Soon, we will have a new baby. It was conceived quickly and it will be born from my body in a safe setting with access to medical care. We try not to take our lucky circumstances for granted. But of course, we do. And I feel badly about it. But not badly enough to keep me from ranting publicly about how different this pregnancy has been from the last one.
Receiving the Happy News
Then: I crept into the bathroom at 5am, eager to get that hormone-filled first morning pee to achieve the most accurate reading on my expensive digital-display pregnancy test. My husband waited outside the door, we set a timer, and excitedly flipped over the stick to the happy words, “Pregnant – 2-3 weeks.” We hugged and we made pancakes before going to work with a special twinkle in our eyes.
Now: I knew I was pregnant (sometimes, you just know). We were heading to a wedding that weekend, and I wanted solid proof to help me stick to soda water while chatting with strangers. Cause strangers are the worst. I took the test in the office bathroom, played sudoko on my phone while it processed, saw the second line appear (non-digital drugstore brand test this time) and then went back to work. I was happy, but it wasn’t like Dorothy opening her eyes in Oz and seeing colours all around her. There were some different types of fear this time – my existing baby was still young. He wouldn’t even be two when this one showed up. That felt scary at the time (still does).
Disseminating the Happy News
Then: To announce my last pregnancy, we told our parents and a handful of very close friends in person wherever possible, and practically right way. At the three-month mark, to create a more general announcement, my friend and gifted photographer, Nina, came over and we orchestrated an artsy photo incorporating bibs my husband and I wore at our wedding to protect our finery from rib sauce (and a newly-made bib for the baby). We dug up a ladder from the basement for Nina to perch upon to get the perfect angle. It wasn’t the most elaborate announcement I’ve ever seen, but I’m the first to admit it was slightly ~extra~. It was a lot of fun and I’m glad we did it.
Now: This time around, we told our parents and very close friends a little later. Not that we are big into keeping our own secrets, but we were in the process of moving and just didn’t get around to it.
Somewhere around the fourth month, when I was already showing my bump like I’d just eaten a turkey dinner (a turkey for dinner), I started thinking about announcing the pregnancy with a photo. I was at home sipping a fake beer, and realized it was Friday and I was using my fav (TGIF) glass. It just felt right, so I snapped a picture, slapped some hashtags on it, sent it out far and wide, and badda-bing, badda-boom, the pregnancy was announced.
My Maternity Wardrobe
Then: Ahhh, maternity clothes. Yes, they are comfortable. They are also expensive, and not well made. During my last pregnancy, I considered this “a cost of becoming a parent.” I had colourful blouses, several pairs of pants for work, and dresses for when I wanted to switch things up. Dresses required maternity pantyhose, which is somehow more expensive and less durable than regular pantyhose. But I didn’t care – it was important that I looked good to feel good! I was big and I was stretching out and I wanted to feel good about myself and how my body was changing. I shopped far and wide – malls, boutiques, websites. My maternity wardrobe was on-f*cking-point.
Now: The thing about spending a small fortune on shitty clothes is that they do not last. I knew the pantyhose were disposable, but I thought the blouses and pants would carry me through another pregnancy, should I choose to have one. No such luck. That stuff was tattered. Yes, there’s something to be said for buying quality, but I didn’t know that then. And now, because daycare and home ownership are not free, I find myself without the funds for a pregnancy wardrobe. For the past 9 months, I have lived my life in one pair of black work pants, one pair of maternity jeans, and a rotation of seven shirts (including weekend shirts). Three of these are not maternity shirts, I’m just stretching the hell outta them #sausagechic.
Hilariously, at 8 months preg, I found a box in the garage with some of my maternity dresses in it. They were more costly purchases, from a boutique, and are still in good condition. But I have mustered neither the time, money, nor gumption to buy the necessary maternity pantyhose with which to wear them. And they fit differently than they did last time. Even if I dropped major coin on pantyhose, I’m not sure I’d get that magical glow feeling I had last time from my special outfits.
Last time, I bought a beautiful wool maternity coat for the winter. This time, it didn’t fit nicely in the shoulders, so I spent the winter in my recently-deceased grandmother’s XL parka from Northern Reflections. Was it cute? No. Did I think twice about it? No.
