally starting to adapt a much healthier attitude about this pregnancy and even life in general.
At some point in my college career, I learned that humans are hard-wired to make snap decisions about people and situations. It was part of our initial evolution and essential to survival.
Hungry lion = bad.
Attractive potential mate = good.
If we didn't pass quick and simple judgement, it might mean we'd find ourselves on the wrong side of dinner and thus, the losing side of evolution. Therefore, it's just human nature that compels us to immediately file every situation neatly away in either the 'good' or 'bad' box.
Do I need to sit around worrying about which box my news is landing in for that high school classmate I haven't seen in 14 years? No.
The really important thing is that I have shifted my focus on the responses of those people who really, actually matter.
1. My husband. I can still see the look of immediate and genuine delight on his face when he got the news.
2. My parents. Their reactions were, without hesitation, overwhelmingly ecstatic and downright gleeful.
3. My MIL and FIL. Joyful. Thrilled. Elated.
4. My friends. Genuinely supportive and appropriately awesome.
'Good' boxes, all around.
Without a doubt -- no matter what my old volleyball teammates, sorority sisters, or ex-coworkers think about the matter -- this child will be loved.
Our baby has already taken his or her place in our chaotic little world and frankly, it feels like exactly the right thing for our family.
So perhaps my insecurities over your opinion will continue to plague me, or maybe I really am finally over it. I've spent so much of my life people-pleasing, it's hard to say if it's an affliction that will ever actually resolve. But I only have a finite amount of space in my brain allotted to things like worry and concern, and frankly it's a pretty busy spot these days, so I think I will spend it worrying about things that are actually important.
EPILOGUE: I wrote most of this post a couple weeks ago with the intention of posting this week when we became 'FBO' and woke up this morning with an epiphany on the matter: you don't care. Most of you really couldn't give two sh*t's if I have one or a dozen children. If anything, with each additional child, my posts become more interesting. Sure, you may still make passing comments on the matter, who doesn't when they see a man or woman toting around more than a couple children? I myself couldn't help but generate brief commentary over the woman who brought five children on our flight this week. Still, in the larger sense, no one actually cares. If someone chooses to first pass judgement then actually carry out a sentence of treating me poorly or differently due to my very personal decisions, that says a lot more about them than about me.
That is all.