It’s not just me here anymore

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I’m now about 35 weeks pregnant- which means the end is in sight (I’ll be considered full-term at 37 weeks), and our Blueberry is about 33 weeks old, in terms of fetal development.

Blueberry kicks so hard it hurts. They respond to my voice when I talk to them or sing. They do what feels like flips when I eat ice cream.  So much happens in such a short time.

In some ways, it feels like it was just last week that we went in to an emergency clinic to confirm what my home pregnancy test had already told us. They took a urine sample, and we waited, Edward and I staring at each other anxiously, our hands clasped (mine sweating slightly).

“It’s positive, congratulations!” The nurse said. In my mind he just poked his head through the door on his way down the hallway, but I can’t be sure. I just know I looked at Edward, and burst into tears.

The news was terrifying. Hearing the nurse’s words snapped a cord in me that I didn’t realize was stretched so taut. Edward was outwardly calm, smiling even. “I was so worried,” I said.

“Would you have been more worried if it had been negative?”
I nodded, but kept crying. A million feelings- fear, and panic, but also joy and love and excitement. Having a child fills you with ambivalence.

The doctor who visited with us shortly after was sweet and enthusiastic. She congratulated us heartily and advised us to download a pregnancy tracker app so we could see how much the baby was growing every week. Then we got an ultrasound. The baby’s heart was beating, but too small for us to see it yet. According to the app, we discovered on the way home, the baby was only the size of a blueberry.

Not long afterwards we got on MediCal and I was able to get an OBGYN and another ultrasound. This time, there was a tell-tale movement in the teeny chest cavity that was visible to us. Blueberry was about the size of a strawberry at the time. More tears spilled from my eyes. It’s one thing to believe in the humanity of a tiny fetus, and another to face the reality of one growing inside you. Before that moment, I could believe that it was just about me, what I wanted. I could wallow in the sheer misery of morning sickness and fatigue and cry over all of the plans for my life that would now forever change. But then, that heartbeat. Oh my God. I was 11 weeks pregnant.

I began to feel butterflies only four weeks later- little flutterings in my stomach that felt like excitement- or terror- like the seconds before you plunge down on a rollercoaster. Many women never feel these because they’re so subtle. But it dawned on me after a few days that they were the kicks, flips, and jabs of tiny, fully formed limbs. Blueberry would have been the size of an apple, give or take. According to my tracker, they had finished growing every essential organ by that point, and the rest of pregnancy was about the details.

Now I’m heavy. Blueberry is currently the size of a pineapple. My back hurts. My feet and fingers are swollen. I’m having Braxton-Hicks contractions that are almost crippling in their intensity. I cry sometimes for no apparent reason. This is hard. 

I’ve always wanted to be a mother. In fact, I was experiencing a bit of baby fever in the months leading up to discovering I was pregnant. But Blueberry wasn’t planned. In fact, I was on birth control. I had hoped this summer that we could travel, take a few months or even a year to just enjoy marriage, free from the tether of Edward’s school. I wanted to have some time to work on a new novel. I wanted a better living situation. And financial stability.

True, a baby was wanted- but not right now. I understood, probably for the first time, what people mean when they say they’re afraid a baby will ruin their lives.

Becoming a parent, and especially, becoming a mother, who it takes such a physical toll on, requires so much of you. It’s more than just late nights and sickness- your DNA literally rewrites itself. You cannot go back to who you were before pregnancy, no matter how much you workout or how soon you go back to your job. Motherhood requires a level of selflessness that, even as I’m in the midst of it, I’m still not sure I actually possess.

Some women talk about it like they are filled with grace from Mother Gaia during the whole 9 months and beyond. But I’m not going to lie. It’s big, and it’s scary, and it honestly is not for everyone. But I’ve also discovered surprisingly deep wells of strength and courage, despite my doubts and fears. Some people mock mothers, minimize their sacrifice and strength. Some claim the world needs no more children, who are just more mouths to feed. Who are the unnecessary result of poor choices. And some women -and men- are terrified they will never find that strength or courage. Some are afraid that deep down, they are too selfish and awful to be parents.

I feel you.

But I knew, deep in my soul, that from the day we were told about our little Blueberry- and the day I watched that heartbeat pulsing on the screen- that there was no going back. It wasn’t about just me and my body, my desires, my needs. It’s not just me here anymore.

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