Pregnant, Parentless And Next To Normal

On a recent date night, my husband took me to a musical we first saw in NYC a few years ago.  It has to be one I REALLY like to see it twice, especially with a curtain call of 8:00 PM (these days, about the time I am plopping my growing belly onto the bed for the night). The themes of the musical that touched me are Universal and I presume many in the audience could relate a story from their own life about death and grief, mental illness, drug use, loneliness or longing. It didn’t take long for me to remember why I loved this production so much. The songs carried the emotions of the characters from the stage to my aching heart, drawing out my own stories of grief and longing.  I was grateful that the man next to me alternatively adjusted his hearing aid and snoozed through parts of the second act as I sniffled and fought to control the tears streaming down my face.  I held my breath for moments of the show, seeing my own family and myself on the stage.  I felt the broken parts inside of me rising to the surface, along with the love. Thank goodness for the love.

Admittedly, it sounds a little strange when I say that finding out I was pregnant again made me sad.  Of course my initial reaction was excitement (mixed with some fear about how I would handle a second child and the exhaustion that would come with two little ones) as I shared the news of my positive pregnancy test with my husband.  But shortly after our little celebration, I felt the longing creep up on me. Who do you call after you share this news with your spouse or partner but the people who gave you life? There is other close family – sisters and aunts, and friends who would share in our joy, but none with quite the wonder and pride as would my own parents.  The longing continued the day I set out to buy those first special “boy clothes” (with my daughter in tow), an event I know in a parallel universe was honored with a mother-daughter shopping spree and lunch.  As I begin to think about decorating his room, my heart softens, a project I would love to share with my creative and loving mom.  The birth of our child, those first demanding months, a first word, a first step, and the endless joyful firsts that will follow with each of my children…all will be experienced without the company of my parents.

It makes sense to me when I want for them in the dark times, during my challenging post-partum period after my first, with the death of a friend, during hard times in my marriage.  I yearn for that invested support, that selfless concern, that steady love they each provided.  It feels harder when the yearning surfaces in the midst of a celebration, when the longing bubbles up in the middle of a party.  It feels hard, like an interruption of something good.  But it’s real.  It’s a part of me, a part of my experience, a part of my story.

Sometimes, and in the hard months after the birth of our daughter, the longing overwhelms me and I sink into missing them, accepting my grief as a heavy weight for that moment or day(s). Other times, I work to channel it in a positive and productive direction, hoping it will strengthen me as our relationships once did. I look for space for their memories to live and thrive so that my children can know my parents.  I make a family picture wall, displaying black and white photographs of my ancestors and tell my daughter stories of them when we pass the photos outside her bedroom.  I recognize holidays in the special and excessive way my mom did, gathering decorations to display and honoring traditions that have been passed down. I play the rock ‘n roll tunes I grew up on for our daughter and can’t wait to tell her stories of her musical granddad and the bond that we shared.  As my husband and I begin to talk about names for our son, we consider including my dad’s name (and/or my husband’s dad) as a way to honor them.  I look for ways to keep them alive and now it’s for my children as much as for myself.

After the show, my husband and I talked about the title of the musical: Next to Normal. What does it mean to be next to normal and are we, as humans, forever chasing this dream of normalcy? We finally settled on the idea that each of the characters on stage was really just searching for something “next to normal.”  Normal wasn’t the end-goal; just something not so far out there that the sense of loneliness and disconnect overwhelmed them, as it does for all of us at times in our lives.  The title affirmed the belief that I hold that we already there – in one form or another – hovering in this space of being ok with exactly who and what and where we are, in this moment of our lives.  I think that’s part of the biggest gift we can offer in relationship with one another: the ability to mirror this sense that we are, already, next to normal. Through listening, sharing, crying and just being together, we can jointly shift our focus from our inadequacies and longing, to our gifts, relationships and the abundance in our lives.

I am the mother of a beautiful baby girl, who amazes and amuses me daily. And I am an orphan on planet earth. Both are true. I am married to an intelligent and thoughtful man, who has become a better father than I even imagined he could be.  And I long for my own father to look at me with the pride my husband holds for our little girl.  Both are true.  I am blessed to be carrying a new life inside of me (a boy, this time!) and ever-aware that I won’t have my mom to call on those early sleepless nights, and that this little boy won’t know the calm voices of his loving grandparents.

I am 25 weeks pregnant and present – and the longing continues.  I don’t yearn for normal.  I’m way past that.  I’ll settle for Next to Normal any day.

3 thoughts on “Pregnant, Parentless And Next To Normal

  1. love this post. Thank you for sharing these feelings and being so open to emotions. God knows they are fast and true when you are pregnant! I also wanted to say that friends with kids, near or far, as also on the list of “to call” on those sleepless nights… There is always someone to call or email even if just to listen…. we all need that! xoxo Congratulations on a BOY!!!!!

  2. you so beautifully express the varying emotions of life and its seasons…..the truth of experiences, gains, losses. We are in process – ever learning, changing, adjusting..may we continue to count our blessings of past, and present while anticipating and preparing for the future. I am here if you would choose to contact and chat about lifes roller coaster ride. You are loved – a blessing to many.

  3. I just wanted to thank you for your truely eloquent words! I always get a good release and I love the reminder that I’m not the only one trying to maneuver through motherhood. I absolutely know your parents would be extremely proud of you. It is evident that you are a great mother.

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