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After the Kindergarten pumpkin picking trip, we gather outside school and wait for dismissal. It has been a muddy and wonderful Friday and, side-by-side, we parents sink silently into the exhaustion that shrouds us all, ready to scoop up our tiny creatures and head home. I talk with two moms in Big Girl's class. I joke about how I am considering darting around the corner for my tenth coffee of the day.

One mom smiles. She has been reading my blog, says she enjoys it. "After your year without wine, do you think you would do a year without coffee?"

"Now that would be a struggle for me," I say. And it would be. But I also know now that I could do it. If I wanted to.

"How long has it been?" this mom asks, about my alcohol-free experiment.

"Almost nine months," I say. Almost nine months.

The other mom chimes in. "Clearly you have done nine months without alcohol before?"

Indeed. I have three kids. I have done this before.

"Yes," I say. "But this is different."

And it is.

When I was pregnant, I took care of myself. I avoided copious amounts of caffeine, abstained from alcohol, avoided tuna and other mercury-laden fish, drank plenty of water, got plenty of sleep. I even took naps sometimes.

I took care of myself because that meant taking care of her, the little creature in my belly. I took care of myself because I wanted her to be healthy and strong. To be honest, I also took care of myself because I was scared. Scared that if I screwed up, something would go wrong.

During my pregnancies, I took care of myself and I felt really good. Yes, I felt sick for the first three months, but then the first trimester would end and I would return to myself, an even better version of myself. I really felt this way at times; that Pregnant Aidan was one of the better iterations of Aidan and now I am realizing why. In retrospect, yes, but realization is always gold, isn't it? I felt so good because I was treating myself well, taking care of myself. Ironically, as I was gaining those pounds, I felt lighter than ever, happy.

And then. Then the time would come for my girl to arrive and arrive she would. And it would be a blessed and happy occasion and there would be a tiny pink thing wrapped like a burrito in my arms squinting up at me, at the new world. And she would be out, and I would go back.

To the wine.

To a different version of me.

On the night before we left the hospital with Little Girl, Husband ran home to say hi to the big girls, to help put them to bed, to pick up a few things. He grabbed a few things from home I forgot. Anything else? he asked. And I think I probably requested something sweet like candy, but I can't remember. What I do remember is requesting wine.

Pinot Grigio, I said.

And he brought me some. And I drank it. A couple of glasses, I think. I remember asking Husband to cork the rest and slip it into the miniature fridge in the corner of the hospital room. And he did. And as he did, as he put it away, I remember wanting more. More wine. Because on that evening, the evening of my baby's first day, the wine had the effect it always had; I felt softer, calmer, and that little hospital room suddenly struck me as exquisite in an existential sense, symbolic surrounding scenery.

I look back at all of this and feel shame and judgment and guilt. I was not drunk. I waited hours to nurse my babe and my milk wasn't even yet in, but still. I was there, so soon after welcoming life, in a hospital bed (from which I wrote probably my favorite post), drinking wine. And, yes, there was a celebratory aspect to this. Husband had a drink too and we did toast the arrival of our sweet baby girl, our final child. But there was more going on than celebration.

There was anxiety. There was overwhelm. There was escape.

So. Another nine months.

This fourth time is different. Worlds different. This time is about me. About being honest and clear and kind to myself. This is about realizing that it is not just about our children and their health and happiness and growth, but about ours too.

And so, yes, if we stretch the symbolism a bit, this has been, in an odd way, almost like another pregnancy. But a different kind of pregnancy, a glowing, gritty time during which I've grown in, not out, where I've felt intermittently queasy and confused and blissful, nurturing a new life, a new me.

Nine months without wine. Another nine months. But today, I am not welcoming a new Rowley girl.

Or wait. Maybe that's exactly what I am doing?

Today I am linking up with several wonderful writers over at Yeah Write. If you are looking to find a great blogging community, I suggest you check it out!

Do you take good care of yourself? Did you at any point take better care of yourself? Not sure why (maybe because we've just started at a new school?) but I am feeling more and more self-conscious about living this no wine experiment so publicly, but I continue to believe, more deeply than ever in fact, that we should share our stories, even, particularly, the ones of struggle and shame, because these are the things that make us interesting and human and real and these are the things that will unite us (if we are brave enough to let them). Do you agree? Today is a vulnerable one so please leave a comment even if it's a shortie :)

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