Sunday, March 12, 2017

Waiting for Little Jem

Photo of me at 36 weeks 5 days carrying my Little Gem
I have been carrying my Little Gem, our second child, for 39 weeks today.* This pregnancy has been equal parts beautiful, empowering, challenging, and (at times) debilitating.

My second trimester saw me more productive at work than I have been in quite a while. Little Gem brought out the fiercely intentional librarian in me.

My third trimester, however, involved my getting sick with different ailments just about every week. Between stomach flu, a stye in my eye, a very bad cold, and other physical stresses, it has been a hard past three months.

And now, it is the second week of March, just one week from Little Gem's estimated due date, and we are expecting up to two feet of snow two days from now. The end of pregnancy is a trip as it is, and the quirks of this particular year are making it even more surreal.

Ultrasound photo of Little Gem's face at 35 weeks 3 days:
Tilt your head to the right to see his eyes at the
two crosses, and those chubby cheeks *heart eyes* 
The other aspect of this pregnancy I want to reflect on before he is born is what it has been like to work as a librarian going through a lot of work-related transitions while carrying my boy. This past year I have felt more than ever like I have embodied what it means to be a working mother.

Little Gem was with me at the ACRL Framework Advisory Board (FAB) retreat I chaired last November in Chicago: my amazing colleagues from that experience even gave him his first gift, and dubbed him an honorary FAB member. That was during my super energized second trimester, and it represented the last work-related travel I'll be doing for a while.

Little Gem has also been with me as I have worked incredibly hard from January until now to transition all of my leadership and other responsibilities to those who have wonderfully agreed to step up in my absence to keep many important projects afloat. This has been an exhausting experience (the transitions, that is), but it's worth it when I see how hard everyone is working around me to see our shared goals are met. I am so honored and fortunate to work with the people I do. To each of you (you know who you are): Thank you, from the bottom of my very pregnant librarian heart.

And now, I am still in the midst of at least one very important work commitment: participating in the search for two new Research & Instruction Librarians, who I will be working with directly as I take on my new role of Information Literacy Coordinator when I return to work after maternity leave.

This is such an important process, and half of it coincides with my maternity leave. My supervisors and colleagues at work are incredibly supportive of me as I become a mother again--I do not have to fully participate in the search process beyond the baby being born if I don't want to. But, I plan to. It means that much. The details of how I will continue to participate are yet to be determined, but the search committee and my Dean are all supportive of my participating to the extent I can and wish to, so I can weigh in on the final recommendations of who our new hires will be.

And so, I am days away from Little Gem being born, and my maternity leave beginning: that special time I get to focus on my little boy, all fresh and new to the world, and aim to--with intention and care--integrate him into our life as a family.

Photo of big sister Bookie
loving on her little brother Gem
But my library work is also always there, in the background (and at times the foreground), beckoning to me even as I know I don't need to heed that call unless I wish to. And at times (though not perpetually and always), I do wish to.

I find this experience, and this moment in my life, very liminal--existing in a space that is between two distinct states. The obvious distinction between the two is before and after Little Gem's birth. But there is a lot more to it than that, having to do with my professional work, my family life, and my bodily experience as a woman and a mother.

Regarding the last, something else I wanted to share here before Little Gem is born is a poem I wrote on January 20, 2017. It's about him, but it's also about me, and it's about the historical moment that date represents both in my own private life and in the wider life of the world.

Here it is in a screenshot image from my phone's notes app, which is where I composed it that day. It is titled: "On being pregnant, today"

Screenshot of poem
"On being pregnant, today"
written on January 20, 2017
At the end of this post is the full text of the poem typed out.

Photo of my pregnant belly: Fullness at 38 weeks 3 days
Tomorrow is Monday, and it's my last day doing work-related things for a while, all of which have to do with the search for our two new librarians--unless I go into labor later tonight (possible, though not probable based on my knowledge of my body).

After tomorrow, I am letting my work move to the background, and focusing on getting ready for Little Gem. After tomorrow we are also expecting a big snow storm, and with each day the chance that I will go into labor increases. And today was the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, only adding to the surreality that will be my 40th week pregnant with Little Gem.

With all of that, the primary desire that fills my body, my cells, and my self right now, is this:

Come soon, sweet baby boy. I can't wait to meet you.

Photo of a star and moon paisley mandala
partially colored in blue and yellow marker:
Coloring as I wait for Little Gem to be born
Photo of me pregnant making a funny face:
Some levity as we wait...

*Little Jem [Update: Note the spelling change, documented here<link>.] will be my nickname for my son on the blog, just as Bookie is my nickname for my daughter. When commenting please refer to them as such. And, technically, length of pregnancy is measured from the first day of one's last menstrual cycle, so I wasn't yet carrying him 39 weeks ago exactly. But half of the genetic "stuff" that would come to be him was preparing itself inside me 39 weeks ago, which is a pretty neat way to think about it. I probably started carrying him a week and a half later or so, roughly 37.5 weeks ago.


On being pregnant, today 
Written on January 20, 2017 
© Donna Witek

You are curled, inside,
on my right side.
Hard and persistent,
lithe and alive,
I see you from the outside:
like a ball I am carrying.
My body is working hard for you,
short of breath,
with blood and sweat at an all time high,
so that your nest (in me)
of water, skin, and cells
gives you life each moment that goes by.
I carry you with me: audacious life in a world of death.
As everything around us breaks into pieces
you are my resistance.

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