The most powerful thing my body has ever done is to grow a life inside of it. No personal miracle that I have ever experienced comes close to discovering the scale of my body’s capacity: to create, transform, and nurture another life.
It is a physical and emotional journey so incredibly overwhelming that I still find myself grappling with what this all means.
Waddling around with a big belly and all, I still give myself a blank (bordering on dumb) look on some days: Am I really going to be a mom? Is there truly a 5.7 lb baby inside me like my doctor said the other day? I feel him, so it must be real. But is it, really? Too easily, I lose logic and coherence.
As of today, it’s been more than 36 weeks (yes, 9 months). Our baby will come in approximately 4 weeks’ time–or anytime from now. It has been either an extraordinarily long wait or a mad blurry haste. Which one it is depends on the kind of day it is. There is, without a doubt, a spectrum of emotions that comes with this 10-month journey of anticipating a child.
The length of gestation–10 months in a mother’s life–is “just right” for a baby to grow from a mere blip (way smaller than a tadpole is a poor comparison) to a beautiful infant who will cry, feed, sleep, and grow into a full human being.
Just right? Maybe that length of time is also “just right” to prepare the parents to “arrive” at the full knowledge of a new role and to navigate the new reality of a life that is about to change, of a family that is about to begin, of a child who will be completely dependent of your care for the next few months, demanding of your love for the next few years, and needful of your parenting for at least the next 18 years.
Ten months to prepare for that? Can we still say “just right?”
Being pregnant is the biggest rollercoaster ride of my life. Anyone who will tell me that it’s been a monotonous experience will get my polite smile that barely conceals disbelief.
Has it always been a beautifully exquisite experience? For the most part, yes. But I will write with honesty: open to judgment if need be.
For one, being pregnant has engulfed me with levels of paranoia and stunning insecurity previously unreached. The loud, nagging question in my Type A personality head has been: Am I doing it right? Am I supposed to be eating this, doing this, thinking this? Will this harm our baby? What else do I need to change in my life now to have a healthy pregnancy? How can I be ready? What should I be doing that I shouldn’t? What am I NOT doing that I should be doing?
After a positive confirmation from a pregnancy test kit, that surreal sound of a racing cardiac activity matching the erratic lines in a black and white screen, closely followed by incredulous celebrations, something happens. First trimester happens.
The first trimester struggle is for me the hardest. Here comes the time when your body is adjusting for the first time to the hormonal changes of growing a life. This is when the body is working hardest and all the cells are still forming inside a mother’s body–wearing her out. The placenta is still forming and taking all of your energy. Your mind is still figuring it out. The emotions are skyrocket high but the fatigue can drag you to an unbelievable low.
In my case, my heart rate was always beating fast in those first few weeks–bringing back memories of a hilly half-marathon. I remember falling asleep and wanting to call it a day at 4:00 pm for several weeks. This is the phase of coming-to-terms-with-pregnancy and the many changes I didn’t even know it came with.
I was vaguely aware of some do’s and don’ts. Somehow, the list lengthened staggeringly. Not more than one cup of coffee (I used to drink 3 cups of strong black coffee a day), not more than a glass of wine (never mind how much I would indulge on occasions), no raw or undercooked food (I would eat Japanese food about once a week, loved a runny egg, and a rare ribeye), no unpasteurized cheese, no indulging on too much sugar (which I didn’t follow and I blame the irrational, questionably unscientific pregnancy cravings), and other lifestyle changes.
What other lifestyle changes? Choose low-impact physical activities, be careful not to trip or fall or get exhausted, no salon trips unless you’re sure of non-exposure to chemicals, no socializing in bars where cigarette smoking is rampant, no treatments, hair products and skincare that are not safe for the baby, etc. Eat healthily, avoid taking medicines, drink lots of water, turn your back on stressors, and take your prenatal vitamins religiously.
I know the list is longer, but I don’t aspire to list them all here.
Every pregnancy is different, and some women are lucky. I was considered lucky to not have experienced morning sickness. But I was not so lucky with dizziness and daylong headaches.
When they say it gets better at the second trimester, they weren’t lying. Here is the sweet spot of pregnancy, in my opinion and many others’ too. The placenta is fully formed so the fatigue isn’t as bad. Some other symptoms ease and they say this is when the pregnancy glow kicks in (relatively). The best part of the second trimester for me is that marvelous joy of feeling the baby’s first kick. There is nothing on earth like it. This is also when the doctor appointments may lead to 3D or 4D photos of your baby’s face–slowly becoming clearer and clearer to melt any parent’s heart.
