Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

Transitioning to Parenthood

The last drink I had was last May in Cape Cod at a Ladies Leadership Retreat for the women at my office. A white wine & san pellegrino spritzer, to be exact.

A week later, Anga and I found out I was pregnant.  If I’m being honest, it was a pretty low key moment.  We were cooking dinner, I took a pregnancy test, it was positive, we were excited, and then we ate dinner and carried on as usual.

No crying or shock or jumping for joy like in the movies.  More like a calm, grateful, mutual excitement. Our engagement had the same vibe.  One of my favorite moments after we got engaged was telling a crew of 7th graders who DID literally gasp and squeal with joy. They were then VERY disappointed to hear that Anga’s proposal wasn’t a big breath taking surprise.  I explained that it felt much more like the steady evolution of our relationship, I suppose because we had already talked about these things and made these big decisions together.  They frowned. I said, it’s sort of like how on your 13th birthday you think you’re going to wake up and FEEL different, FEEL like a teenager… but you don’t feel different. You’re the same you that you were yesterday.

Finding out I was pregnant didn’t make me suddenly feel different. Besides the fact that for 3 months I felt the need to follow the “don’t tell anyone until the first trimester is over” rule. Which meant I had to either fake-drink or make weird fake excuses for why I wasn’t drinking.  I really hated that part.

Once we started sharing the good news with family and friends, it all felt more exciting, more real, and more… like oh my gosh, everything is going to be different! But how?

One of my first big concerns was… I have a very strong sense of self… so what will happen to that? To me?

What if my entire sense of self just suddenly evaporates and all I think about is me = mom? What if the flame of my professional ambition is instantly extinguished at the hospital when my baby is born?! And what about my optimism? What if the Pat Norwood refrain “it’ll be fiiiine” gets completely drowned out by constant worrying about my kid?! Is having a baby going to suddenly change the core of who I am?!

Or will it be more like turning 13 when you expect to feel so totally different and then… don’t?

Most parents I’ve asked have said something along the lines of… you’ll still feel like you, but you’ll evolve as you discover the capacity to love someone at a whole other level. They say it will be wonderful.

Okay. That’s reasonable.
Wonderful sounds pretty good.

But then I’d get these flashes of… imagining myself at home during maternity leave.

My forecasting was grim. Very grim. Baby due in January 2017, so it’s winter, it’s cold and dark outside… but I also picture it being cold and dark inside my house. I’m the only adult there all day long… the baby is crying and crying and crying… I’m in my bathrobe and my eyes are bloodshot because there’s no time for sleeping;  my hair is dirty and knotted and I feel disgusting because caring for a baby means I can’t possibly shower… I’m just a zombie-looking, diaper changing, milk making machine that is trapped indoors for 8 weeks straight.

That’s literally how I pictured it.  I mean… better to have low expectations to start and then be pleasantly surprised, right?

Now that we’re only a week away from D-day, I’m much more optimistic. I remember at the very first ultrasound wondering- what will this little person be like?! I wonder! I’m more excited than ever just to meet the baby.  My house is as warm and cozy as ever.  Both Anga and my mom will be at home with me for the first two weeks and later on Anga’s mom will come too.  Although I still anticipate feeling exhausted- my shower is fully functional so I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t keep my hair washed and make an occasional effort to go outside.

So I guess at this point I’m still expecting to feel like an exhausted, diaper changing, milk making machine… but at least I’ll have plenty of help, a warm and cozy house, functional shower and a big Starbucks gift card that needs spending which will be a nice excuse to get out of the house.

The other day I told my sister in law, “All the gear is assembled, the baby clothes are washed… I think we’re ready!”  She laughed (probably a lot) and told me you’re never ready. This is just the callllmmmm before the storm.

I have to say that I find it very comforting to NOT be the first of my siblings to have kids.


