Starting A New Life

It’s been hard to get a new post up every week, for two big reasons: first, working at a startup is a big mountain of a challenge, and second — more excitedly! — I’m now just about five months pregnant, so all my free time (and body energy) is devoted to building a new person from scratch.

Yup, we’re pregnant!

Yes, if you haven’t seen on Instagram or Facebook yet, Alex and I are pretty excited to share that we’re cooking up a new little guy to join us in the world next Spring, sometime in May 2016.

Sarah and Alex

1 + 1 = 3

I’m excited to share this with each of you because I know so many of you and I feel often like I’m writing this blog like a letter to so many friends around the world. The past several years have brought many of your faces into the Writer’s Workshops and Grace & Gratitude courses.

From conferences to events to projects, I’ve worked with and met many of you offline as well. It is one of the uncountable joys of publishing on the internet: not pageviews, not subscribers, but really wonderful, quirky, delightful people who I get to share ideas and words with.

So, if you’re curious to follow along, I’m sure I’ll occasionally write a few essays about pregnancy, startups, and figuring out how to navigate both. I’m learning quite a bit as I start an entirely new adventure it feels like I know nothing about. If you have any questions for me, I’m happy to hear them — I’m sure I’ve had many similar questions!

Today, I thought I’d share a few learnings that have become very familiar to me over the better part of this last year.

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom (plus a few favorite books) on pregnancy, growth, and the life changing that’s happening all around (and inside of!) me:

The first three months were harder than anyone could have warned me.

I wish there was more of a public service announcement for just how much it feels like you get slammed in the beginning. A few friends told me that “the fatigue is real,” and that “morning sickness isn’t fun,” but the reality of barfing every day for nearly four months straight is a big, big drag. My energy levels dipped way low and I was sleeping as much as 12 hours each night for the first few months. Luckily, I turned a corner around 4 months in and began to feel better (thank goodness!) although I’m writing this down now so I don’t become one of those ladies who says that everything about pregnancy is wonderful later.

You might need 9 months to get used to the idea.

Sometimes change happens, and only then you become acclimated to it. We can’t plan every phase of our lives, nor will we know what we need until we’re in the thick of it. Jump in, start learning, and feel like a kid again. I think nine months is a blessing in disguise to get you ready for everything that will be changing ahead of you.

Follow your body’s rhythms.

It’s easy to say “listen to your body,” but it can be hard to actually tune in and do. This year has involved a profound internal focusing for me, with a body compass that is becoming more and more fine-tuned. If I don’t do exactly what it needs and says, I’ll swiftly find myself crying, vomiting, or struggling. While I don’t always love this dear kind of wisdom, I appreciate it greatly: it has made me very aware of exactly what my insides are telling me.

Ask for help.

This will probably apply throughout parenthood. Another lesson that I’ve been reluctant to learn is asking for help when I can’t do something on my own. Raising a kid will not be a solo effort, and in many respects, our own lives are not solo efforts, either. We live in an era of glorification of individuals (magazine covers show single people most of the time), when community, friendship, and relationship are what strengthen and satiate us.

I’ve had to ask for a lot of help, and I’m grateful to get to practice using this new muscle. I’m also quite grateful for people who can listen to obstinate, stubborn people waver in declining help —

“Hey, want me to get that for you?”

“Well, … [pause], no, I think I can handle it.”

— those friends that hear the wobble and know you so well that they know that this is you asking for help, or, not sure how to ask for help. That’s me. And my wobble is turning into a much more clear “Hey, would you help me?” request lately.

Find whatever works for you, and do that.

No one has the same pattern or needs in life, and you have to do you, where you are right now.

Sleeping works for me right now. Eating a ridiculous amount of protein and meat is what works for me right now. Walking is what works for me right now. Downward Facing Dog is my peak pose in yoga (my “max pose,” or what I work up to in my current sequence of 5-minute and 15-minute practices).

Don’t compare yourself to a past version of yourself.

There is a past version of me that swam a mile and a half naked in 58-degree water as I escaped from Alcatraz. Today, I’m moving more slowly than I’ve ever known my body. Some days it’s just a few minutes on the yoga mat before I rest on bolsters and soak in the joy of restorative poses. I’m not doing any crazy arm balances or inversions (nor can I lie on my tummy), and that’s fine. If I were disappointed by the changes, this would be discouraging.