This is when you feel accomplished for reaching your pregnancy halfway point (yey!), when you can finally bask in being joyfully pregnant and allow yourself the excitement of planning for a little one. For me, this is when I found the energy to start reading a lot of baby and parenting books from cover to cover. As of this writing, I have finished reading five books like they’re novels cum textbooks that I had read line after line, word after word, not without neon highlights and notes.
As sweet as the second trimester was, this was also the time I turned into a crazy mom researching baby care essentials. My husband and I were on a spring break trip in Tbilisi, Georgia, and my mind was busy juggling ideas between collecting vintage Kilim carpets and looking up stroller reviews, baby carriers, and also mentally debating the merits and necessity of a moses basket.
The third trimester? The anticipation is as strong as the discomforts are real. I internally boasted about my lack of swelling, and then realized that I spoke too soon. On my eighth month, I couldn’t recognize my nose, my wedding and engagement rings had to be locked away, and my feet defied their size. I didn’t know rolling over and getting up from a bed or a deep couch could be so burdensome until these past few weeks. Reaching for my feet made me forget I was ever a yogini. The toilet breaks have made me familiar with each of our bathroom tiles and have led to inevitable redecoration or an addition of new toilet accents and scents. Nesting now comes with a sense of haste.
Throughout my pregnancy, my emotions get triggered more easily than in the past: I would get really upset about other people mindlessly posting visual content of death, child abuse, or a suffering child on social media. Why would you do that without at least a warning? A hormonal and overprotective mother (oh, that is now me) would find it difficult to control an onslaught of emotions.
I also became more sensitive to the reality of other moms who suffered losses through a miscarriage, and of other women having difficulty with conception or pregnancy. I felt for them and as such, I felt that I had to refrain from posting constant pregnancy updates in my Facebook feed for all to see.
As this pregnancy is about to come to its final loop, I celebrate the many wonderful things about it. First of all, this pregnancy has revealed so much love and kindness around me. I have come to see genuine and unbridled joy from family and friends who share in our happiness and excitement, and we feel it vigorously. I can’t forget the best reactions when we broke the news–it magnified our happiness and eased any anxiety that we couldn’t even begin to speak of. Our friends uber-generously showered us with so many things to use for our newborn: some of which I didn’t even know I needed, but moms just know. The little and many Whatsapp and Facebook messages asking me how I was doing and sending encouragement on random days meant the world to me when I thought I was doing it all wrong. Our baby has been gifted with so much love from our family, neighbors, and colleagues who gave their time, gifts, and efforts for unforgettable baby showers.
While traveling on our babymoon, I would be deeply touched when random strangers smiled at me as I intuitively hold my belly, gave me priority access without asking, and would strike conversations as they waxed nostalgic about that time in their lives when they were expecting a baby. I especially experienced the Italian warmth and sense of family when I would reply, “Si, bambino.” to many well-meaning strangers in Rome and Tuscany asking about our baby’s gender and shining their eyes in shared anticipation.
Best of all, this journey has been revealing to me, in many new ways, the kind of husband I married. It has been astounding how he would dote on the baby inside me and dream with me. He sings, chants, dances, and talks to our baby in my belly in a way that sends me laughing. He calms me when I worry, terrified of doing it wrong (which as you can guess happens a lot): he does it in a way that allayed my fears, and not dismissed it. He reads the lines I bug him to read and pokes fun at me when even I know that I’m going overboard. He has been supportive when I needed to get rid of unhealthy stressors and listened to my tearful episodes with sympathy. He carefully allowed me to stand on my own like I needed to, and respected my decisions with the trust that I bided my time and did my best every single day. He enables my dreams and honors my independent spirit. We’ve had so many rich conversations about parenting which make me look forward to a more beautiful partnership–a marriage that is on the cusp of such brighter years ahead.
They say that pregnancy will be forgotten at the time of labor and childbirth, then the sleepless nights and breastfeeding struggles will take over, then raising a toddler, and it goes on.
There are days when I feel I’m done with being pregnant and I’m ready to hold our baby now. And this piece is here to mindfully, consciously, and deliberately pause to enjoy this moment right now for what it is: this moment of creation and life that is unlike anything else. We are anticipating, praying, hoping, dreaming, and planning.
Soon, our family life is about to begin. Our biggest miracle and dream come true is on his way. Really, just how wonderful is that?