The Before. The After.

Before I had kids, I thought our big challenges would be getting them to eat vegetables, potty training, and all the teenage stuff. Before I had kids, I thought all the things that could happen - aka "go wrong" - happen to other people. Before I had kids I thought I was invincible.

Before we met #MightyWoody a lot of focus was on my health because I had preeclampsia & HELLP syndrome with #BigBrotherAl. In some ways not getting the birth experience I had hoped and planned for the first time, made the second time easier because expectations were gone. The stuff that happened to other people had happened to me and we came through to the other side. Sure, I had hopes for round 2, but I had the experience to know that anything was possible and to prepare for my ideal and expect just about anything. Which is to say, I spent most of my second pregnancy waiting for the shoe to drop - the shoe being finding out that my body was revolting again. So, you can imagine my relief at the news that I was past the danger zone and could proceed with my hopes for my labor and delivery process (while still expecting anything!). Maybe we were in the clear. Maybe we had done our part in the universe's wheel and we had paid our dues.

My struggle with round 1 had been the "it doesn't matter as long as baby is healthy" mentality. It does matter what moms experience getting healthy baby into the world. And while I felt that, I also had placed a lot of stock in what my experience of bringing the hopefully healthy baby into the world would be. At the time, it was earth-shattering what happened. I was shell-shocked after Al's birth. My world was tilted off its axis. I wanted it back. I wanted a do-over. I had been wholly unequipped to ponder my mortality as part of the birthing experience, and ultimately, it left me with really complicated feelings about my capacity to care for my new baby. But the "as long as baby is healthy" is one of those things we say because we want it to be true when we know it can never really be enough.

When I was pregnant with #MightyWoody, the bubble had already been burst in the pursuit of experiential perfection. The After with #MightyWoody was a wholly new sensation. It was the complete and utter thrill of getting the birth experience closer to what I hoped for paired with the most amazing heartbreak followed by unexplainable (likely hormone-induced) bliss. The After was the chaos of a room after delivery, the tossing of the baby onto my belly, but the complete stillness as I stared into my husband's eyes at the moment we both saw #MightyWoody and simultaneously realized - as stated before - that life is like a box of chocolates. When we entered the twilight zone together (FYI we're still in that twilight zone...).

It was the thumping in my heart as I waited for the rest of his non-existent arm to unfurl. (It never did.) I must have just seen wrong. Could babies be born like this? Could I put him back in to go to The Before so he has time to grow it? Could I put him back in The Before so we can go back to before the shattering? I want a do-over. There must be some mistake. I did everything right.

It was my fear as I looked to see if he had feet. He did, sigh of relief. Why was that important? It was the pulsing vibration in the air as the people in the room waited to see how I would react so they would know what to do. It was definitely a fake it til you make it moment. I didn't want to make the same mistake as the first time - the mistake where I would seem surprised about all this. I didn't want to give away that there was anything happening here that I wasn't perfectly poised to handle. All that matters is that he's healthy right? It's no big deal.

It was a big deal.

The After After was the realization of odd coincidences of life. It was the realization that the pregnancy carpal tunnel I had in the last six weeks had given me a numbness in my right arm and hand. Was I getting a signal from Woody?! It was the conversation we were having moments before Woody when my OB was sharing how someone had told her wouldn't it be great if she had extra hands and we were talking about what we would all do if we did have them. Extra hands! Who knew that having two would moments later become such an amazing gift. An extravagance.

The After After After is now. The awareness of the fragility of it all. The switching of the rotational axis that would have changed the entire trajectory of the history of Earth. I still dream at night where it is the day before he's born and I'm still pregnant. I still day dream the minute by minute of those last few days of innocence, not to change the outcome, but because that expectation and excitement was such euphoria.

Parenting is the constant reminder of mortality. #LimbDifferenceAwareness for me so far has been awareness of human fragility. And learning to live fully despite that.

We are not invincible. And I prefer it that way.


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