Five years ago, I was living in Shanghai, China. Can it really be so long ago? It seems like just yesterday. Today, when I am able to mentally separate myself from my children and being a mom, I feel as though I am still that confident, fearless expat dining in nice restaurants, getting massages weekly (sometimes daily), negotiating with black market vendors in Mandarin, dancing on a bar “Coyote Ugly-style” oh so occasionally, living my dream of traveling the world and being adventurous. That year, we went to Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, the Maldives, Dubai and Europe.
One morning earlier in the year, while on the treadmill in one of the gyms of our large apartment complex, I listened to an NPR podcast recorded half way around the world. I don’t even remember which program it was, likely This American Life, but I remember the content of the story. It talked about life being divided into seven year increments indicating that every seven years of your life has a theme. For me, I clearly saw the pattern: early childhood (0-7) followed by late childhood (8-14), then the teenage/college years (15-22) and the carefree 20s being married with no kids traveling, racing and having fun (23-30.)
When I relayed the story onto to my friends, I recall my friend Junie asking me, “What do you think the next seven years is going to bring?” I had a feeling but I still wasn’t 100% sure we wanted to take the plunge.
On August 19th I turned 30 (and first wrote about what this seven year increment might bring.)
Four years ago, I became pregnant with Belén. I had moved back from China early to take on my first role as a project manager. Andy visited Boise for less than two weeks in mid-July and apparently has strong swimmers. In August, I went to Forest Grove, Oregon with my friend Kelly and met my friend Matt and his girlfriend, Tamara, to do the Hulaman Half Ironman. Little did I know that a microscopic version of Belén was swimming, biking and running right along with me as I mentally picked out the paint colors for our house to escape the tedium of the long race. For the first time, I broke the six hour mark for a half Ironman. Even though my body was working hard splitting cells I managed to have the best run of my life, passing dozens, perhaps even a hundred race participants who had swum and biked faster than me (especially swum since I was nearly last out of the water.)
After the race, just after my 31st birthday, I had to lay off two people, one of which had been with the company for 30 years. I had only managed the person for three months, the same duration I had been a project manager. I quickly learned the downside of being a manager, executing a workforce reduction.
My sister in-law, Erin, came to my house to take me out for a birthday drink. With the way my day was going, I hope she intended to buy me a bottle of wine rather than a glass. Erin waited as I took a pregnancy test in the bathroom, then she celebrated in my shock as we both learned I was pregnant.
I would not be able to tell her brother, my husband, I was pregnant for another three days. He was sailing a boat in the Pa Nang Bay with a Thai-speaking skipper. I was supposed to be there with him but instead I stayed back to break the bad news to my employees. All of our family knew we were pregnant before he did. When he finally called after getting off the boat in Phuket, I told him the great news and his response was joyful and then, “I was hoping that was going to take longer.” Luckily I got a raincheck on the tropical vacation and a trip to Aruba a little later that year.
Three years ago, I returned back to work after maternity leave. I thought my heart was going to break in two. How could I possibly leave my precious three-month-old baby in the care of others when it felt so clear I was supposed to be the one taking care of her. I carried my trusty Medela pump into work each day and pumped at noon for 20 minutes. My admin at the time, Michelle, listened for people visiting my cube talking to me about how hard it must be to be back at work and then quickly came over and shoed them away. She knew from experience how hard it was to be back.
Each evening between 4 and 5pm, I practically sprinted to my car and drove as fast as I could without getting a speeding ticket to reach Belén’s daycare where I could finally, after what seemed like an eternity, be reunited with my baby.
Two years ago, I became pregnant with Eloise. Andy was once again disappointed with our speed of conception. After breastfeeding Belén for 13 months and having only a couple of periods, I didn’t exactly feel like my body had much of a break from the pregnancy/breastfeeding cycle. I was happy to have been able to do a 50K race and had one summer to drink alcoholic beverages without worrying about passing it on to my child before getting pregnant again. We also spent two wonderful weeks in Puerto Vallarta where I took advantage of my only opportunity between pregnancies to get scuba certified.
