Dear Little One:
A few days ago, I looked at the date and was startled to discover that you are 35 months old! In four weeks, you will be 36 months old or THREE YEARS!! I must admit to counting my pregnancy weeks obsessively; even though I am 36 weeks pregnant and know that our new addition will arrive within the next 2-6 weeks, your birthday marker makes the event seem even more imminent.
These last few months have consisted of a lot of preparation and transition. I took the bar exam again a few weeks ago. In the midst of hunkering down to study and telling myself that passing that test will be good for all of us, I felt so guilty. I missed spending time with you. In addition to showering you with sweetness and spending extra time with you, Daddy taught you to say "Mommy is studying the law." When I was home you would often study with me by sitting on the floor next to the desk, drawing or reading. While I was distracted, I also loved those moments. It made me feel like we were both preparing to do something tremendous together and that as a team, we would not fail!
Now that the exam is behind me, I have been doing a lot of preparation for the little one to arrive. You seem excited about the baby in the sense you like touching my stomach, kissing the baby, giving gentle touches, and putting stickers on the baby. Sometimes, you like to show us your baby and rub your tummy. I have been trying to not "blame" the baby for my decreased mobilization as I do not want you to feel resentful and I want to still do as much as I can with you as possible. We continue to work on getting you to sleep in your big kid bed and toilet training. These transitions have included new adventures and chances for us to bond. When I read you stories on your bed, we have conversations about what is happening in the story. As you are falling asleep, sometimes you ask me questions or repeat things that happened during the day. We spend more time together in the bathroom and have discussions about underwear. I still need to find some red and black underwear for you.
You have been in preschool for almost two months and I feel like you are growing so much. You have a larger vocabulary and seem to be learning a lot. I am glad that you are happy at drop off in the morning and the highlight of my day is picking you up from school. When you see me, you smile and yell "Mommy" while running to give me a hug. I feel like such a celebrity and my heart feels so full.
The three of us have a bit of a rhythm together. While your dad and I are frequently thinking of and adjusting ways to make sure you are thriving, there are parts of being your parents that feels familar. As excited as I am for the new addition to arrive and for you to become a big sister, I am nervous about the change ahead and how we will all adjust.
When I became a big sister, I was a little bit older than you-- three and a half. According to my parents, I was very excited to welcome your uncle and bonded with him instantly. I do not have many memories of those early years with him. However, I do have some clear memories of growing up with him. There are challenges to having a sibling. We fought a lot and I definitely feel jealousy and resentment at the different ways my parents treated us. Even now, I have a hard time watching the interaction between them. In spite of all these difficulties, I do also have happy memories of playing with him and making up games together. We came up with a series of inside jokes that still have some significance today. Plus, he adores you so much. You too have a special connection and I imagine that when you get older with your own set of complaints about me, he will be one of your best allies.
Part of why I wanted another child is that I longed for you to also have a special set of stories and antics that are shared with a sibling. I hope that you have a special bond with your sibling that includes a lot of laughing, invention of a secret language, and adventures that will bring you joy for years to come. I hope that you will be close friends. I do not pretend to know the future or assume that I will be able to cultivate the perfect relationship for the both of you. However, I pledge the following to you:
- Even as I gush over the baby and am spending time away from you, know that I love you! While there are some things I am more confident about, you made me a mommy and even as a stumble to do right by you, my commitment, determination, and adoration to you is steadfast.
- I will try hard to not compare you and your sibling, to assign qualities to you or him/her. From my own experience, I know that we are all complicated and complex people. It is not fair to say that one kid is good and the other is bad or that one is responsible and the other is foolish.
- I will continue to try to model conflict resolution that is respectful with your dad, you, and your sibling in the hopes that you too will learn how to handle disagreements, not just with your sibling, but with people in general.
- When your sibling misbehaves, I will try hard to not say, "Why didn't you watch him/her." One of the things I resented most was trying to take care of my brother. He would not listen and I would feel shame fill my whole body as I got blamed for his misbehavior. I will do my best to prevent this for you.
- I will incorporate alone time for us and family time for all us as part of our regular routine.
- When I am stressed or worried about your sibling, I will try hard to not let that distract from celebrating your accomplishments or expressing my love for you.
- When you have complaints and frustrations, I will work hard to actively listen and respond.
I am sure that I am missing some things and that the list will evolve. As the only child chapter of your life comes to a close, I want to thank you for everything you taught me. You make me laugh, notice small things, and feel thankful for the chance to spend time with you.
I feel like I am still recovering from the bar exam experience and starting to do some serious nesting to welcome Bud in a few weeks. I cannot believe I am already 35 weeks. Wanted to get back to this space slowly and decided to share a sweet memory of a fun visit that happened a few days after the bar exam.
The weekend after the bar exam, I was excited to visit with Corrie, Joe, and their kids. The days immediately after the bar exam are blurry as I was sleeping a lot and trying to relax to release the tension that was ingrained in my body after the test. On Sunday night when I opened the door to find two smiling kids and Corrie and Joe on the porch, my whole body felt energized.
