Last night I was sitting on our bed, relaxing in the air conditioning, wearing Brian's Snoopy t-shirt. I was looking down at my big basketball belly, Snoopy all stretched out over me, thinking about my mom. Thirty-five years ago, give or take a couple of months, she was just like me - pregnant with her second child, wondering if it was a boy or girl, and wondering if it would possibly arrive on the birthday of her first child. Those who know us well know that my older brother and I share the same birthday, six years apart. He was playing with his new Evil Knievil motorcycle in the hallway of a hotel with my aunt and uncle when I was born, delivered by the impatient Ohio University football team doctor who needed to get to the game. And now, here I am, very pregnant, and only a few days away from Dora's 4th birthday, wondering if we might break some kind of statistical odds and have our own set of kids who share a birthday several years apart.
Because my mom died before I was pregnant with Dora, I've never really had the chance to "share" pregnancy and motherhood with her. After she died, I remembered hoping that I might someday have a daughter, to have that mother-daughter connection again. When I was pregnant, I comforted my fears by reminding myself that my mom, someone who I eventually thought had all (or at least most) of the answers, was as clueless and scared as I at one point. During labor, I felt like I channeled my mom, making jokes with the nurses just like I think she would have even in the midst of pain. I've found myself connected to my mom through motherhood when she's arrived on the scene through me in some way, or when she's shown up in something Dora has done or said. It's often been unexpected, but also a gift. So now, here I am again, connected to her through pregnancy, through having two babies born at almost exactly the same time of year, through the wonder and worry that comes with pregnancy and birth.
They don't call it a "pregnant pause" for nothing. Pregnancy is naturally such a time of expectation, of wondering about the future, of holding onto your past, of trying to fathom in your little human mind what is really too large, spiritual, monumental to be fathomed in an entire lifetime. Every year around this time I reflect on Dora's birth day, how amazing it was, how we had no idea how much our lives would change because of it. And now this year, I'm reflecting on it even more, looking ahead mostly with great anticipation, and just a bit of anxiety, hoping that my memory of how spectacular birth was is accurate. I've been going around for 4 years telling everyone that birth is great, "you can do it!" - and now I think, "can I?"
There are other thoughts, too, of course. I'm so tired of being pregnant - it's been so much more uncomfortable this time around. I climb out of bed in the morning and I just hurt, all over. But I also know this might be the last time I'm pregnant. I look in the mirror and think, "I have to remember what this looks and feels like, forever, because when it's over I'll miss it". My husband tells me how beautiful I look with my big pregnant belly and I want to hold onto that moment forever, knowing I'll soon barely be able to find a reasonable set of clothes or time to shower. Experience tells me how quickly this baby will go from being a tiny infant to being a kid, how soon I will look back on this time with fondness and a sense of loss. I worry about how this is all going to affect Dora, how it's going to affect our marriage, our finances, my ability to juggle work and home (which already seems stretched to the limit). I worry about going through the post-partum period again, if I'll have the same challenges and anxieties, and if my plan of attack for that this time (different from last time) will work.
It's such a time of complexity and mixed emotions, and I think the second time around in many ways is even more complex. You know the joys you are looking forward to as well as the challenges you're about to experience. You know how completely you will love this new baby you're about to meet, and how simultaneously joyful and frightening that kind of love can be. You know how crazy-chaotic it's going to be, how you'll hardly be able to shower or make a meal. But I guess you also know that the chaos is (semi) temporary, and soon we'll have two kids instead of a baby and a kid - they'll soon be playing together and fighting and rolling their eyes at us. I'm hoping the knowledge of how temporary the stages are helps us relax and enjoy it a little more.I always wanted more than one child, just like I always wanted to be married, to have a job, to have a house full of pets and all the craziness that all of that brings. Knowing you want something and trying to achieve it doesn't mean you get a free, smooth ride. But becoming a parent - just like living in a marriage or a hairy house of animals - means finding a joy you hadn't known possible, even if it also comes with sorrow you didn't know about. It is about as far from a smooth ride as you can find, in fact. But when I look at Dora - or my husband and the challenges our marriage has weathered, or my pets and how much I love them - I know that all of it - the bad clothes, and the sore muscles, and the days when just getting a shower seems impossible - all of it is worthwhile. If not having all of that meant not having her - or any of this - well, there's nothing in this world that could make me want that in exchange for less chaos or an easier life. The proof is in the pudding, you know - it's in the early morning snuggles and I love yous, in the kisses and hugs, in the welcomes home from work when she tells me she missed me so much. It's worth it, it really, really is. And the uncertainty - the wondering when this baby will come - the chance to reconnect with my mom in some transcendental, spiritual, walking the same path kind of way - that's all just a little bonus lesson in humanity, a chance to reflect on how amazing life is. Only a little while longer and we'll know some of these answers, and we'll have new questions as well. It will be unexpected, but it will also be a gift.