I always wanted, and expected, to become a mother, but I was never in a big rush to get there. If it wasn’t an upcoming archaeology project, it was a trip abroad or literally another mountain to be climbed (Kilimanjaro 2010, what!). Yet when I turned 30, I felt a vague twitch of maternal instinct that steadily grew into a full-on longing for a child.
I began smiling at babies in airports. Even ones on my flight.
That’s when I knew a change was gonna come.
The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For…
Finally on Valentine’s Day of my 32nd year I felt sufficiently strange that I took a pregnancy test before guzzling champagne with hubby that evening. To my actual astonishment (astonishment, for I knew where babies came from), I was preggers. It happened! It was one of those feelings like you’re watching yourself in a movie and you can’t believe you finally hit a major life milestone. That’s how I felt at graduation and when I got my driver’s license.
I carefully placed the positive test in a heart-covered bag and stuffed pink tissue paper in the top. I presented it to my husband, telling him I got him something I hoped he’d like because I wasn’t sure about the return policy. There were tears, and dessert, and I went to bed feeling warm and well.
And that marked the last time I felt good in a year and a half.
Being Filled with Life Sucks
Almost instantly a crushing sleepiness and omnipresent nausea fell upon me. Thankfully I taught all of my anthropology classes in the late afternoon because I surely would have been worse off with an early wake-up call. Sleep, glorious sleep, was the only time I didn’t feel epically hung over in the course of the day.
Some women actually lose weight that first trimester because they can’t eat. I don’t think there’s ever been an occasion when I’ve lost my appetite. In fact, the only thing that made me feel vaguely functional was to have something (preferably processed) on my stomach at all times. This included the middle of the night. Each time I emerged from a sleep cycle, I felt nauseous, which resulted in me nibbling cheese crackers or granola bars in bed.
I was like a rat, waking my husband with the rustling of wrappers, sugary crumbs clinging to my hair and pillow in the morning. Fortunately, Hubs took the “for worse” part of our marriage vows seriously. After the 90th day spent focused entirely on not puking, I pointed to my stomach and warned the baby (we didn’t know gender) that after all this effort it’d better be cute.
The nausea lasted 16 long weeks and only abated when we flew to France to attend a friend’s wedding. I know. What to Expect never mentioned it as a cure. I wasn’t sure if it was blind luck or good will from the baby, but whatever the reason, I decided the little tyke should be rewarded with a daily chocolate croissant. Especially since I had to abstain from wine in France. You’re welcome, baby.
The Honeymoon Didn’t Last…
They say the second trimester is the “honeymoon” of pregnancy where a woman feels great. Energetic. Alive. Brimming with life. And oh so fat. This is That Stage. You’re not obviously pregnant, but you’ve definitely put on a few. I kept stubbornly trying to fit into my old clothes, but the waist bands were snug, which is the worst way clothes can not fit. As I scowled at my widening waistline in the mirror, I thought, you better not put me in a home one day, kid.
The other problem with the second trimester resulted from the medical profession’s (probably correct) efforts at early diagnoses. One minute we were cooing over an ultrasound, the next minute they tell us that dancing black and white blob on the screen could have a heart defect. They say it as nonchalantly as a catalog item had to be back-ordered. Then after they drop the bomb, they tell you to not worry. They’ll keep monitoring it.
It was all I could do not to burst into tears in that doctor’s office.
SH*T Gets Real
A chill settled over Hubs and me after that. Until then it didn’t seem like the baby was real. I was just pregnant. Now the thought that our baby *my baby* was at risk made me turn inward. There was a person in there. Our person. Our very special little person. That’s when we decided to call our genderless, nameless baby Shim (she/him). That night I rubbed Shim underneath my elastic waistband and promised to do my best as a mommy. Especially if he/she could just be healthy.
It is a fact universally acknowledged that the merest whisper of a health condition mixed with unfettered access to Google leads to high anxiety. Combine that with pregnancy hormones, and well, let’s just say it’s good you didn’t know me then. We went back a few weeks later to check on little Shim’s condition and the condition disappeared. As in, no trace. No problem. Perfect health. Whew. But, whaaat? While we were beyond grateful Shim was fine, the whole thing left our heads spinning and a lingering sense of unease.
The End is in Sight
But as the third trimester emerged, those fears were replaced with joy. My belly was unambiguously swollen and I proudly showed it off in Lycra tank tops. Strangers smiled at me. Clerks recounted greeting their own children. I happily told how far along I was. Hubby called during lunch to check on Shim, and as I went about the business of unpacking our new house, I’d pat my tummy every so often. Just to say hi.
Even the puffiness tropical summer months bring pregnant ladies didn’t bother me. Breathlessness climbing stairs? No biggie. Kicks to the ribs? Adorable. Muay Thai roundhouse kicks to the ribs? Oh heck. Shim’s just mama’s big strong baby. Hubs and I walked along the water until it was dark almost every evening, speculating about what life would be like with a tiny roommate. Then we’d eat frozen yogurt and he’d rub my feet. Yeah. Being pregnant wasn’t so bad after all.
About a month before Shim’s due date, I started to realize I was a little unprepared. Our new house was a wreck. We were still eating off the dining room pedestal (the actual table was leaning against a wall with boxes in front of it) and Shim’s nursery had no furniture and wasn’t painted. Also, my online class wasn’t done. As I struggled to swathe even a robe around my burgeoning girth, I worried more and more about the exit options for ole Shim. Both C-section and natural seemed like bad choices.
Really, I just wasn’t ready. Maybe we could put this birth thing off a little longer.
The Big Day
But you know what? I was never going to be wholly ready, and I was in danger of over-thinking it. At least, that was the advice my mom had given me about having kids in the first place. Shim apparently agreed because three weeks in advance of his due date, after a great evening walk, I snuggled up to my husband in bed and my water broke. It was on. About twelve hours later, a little blonde boy came into this world, seven and half pounds of healthy perfection. When the doctor put him on my chest, he didn’t even cry. He just chilled, firm and small, not even filling my arms.
“Hi, Shim,” I whispered. Then I smiled at Hubs because this baby was cute. Real cute.
Q: What was your experience being pregnant like? Was it difficult? Exciting? Did you glow? Tell all!