Time for a blurry cell-phone selfie in the mirror in my closet:
That's not-quite twenty weeks. I feel bigger than I look, I think.
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The other day, in the YMCA locker room, was the first time that someone said to me with a smile, "So is this your first pregnancy?"
I love the shock value of "No, it's my fifth." The wide eyes and the Wow. I am pretty sure this makes me a bad person.
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I was pregnant with just number four the first time someone else -- in the same locker room -- followed that question with a brief lecture on overpopulation destroying the planet.
I said, "I think we should welcome and accept children from all kinds of familes, don't you?"
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I have to tell you, I'm absolutely tickled to be pregnant with my fifth child. Whether there would likely be a number five was a much-discussed subject around here.
I really didn't know what kinds of feelings to expect -- I have experienced each pregnancy with more ambivalence than you might think, considering that none were surprises. There's just so much going on physically, and so much preparation to make, and the ever-looming Day of No Choice that comes some estimated day in the future, and the hopes for a good outcome and the worries about all the bad things that might happen.
So I'm pleasantly surprised to find myself simply happy about this new child, and about the prospects of being mother-of-five, which just has a very cool ring to it, don't you think? I feel like I'm earning a shiny new badge.
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At the same time there's been a sort of odd stop-in-my-tracks realization that, indeed, the way this story is turning out is that I am spending my entire, er, career or active life or whatever you want to call it, almost exclusively mothering. I mean, I kind of knew that this was what was going to happen, but it sort of hit me in the last few months.
Don't ask me why this is hitting me now and not the last time I was pregnant. I was thirty-five years old when I had my fourth baby, and what with the general intention to keep homeschooling as long as it is working out, I was already quite clearly not expected to be off the hook for full-time involvement until my mid-fifties. I'll be thirty-nine when I have number five, which brings me into later-mid-fifties, not that big of a difference really.
(Perhaps it feels big because I lost my own mom when she was fifty-four; in that sense there was and is an infinite distance between mid- and late fifties.)
I haven't, either, chosen to keep active in my field even part-time on the side -- I explored it for a while, and decided I didn't want the added stress; and I haven't, either, thrown my extra energy into working for any cause I care about. The volunteer work I do is local, the kinds of things that parents do to help keep their kids' Scout troops and homeschooling co-ops going from year to year.
I have a lot of energy, a decent amount of talent for setting up systems and organizing stuff (not people, just stuff); but apparently, I have a limited supply of giving-a-shit.
Or maybe you could call it a limited supply of caring, and I can't afford to spend it much except on the people I have relationships with.
The people who need me, personally, to give a shit about them, and no one else can replace me.
This is not everybody's problem. I have friends I admire who raise several young children and are also pillars of a community, doing good and useful and vital work. I am happy for them and grateful for their example (and often beneficiaries of their efforts).
Caring for and about my family, even though there's nothing especially needy about my family, requires my full-time effort. It seems this will last about as long as I can stand to have a full-time anything.
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That's the thing I wake up surprised about, almost every day: That it's an endlessly fascinating challenge, that I always have something to think hard about, that I go to bed satisfied almost every night . I am happy every morning when I step out onto the porch with my coffee and watch the school buses rumble by, or if I happen to glance further down to the end of the block, where the busy east-west road crosses, and can catch a glimpse of the morning rush hour line-up to get onto the highway.
My job takes me nowhere that I am not curious to explore. And I've signed up for another adventure, is what it feels like. And I haven't had time to pack yet, but I will.