I believe in self care – as money allows – but I have not felt as driven to put effort into my outward appearance as I did during my last pregnancy. I’m big and I’m stretched out and I’m okay with that. This time, it feels like the glow comes from knowing I’m going to get to be the mom of a new little one, not from showing off my bump in a perfectly tailored dress. And the glow comes from the feeling I get when my toddler rests his head on my belly and kisses the belly goodnight. I like to like how I look – I just care less about it. And the money, good lord, the money.
Taking it Easy
Then: Last time, I was treated (and thought of myself) as some kind of cocoon, blessed by nature to bring forth new life. A miracle had taken place in my womb, and I was to become a mother. From me would be born a child for my husband, a grandchild for our parents, a cousin for my niece, etc. I was a sacred vessel, to be treated gently and with love.
If I became tired on weekends, I was encouraged to lie down. It was important to everyone that I rest, and friends and family worked to make me comfortable, especially near the end. People went above and beyond, which I think I expected… and certainly embraced.
Now: Whoa, Nelly, this time has been different. You know who doesn’t care that I’m pregnant, or give a rat’s a** if I’m comfortable? My toddler. If I am tired on weekends, I just keep going, because there is no option. If my back hurts, and he says, “Mummy, pick up, peeeas?” I friggin’ pick him up cause he’s cute and I love him and I want to be close to him.
Weekends are no longer a time to recharge after five days of working hard. Weekends are exhausting. During this pregnancy, there were no Netflix and feet-up days. Instead, there was a day I fell asleep during toddler gymnastics class. And there was a day I puked in a snow bank and then walked into a museum (and walked around for 2 hours). There was a lot of snowbank puking, come to think of it.
Overall, it’s been less about monthly pre-natal massages and more about lying on the living room floor while toy trucks are driven over my belly.
“How are you feeling?”
Then: People care, and they ask pregnant women how they are feeling. Last time, I would say (honestly) that I was feeling well, and thank them for asking.
Now: This pregnancy has been more difficult in several ways. Carrying my existing baby-come-toddler on one hip for the past 21 months and now being pregnant has caused me to experience somewhat constant back pain. It hurts a lot, and it hurts a lot of the time. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor, which has helped. But getting to the appointments has been annoying, and there continue to be things I want to do but can’t. And things I don’t want to do and can’t, like empty the dishwasher.
It’s funny to say that I’ve puked in snow banks while en route to a museum. But it’s less funny to sit and cry after putting my toddler to bed because I’m so incredibly tired, work is hard, my back hurts, and I’m worried about the change that’s going to befall my little guy’s world when the baby arrives.
As an over-sharer by nature, it’s been tricky to answer the “How are you feeling?” question from well-meaning folks when sometimes I feel really gross, physically and emotionally. I say I’m fine, but often times, the smile doesn’t reach my eyes. Or, I unload on a few lucky people, and they stare in horror, because it’s not the answer they expected or wanted to hear. They are kind, but concerned, and then I feel guilty for burdening them.
I’ve generally been fine. But sometimes I haven’t been. And it’s been a struggle to feel okay about venting that feeling. Feeling not okay about how you are feeling is yucky and meta and I hate it.
Then: I’m not ashamed to say that we went on a babymoon. I was not allowed to call it this, because the idea of something so self-indulgent made my husband feel physically ill (he and I are very different). We went to Mexico with the sole purpose of relaxing together in advance of the baby arriving. We lay under umbrellas for hours, frolicked in the waves, had long conversations over beachside dinners, and slept in every day. It was a babymoon, plain and simple.
Now: Challenges with money and logistics (saving for a maternity leave trip, Zika avoidance, needing to find care for our toddler, etc) pretty much stopped this conversation before it started. But then I got tagged at work to attend a conference in New York City at 8.5 months pregnant (also over my birthday), so I invited my husband to join me. He was able to work out of his company’s NYC office for those two days, and my parents came to our house to look after the toddler.