The next few days illustrated just how much our lives have changed and how many things remain the same. I could not stop smiling as I heard the Little One talking, shrieking, laughing, and running around with Corrie and Joe's kids. Even though we did not have much time for adult conversation, it was so easy to be with them and nice at how easily Partner and our kids fit together. On Monday, we ventured to a farm to do apple picking. The older son asked to sit next to me on the train and I loved it!
After I dropped them off at the airport, I felt so sad as I was driving away. As with all visits and interactions, I thought about all the things we forgot to discuss. I also laughed at funny things we said or did. When the Little One came home from preschool, she asked where they were and we told her that they had gone to North Carolina. She said in a very sad and determined voice, "I want to see them and go to North Carolina too!" It took so much self-control not to book a flight at that moment. Instead, I hugged her and said, "me too."
I finished the bar exam today-- woo hoo! My goal for test day was to be in a zen ninja mode where I did not feel panicked, but still managed to dominate the exam. When I did the practice questions, I practiced taking bathroom breaks and eating snacks. I did a lot of internet searching to get some advice for how to take the bar and do well when pregnant. Many of the things I found stressed me out and worried me, so I thought that I would try to document my experience. While I will not know if I passed until November, I wanted to collect my thoughts while they were still fresh.
First, request an accommodation. At the very least, ask to be seated near the bathroom. Even if the website does not have information for pregnant test takers, call the board and ask about how to get an accommodation. In addition to seating close to the bathroom, ask for access to food, water, and potentially extra time. One of the people who was in the room with me was 38 weeks (!) pregnant and had requested a pillow to put her feet up and that her phone be kept nearby in case she went into labor. After the challenges of sitting for so long, I wish I had thought to request a pillow for my back and my feet. They can always so no or not give everything you want, but start off with grand requests because it is much easier to not use everything that you are able rather than wishing for something for which you did not ask.
Second, expect a lot of commentary about your "hardship." One thing which surprised me is how many people told me that they felt sorry for me or could not imagine taking the bar while pregnant. These descriptions could be seen as sympathetic, but if I was in a certain place they just perpetuated a sense of self-pity. Being pregnant is not a disability or something for which you should apologize. Pregnant people continue to work outside the home, take care of other children, run households, run companies, etc. Yes, the bar exam is incredibly challenging. Being pregnant has its challenges too. As a pregnant bar taker, you are no less likely to succeed than someone who is not pregnant. It is okay to take up space, to ask for things to make the experience better, and most importantly, it is OKAY to expect to kiss ass and take names!
Third, even with all the planning and preparation, taking the actual exam is different than the practice tests. I took the bar exam in MA. The first day was the MBE which is 200 multiple choice questions. I was surprised with how frequently I needed to use the restroom and how hard it was to focus even with snacks. During my practice sessions, I thought that I had the timing down as I had a chance to go back and review my answers. On exam day, I got very uncomfortable towards the end-- my butt and back started to hurt very badly and my feet got swollen. I barely finished the test and did not have a chance to review. On the second day which was essay, I expected to not finish and planned to skip questions that I saw and thought, "What the fuck is this?" Fortunately, I only had one question like that and had something to say about every topic. I still had the same symptoms, but let go of my desire to review. Although, I did find one grammar error that I could not fix before time was called and I am haunted by it.
Fourth, expect pregnancy brain to show up in unexpected and new ways. As I was proof reading my exam, the spell check feature was disabled, I found a lot of silly spelling and grammar errors. I did not get to proof read all of my answers, so I am hoping for sympathetic bar readers. I wish I had thought to write, "I am pregnant; please have mercy" on my test answers.
Fifth, listen to and trust your bar exam method. This time around, I really liked the Law Tutor program I used. I had a tutor who gave me a personalized study schedule; I took small in person workshops with folks who were brilliant and funny. I appreciated that the program understood I had other things going on my life besides just bar prep. My study schedule incorporated the fatigue and need to nap that comes from pregnancy. I also liked having some space to talk about my tremendous test anxiety. The best advice my tutor gave me was to make up some bullshit law if I do not know or cannot recall the exact rule and then provide some brilliant analysis. She also said that people who pass the bar are not the ones who know everything, but the ones who don't freak out and freeze when they come across something they do not know. I felt like I grew a lot because there was one question on this test I had a lot of trouble with and I just made something up. In other areas when I was not sure about the exact law, I just wrote something. I am not sure if it will work, but being able to put an answer down for every question and address as many issues as I could spot sure felt better than leaving questions blank and crying over it later.
Finally, expect some nice surprises. After the first day of the exam, I was really sad and upset. I felt exhausted and frustrated with how I did. I looked in the mirror and thought that I had bruised my belly. As I kept watching, I realized I was seeing a handprint. I put my hand on top of my belly and felt like the little buddy and I were high fiving. It made me smile after a very long day.