… towards a waterfall!
Okay, I’ll admit it, I am in denial that my life is about to change forever in a matter of days or hours. I’ve been in denial about being in denial for the past month, pointing to the tangible efforts I have been taking in preparation for the arrival of our daughter as proof that I am in touch with the reality of having a second child. I mean, I have gone through boxes of my son’s baby clothes to identify, wash, and pack away those that my daughter will wear. I have been practicing putting newborn-sized stuffed animals in and out of my new ring sling and our co-sleeper is set up next to my side of the bed. I know where to find our infant car seat, newborn diapers, and spit-up cloths. After a false labor scare a few weeks ago, I even packed my hospital bag. Sounds like I’m on top of it, right?
Except that a month before my due date during my first pregnancy, I had already read at least three books about childbirth and another four or five about newborn care. My husband and I talked about our new baby-to-be constantly and could not wait to meet him or her. We started counting down the days from 100! Now, my due date has come and gone and we are both still actively trying not to think about what that means (except at 2am when I lay awake trying to remember how to swaddle and at what age to introduce a pacifier). Only my son seems to realize the major change that is coming – he wants to be physically attached to me at all times, as if trying to store up cuddles before the new baby takes his place in my arms.
My mom advised me not to worry too much about the new baby’s arrival and instead, to focus on enjoying my final days of pregnancy, since this might be my last child. Wrapping my mind around that thought is even more terrifying than having a toddler and a newborn, however, as I love being pregnant and have come to see it as part of my identity. Particularly at work, I am seen as “the pregnant one,” since by the time I go back in March, I will have been pregnant or on maternity leave for 21 of the 31 months I have been employed there.
Pregnancy suits me. Even though I have had a few more of the typical symptoms this time around (see here for some differences I noted between my two pregnancies), I have had almost no complaints. I know that for some women, pregnancy is a seemingly endless ordeal, but for me, it is more like a long-awaited and over-too-soon holiday. At my core, I am driven by a deep-seated need to be productive. Stagnation and complacency are my enemies; I feel I must have something to show for every day of my life on Earth. If I am not making the world a better place through my job, then I will take on volunteer projects, teach myself a new language or skill, or at least cultivate a relationship in my spare time. At the end of the day, when the baby is asleep, dinner is made, clothes and meals for the next day are prepared, and the house is tidy, I take an hour or two of “me time,” but even that needs to be productive (baking muffins for my office, making a birthday card for a friend, paying bills, etc., usually while watching reality TV).
The only exceptions to this general preoccupation with being productive are when I am (i) on vacation (although even then I keep a daily journal and read an “educational” book); (ii) sick; or (iii) pregnant. Since it is not financially possible for me to be on vacation all the time, and I don’t like being sick, pregnancy offers the longest period of compassionate self-care I have ever experienced in my life. While pregnant, I sometimes just lie on the couch when watching TV. Instead of running after our toddler at the park, I savor a snack on a bench and let my husband chase him. I generally try to eat well and stay active, but when pregnant, I eat whenever and whatever I want and only exercise if I feel like it (in the guise of “listening to my body”). I do not worry about a new pimple or some extra weight on my thighs – I focus on my growing belly and the treasure it holds. Rather than push myself to attend every social function I’m invited to, join volunteer efforts, and host gatherings in between, I use my pregnancy as an excuse to cut back on commitments. It’s like being on vacation – but pregnancy lasts longer and costs less.
Even better than the pregnancy perks I bestow upon myself are those conveyed by others. It’s not just getting a seat on a crowded train or having a door opened for me; the real ego-boost is that things I do ordinarily suddenly seem extraordinary when I’m pregnant. For example, I have been teaching group fitness classes for almost ten years, but once I was visibly pregnant, gym members who were normally dismissive on their way in and out of classes suddenly came up afterwards to express their awe. Similarly, I generally wear heals and walk fast at work, but with a baby bump leading the way, colleagues began to comment on my energy and poise. Keeping up with an active (and fearless) toddler would wear anyone out, but since I have been pregnant, friends and even strangers have jumped in to help chase him down and compliment me on “doing it all.” For me, being pregnant is the good life.
Best of all is the way that my husband treats me when I am pregnant. He is always sweet and caring – that’s why I married him – but he is even more doting when I am growing his child. He constantly tells me how attractive I am while pregnant (he has repeatedly confessed that he finds me more sexy when with child) and is extremely generous with massages, favors large and small (whether it’s – Can you run to the library and return my overdue book? or Can you grab the jelly beans from the top shelf?), and his attentive compassion. Another “player” just makes it even more important that we work together as a team. We created this child together and we will raise it together, come what may. I am extremely grateful to have such a devoted partner through this adventure. Still, I know this special treatment will eventually evaporate in the heat of sleep-deprivation, lack of down time, and the myriad of stressors that will inevitably accompany the new addition to our family.
Finally, as much as I am looking forward to cuddling, nursing, and nurturing my daughter, I am actually much more content to have her inside of me than out in the world. While she remains in my womb I can keep her safe – I avoid raw meat, secondhand smoke, alcohol, contact sports, jacuzzis, etc. Once she is born, there is very little I can do to even ascertain why she is unhappy or ill or hurting, much less to remedy it. For me, this persistent fear of harm and sense of helplessness are the most awful aspects of parenthood. Not to mention all the choices that a parent must make every day – from how many layers of clothes to put on her baby to who can be trusted to care for the baby in her absence. The ruminating and second-guessing over every seemingly-critical decision can be torturous. While pregnant, I can bond with my baby secure in knowing that all her needs are being met and that she is safe.
My friends and family keep checking in to see if the baby’s been born yet (seriously people, no news means no news) and exclaiming that I must be so excited and eager to meet my little girl. But the honest truth is, I’m not. My daughter’s birth will be bittersweet because the beginning of her life means the end of this pregnancy. Of course, I will be thrilled to meet her and cannot wait to get to know this new person who will fill an as-yet undiscovered place in my heart. I’m just not in a hurry … and apparently, neither is she. 🙂