Limping toward the finish line

A few months ago, my dad became exceedingly angry at my brother over what my brother considered a rather innocent remark. S. bore witness to the scene and sided with my brother, agreeing that my father’s anger was completely disproportionate to the comment.  The three of them, along with my uncle, were at deer camp, and after a couple of evenings of tolerating my dad’s addiction to cable news,  my brother wanted to change the channel to something on the travel network.  My dad took umbrage at the suggestion and D., by all accounts with humor, said “We don’t all want to continue listening to you yell at the tv for days, dad.”  This was all it took for my dad to storm out of the cabin and stew for hours until finally at some point a peace gesture was made and he decided spending the last few days at camp with his son, son-in-law and brother-in-law were better spent companionably.

This was not the end of the argument, though.

Several weeks later my parents came down to visit me and my dad recounted the story, which I had already heard from D. and S., but I acted as though I knew nothing about.  As he grew more and more angry over the comment, he turned to my mother  and basically accused her of telling my brother than he yelled at the tv, thus talking about him behind his back, because why else would anyone think he yelled at the television?

Now, my father has spent a good portion of his life hollering back at the t.v., and anyone who has spent an hour with him knows this. From cable news shows to college and professional sports to television programming with frustrating plots, my dad makes his opinion known, loudly and with emphasis.  It is simply part of what makes him who he is, and I often believe this outlet, along with a life-long dedication to exercise and regular cocktail hours, has kept him as healthy and alive as he is. The shocking thing to me isn’t that he was upset when D. pointed out this habit to him  – no, what’s most surprising and has only come to light recently is the fact my dad really and truly believes he doesn’t, ever, do the thing of which he was accused.  He believes truly, in his core, that he not someone who yells at the tv and so this impression D. holds couldn’t have come from years of bearing witness – it had to come from my mom, talking behind his back.

As members of his family, and I am sure many of his close friends can attest, we have seen my father argue with newscasters and those they interview, swear at Tea Party members, coach football, basketball and baseball with confidence and gusto, and drive himself crazy over the “lack of plot” in “Brothers and Sisters.” There is a huge disparity in how my father behaves and how he sees himself, and this makes it an impossible argument to solve: my mother will never be able to properly defend herself against my father’s accusation, my father will never believe he engages in arguments with the television and my brother will never be able to believe that my father doesn’t recognize this behavior in himself. Everyone has mostly moved on from this discussion although references to it crop up every once in a while.

Like most people, I like to think I have a strong sense of self, or at the very least a good grasp on the kind of person I am.  I don’t go around claiming, like many women I know, to be the kind of person who “just needs to be on the go”, I don’t call myself a control freak and if I did, it wouldn’t be with pride, I think I am particularly good at taking care of myself and those around me but perhaps not as motivated as I should be, some of the time – I am not overly task-oriented.

At least, this is what I thought until recently, when, at eight months pregnant, I broke the metatarsal bone in my left foot and after two visits to the doctor was ordered on strict rest if I wanted it to do anything remotely like heal by the time I go into labor. “No grocery shopping. No driving. No running last minute errands for the baby. Work from home or take time off if you need to, but we can’t do anything for you as pregnant as you are and so the only way it will heal is if you stay off it,” my doctor said. “By the way, we should schedule you for a cholesterol test a couple of months after you have the baby – pregnancy can change your cholesterol.”

She’s so annoying.

I am following the doctor’s orders to the best of my ability but this means (what I consider to be) an unfair amount of work has fallen to S. in this last month. To be fair, we have turned down offers from my parents to come move in and help us out, as well as offers from friends for extra assistance, not because we couldn’t use the help but because at this point the offers seem like they would be more work for us than actual relief.

So S. is in charge, not only of working his day job and getting dinner on the table, but of doing the laundry, changing sheets, walking the dog and taking care of the last minute items I had planned on doing for our daughter’s arrival, like having the car seat installed and putting the finishing touches on the nursery, all because I played one rogue game of fetch with our dog.  I thought, I truly did, that I could be the kind of person who embraces such orders from my doctor – that I am the type of person who puts healing before things like household chores and work, but I am here to tell you, this is not so. Or, at the very least, it is incredibly hard to do.

