Exactly seven months ago I found out that I was pregnant. I watched the second line appear on the test with a mixture of excitement, anxiety and disbelief . . . feelings typical of any woman who’s just peed on a stick and is staring at that second blank spot, mentally willing a line to appear and then somehow still shocked when it does.
But there was another feeling too, floating towards the top of my consciousness, forcing itself to the surface to pop my jittery, excited bubble of glee . . . it whispered “you know better. Be careful. Don’t get too happy, don’t forget what can happen.”
I pushed it down.
It said “Don’t set yourself up to be blindsided again.” I tried to ignore it. It said “Don’t expect everything to go well, and it won’t hurt as much when it doesn’t.” I tried to shrug it off. It said “You know better. Don’t forget that you know better.”
It was right.
I do know better. And not in any sort of wise-beyond-my-years way (well, maybe sometimes, a little) but more in a PTSD way . . . like a driver after a car accident who will never be quite as at ease behind the wheel. I’ve intermittently struggled throughout this pregnancy to find an outlook that made sense and would stick. There were clear, oh so clear, differences between my mentality this time around versus my first “uneventful” pregnancy.
In the waiting room of my obstetrician’s office, I looked at the visibly pregnant women and thought things like “Oh, I hope that this all goes well for you” instead of “Oh, good for her! Another pregnant lady!”
Going in for ultrasounds, I walked past the other rooms in use and wondered if someone might be getting life-altering bad news, instead of wondering if someone might be hearing their baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
When my screening test results came in (we had all of the run-of-the-mill screening tests, the same as we did with Maya, nothing more and nothing less) as normal (as they did with Maya) I was happy, of course, but reservedly happy, because I now know of several hundred disorders that would never make themselves known in something as simple and silly as prenatal screenings. The first time around I thought that “typical” results were a big, fat “Your baby is perfectly healthy!” stamp on the medical record . . . but over the past few years we’ve seen a truckload of “typical” results, despite knowing that things here are not typical. So I smiled and thanked the doctor and left feeling somewhat relieved for “typical” but when my inner voice said “Don’t let your guard down . . . you know better” I replied “Don’t worry, I won’t.”
When I see other pregnant women shopping at Babies ‘R Us, or talking to their friends, or in line at Starbucks, I see them through a bifocal lens of congratulations and trepidation. I smile at them in accordance with the sisterhood-of-pregnant-women unspoken rules, but my inner voice wants to whisper to them, too, to say “Are you expecting everything to be ok? Because it might not be . . . and it will hurt less if you know that might happen. And things will be ok, either way, they really will . . .” but I know that I can’t let that happen. And I wouldn’t have wanted to hear it during my first pregnancy, either. I'm fairly sure that I deliberately didn’t read anything about birth defects or terrible delivery stories or things-that-could-go-wrong . . . because why should I? Why not have a happy 10 months of assuming the best and waiting excitedly? What good would preemptively worrying do me? I wanted to maintain my ignorance, thank you very much.
But after having a child with special needs, you can’t un-know.
And so, this pregnancy has been different.
Oh, it’s been happy, for sure. I’ve watched my body shift and expand, and felt the hiccups and kicks and stretches (which are kind of painful) of this little guy with delight. This will likely be our last baby, and I’m trying to look past the end-of-pregnancy discomfort and savor the alien magic of watching my belly wobble and shift as the baby does his nightly calisthenics. We've picked a name (probably) and have talked excitedly with Maya about her brother. His room has been painted, and over the past two weeks we’ve assembled some furniture and made lists of things-to-buy and things-to-get-out-of-storage. With 6 weeks left until my due date, things are slowly starting to come together, and I’m enjoying the nesting phase and embracing the urge to get my household in order before things get shaken up with the new arrival.
I am happy, and I can’t wait to meet this new baby. And I seriously can’t wait to introduce him to Maya. (Also, I can’t wait until I can gracefully get out of a chair again, but that’s a different story.)
But beneath this happy anticipation is also some sort of quiet warning . . . like a low cello note hidden in the background of a composition beneath some joyful, vibrant violin music. It’s just a hum, a quiet “don’t forget”, a reminder to not float away in the bubbly good times because there can always be something. It’s not something that I actively worry about, it’s not something that I even pay much (if any) conscious attention to . . . it’s just a hum, a quiet, constant hum.
I imagine that by the time I check into the hospital and settle in my labor & delivery room that hum will be loud, my nerves on edge, split with both happy anticipation and “what if, what if, don’t forget, don’t let your guard down.” Both sides of the music loud, loud, waiting to see which will drop off in the next few hours, or next few days.
When I settled into my hospital bed to deliver Maya, there was no low warning hum. It was nice to be young and hopeful, putting any nervousness to rest with the mantra “millions of perfectly healthy babies are born every day.” I’m sure that I’ll think the same thing this time, but the reassurance that it brings will not be complete. And then the inner voice will start again, with a different message, since the time for warnings will have passed, “It’s time to let go now, to let your guard down. There’s no warning to hold on to now, it’s time to let go and see what the next chapter will bring.” And I imagine that I will listen and surrender, putting the time for wondering aside and embracing our new beginning as a family of four.