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Written under the influence (of hormones)

Here goes old news: I'm pregnant with my 4th baby. I've been so sick - as sick only as I was with Veronika, which is not pleasant. I kind of thought I was done with the extreme sickness as with the boys' pregnancies I could still sort of function, but this time, I've been bedridden again, now for almost 2 weeks and sick for almost 6. But anyway, pregnancy does not sit well with me. I think it's safe to say I hate it. And every time the same thing happens. I see my kids and how much fun we're having, especially now that all of them speak and their personalities are blooming and I think: More kids! Great idea! Then I get pregnant and everything changes, everything. I think: More kids! Horrible idea! What was I thinking? How did I not remember how much I hate this? I will lose my body and my freedom and my sleep and basically... control. I don't want this. I want opportunities! Freedom! My skinny clothes! Grown-up parties! And most of all: control! I want it how I want it. I don't want a baby seriously cutting into all that is mine. Obviously it doesn't help that in between those thoughts I'm bending over a toilet bowl. The baby, it took control! It took it all, right away. Poor me.

Yeah, so I'm a very grateful pregnant woman. I count my blessings and whatnot. Seriously though a part of me always knows that this is where my life is supposed to go. I had three kids and I couldn't bear the thought of being done. I love my children and I love my husband and here we are having more, it just doesn't get much more logical than this. The problem is I know I don't see life as it happens. I suppose most people don't. Being in the middle of the story makes it impossible to make oneself an objective picture of it, and although looking back often involves selective memory it is in some ways more accurate in describing what really happened.

Having my first three kids relatively close together was exhausting. I thought it would never end. I was overwhelmed and wanted it all to pass quickly. I don't wish those days back, but I do feel wistful sometimes. I see now that it was just a part of it all while at the time it was all I knew about life with children. The agony of making it through the day was right there beside the joy of the beginning of their (and our) lives. They are inseparable. Sure it could've gone another way, but it would still not have been easy. I struggle with the responsibility of it (see above), but I'm grateful to myself for having done it. I wanted another child because after a few years now I can see where all these diapers and tantrums are taking us to and I like it. I wanted more of it. Except when I didn't. It will always be this way, the commitment and the reluctance at war.

I'm not a happy pregnant woman and I'm not sure I'm a good mother, but my kids are good and it's about them. That is the perspective that connects me to the end of the story and keeps me bending over that toilet bowl a fourth time now.

Posted at 10:24 AM on January 06, 2012 | Comments (3)

Gladly

My son Nikola is currently mesmerized by belly buttons. He loves to touch his and he loves to find them on other people, mostly on me. Undeterred he will lift my shirt or pull on my pants asking to see it: "Button? Button?". When he finds it he stops for a second, a bit confused at first - because he can't find it right away, then excited - when he finally does and he then slowly puts his finger in it and grins. "Button!"

My belly button is not what it once was. I'm not sure you can call it a belly button anymore in fact. It is a dark deep hole hidden in countless thin folds of skin that was stretched three times way beyond its limits and is now listless and tired, like a balloon without air. The center of it is covered and resembles a bit one of those scary open-mouthed lions on ancient buildings, the kind Audrey Hepburn put her hand in timidly in the movie Roman Holiday. I took a picture of it actually for this entry, but seeing it blown up on my computer screen I scared myself so terribly, I knew it was nothing the internet ever wanted to see.

I can't say I am happy about that. A cute little belly button nestled in smooth elastic skin would be my preference, yes, but like Nikola I am also fascinated by it. I am still in awe of how this happened, of the fact that my children were once on the other side of it, that I was capable to grow people. It seems impossible my skin could have ever stretched that much even though I have palpable, visible proof that it really did. And to its own detriment. Irreparably damaged. The only way to "improve" it would be to have it surgically removed. An option I am not considering.

On most days I am strangely grateful for this "damage". It's the consequence of one part of motherhood but in my heart it stands for more. It stands for all the other irreversible things that motherhood caused that are not visible but I can feel on a daily basis. My nerves and my resilience will be tested beyond their limits and I will suffer irreparably. I can no longer live worry-free, ever. I am destined to heartbreak one way or another as my children will one day leave, hopefully only to live their own happy lives. My children are growing out of me, not just figuratively but physically. My belly button confirms that I'm not crazy, this is happening and paying the price is part of it .

My kids are all fascinated by my stretchmarked flappy belly. Occasionally when they talk to me about something, usually something emotional, their hands inadvertently wander under my shirt and they stroke the soft rumpled skin. "Can I touch your pudding?" they ask me (I have my mom to thank for teaching them that association...) and I let them and they get giggly. I am not a big fan of having this area touched, it is somewhat of a sore spot, but I let them nevertheless.

The truth is I am moved by that moment. My children touching the damage they caused. It's where they came from... The intersection of my death and their birth right here under my shirt. It feels sacred. It's a metaphor for our lives. The timelessness of love we create encased in the fragile and temporary skin of our bodies.

Posted at 09:17 AM on May 10, 2010 | Comments (1)

The same thing I always write about

This week was spring break. No school, no preschool. I was looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time and I was right. It's been both nice and awful. Basically I'm exhausted. I feel like those random women who'll see me with three and say things like "Wow! Three! I could never do it!". I'm watching myself and wish I could do it. Wow! Three! I am not doing it! I mean I am, but it never feels like I'm winning this race. I'm the one at end, coughing and gasping for air, trying to catch up because I didn't train for it enough or right, or maybe I didn't train at all.