Relying on S. is frustrating, and he is probably one of the best husbands in the world on which to rely.  I could ask him for anything…more dvds from Blockbuster, a book or two from the library, a chocolate milk shake – and he would drop what he is doing to take care of my request. But I don’t ask these things of him because his workload is already so significant and while I  believe truly in our vows of taking care of each other through sickness and health, I don’t believe in abusing that promise.

And yet, it’s so hard to let go of the expectations I had for this last month of pregnancy, even though S. says that is exactly what we both need to do in order to joyfully welcome our child into our home. I was so certain the nursery would be perfectly appointed, the kitchen rearranged, the bathroom stocked with baby bath supplies – I had in my mind a place for every piece of baby-equipment we received. My workload at the office would be complete and perfectly squared away with absolutely no projects left unfinished and I would, of course, still be walking around the park every day, at least two or three laps – the exercise combined with my working life more than enough to keep my pregnancy weight gain modest.

You know what they say about making plans and God laughing…

I truly saw myself as someone who might relish being taken care of for a few weeks – certainly, at the beginning of the pregnancy, I fantisized about this kind of situation.  As it turns out, I’ve had to allow myself, on more than one occasion, the luxury of crying.  I spent yesterday organizing and categorizing baby clothes, and took a few too many trips down the stairs, which in turn pushed my pain back to near day-one levels. I have done things for myself I should have let S. do, and even as I type this I feel my anxiety rising over the fact that S. will be doing the grocery shopping today, not me. I mean, this is a man who graduated law school after serving on both moot court and law review and continuously finds himself promoted at work, and yet I don’t feel confident putting the kind of cereal I want on the grocery list because I don’t think he’ll be able to find it. I would laugh at the absurdity if I wasn’t so earnest in this belief. 

It turns out, who I think I am, versus who I actually am when push comes to proverbial shove, are two very different people, too. Not only do I want control, I enjoy it when I have it, and every time I sacrifice a bit of it to S. or to a co-worker,  I find myself in a minor state of mourning. All of my laid-back, take-things as they come theories fly right out the window when I actually am required to lay back, take things as they come and allow myself to heal.

All of this does make me wonder, though, about the claims we make about ourselves versus who we really are on the inside. Verbal declarations about  perfectionism, or lack thereof; deeply held beliefs about how we do or don’t behave; whether we are moody or high-spiritied or free-spirits – I think more often than not we give voice to the kind of person we want  to be, which is most often not who we are, at all.  S. and I always joke that if, during a job interview the person who will be your boss claims to not “micromanage” he or she will end up doing just that, more than you can ever imagine.

For now, I’m willing to admit I want more control than I ever realized, and letting go of certain “perfect” standards in order to embrace the here and now is so much harder than I ever would have imagined.

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10 Responses to Limping toward the finish line

  1. Emily Barton says:

    LOL. For years and years and years, I was convinced I was a Type B personality. I’ve only recently begun to admit that I’m Type A. And I will never forget when I broke my wrist, thinking I would enjoy having my mother come take care of me for a week after I had to have surgery while I lay around and read and put all my efforts into healing. Two days into, my mother said to me, “I never really realized this about you, but you don’t like to be taken care of, do you?” I, too, feel horribly guilty about asking my husband to do things when he’s already doing so much, and I have no faith that he will ever be able to find the right foods in the grocery store. So, good luck! (Think of all the great stories you’ll have to tell your daughter as she gets older, though, that she’ll probably beg you to tell over and over, about the last month of your pregnancy with her.)

  2. Smithereens says:

    Oh my, your post made me want to hug you! Don’t worry about not recognizing yourself at 8 month pregnant, it’s all about hormones darling, not your real “you”! The crying, the frustration, the urge to do things at home when reason would say “leave it”(that is the nesting thing they call in the books), every bizarre feature of your personality in these last few weeks spells “hormones” to me. I’m sure that will come back to normal in a few months’ time. Try to take it easy as much as you are able to, and smile! You’re a lucky girl to have S by your side, and I’m sure he will find the right cereal for you (and much more).

