These days are long, and I am finding it hard to bubble over with exclamations of “YAY PREGNANCY!” as I wibble and wobble around with my big belly on less than sturdy legs. I am thirty-six weeks along today in my fourth and final pregnancy. I am full-term. I am almost done with my last pregnancy. Whoa.
I know after baby arrives, it will take some time to adjust to the nursing and diapers and busyness of three children. And then that first year will fly by and our baby will become less of a baby until I think back on pregnancy and think, “oh that was fun!” with big starry eyes and imagine what it’d be like to do it again. Because we are meant to forget the struggles, right? We are meant to lessen the pain of birth and recovery and adjusting to the new normal. We are meant to cherish only the sweetness, never the sour and the hard and the things we wrestled with most. But I know we are done after the H-G Hope Baby makes his way in the world. It is for this finality that I write this for my future self: the self who can only salivate at another squirmy baby kicking my ribs instead of thinking of the soreness those feet leave behind.
FIRST, THE SERIOUS STUFF
While I write these words, I want to tell you of my hesitancy in sharing them in a public space. So many women are touched by miscarriage and infertility, and I do not want my words to be salt to wounds, or ungratefulness to those dealing with loss. Losing my third pregnancy (which the loss was actually just starting about one year ago) has left a little scar on what used to be a naive heart, adding a whimper in my voice at times. There is a need for me to tone down the exuberance of life-to-come, because not everyone can jump whole heartedly in the Joy Pond when it comes to pregnancy. I now know what it’s like to not trust positive pregnancy tests, to question the glow of an ultrasound screen, to look at rounded bellies with envy, to question my body in so many ways, and to live in the darkness of not knowing what will happen in passing days and weeks and months. If you are treading water in that thick sea of emotion and uncertainty, know that I have spent time in those waters, unfamiliar with how to make it out or where the treading would lead me. I have no perfect words to offer you. I just want to say: you aren’t alone and you aren’t forgotten.
When I first had a positive test for our H-G Hope Baby, I had twenty minutes of joy and happiness, soaking in all the good things that come from positive pregnancy tests. But then the fear sunk in and I burst into tears. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with Brad as the smile melted from my face and my shoulders slumped into sobs. All I could think was, I can’t go through that again. For the first few months of pregnancy, I was haunted by the miscarriage, and I couldn’t escape the fear of losing again. A wise friend told me that he and his wife didn’t feel any excitement until after they passed the point of loss, and I found myself doing that, too. I needed to surpass the milestones of the loss before even considering this pregnancy as the real deal. When we began sharing, people were over-joyed (which was encouraging!) and yet I fluttered in a cloud of guilt for not joining in the full celebration. I had to conserve my heart so as not to carve a deeper scar left behind from before.
By mid-pregnancy I had learned to let the ghost of pregnancy dissipate. Sure, I had uncertainty and fear, but I wasn’t letting it command my every thought – maybe only half of them (just being honest here). I allowed myself to say “when the baby comes” instead of “if the baby makes it”, although I still had to tack on “if all goes well” and “we hope”. The simplicity of just having a baby because I was pregnant was lost on me; the guarantees had faded.
AND THEN THE FUNNY STUFF
I have a decent number of yoga hours under my belt, so when I invited some friends/family to join me in a class, I knew what to do as a pregnant chick: avoid bending the wrong way, take it slow, and sit out on the things that could strain my body or push things too far. Well, that may have worked on my first two pregnancies when my body could take stretching and balancing and strain, but not this time. No, for the experience of a one hour yoga class, I got to feel like I had been skewered on a metal pole for a week. Never. Again. I will get back to yoga some day, but not every pregnancy is the same, and each consecutive pregnancy (at least in my experience) adds in more “oh crap I’m going to pay for that soon” moments that are difficult to undo.
My third trimester can best be described with my cycle of bathroom trips: Thirty Minutes of Discomfort for a mere Ten Seconds of Pee. It’s not a gratifying cycle; I wouldn’t recommend it if you can avoid it. Although, if you want to further your test of patience, try waiting for your newly-potty-trained-toddler to scoot off the seat so that you can relieve what feels like a bath tub of urine from your system, only to add a tiny trickle to the bowl. I’ve caught myself exclaiming out loud, “that’s IT?!” into the toilet. Yes, that is it until the next hour when the 30 minutes of discomfort begins again…
And then there’s the heartburn. They say if you have heartburn in pregnancy, you’ll have a baby pop out with a full head of hair. Well if that’s the case, I’m certain this little dude is going to come out covered in thick, life-time-guaranteed shag carpet all over his body. I’ve been on Prevacid for months now – beginning when I got heartburn from highly “acidic” things like oatmeal, yogurt, and water. Yes, water. If ever I forget to take my daily heartburn med (which is all of two times), my esophagus feels like molten lava poured onto a flame-thrower being blown up by napalm. But as my pregnancy continues, even with taking Prevacid and popping the maximum dose of Tums, I’m still having crazy awful heartburn. A war now rages between the need to consume calories and the need to keep my stomach acid from consuming my soul.
Since all foods seem to bring on heartburn, I’ve taken to coping with my favorite pregnancy craving: Lucky Charms. Their level of deliciousness may stem from my childhood since they were never allowed in our house (we were more the Cheerios and Wheaties type) and were rarely consumed at friends’ houses. It could also be the delectable selection of fluorescent marshmallows that dot my cereal bowl’s landscape, or heck it could even be that my body craves the surprisingly “whole grain” ingredient listed first on the label. Whether it’s advertising or because they taste like Forbidden Childhood, I freaking love Lucky Charms. With their already “magically delicious” flavor, pregnancy has a way of adding this euphoric explosion of awesomeness to your favorite foods and I cannot begin to describe how amazingly delightful every bowl has been. [Please Note: Two bowls of Lucky Charms were consumed while writing this portion. Oh Em Gee they were so good…] If my esophagus is going to be feel like I swallowed a light saber, I might as well chase it down with food that tastes like rainbows and dreams come true.
Have we talked about Junk Shots yet? I think I can finally understand what it feels like for the opposite sex when you get nailed in the uh… yeah, you know. Because when this little monkey in my belly decides to fist bump my cervix, I just want to sink to my knees and cry. And I have.
SO LISTEN UP, FUTURE MAGGIE
Pregnancy is amazing. Pregnancy is a freaking blessing. Pregnancy is this beautiful journey of physical and emotional growth that blows my mind with every wiggle and movement of this tiny creature inside my belly. But pregnancy is also really tough on your body (see above: emotional turmoil, heartburn, junk shots, peeing all the time…), and it takes a lot out of you. Once the kids are outside, it gets a little hectic, but the beauty about kids is that they grow bigger, and they learn more things, and eventually they can do a few things on their own, and then they’ll be telling you how to do them better. There will be days with the new baby that you wish you could just unzip your little uterus, slide them inside, and have all of their needs met like before. But, let’s be honest: that would get a little messy, and you wouldn’t get to experience their funny faces, and googly noises, and know the touch of their skin on yours. You have been pregnant four times, Maggie. Three kids later and you have experienced overwhelming joy and overwhelming sorrow. Your body has been this crazy tripped out thing that harbored other little lives inside, but now it’s time to embrace the stretch marks and softened skin, and run after those little munchkins. Besides, someone has to slip them a taste of Lucky Charms (only just the one time, of course!) so that they too can learn what Forbidden Childhood tastes like.
Pregnant for just a little while longer,