I’m terrified of how hard it’s going to be to parent three small children. I feel like society is very intolerant of my fear since “I did this to myself.”
Yes, we planned this pregnancy. I think admitting fear and intention together adds up to stupidity in the minds of some. You’re scared…but you did this on purpose…you’re dumb and I have no sympathy for you.
Deciding to have another BABY was not difficult. If children remained babies forever, I might have a dozen more. I love babies. Especially newborns — so snuggly and precious and soft and smell-able. Give me newborns for days. The problem is not the newborn; the problem is the child the newborn will become.
Yesterday I paid over $24 in library fines because I can’t get my life right and as I was signing my receipt, my four-year-old ran over to me from the drinking fountain and spit a mouthful of water all over the library desk and floor. Then my two-year-old proceeded to throw her shoes across the room and run away from me. Both drenched children demanded stickers from the security guy at the door (“the sticker man!”) and Phoebe ran into the Phoenix parking lot with bare feet and screamed. I carried seventeen “free” children’s books atop my pregnant belly, somehow scooped up my crying toddler, and imagined what the next circle of hell might be like.
I’m seriously over this whole being-pregnant thing…and I’m only halfway done with this one. It’s exhausting and uncomfortable and, sure, the baby kicks are altogether delightful and other-worldly, but it’s a crummy payoff for all the vomiting and heartburn and round ligament pain and stretch marks and bowling-ball-in-your-crotch syndrome.
Contemplating what it must have been like for women hundreds of years ago leaves me baffled. You’re just pregnant all the time!? Easily two or three decades of your life!? Pregnancy, birth, nursing, pregnancy, birth, nursing, pregnancy, birth, nursing, pregnancy, birth, nursing. When did women ever rest? How did they manage? What if they had had enough? I know that abortion dates back to ancient times; crisis pregnancy is not a new phenomenon. My heart catches in my throat thinking about the pervasiveness of infanticide as a practice: newborns in clay pots set out on the street or thrown in manure heaps to die. I can barely fathom it. Perhaps some women timed intercourse to avoid fertility, but what about the women who had no say in the matter? I wonder if every young girl for much of human history had a moment in her life that she grasped the eventualities of femaleness and shuddered with the realization that she would have precious little control over her life.
With these thoughts, gratitude settles on my heart and I am so humbled. It’s an immense privilege that Simon and I could even have a conversation about whether or not we wanted to add to our family. And it’s a tribute to feminism both that many contraceptive methods are available, and that good men like my husband welcome their use. I get to say, “my uterus is retiring after this pregnancy.” I get to make that choice. I get to have a limit. I also have the power to change my mind about my family size. Considering what was normative for women’s sexuality for eons (and still goes on today everywhere contraception is unavailable or scorned), it’s flabbergasting if you stop and think about it.
I’m also really over pregnancy rules. Totally rode a ride at a carnival (it was the Moon Cars, I mean COME. ON.). Went down a water slide. Ate quality sushi, ate raw fish, ate soft cheese. I take baths that are a little on the hot side. Couple small glasses of wine with meals post first trimester; one here another three weeks later. Took extra-strength Tylenol for my migraine. I went to a super fancy restaurant in Chicago with my girlfriends last week and had a cocktail, and lemony ricotta, and raw tuna over micro greens. Abso-freaking-lutely.
You can think I’m a bad mom. You can think I’m overly-relaxed or even reckless. You can think whatever you like because that is your right. Me, well, I think I just got to a place of realizing I don’t have all that much control. Whether or not to get pregnant? Yes, that’s something I can largely control (thanks to my privileged position). But the fate of this baby? Not so much. It doesn’t mean I’m foolish. It doesn’t mean I’ve thrown out research or reason or rational thinking. It does mean that I embrace moderation and risk-benefit analysis and responsibility for my decisions. It also means that I have decided to embrace my humanity. I cannot have a perfect pregnancy because no one can do that. I cannot be a perfect mom because no one can do that. And I like having fun and eating good food and taking bubble baths. I will be a mother and a human simultaneously. The verdict has been declared and I repeat it to myself as necessary.
When you get pregnant for the first time, you register. You go to Babies R Us or Target or hop on Amazon and pick out 60,000 things you are positive you must have to raise a tiny human. This go round? I have everything I need (which, as it turns out, is really about seven things, not 60,000) but I still have a wish list, it’s just very different than it was five years ago. Now I’m dreaming about a babymoon with my hubby before the birth, fabulous birth photography (if I’m putting my uterus in a vice again, I want pictures of me looking amazing while doing it), an uber practical and durable baby carrier (I think the days of working to perfect Double Hammock carry in a woven wrap are long gone), and a whole lotta meals brought to my doorstep postpartum. And babysitting for the big kids. And chiropractic care and massages. (Oh, and an intact perineum. Just this once, no stitches. For the love).