For my birthday, we went out to the Red Feather with a group of friends. Before we left the house, I took a pregnancy test because my period was late and I wanted to make sure I was not pregnant before I consumed alcohol. It was negative. We rode our bikes downtown so we could drink more than the legal limit and I did just that. The next day, I was reminded of what a hangover feels like as it has been years since I had one. That day we went to the Western Idaho Fair and I felt like crap throughout the outing (notice there is no mention of that on my blog post.) Could I really still be hungover? Since I hadn’t shaken it by the time we got home, even with plenty of hydration and greasy fair food, I decided to take another pregnancy test. It was positive. I immediately felt guilty for drinking the night before. When I consulted my doctor he said that at that early stage the baby is not yet attached and feeding off you like it does a little later in the pregnancy so I should not worry…the baby would be just fine. I began to focus my attention on what life would be like pregnant with a toddler and then later with a two-year-old and a newborn.
A year ago I was once again returning back to work after maternity leave. It was only slightly easier the second time around. We were taking both girls to a new daycare which was tremendously better than the previous one, so that helped. I had also done a better job of easing Eloise into her time away from me, having dropped her off at her new school for an hour or two here and there while I went for a run or mountain bike ride. I once again cursed the maternity leave laws in the United States wishing with all of my heart that I could extend my time home by another 3 – 6 months.
The second time around, I was less sensitive going back to work which was lucky because I did not have Michelle to defend me. I pumped twice a day instead of once as I was determined to exclusively breastfeed Eloise until she was one and I could introduce cow milk. I dreaded most things about work until the opportunity for a new job came up, which changed everything. I learned that if you are going to be away from your kids, especially when they are so young, it makes a world of a difference if you love your job and are learning new things, growing in your career. It was also wonderful to take a long vacation, in our case to Europe, with our kids only a couple of months after returning to work, which gave me something to look forward to and hang in there for.
I now knew what it was like to have a baby and a two-year-old and suddenly I couldn’t imagine my life any differently. Sure life was challenging, but it was fantastic and I was in love with not only my husband but now two tiny, beautiful girls.
This year I turn 35. In fact, Sunday is my birthday. I wonder if I am now middle aged. Occasionally I feel that way, but more often, I know I will always be young at heart. Age, as I like to say, is a state of mind not a number. I have a 15-month-old, just like I did two years ago, but her name starts with an E rather than a B. I am amazed that I was already pregnant with Eloise when Belén was 15-months-old. I definitely don’t feel like it is possible to be ready for the pregnancy/birthing/baby experience so quickly after having the last one. Maybe I only feel that way because I know how much harder two children is than one. As much as sometimes I think I want a third, I am equally grateful that Andy has surgically made that nearly impossible.
Occasionally I wonder if this is what I wanted my life to be like at 35 and I immediately know that it is. Sure, I wouldn’t mind being independently wealthy and sailing around the world with our kids, writing books and magazine articles answering to nobody but our family and mother nature…but those dreams keep us motivated. In the meantime, we are doing exactly what we want with our lives…for the most part. We are healthy and happy, surrounded by friends and family, what more can one ask for?
A year from now I imagine what it will be like to have a two-year-old and a four-year-old. What will Eloise’s personality be like? She is already giving us a sneak preview. We are so anxious to hear sentences coming from her mouth so she can finally tell us exactly what she is thinking and yet we don’t want her to grow any faster as her babyhood is passing at lightning speed. With the growth both intellectually and physically we see in both girls each week, it is hard to imagine exactly what a year will bring. I hope and pray for continued health, happiness, friends and family. We are also getting anxious for a little adventure.
Yes, this seven year period of my life is focused around conceiving, birthing and raising two little girls. I’ve completed a Computer Science degree, an MBA, eight marathons, a 50K and two half Ironmans; I’ve lived in two foreign countries and traveled around the world and yet raising these girls is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I have never laughed so hard, worried so much or been so in love as I have since they entered my life.
As I think forward to the next seven year period, I wonder what the focus will be. Clearly larger-sized versions of the girls will be a big part of it as will my fabulous husband. Will we go on a big adventure? Will I pursue my dream of writing a book, starting a company? I suppose time will tell…
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