We found out this week that this babe that we’ve been expecting to arrive at the end of January is a daughter. This is the first time I’ve written about it, anywhere really, because we have been slowly navigating the risky phases of pregnancy. This week’s doctor visit has relieved a lot of stress, as well as given us a name for the child. I find that this morning, I am a lot more excited about this pregnancy than I have ever been — at last, I find myself able to drop the gates that I have held up in case it all goes wrong.
It so often does, when it comes to childbearing.
It’s a subject that we don’t talk much about as a society. I know more than a handful of women my age that have struggled with infertility and gone through the emotional turmoil of miscarriages. With my particular health issues, I presumed that I would be one of them. When I got pregnant fairly easily, I held my breath, waiting for someone to pull the rug from under my feet. I’ve been holding it for five months, as I navigated my way through my suddenly growing body. When I was lying on the ultrasound table, with a stranger poking and pressing me in ways that I was trying to ignore, I finally heard the words that let me let it out.
I held my Beloved’s hand as we watched the impossibly small fist curl up in front of our daughter’s impossibly small face on the ultrasound screen. She weighs about a pound now and is all skin and bone — quite literally. She will spend the next three months growing the fat and muscle that will sit in between her skeleton and skin. When she is born, she will be too weak to even lift her head. I do not know much about babies, but it is difficult to imagine how something even weaker than a kitten is going to turn into the strong and vibrant person that we will spend the rest of our lives getting to know. I am awed that my flawed genes have managed to combine with my Beloved’s and create something so special – and yet, something so ordinary. It is the most ordinary thing in the world, but it has taken over my entire life.
The weather has dipped this week, bringing the first days that I can pull out the sweaters, jeans and loafers that become my uniform through most of the year. Of course, this year I must put away all of my precious hand-knit woollen sweaters for the thin acrylic blends that Old Navy sells in their maternity section. I am trying to keep my chin up, but it’s a bigger blow to my vanity — and fiber snobbery — than I had been anticipating. All the extra blood flowing through my body to support our child has been keeping me warm, even as my joints have been swelling my shoes straight out of commission. I find that I miss my normal wardrobe more than I should.
Pregnancy has been challenging for me. I weathered the first trimester with remarkable digestive ease, given the torture that some women go through with morning sickness. I was exhausted and nauseous and never slept through the night, but the harder part was keeping silent about it. Gratitude overwhelmed me every time that I settled my queasy stomach with the trail mix and banana chips that became my constant companions. What I found most difficult was accepting the limitations in my physical strength without tearing my brain apart.
I don’t usually think of myself as someone that’s athletic, but I’ve worked up to a certain level of fitness through yoga and running that I take a lot of pride in. When the pregnancy started affecting my ability to reach, to run, to climb stairs….I took it pretty hard. I have given up running for the rest of the pregnancy, not because I can’t run, but because my compressed lungs and slow jogs are doing my head in. I’ve moved from the sweaty, advanced vinyasa classes to the gentle flow and prenatal yoga. I’ve discovered the real yoga lesson in all of this, which is to learn to accept what my body has to give today, without judgement. I am not a bad person if I can’t keep to my ten minute miles. My body is doing what it needs to in order to create a life. Slowing down does not make me weak.
Saying it — and accepting it — are two different things, but I’m slowly getting there. The more that I say my daughter’s name, the more I think about her face and smile and laugh — the closer I come to understanding. This week, now that I know her name, it’s gotten so much closer and so much more real.
Take your time and grow, Cora. We’re waiting for you.