My brother came up to visit in September. I had been dreading the idea of creating a baby registry- I knew we needed stuff, but I didn’t really know WHICH stuff and in general don’t really LIKE stuff (in those grim flash forwards I was having, part of what made my house become cold and un-cozy was imagining an explosion of baby gear and toys just all over the floor, in every room, at all times. Not just like- ouch I stepped on a leggo but like- swimming through piles of plastic crap just to get from the living room to the kitchen.)

Anyhow- when my brother came to visit, he really made it easy. We went to target, got a scanner thing and walked around the baby section. He narrated,

You don’t need this crap.
You’ll want this but we have one we’ll give you so don’t add it.
You’ll definitely need this.

And then, I’d scan the bar code.
In and out in 30 minutes.
Quickest target trip I’ve ever made.
Thanks, big brother.

Then came the baby showers.  We were lucky enough to have two!

In Alexandria-




In Watertown-


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On both occasions it was very comforting to feel the love and support of family and friends, near and far.

My mom especially went above and beyond, per usual.  Among many other things, she made this beautiful quilt and mobile!


Talk about setting a high bar for my own motherhood… sheesh!

For the most part thus far we’ve been incredibly privileged and lucky and I’m healthy and the baby is healthy… it’s allll been mostly good and I’m grateful for that.

One of the hardest parts (and I recognize that this will sound utterly absurd to most people) came in October when I wanted to go to Liberia for work.

I’ve never had much trouble deciding what I want to do and then getting after it with this wildly inspired tunnel vision, relentlessly pursuing whatever it is until I’m sure that it gets accomplished.

So, I’d already decided that I was going to Liberia. But then slowly but surely, the transition to parenthood started sinking in which was very disruptive to my tunnel vision.

For a few weeks there it felt like a soap opera… lots of emotional discussions with various doctors, with Anga, with friends.  Lord have mercy, was I conflicted.  I cried about it several times. In the end, my tunnel vision got me as far as sitting down to finally get my plane ticket, but I just couldn’t bring myself to click ‘buy.’  Just didn’t feel right.  So I didn’t go, after all.

The next low point came in November, when Hillary lost.  I woke up at 3 in the morning, checked my phone and I cried.  I was disappointed for Hillary and I was worried about how my husband and son both might be treated worse in a Trump-led world.  At least Anga is a grown up and never ceases to amaze me with his ability to disagree politely and always with such good humor. But my son? My son!  I cried a little extra for my son.

Over these last two months- December and January- I’ve done more than my fair share of crying.  For a while there (read: my whole life) I didn’t really believe in hormone induced mood swings, but consider me now a born again.  I’ll be going along, having a regular day, feeling totally fine and then all of a sudden my eyes just well up with tears!  Might be for a happy thought or a sad thought or a lack of thought. Once or twice now, for a whole entire day I just felt uncontrollably weepy.

It’s really quite strange.

I generally consider myself a tough person- mentally, spiritually and physically. And I think the weird weepy stuff is worth noting because I don’t think it makes me any less tough.  I think making a human being and managing all the side effects of that process makes me even MORE tough.

And so the transition to parenthood begins…


…baby boy Merlo is due January 29th!



4 comments on “Transitioning to Parenthood

  1. Margaux
    January 22, 2017

    We just got to the other side – 4 days in and it’s already as happy and hard and emotional and amazing as everyone says. You already are, and will continue to be, such an inspirational and powerfully strong mom, educator, wife, leader, friend, etc! Hope everything goes smoothly for you and excited to hear about your little dude!! ❤❤

  2. Lonnie Rich
    January 22, 2017

    Your little saga sounds about right. All good and “you’ll be fiiinnnne.” Love, Dad.

  3. bevwalls
    January 23, 2017

    I’m so happy for you and Anga, Sara. I’m certain you’ll be a wonderfully caring mother to the beloved Merlo. Cuddle up and stay warm.

    Blessings from the Azores.

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2017 by in Uncategorized.
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