The other day I was waiting for a store to open next to two other ladies, a mother and her adult daughter and the mother was going on and on about something, I don't know what it was, I wasn't even interested but I noticed myself getting excited about this conversation that was about something, anything and even though I wasn't even part of it. I noticed myself daydreaming about having a conversation with someone about something mudane or current events or nail polish dammit, but it was a conversation and the other person never screamed at me, nor peed her pants nor started whining about how I always make her do chores, but most of all the person listened and I I wasn't repeating myself like an idiot, always saying the same things over and over...

Ok, so I was feeling sorry for myself a teeny bit. But really, the hardest thing about staying home with small kids is still the loneliness. And that's saying something, because there are plenty of things to choose from. (Still feeling sorry for myself there.) I know in my case I'm responsible for it to an extent. I moved to a brand new place with my first baby being about a year old and I made some friends but I also had two more babies and new friendships require time and energy and I had neither. It doesn't help that I'm not really energized by superficial socializing. It drains me and after hanging out with people I have nothing in common with I feel even more isolated. I crave something stable and familiar and new acquaintances don't fit that profile. At the end of the day I have the equivalent of one dollar of time left. I can't afford to lose it, but long term this kind of loneliness takes its toll.

I heard this song on TV "9 to 5", I think it's Dolly Parton, but anyway the lyrics go something about working 9 to 5 and I immediately thought: "Awesome. Give me 9-5!!!" What a dream job. What would I do to be done at 5 every day! I realize this is "the grass is always greener.."-type of thinking, but I need to elaborate on this a bit. It's not that I really think a 9-5 office job would make my life perfect. I've done it and I don't miss it. I'm also not sure I want to hand off my kids at 5 pm every day. What I'd love is to not be so invisible. Taking care of little kids and managing a household are completely undefined and unspectacular activities that no one sees you do. What can be said of substance about staying home with children that isn't some kind of cliche? I don't know where to begin. And still I catch myself wishing someone would know what it was like today. There are no co-workers to rehash the events with, the dumb stuff no one else cares about, but that maybe you and someone else have been scratching your head over all day. There are no witnesses and when there are no witnesses it might not have even happened. Maybe this is silly, but it does make me feel weird that even though I know I am exhausted for a reason and I know why I am doing it and that it's worth it I will still wonder if any of it had any impact on anyone.

Maybe I'm the only one with this problem. I wonder how other people deal with the invisibility aspect of it. I know some women turn motherhood into a career. They are perfect housekeepers in a beautiful house and make sure all their friends see it or their kids' success becomes their own and they shine as their #1 fan. I also realize some women enjoy tending to their kids and house a lot more than I do, which I have wished for occasionally but only because it would make life easier for me, not because I really want it. My problem is that doing this job is a choice by default. It's not that I wouldn't like to do something else, it's that I can't accept someone else being with my kids instead of me (because of them and because of me). I want to be here even though it drives me crazy at the same time.

And so... basically I'm exhausted.


Posted at 03:15 PM on April 24, 2010 | Comments (2)

In a parallel universe...

"There's no rush about getting to school. Put your shoes on whenever."

Posted at 10:37 PM on May 21, 2009

Made it.

Tomorrow marks the end of the dreaded two-year-period of gestating and raising a new Souzek. The two years are a somewhat arbitrary and personal time frame as I've found the pregnancy and first year of a newborn to be the most challenging and time-consuming for me, above all physically. I learned it first with Veronika, then confirmed it with Ivan so that when Nikola announced his arrival, it's all I could think of at first: The grueling days and weeks and months ahead of me...

Reading that entry I realize I had censored it quite a bit for public view. I can admit now that I was completely devastated, in tears for days. I just could not believe it. It was as if someone had just flipped my life upside down on a whim, without ever having consulted me. This might sound ridiculous, as it clearly was not "done to me", and I had played an active part... but an unexpected pregnancy is a shock to the system, regardless of how it came about. It is final in a way you don't comprehend until it happens to you. And just as all of this turbulence never touches upon the feelings for the actual child (at least in my case), it has to be dealt with separately. It was never a question whether I could welcome the baby, but how I would follow through with all that comes before and with it without losing my mind.

I came a long way. It's funny because from the moment I knew I was pregnant I also knew I was going to make it. I see this now, I wasn't so sure then. It wasn't really any easier than I imagined it to be. I just fought, I still am.

Before we have children we think we can "prepare" and we can "make an informed decision" about the right timing and about our ability to meet the challenge. This is true... only a little bit. It helps to be a somewhat mature adult, it helps to have a bit of money and read a book maybe, but once you take the step, it's the beginning of a completely new life with this new person. You can't help but admit that there was no way to practice this new life without the person in question. So when I look back now I can't say much about timing or preparedness. True, I still wouldn't have picked to get pregnant at the time I did, but this is Nikola's life story already, not just mine. Less and less do I see a way to talk to childless people about what it's like to have children, because you don't end up having just "children", you end up having specific people with names and personalities and lives. I see Nikola and his existence was never a question. How could I ever put him in any kind of comparison alongside things like pain and money and saggy skin. I know people are terrified of that... of having things happen to them that were not planned. I feel just the same a lot of the time, but I am perfectly fine with having been thrown into this situation, fine with knowing that it's not in my hands ultimately.

Niko Piko

I am delirious with love for this boy.
Happy Birthday, Nikola!

Posted at 09:28 PM on May 07, 2009 | Comments (4)