We were biking along the streets of Luang Prabang, Laos. It was a December morning and another particularly chilly day (for my tropical standards). The streets were quiet—almost meditative. We stopped at a neighborhood pharmacy, parked our vintage Japanese bikes on the curb, and navigated our way into asking the middle-aged Laotian proprietress for a pregnancy test kit.
At that point, we’d been trying to get pregnant for four months, and a lot of changes happened in our lives within that time: a new country, new jobs, new home, and all the newness that comes with a fresh expatriation.
Nonetheless, we were beyond eager to be parents. In about a week’s time from that day in Luang Prabang, we would be officially married for a year. Our first year as husband and wife had been filled with beautiful travels and adventures spanning 20 countries within 10 months. Incredibly, we survived 60 days on the road together for 24/7, and as such we cheekily felt we passed the test and could “graduate” to a new life stage!
Cory and I walked a few steps to a bar, he sat on a stool and started making friends with the bartender (who was happy to have a customer at noontime) while I snuck into the water closet for my test.
I joined him minutes later confused if the two positive lines showing in the thin strip were real or faulty. Suffice it to say that we didn’t fully trust the flimsy pregnancy test kit we bought (which by the way resembled a high school biology lab kit). I was feeling cautiously excited, but largely cautious. Cory was beaming but he must have been subjecting the kit to the same level of suspicion that I was.
Skeptical but happy, we sat beside each other and beamed silly at our new friend, the bartender. I wanted to jump up and down and shriek and all that–but I sat still with disbelieving glazed eyes and yes, quite a mindless smile.
It would take days before we could finally see a doctor in Manila during our holiday trip to visit family and friends. Before the doctor visit, our joy was heavily restrained.
Our 10 short days back home seemed shorter with days lined up for doctor visits, blood tests and ultrasound appointment. When the radiologist was operating the ultrasound machine, she was proudly showing us a cardiac activity even at 5 weeks 5 days! Having read that the heartbeat normally shows at 8 weeks onwards, we were absolutely thrilled.
The certainty which came from a doctor’s confirmation gave us the relief that allowed us to finally and slowly celebrate the truth of the much-anticipated news. There were no big fireworks in our heads; no mad jumping up and down like kids. Instead, it felt like Cory and I came to terms with the reality of our pending parenthood like a gentle blossoming of a flower, like the changing of a season which came at a leisurely pace.
And so the journey that I know is changing our lives begins. We are not two but three. We are an “us” that includes a small human being whose health, upbringing, and well-being we are fully accountable for. Cory and I have been gifted with the priceless privilege of becoming parents to a child who is part him, part me.
Honestly, it is still too big and abstract to grasp.
We are taking it day by day, and in this stage, I am just realizing that truly, “pregnancy is a lot of work.” I have begun to reflect about whether I’ve treated pregnant friends and colleagues with ample consideration. Have I offered to do things for them? Have I asked them more times about how they were feeling? Have I helped lessen any stress for them in any way?
All these reflections are because I am fully feeling the first trimester shock: one of constant nausea, headaches, back pains, and fatigue that does not even compare to running a half-marathon or finishing a high-intensity workout. I am constantly tired, thirsty, hurting, and it is such an oddity to be feeling so excited and yet so physically sick at the same time.
I have exponentially grown my sympathy for pregnant women in a way that is now personal and gut-deep. As I turn my back on my favorite go-to’s like coffee, wine, whisky, sashimi, a variety of seafood and cheese, as I find myself experiencing cramps from nowhere, as even walking makes me breathless, as the bathroom trips start to wear me out, I visualize a happy baby inside me busily at work preparing for an arrival that will make every second of pregnancy sacrifice and discomfort blur away.
I always remember that I don’t have it too bad. I don’t vomit, I don’t have irrational food cravings, my moods are still under control, and I’m not an emotional wreck. (Here’s to hoping that I don’t jinx it!) Happily, I’m not doing this on my own and my husband has been nothing but fantastic about supporting my needs.
Before getting pregnant, I had an idea in my head about staying strong and perfectly normal as a preggo. My body is teaching me a lot of things that I don’t know and perhaps this is welcoming me to motherhood in a grandly humbling way.
I can plan and try my best to stay on track but I will need to pay attention to a body that at times needs to go the other way. Right now, I hope for a grace-filled time, trying to do what the doctor ordered: take it easy, slow down, rest, turn your back on any stress that will be harmful to our baby, and let the joys and pains of pregnancy unfold beautifully and shape me for what’s to come.
What a gift this is. Peacefully and quietly, my gratitude shines as brilliantly as a Luang Prabang sunset on the placid Mekong.
(Note: As of publishing time, I’m on my 15th week of pregnancy. The baby bump currently looks like a reminder of how much I’ve been eating as of late. I must say that I miss my three cups of coffee a day, wine, and goodness, sashimi! But it’s true what they say: the sacrifices are nothing compared to the joy of pregnant anticipation.)