I kind of love being pregnant.
I know, I know. All you ever hear me do is whine. But actually, it’s been a pretty fantastic nine months. When we first found out, I wasn’t so sure how I was going to handle all of this. In fact, the decision to have children at all was still a little wish-washy for me. I wanted to have children– theoretically, intellectually… but I figured that it wasn’t something I would have to really worry about for at least another five years or so.
Because of my job, I know how hard it is to raise children; I see the heartbreaking decisions that parents have to make all the time regarding their jobs vs. their children, their spouses vs. their children, their health vs. their children, etc. When we first got pregnant, I felt a little bit like my life had been stolen from me. Mitch and I had been talking very seriously about the Peace Corps. We’d been looking into studying abroad in Italy (me for Reggio Emilia education theory, him for wine and pasta). We had a five year plan to save up enough money for a down payment on a house and pay down our debt, which we actually made while we were pregnant, before we knew.
And then… that little pink plus sign. I don’t know why they make it pink; it implies something simple and gentle. Only nice things are pink. Even Pepto-Bismol, because it just makes you feel so much better.
What they SHOULD do is get an 18 wheeler semi truck carrying steel pipes to run you over in your bathroom. They might as well. That little pink plus sign is a real tease.
I remember thinking that I needed a few days to process this information before I shared it with anyone, including Mitch. But then I thought… what is there to process? Whether or not I think I can handle this, it’s too late. Ready or not, lady.
Over the last nine months, I think I’ve had all the mood swings. I threw a tiny fit and threw away our Peace Corps application materials. I cried when Mitch took his study abroad brochure and filed it. We moved into a two-bedroom apartment and I refused to even go into the second bedroom for months. I wouldn’t buy a single thing for the baby until we were almost 6 months along, and even then it took a lot of gentle prodding from my friends and family before I would start to get excited about the nursery.
But I wasn’t wallowing full-time. At my doctor’s appointment around 16 weeks, my doctor put the dopplar on my belly to listen for the heart beat, and couldn’t find one. After several attempts, she went and grabbed a different doctor to let him have a try. He found the heartbeat right away, and I started crying from relief. At our first ultra sound, I just about bit the tech’s head off when she didn’t point the heart beat out for Mitch, who was staring fearfully at the screen because he didn’t know what he was looking at. When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I stopped eating carbs on a dime. And this coming from a lady who would normally eat cocoa puffs with chocolate milk for breakfast, spaghetti for lunch, and ice cream covered in syrup for dinner. Followed with wine.
The idea of having a baby, initially, made me think that my entire life was over. For one, I was now going to have to share Mitch’s attention with someone else. For a middle child, attention is extremely important. It’s like currency. It’s like oxygen. And now, just nine months after finally landing the guy, I was going to have to share him. I realize that that last admission sounds so…. so selfish, but trust me– when you get thrown for as big of a loop as an unplanned pregnancy, you start to feel things you never thought you would. You should admit those things to yourself, even if they are uncomfortable. Sometimes when you turn over a rock, you find something you didn’t expect, like a whole colony of roly poly bugs. One of my goals in life is to be compassionate, giving, and selfless– and l0 and behold, when my life turned upside down, I found selfishness in my shadow.
I was now going to have to say goodbye to my dreams of traveling and a little bit of craziness before ‘settling down.’ We had all ready applied to the Peace Corps and been accepted; we were waiting a mere 18 months for Mitch to finish school. I had made a goal in high school that I would see 25 of the 50 states before graduating college, and even though I am taking the slow slow slow way through college, I’m not even halfway to that goal. I wanted to go to grad school. I wanted to learn a second language. I wanted to spend a summer writing.
Basically… I wanted to be done with this life before starting a new one.
The thing is: just a couple of years ago, when I looked at my life, I could see that I was a teacher, a student, a girlfriend, a daughter, a best friend, and that was all I wanted to be at that point. I had lofty aspirations of becoming a writer. Maybe learning an instrument or taking a dance class. Someday.
