Is anyone still here? I haven’t been, so I don’t know if anyone else is still hanging around. Have you ever noticed how when you start doing something you dive right in and then gradually do it less and less and then when you stop doing something it happens slowly at first and then all at once? Or is it just me?
It started when I decided to expand Fashionably Frum into a full website towards the end of a calm summer, just as I dove into the busiest, fullest semester I’ve ever had. I’ve never been known for my excellent timing. I’m always surprised when I discover that I’ve tried to extend myself beyond my capabilities, I’m shocked when I realize I’ve failed and I’m always frustrated with myself for doing it…again.
After I got a 71% on my Jewish History midterm — an anomalous grade for me— my husband staged an intervention. We agreed that it might help if I stopped writing blog posts during that class and actually, you know, paid attention? This decision was fabulous for my GPA and less than fabulous for Fashionably Frum, because now I had no other time to blog. I was preoccupied with taking seven highly involved classes, making dinners and lunches, working out every day, and having regular, Statistics homework-induced panic attacks, wherein I questioned the sanity of my decision to take seven tough classes in one semester. I no longer question the sanity of this decision — I’m certain it was insane.
Still, all through that semester I kept up with the carefully curated outfits and accessories and makeup. I dutifully uploaded selfies almost every day. I even wrote a handful of blog posts, published a couple pieces in my school paper and launched my Makeup Free Mondays series. It helped me maintain one last shred of sanity and keep connected to a life outside of classrooms and required reading. I love required reading, actually, but when you take four (FOUR!?) English classes, there’s a LOT of required reading.
And then came the spring semester, the one that ended a few months ago. My presence on Fashionably Frum dwindled slowly, as excruciatingly slowly as those two pinks lines had spread across the window of the First Response test. When I wasn’t in class or doing the bare minimum of homework, you could find me in the 7th floor student lounge, watching Parenthood on Netflix and nauseously clutching a toasted bagel with butter, a rice cake or a big bag of M&Ms. For the record, that is a nearly exhaustive list of everything I was able to eat for a good few months there. And by good I mean pretty awful.
I somehow managed to post a few smiling selfies. This baffles me, whenever I look back on them and calculate how far along I was in each post, the incongruity between how I looked and how I felt astonishes me. More often than not, I didn’t post. Just getting dressed in the morning becomes exhausting enough as it is when you need to balance trying to find something — anything — that hides your prematurely popped bump and trying to keep the gagging from turning into full on puking so you can actually get out of the house in one piece. Perhaps that’s a little TMI, but I've found that pregnancy is just a lengthy chain of TMI experiences strung together in quick succession.
Also, we wanted to keep the whole baby thing under wraps for a while, and I had trouble reconciling that with posting selfies all over the internet. I was afraid there would be a glimpse of the bump despite my carefully considered outfit choices. Not to mention the fact that I couldn’t think of any interesting captions other than things like “Send help, I feel like I’m dying. And also check out this outfit I threw together while sniffing peppermint teabags!” or “Trying to hide a brand new baby bump? Just wear massive baggy shirts like this one! ” Subtle, right?
Gradually the fog of morning sickness faded away, some of my energy came back, school ended and most people in my life found out about the whole baby thing. And yet, I continued to stay away. After a hard, extended first trimester spent in school and far away from my mommy or any real support system beyond my (incredible, crazy helpful) husband, I. was. tired. We moved home (as had always been the plan) and I just wanted to crawl into my mommy’s arms and sleep. And sleep. And sleep. And sleep. If not literally, then certainly metaphorically.
I needed a break. From mental strain. From taking care of myself and my husband like a grown-up. From too much social interaction. From wearing my heart on my Instagram. I needed to turn inwards for a bit. Those were the words that played through my mind on repeat: “I’m turning inwards, turning inwards, inwards. I don’t know for how long, but for now.”
Maybe turning inwards is my way of regrouping after a very good but very hard year. Maybe turning inwards is my introverted flavour of self-care, a retreat from the real and virtual world. Maybe turning inwards means putting myself and my own needs first for a while, because alarmingly soon I’ll be focussing almost all my energy on the very intense needs of a very helpless little person and maybe that terrifies me.
This wasn’t meant to be a whole pregnancy announcement post. I never had any intention of “announcing” my pregnancy anywhere on social media. The first public or online announcement was going to be a birth announcement (God willing). We’ve actually done such a good job not talking about it that even though we're several weeks past the twenty we'd planned on keeping quiet for, I’m pretty sure there are still people who should probably know... but don't.
Most people wait until around twelve weeks to tell people, but we waited until around four months to tell most of our family and five months to make it more publicly known. But I started showing so early that I got used to hiding it — keeping it quiet became my default. We haven't spoken about it beyond our small circle for so long that by now talking about it publicly and sharing it widely feels like it’s going to jinx it somehow, if we believed in that sort of thing.
Keeping it quiet before five months was supposed to keep away the ayin hara. It’s hard to accept that just because we’ve passed a date on the calendar, evil eyes will no longer be tempted to meddle. The same reasoning still seems to apply when it comes to our plan to hold off on buying anything for the baby until it “arrives.” As if its arrival in my body counts for little. We talk about “when the baby gets here”, as if to imply that now it’s somewhere else, rather than with me always, just beneath my skin. I certainly believe that there are no guarantees until it’s born and takes its first sweet breaths, but even then, who can guarantee anything?
Honestly, I still don’t know how I feel about talking about all of this here or about “announcing” it. Pregnancy, to me, feels intensely private and sacred. It’s completely tangible and yet it’s entirely wrapped up in the world of potential. There’s a real, live baby right here, nuzzled painfully into my ribcage. But also, I’ve never seen this baby, I’ve never heard this baby coo or cry, this baby inside me is still worlds away from my waiting arms.
But it’s kept me away from Fashionably Frum, my first baby, for too long. I’ve made several tentative reappearances when the right mood and a non-obviously-pregnant mirror selfie struck, but I’ve always retreated back again, inward, turning inward. And now I want to write, if not a lot of posts, then this post at least. But I can’t write about anything while keeping quiet about this completely hidden yet highly visible, always-on-my-mind baby. It’s so essential, I literally and figuratively carry it in my core. How can I write anything that verges on Godliness, how can I get to the essence of anything while hiding the one precious thing that further crowds out my inner essences with each moment?
So I’m telling you now: I’m having a baby. I’ve been turning inward. And maybe, somehow reaching deep inside myself to write this and share it with the masses is also an inward-turning, in some sort of way. I’m scared out of my mind — of sharing or of not sharing; of writing or of accidentally allowing that other essential part of myself to fade away and die; of growing and caring for this precious new soul or of anything getting in the way of that.
So I’m doing what I can and turning in and turning out and sharing this with the abyss, as I try to figure out what comes next.