We had a fantastic time. And it was a lot like the 7 days we’d spent in Mexico for our first babymoon. Except it was only two days, we both worked both days, and the week prior, I had had minor foot surgery and couldn’t really walk. But we loved it. The conference itself was great for me, professionally, and we had the afternoon of our first day, and both evenings, to explore the city.
We did this slowly (I was using a cane and my foot was too swollen for any shoe except a friend’s size 13 men’s Croc). And painfully, as the physical exertion of the limping caused me more than once to experience bouts of Braxton-Hicks contractions while leaning over mailboxes. But we explored, and we spent time together, and we weaselled our way into a few notable restaurants (Croc and all).
In some ways, it felt more restorative and memorable than Mexico. More likely, we are just that much more appreciative of child-free travel.
Preparing for Baby
Then: Come the 6-month pregnant mark, we had procured nursery furniture. Come 8 months, my aunt had visited and painted a gorgeous mural on the wall of the nursery. Not long after, the newborn clothes were washed and folded, the book shelves were arranged just so. All that was missing was a baby.
Also around 8 months, my incredible friends threw me an incredible baby shower. My mom came to town, my mother-in-law flew in from across the country. I bought a new dress and had my make-up professionally done. We ate beautiful food, played dignified baby-themed games, I opened a pile of gifts from a pile of loved ones, and it was one of the happiest days of my life.
Now: As I write this, I am “near-term,” meaning if the baby were born today, it wouldn’t be a preemie, just a baby. It could come at any moment. As I write this, the nursery is still an office. As I write this, we possess one pack of newborn diapers (given to me yesterday by a friend). As I write this, I’m staring at the bassinet that my husband dug up from our storage room. It smells like dust and needs to be cleaned. Yesterday, we installed the infant car seat, and that felt like a huge win. Thus concludes the extent to which we have prepared. *takes bow*
The baby needs some stuff, obv. But the baby doesn’t need very much, and now we know that. It needs us, a car seat, a safe place to sleep, a few pieces of clothing to keep it warm, and a few diapers. So that’s pretty much what we’ve prepared. Everything else, we can jimmy-rig as needed.
Last weekend (9 months pregnant), a few besties took me to brunch to celebrate the upcoming arrival of the new baby (with my insistence that it be very small, and there be no gifts). We ate breakfast sandwiches, talked about baby and non-baby things and it was intimate and perfect. I didn’t buy a new dress, but they gave me a flower crown and I felt like a damn queen, and it was another one of the happiest days of my life.
Preparing for Labour
Then: We toured the hospital and the birth centre. We read Ina May Gaskin’s books. We had intellectual discussions about the pros and cons of epidurals, catheters, and other potential medical interventions. We formed carefully-researched opinions. And then the baby came in it’s own way, with twists and turns of events that led to his own birth story.
Now: Recently, a first time mom friend explained how her priority for her upcoming labour was a water birth at the birth centre. On this, she was not willing to compromise. She asked me where I wanted to labour and deliver and I shrugged. I have preferences, theoretically (not in the car) but nothing I’m going to mourn if it doesn’t come to pass. I now liken childbirth to a kiss on New Year’s Eve: you know it’s going to happen, but you can’t know or plan for the minutia of the experience itself. And I feel perfectly comfortable with that.
The baby will be born. I will love it. It will graduate high school some day. These are the broad strokes in which I’m thinking about childbirth this time around. And I’m not about to question why, for the first time in my life, my brain has chosen to take a zen approach to a major life event. Just trying to enjoy the lack of anxiety.
My doula says you earn the first birth and you deserve the second. Here’s hoping. But if not, that’s okay. It might be awful, but then it will be over.
How the Mighty Have Fallen
Overall, despite the back pain, the puke and rallying, and the extreme lack of preparedness, I have preferred this pregnancy to my last. I do not need another reason to be self-focussed or self-congratulatory, so having this pregnancy march along quietly has been a blessing. There has been less glamour, but also less fear.
This pregnancy, like everything since the last one ended, and probably all things to come, has not been about me as a sacred vessel to be coddled. It’s been about us, as a family, growing bigger and stronger.
Yes, the mighty have fallen. But sometimes, the fall makes us mightier.