And then I had to adjust to the idea of also being someone’s wife. This was not an easy transition for me, even though I loved Mitch more than anything and didn’t/don’t think I could live without him. I had no problem thinking about being with someone forever… I think I had more trouble with the idea of what was going to be expected of me. Like overnight Mitch would have some brand new ideas on what I was supposed to be doing. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Like…. darning his socks and making a perfect martini or something.
And then just that fast, I had to work through becoming someone’s Mom– in which the implications were DEFINITELY heavier than being someone’s wife. And quickly.
But then… without me even knowing it, cells united and divided and united and divided, over and over again. Without me having to make any decisions or write anything on my to-do list, my body started building a placenta to provide oxygen and nutrients to the baby. Somehow, even though there were a thousand reasons why it shouldn’t, her little heart started to beat. One night I woke up because my arm was all wet from this icky stuff called COLOSTRUM coming out of one of my boobs. My uterus has started randomly contracting on it’s own, practicing for D-Day.
As for the baby, research has told us that she can hear, and that she will recognize our voices, songs that we play, the rhythm of poetry that we read to her. She can also smell, and will recognize the scent of my breast milk, which the body formulates to smell like the amniotic fluid so that she will feel familiar with it when it’s presented to her. In fact, after birth, if they place her on my chest, without any help from any of us, she will find her own way to my breast and begin to breast feed. Within a few days of her birth, she will have memorized the feel and smell of Mitch and my skin, and probably her grandparents, and hopefully her Uncle Vinnie, who for being a big tough bachelor, actually really loves babies. From our ultrasound two weeks ago, we know that she is using her spare time to practice breathing, which means that her diaphragm will be very strong when she is born. For two people who met in choir, this is very good news.
Nine months after finding out that there was a zygote inside me that was battling the elements in order to grow enough to be born, I am now carrying a baby who could quite literally just fall out of me at any point and be a baby, and they just let us take her home and we get to keep her.
A real live baby. They don’t make you take a test for that or anything. Which is good, because I kill plants at a rate that is alarming.
Being pregnant, at this point, has been the most empowering experience of my entire life. Which is quite the shock, considering I spent the last decade feeling sorry for women who got pregnant because now their life was over. I hadn’t realized that, while it was definitely life-altering, no tragedy had occurred. My life isn’t over. Just a very tiny part of it, the part of it without my daughter, is over.
The rest of my life, the part of it spent WITH my daughter, is the part where I get to watch someone who is half me, half Mitch, grow into something all her own. Everything that I was, everything that I am, and everything that I will be is being tossed into the universe to continue to learn, to grow, to adapt and evolve. It is true that I may never go to grad school, I may never become a writer. It is true that I will have to make sacrifices in order to provide the best life for my daughter; which will mean time away from her, and time away from my husband. It is true that this blog may be as far as I ever get in my writing career.
But my daughter….. my daughter can do whatever she wants. When she stands on my shoulders, she will be able to see so much further than I can. Someday, she will fly.
I always like to end my posts with a memory. Today I have two.
When I was in elementary school, I was particularly dramatic. I know this is shocking. One day, after some terrible escapade in which my VERY BEST FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD said we weren’t friends anymore, I threw myself down on the bed and sobbed. My mom came in and smoothed back my hair and said, “You don’t need anyone else to make you whole. You are your own light.”
When I was little, us kids would camp out in the living room on hot summer nights because it was cooler on the main floor. One morning, very early, my Dad came into the living room and called each of us by our full name in a soft, sweet voice.
“Adrienne Anne,” He said, “Open your mouth.” I didn’t even open my eyes or roll over, just opened my mouth. He popped a ripe strawberry, the first of the season, picked from our backyard, in my mouth. It was still wet from him washing it, and so juicy that I can still remember the sweetness washing over my tongue, still scratchy from sleep.
“Thanks, Dad,” I mumbled, my eyes still closed, pushing my hair out of my face.
“You’re welcome.” He said, and then said a sentence that he has said to all of his children several times in our lives, one that I hope that every child has heard someone say to them. “I love you, because you are Adrienne Anne. No one else will ever be you.”