military life · pregnancy and parenthood

Third trimester turbulence

I officially hit the third trimester of this second pregnancy. It’s surreal that we will meet our daughter in a few short months. Last pregnancy, there was this constant looming and enormous news that we were going to become parents, and it made us one giant ball of nerves. Now that our days are already consumed by parenthood, it’s flying by. We already are parents, and so the only focal point this time is finding motivation to juggle so many different things at once.

I suspect that this feeling of being pulled in many different directions is foreshadowing of our new lives. That was true last time, at least, in that the very thing I struggled with most in pregnancy – finding patience – ended up being the entire theme of our first year of new parenthood. So this time, I’m trying to hone in on this lesson: How will we juggle the growing needs of our family without losing sight of ourselves?

With my first born, I falsely assumed that I would simply go back to work at one year postpartum and that my life would largely return to how it looked before we were parents. I never expected that my career aspirations would be so drastically, permanently impacted, and that I would still have an incredibly powerful calling to be home with my son, who, turns out is still very much a baby at age one. It’s true when we are warned that having children changes us – not just by way of our daily life, but with the big things too – our goals, dreams, priorities.

With my first born, I falsely assumed that my marriage would get easier as our baby became more independent. I figured that the hardest phase on us romantically would be that first year. I didn’t expect things to get even more demanding or distracting as he got older, but it turns out it’s easier to carry a conversation over dinner with an immobile baby as opposed to a hungry, messy, loud, opinionated, albeit adorable and impressively smart, toddler.

With my first born, I falsely assumed that being a military family would be manageable purely based on the fact that we’ve already handled three deployments as a couple. I’ve learned that no amount of time in this life as a couple can prepare you for raising a family in the military. The sacrifices that we would have to make felt so distant until we had a son and realized the significance of being able to raise children in an established, supportive community where life wouldn’t be uprooted so much. I never knew how dependent I could be on my husband or community as a parent when I was and am otherwise independent as a wife and person.

And these are surely the biggest threats to losing ourselves in parenthood as we have to find the strength to be more than we know how to be – more than I admittedly want to be at times.

When new parents bring a baby home, we cling to everyone’s words that “It will get easier!” And it absolutely does. This is true. You will sleep again. You will travel again, and you will put on those skinny jeans and non-teething jewelry again. We got to that place, and it felt good – so good that we decided we were ready to go through it all over again.

But I’m realizing now that it’s not necessarily that things have gotten easier, more than it is we have just continued to grow parallel to new demands. And with every period of immense growth and change, there is turbulence. I think this is part of why the “fourth trimester” is so notoriously difficult because we spend our pregnancies in this odd “calm before the storm” state; this blissful ignorance doesn’t do justice to the realities of our new sleep-deprived lives. Then we sit back with a tinge of bitterness and ask, “Why the hell didn’t anyone tell us about how hard all of this is?”

Maybe the most important thing I can do in this final trimester is to stop treating it as the  “calm before the storm.” If I know a storm is coming, shouldn’t I prepare? Not just by making freezer meals and washing new baby clothes, but actually preparing emotionally, too? The third trimester is absolutely a time to rest and add final touches to our homes, but it is also a time to mourn all that we are giving up so that we are more receptive to what will be demanded of us.

This time, I am mourning the loss of all the quality time I get with my first born, and I am soaking in all the mommy and me dates I can manage with this big bump in the way.  I am mourning the loss of whatever norm I have with my husband as we prepare to uproot that once again, and we are talking about our expectations ahead of time this time.  I am mourning the sacrifices that will come with giving my everything x2 of what I’m already giving, all while confronting the reality of a looming move and deployments.

Just as there was no “going back to our old selves” the first time, I know that there will be no going back to life as it is now once we’re a family of four. I accept that it will be hard. Hard to adjust, hard to move away, hard to watch my husband deploy, and hard to prioritize myself as I solo parent in these times. But the least I can do is be aware, be open and be willing, and find comfort in knowing that these changes will reward us with unbelievable growth.

More than growth, we will experience a greater love than we currently know exists – and that is what makes this turbulence more than worth it.

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