Instead, I have an entirely new body, new place, new time. Inside of the practice is a sweet sense of calm. I wobble like a pregnant lady. Getting up and down is a bit harder. I feel a new sense of empathy and connection to my injured, fatigued, and beginner students; I am here, beginning again.

Everything will change. And this, too, is not forever.

If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never do it.

This has been my Dad’s advice on pregnancy (and other things!) for the last ten or more years. He’s always reminded me that you’re never really ready for what’s next, and if you wait until you feel ready, all you’ll be doing is waiting.

Jump in while you’re not ready and then figure it out as you go.

That’s exactly where I feel like I am.

Make a plan. And remember, nothing goes accordingly to plan.

We plan when we think we have all the information in front of us, but we can’t have everything as a known. There will be new unknowns as we march down time’s ruler. So plan enough, and get going — because nothing goes according to plan.

This is another one of Dad’s sayings. We’re both Type A planners, and we joke that there are things like kids and weather to remind us that we can’t plan for everything, and we have to learn how to live in a decidedly unplanned reality. Kids won’t follow your plans, and, in some ways, that’s part of the fun of it.

There are a lot of tears.

There’s a hormonal cocktail inside of me as my body whirs up and gets ready to build another human. In some ways, it feels like I’m navigating my teenage years again, something I was happy to be done with. In other ways, it feels as though I’m feeling everything acutely in a way that lets me experience a deeper sense of connection.

I’m grateful that my body knows what it’s doing.

If I had to sit down with a pen and plan out all the steps of building a human from scratch, I’d end up with a disaster. Build the arms first? What does the placenta do? How do we get the head to fit in there?

It’s a gratitude that my body can kick in and do this thing, this deepest, wisest thing that’s automatic and beyond me. It’s something our human bodies do, and they perform millions of actions in sequence without my conscious direction. Witnessing this tremendous shift makes me aware of the ways in which my body is operating harmoniously in so many other areas of my life.

There’s a deep sense of peace.

In the beginning, I think I was shocked for a few months. I really had no idea how I was going to do it and how much was going to change.

Lately, with more swimming, yoga, and movement, I’ve felt a sense of calm and peace come to me. (It’s there alongside the worry and the fear.)

Even when I’m scared, worried, and frustrated, there’s a deep sense of calm about all of this: we’ll figure it out, it’ll look messy, we’ll do a million things wrong — and it’ll be wonderful. We’re going to be just fine. In fact, this will be great.

And other people will tell you their secrets, too!

When I sent out an announcement to my friends and family, I found out from several people that they, too, are expecting, and it was such a joy! I’ve also experienced dozens of people asking me questions about the process, wondering how to plan ahead, asking me when we decided we were ready, what books we were reading, whether or not we knew that we wanted to start a family — and more.

If you’re in the same boat or you’re thinking about your own future, here’s a few of my favorite books so far:

What questions or advice do you have? Do you have a favorite book that you love on parenting, babies, pregnancy, or a related topic? Anything you’d love for me to write about?


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4 Responses to Starting A New Life

  1. Clare says:

    Many, many congratulations to you & Alex, Sarah. What an adventure! Lovely to see an Irish author (Anne Enright) on your reading list too. She’s a gem. Clare x

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you so much Clare! And yes, Anne Enright is a delight, love her work. Hope you’re having fun around the world and let me know when you’re back in NYC!

  2. Hey Sarah! I just finished Bringing up Bebe over the holiday break (per your suggestion) and it blew my mind. So great! I’d like to be exposed to more stories about good examples of parenting, and how having kids doesn’t necessarily having to follow the “standard narrative” (ie. people that who seem to give up their entire identity for 18 years after they have children). Which of these books might you recommend to me to read next? As you know, I don’t have children, but I’m curious to learn more about what goes into it.

    • Sarah says:

      YAY! Glad you liked “Bringing Up Bebe”! I love its alternative view from typical American “parenting-is-everything-children-are-god” views. I haven’t found as many like it, although I would love to.

      From this list, I think the next best one would probably be “Making Babies” by Anne Enright. It’s a great look at how wacky it can be to become a parent, with some of the realism I love about writers who aren’t glorifying parenthood or babies. The other good one might be Anne Lamott’s, because you realize how challenging it was for her to have a kid (she was unexpectedly single and pregnant at 35) and how that influenced her life. Both were great narrative reads.