As I’m writing this, I’m cuddled on a rocking chair with my 3-month-old baby oakleaf and through the window, I see snow falling down on the brick houses on our street. A year ago, I never would have imagined I’d be here – or that I’d even want to be here. Home. In the Midwest. Where I grew up and where I once said I’d never return.
We wanted so badly to make California work. We tried. We really did. But there were so many things working against us – the cost of living, the cost of childcare, and the limited salary postdocs earn. In the end, it just didn’t add up. Especially when…
Baby fever hit. And it hit fast and hard.
One day, I was taking work off to do a virtual postpartum doula training. Snowpea was home because of another COVID outbreak at daycare. It was January, but the daffodils were already blooming, and I took my lunch break outside in the sunshine of our woods with a T-shirt on. I felt it creep up on me like a scratchy throat before a cold, and then the sensation filled my whole body. This was it. This was the moment. I was suddenly ready.
The next day, I was pregnant. BOOM. That quick. I always feared I would struggle with fertility like so many do, but this? Really? It was kind of ridiculous how quickly I got pregnant with both babies.
Of course, it was several weeks (four to be exact) before I found out I was pregnant. But once I knew, the wheels of life set into motion. We’d need to leave, and we realized it right away. Daniel would have to leave his job, we’d have to leave the farm, and we’d likely even have to leave California. I worked freelance without paid maternity leave, so I’d have to leave my jobs, too. Did this complicate our lives? Yes, quite a lot. But I was too nauseous and drained from first trimester to fight our new reality. Instead, I lay back and watched as the puzzle pieces of our lives began to align themselves into place.
Despite the awfulness of the first trimester feels, I leaned into the pregnancy, embracing it fiercely because after all, it was the only certitude in my life. I signed up for more trainings with Cornerstone, a social justice-y Bay Area doula organization I had grown to love. I even witnessed four births – three of which ended up being inductions and one that ended as a surgical birth. I felt prepared for anything at this point.
Even for COVID? After two years now of dodging the virus and countless outbreaks at snowpea’s daycare, I suspected I’d catch the virus at some point.
What I did not expect was to get COVID while I was in Norway of all places. I started feeling an odd cough on our extended layover in Chicago. When I tested myself upon arrival in Oslo, to everyone’s surprise, it was positive. I isolated myself with snowpea right away, dreading that I’d have to care for a very jetlagged toddler as I nursed my own illness. I was sickest of anyone in my family, but the worst of it passed quickly. The congestion and loss of smell lingered for weeks, though. And it scared me a little. So much was still unknown about this virus and its effects on pregnancy. Would baby oakleaf be okay?
When I returned, I had my last appointment with the midwives in California, and it seemed all was well. I could relax as we road-tripped our way from the Bay all the way to St. Louis. Daniel drove the Tesla with two cats, two parakeets, one dog, and our toddler all stashed in the back. Maybe “relaxed” isn’t quite the right word to describe how our zoo of a car ride felt, but I was just so happy.
My happiness spread to LA, where I spent the sweetest moments of the whole year strolling around with snowpea on the Santa Monica beach. We did sunset yoga in the sand, drank iced lattes (and chocolate milk), and watched giant bubbles pop on our faces. This was a fresh start, and I felt so free.
From LA to San Diego to Tuscon to El Paso – the days on the road passed too quickly after being isolated for so long in one spot at the farm. When we finally arrived in St. Louis, it was a bit surreal that we would be living in our own home after barely being able to afford to rent in California. It’s an old home, but such a big home with so much personality!
Moving in during the third trimester was hard, I really can’t lie. Each day, I was becoming less mobile, and snowpea was at the peak of her terrible twos (yes, it’s absolutely a real thing). There were boxes everywhere, I couldn’t find anything, and it didn’t help that snowpea wanted to dig into everything and throw it around. And something was starting to feel… off. Physically, I mean. I remembered being achy in the late-third trimester with snowpea, but this was a little different.
Finally, the diagnosis came and my fears manifested themselves: COVID had messed with my body in ways not visible to me before. I had gestational hypertension, which seemed to be accelerating toward preeclampsia. My birth plans came down with a crash landing as the official diagnosis and induction came in the same week. But somehow, my birth story ended up being beautiful – and powerful, nonetheless.
St. Louis was already a good decision because my parents were around for childcare during the birth and first two weeks postpartum. Things went smoothly and I was feeling rested as I could be with a newborn, but frankly, I didn’t know how I was going to do it when my mom left.
Just me and two kids under three with one weaning and potty training and the other constantly breastfeeding and waking at all hours of the night. And did I mention snowpea was at the peak of her terrible twos? What scared me most was taking them in public and having one wailing incessantly and the other running around destructively. And this was Missouri! How would people look at me if I had to breastfeed outside my home?
The night my mom left, I cried. And when there was no more worry to be shed, I dreamed of us coexisting peacefully. I wished for the three of us to be able to go out for coffee dates, walk to the library, and play at the park with no tears or tantrums. Just sunshine, flowers, and cute outfits.
There were days that were hard, but I relished in the small victories at first – getting out as a trio for a walk around the block or baking banana bread with baby oakleaf strapped to me and snowpea “helping”. There were a few tears shed but rarely were there public meltdowns. I was learning how to care for two babies at once, and snowpea was just as quickly stepping into her role as big sister. And just as stealthily as the terrible twos snuck up on us, they faded away to a fuzzy memory of how unruly this curious, thoughtful, and truly helpful child once was.
Finally, Daniel went on a business trip for a few days, and I was left alone with the kids. There was no sunshine in December, but we dressed cutely and I drove to the galleria to walk around the Christmas displays.
“I didn’t know how I would do it with two babies, but she’s doing it!” One woman said, pointing at me.
“I was all over the place when my babies were that little, but you seem so calm,” another told me.
It was easy now, and I realized just how far I had come.
Two kids, two dogs, two cats, and our own home. In many ways, my life feels so complete. And still, I have this yearning that I’ve realized will always be part of me. No matter how much may I meditate or tell myself I am already enough, I still want to do things, to live, and to achieve. I want to teach yoga again. I want to sit in coffee shops and write and finish my first book. I want to speak Spanish less like of a gringa. I want to show my kids Paris and teach them French. I want to take my husband salsa dancing and sign up for adult ballet. I want to learn to pour swans consistently as if latte art were in my DNA. I want to help other mamas who are just as terrified of birth or frazzled and struggling postpartum as I once was. I want to never stop wanting because to want is to be human and to be alive.
In the wake of equal parts contentment and yearning, I’ve created something. I’ve set up some services and built the foundation of the business I once had, but better – more grounded in reality and more focused on what I can truly give. I don’t have students yet, but I have the space now to hold them.
Universe, you were so very kind to me in 2022. Here’s my resolution and request to meet students, clients, mentors, and friends to fill the new year.
If you are a soon-to-be mama or know any in the STL area, please take a look at my new offerings:
Here's to a beautiful 2023!