Let’s talk about how you start to show freaking immediately when you’ve been pregnant previously. It’s not cute. It’s laughable. I dug out my maternity clothes at seven weeks! When we went public with our news around twelve weeks, people said things like, “Oh I’ve know for a month, I’m so glad I can congratulate you now!” At ten weeks gestation two different people said to me, “You’re so big!” Why, just WHY? Why would you say that? I’M TEN WEEKS PREGNANT. I think I might seriously mess with people at the end of this pregnancy when I’m as big as a house. I’ve heard of women letting out little baggies of water between their legs in random places like the bank and the grocery store just to mess with people who have the gall to shriek “Oh my god!!! You’re huge! How did you walk in here?! It’s triplets right??? You look like you should have delivered a month ago!” It sounds so deliciously satisfying to make someone worry that I might get placenta on them.
Oooh, let’s also talk about all the annoying things we have to deal with as women post-pregnancy and birth. Like peeing on your couch because someone made you laugh. Totally have peed on my couch like three times since becoming a mother. (This is why we have a slipcover now). Oh, and having to cross your legs like mad when you sneeze because, again, the uncontrollable pee. Does everyone know that pelvic physical therapy is a thing? Oh, it’s SUCH a thing. I recommend it. I also recommend doing the exercises at home like the PT tells you to do instead of just blowing them off like me and being like, yeah my bladder probably won’t fall out. About a year ago, I straight up wet the bed. I mean peed myself like a child in my sleep. I was dreaming about being in the ocean and then I was in the ocean. I changed clothes and threw a towel down and went back to sleep because, motherhood.
Also: this is not my third pregnancy; it’s my fourth pregnancy. It’s been nearly three and a half years since we miscarried Zuzu and I’m not grieving anymore. It feels horrible to say that but also true and also freeing. I’ve been healed and isn’t that a good thing? My miscarriage experience remains one of the most traumatizing events of my life, not only the loss of my pregnancy and baby but the physical event itself. I’ll never forget all the blood. And I long to someday meet that sweet baby in Heaven, to find out who she is and what she smells like and all I missed. I await redemption. And yet in the here and now, my thoughts and feelings are consumed by Rainbow Baby Phoebe who filled up my womb and heart after Susannah went home. And this new baby, both known and unknown to me, Baby Cookie as the kids call my bump, is making his/her way into our love too.
The dark cloud of fear that dogged me during Phoebe’s pregnancy has lifted. It’s not a return to the days of blissful mommy ignorance I enjoyed during my first pregnancy; I know all too well that there are no guarantees. That blood is seared on my brain and I’ve wept with precious friends who have endured losses far more agonizing than mine. I choose to eat organic as much I can, and to buy the expensive prenatal vitamins, to avoid obstetric procedures that are not evidence-based. I chose to have my progesterone levels checked over and over in the beginning because it’s my Xanax for miscarriage anxiety. Ultrasound on Thursday, never miss a prenatal appointment, text my midwife with my questions and concerns anytime. But I choose to loosen my grip as well. I chose to finish every last drop of the best cocktail I’ve ever had last week at dinner. It’s a broken world; I’m a broken person; I might as well consume peace along with organic apples and pop sanity along with prenatal vitamins. There is only so much I can do, and even though I could run myself ragged doing it 24/7/365, it won’t put me in the driver’s seat. I’m still a passenger, along for the ride. The dangers are before me and I see them, but I’m rolling the window down and hanging my head out too. It’s a patched up version of blissful mommy ignorance: it’s experienced humbled openhandedness.
I will survive and then thrive the transition from two to three children. I will do it because I have to. I will do it because my children deserve it. And I will do it because I can, because I deserve it, because I refuse to let motherhood swallow me, because I love my children but I don’t always love parenting my children and I need a war cry, y’all. I have two hands and soon will have three children. I will soon bust out the pumpkin seat again and have over $700 of car seats across the middle row of my Odyssey. There will be afterpains and diapers and blood and milk on everything in sight. And it will be stupefying that the world will continue unaware.
But there will also be that face. That new face that today I can only dream about as the squirms inside me carry on. That new face that is not promised or ensured to us but that I nurture hope for anyway. That new face that ratifies our undying love for a new member of our family from the very first glimpse. That new face that is therapy and medicine and light ablaze. That new face that melts everything it encounters. That face I yearn to see, pray to see, delight to see. That baby face will be our glue. And I’m not ready and I want that face yesterday all the same. Grow baby grow. We’ll do this together.