  3. Amanda says:

    Hang in there! It’s hard to feel helpless and not in control at any time especially if you are used to being competent and independent. The last month of pregnancy is a primal, hormonal liminal time. You are between the old you and the new you, the old life and the new life. You’ll figure it out and soon you’ll be independent and capable and in charge once more. But right now you know you need to take it easy. Your body is working very hard so don’t feel too bad about S picking up more of the load.

  4. Pete says:

    I can relate to the family arguments (although not recently thankfully). And I laughed at the comment about S not being able to find the right cereal in the supermarket. I’m sure I am the same. Wishing you as much rest as is possible in the circumstances. And looking forward to hearing more about your baby girl.

  5. litlove says:

    I am right there with Smithereens and Amanda – welcome to the primal hormone soup of late pregnancy! And I’ll bet that somewhere inside you, part of you was longing to test yourself, every day between now and the day of giving birth, to make sure you were strong enough, fit enough, organised enough to have this here baby! And now you can’t get that reassurance; all you can do is watch S going through your training programme, but with a man’s gentle dispassion, not our pre-motherhood fervor!

    Poor sweetie! But bear this in mind instead – TAKE THE REST WHILE YOU CAN. Those early months with a newborn are exhausting and you will be doing almost all the work. Your turn will most definitely come, and then S will have to sit on the sidelines wishing he could do more. It sounds to me like you are already a great team, and that is one lucky baby to have you two as parents.

  6. Hugs from me too. Litlove’s right: try to enjoy the rest. Give up on perfection, because all your baby wants is two pairs of loving warm arms and some good milk. She really won’t care how her nursery looks.

    Funny how we get what we need sometimes even if it really isn’t what we want!

  7. Kristi says:

    I completely understand how you feel. Much as I think I would like to be taken care of, in truth I am way too much of a control freak. Perhaps if I could clone myself have have me take care of me in just the right way?

    I think it’s good to let go of all notions of perfection before the baby is born, because the realities of life with a newborn will surely disabuse you of them anyway…

    Be well and take care!

  8. Emily – part of the exhausting thing about being taken care of in your own home is all the EXPLAINING necessary…if my mom came down I would have to work harder because she refuses to drive in the city, doesn’t like our grocery stores, doesn’t understand my oven, etc. etc…with Sam there is some guilt involved but I also know he won’t coddle me.

    Smithereens – well, I actually didn’t put the cereal on the grocery list BUT under S.’s excellent care I am quite healed and able to pick up the cereal on my own this weekend, so hurrah!

    Amanda, I hadn’t thought of this last month of pregnancy in such a way before…between the old me and the new me…but it is so true! Thanks for pointing it out, and also pointing out the hard work my body is doing!

    Pete – thanks for the kind words! I am continuing to rest, albeit a little restlessly…

    Litlove – thanks so much for the kind words. You are right…my time is fast approaching and it’s okay to take it easy in preparation for caring for our baby. It’s weird, though, how the body works – suddenly all I want to do is tackle projects and work myself into a fervor, and I can’t!

    Charlotte – thanks for the hugs! I know you are right – the baby won’t care one whit about her nursery. I wish I could convince myself to do the same!

    Kristi – thanks! I am doing the best I can to take care – it’s amazing how much harder it feels than it should be!

  9. Zoesmom says:

    I echo everyone else when I say welcome to the last stage of pregnancy. I was put on bed rest for the last month so I can relate to what you’re going through, but it is so good that you can be reflective at this moment even if you feel like you’re being driven mad. No matter what it would be impossible to do all those things you think need doing right now and after the baby is born, but I think the main thing to keep in mind is that you and the baby are well and happy. Everything else can wait and you can eat the wrong kind of cereal, but it is OK if it makes you mad. Feel good!

  10. Alison says:

    I loved this post about having to hand over control – a bit late now to say it given the baby’s been born (congratulations and welcome!), but anyway, giving up control for any period of time is fantastic training for having a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager – I reckon the hardest thing about having children is, in fact, giving up the illusion of control – and finding ways to let others help you even if they can’t find the right breakfast cereal and won’t shop in your local grocery store. Good luck! (PS I LOVED the last trimester, floated through it; your experience just shows that everyone’s different!)

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