October 13 – October 19: 17 Weeks 0 Days – 17 Weeks 6 Days.
I may have freaked out this week.
A few years ago I took a yoga training with Hala Khouri about teaching at-risk youth. She explained kids’ emotions in a way that stuck with me: kids have big feelings. When little Jimmy drops his ice cream on the ground, his emotional response is not the same as an adult’s. We may dismiss him: “Don’t get so upset. It’s just ice cream;” but for him, it’s a death in the family, an amputated limb, the rapture and he was left behind. In order to hold space for little Jimmy to process this experience, we must acknowledge that what he’s feeling is enormous. A more compassionate response might be, “I understand that it’s hard to lose something. It’s okay to feel upset.”
I don’t know if it’s the yoga or just my personality, but I usually have the opposite of big feelings. Rage and jealousy are rare for me, I can’t be bothered with grudges that last more than a couple hours, and I’d describe my experience of excitement more as joyful anticipation. Pregnancy put an amplifier on all that.
In my first trimester I was introduced to pregnancy crying. I’m okay with shedding some tears and all, but, just like little Jimmy who dropped his ice cream, once I start crying I can’t stop! On top of that, it escalates: sniffling progresses to sobbing, sobbing progresses to wailing, and when I was at the height of my nausea, wailing progressed puking. That equanimous part of my psyche that stands back to observe my experience understands that my reaction is way out-of-proportion to whatever the trigger was, but instead of doing anything about it she stares on in helpless disbelief and mutters, “WTF.”
This week wasn’t my first freak out: early on in pregnancy, I got mad at some movers for having too long a truck (our apartment building had two large parking garages, and they either had to block one garage door or the other). When I confronted them I wasn’t trying to leave the building, I was just upset on principle. Maybe this reaction would be normal for people with a more confrontational disposition, but I wouldn’t usually expend energy and circulate a bunch of stress hormones over a problem that would most likely solve itself. Sure enough, after moving the truck back and forth several times to let tenants in and out, the movers separated the cab from the trailer to accommodate both garage doors. What happened this week had less of an external me-telling-people-off component, but the internal emotional experience was immense.
When we were looking for our new home, the intention was to find The House. You know, the one you pour blood, sweat, and tears into making your own, raise your kids in, and retire in. The house we bought and now live in has plentiful outdoor space, and my first blood, sweat, and tears project is to zen-ify the front patio.
Last Saturday I picked up my fourth and final 200-300 lb load of black Mexican pebbles, which Richard diligently loaded and unloaded for me (my low back hasn’t been tolerating heavy lifting well). As soon as I poured the first bag into the garden, I knew something was wrong—they didn’t match the other rocks. I dug them out of the garden and put them back in the bag. A couple days later, Richard loaded the rocks back into the car for me, and I took them back to landscaping store first thing in the morning to suggest that my pebbles may have been mismarked. After examining the rocks through the dusty bag I’d packing-taped shut, the man at the landscape store kindly insisted that the stones were black, but offered to exchange the bags for different ones anyway if I really wanted to. “No, it’s okay,” I sighed, feeling kind of silly, “I must have overreacted.”
I took the bags home (where Richard had to unload them yet again), and immediately dumped all six 50-lb bags into the garden. And then I really overreacted. The new rocks definitely did not match the others. The old rocks were exclusively shades of gray, the new rocks included shades of green and orange. Overwhelmed, I ran back inside the house and took a couple deep breaths, then went back outside hoping to have a fresh perspective. I kid you not, when I saw those motley stones my life literally flashed before my eyes: I saw 5 years, 30 years, 50 years into the future, how every time I stepped out into my patio for the rest of my life I would cringe at the sight of the rocks. I put my hand over my mouth and ran back inside.
I repeated this melodramatic (but very real to me, at the time) sequence several times, each round featuring a different train of thought tragically crashing in an explosion of big feelings and sending me running back into the house near tears:
Maybe it was just the lighting… Oh God no, they’re so different. Why do they only have men working at the landscaping store?? Men are much more prone color blindess!
They look like rainbow-colored aquarium pebbles! My patio is lined with giant aquarium pebbles. I can’t even…
The colorful rocks aren’t so bad. I can just mix them in with the others so the garden looks more uniform. Then I looked at the side of the patio that was completed to my vision. No! Green and orange accents were not what I had in mind. These rocks are a bastardization of my vision. I hate them and I can’t even handle looking at them! But they’re already all in the garden. What am I going to do??
By the time Richard told me it was time for me to drive him to his bus stop I was beside myself, fanning a hand next to my temple like a swooning southern belle. While driving, I tearfully redirected my frustration toward myself, “Why didn’t I trust my intuition? I knew those rocks weren’t right, but I didn’t exchange them even though the guy said I could. Why didn’t I trust myself enough to just exchange them! I was right there, it would’ve taken less than ten minutes.” I don’t think I was actually expecting an answer, but I got one anyway. Richard said plainly, “Because you don’t like asking for help, and you didn’t want to make those guys unload and reload the rocks for you.” In that moment, that didn’t make me feel better and didn’t stop me from continuing to lament (I think Richard was pretty glad when he got to get out of the car), but wow, how accurate.
In retrospect, that clear statement from my husband, my mirror, was invaluably informative. I was willing to completely disregard my knowledge and intuition to avoid inconveniencing someone, even if the result would be life-shattering (or at least feel that way for an hour). I will have to reverse that habit before attempting a natural birth in a hospital setting where medical interventions may be offered as often for your health as for convenience, comfort, and liability reasons. From everything I’ve read and learned, natural birth is all about intuition and self-trust; one of my affirmation is: my body knows exactly what to do.
By the time I got home I’d calmed down and started focusing on the solution rather than the problem. I went to work digging the rocks out of the garden and repackaging them. I put my low back out of commission for the rest of the day by lugging one of the bags down to the landscaping store and exchanging it for a bag of black Mexican pebbles that beautifully matched the rest of my garden. The next day Richard obligingly loaded the rest of the offensive rocks back into the car and then unloaded the ones I exchanged them for. I tried not to feel guilty about asking him for help.
My matching rocks were all in place or the housewarming party on Saturday and I even had time to put in some more potted plants. My vision is coming together! As for the big feelings: I’m continuing to take them in stride, allowing myself to laugh about them in retrospect, and trying to remember to thank my husband for being so incredibly supportive.
ps – If you’re interested in making the succulent cupackes, I used this tutorial.