As more and more of my friends and acquaintances have kids my Facebook and other social media feeds become saturated with posts about pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood. In the last week I’ve seen this post shared several times, and today I finally read it. And like so many times since I became a parent I felt the knee-jerk reaction to write my own version.
You might be thinking “good grief, it’s just an article meant to make pregnant women feel like they’re not in it alone”. You’d be right – which is exactly why I’m offering a counter article, not for you, but for the women who can’t relate to this list even a little bit. It’s for the mom (and dad) brave enough to risk pregnancy again despite the ever present nagging sense of fear that things will go just as wrong or, God forbid, worse the next time around.
1. I hope I can look like I’m ready to pop next time. Insult me all you want by saying I must be due any day. I really hope I make it that far.
2. Maybe I’ll be able to do more for myself this time. Maybe I won’t have to be on bedrest and I won’t be restricted to one 5 minute shower a day. And if this does happen, how on earth will I manage with a toddler in tow?
3. R-i-i-i-ig-g-h-h-t. In response to people telling you they simply loved being pregnant. Even if everything is going swimmingly this time around, not a day goes by that you don’t wonder if this is the day the bottom will fall out and your body will fail you.
4. I trust modern medicine with all my being. I’m happy for you that the whole “natural” thing worked out. But if it wasn’t for modern medicine my firstborn wouldn’t be alive, so yes, I’ll be listening to every doctor and nurse and specialist available.
5. I’m not swollen yet…weird. Swelling around 35 weeks is pretty common and normal for most women. Swelling between weeks 20-35, combined with a myriad of other obvious and not so obvious symptoms, can be life-threatening for mother and baby. Who cares about how big my bump is when I can say for sure that, as of yet, I’m not carrying ten or fifteen pounds of water weight in my legs.
6. I really shouldn’t have eaten that. Balancing between health obsessive and indulging a sweet tooth or combating those times when a ravenous pregnancy appetite takes you over means worrying about getting diabetes again and if this donut binge made things worse.
7. There’s no way I can get any bigger…right? See above, re:swelling. A gestational hypertension or preeclampsia veteran will notice the moment they start to swell and poke themselves constantly to check for bruising or pitting. The number on the scale is only depressing if it spikes too rapidly, warranting a call to triage.
8. If I ignore the urge to pee it will just go away. But I can’t ignore it, because not only do I have to pee, I need to drag a carton out of the fridge at 2:00a.m. along with a funnel so my 24 hour urine collection can be evaluated…and I’m only 10 weeks. I wonder how many times I’ll be keeping pee next to my milk and Brita this time?
9. Due dates mean nothing. Neither does belly size. Telling people my due date feels like jinx every time I open my mouth. I’ve come up with my own secret “I’ll be happy if we make it this far” date.
10. I’m not sure if I should bother buying clothes for this baby. Or unpacking a siblings hand-me-downs. What if this baby has to be in the NICU for days, weeks or months? Remember how hard it was coming home to a room without a baby, or to pack away clothes with tags on them because our first was so small? Maybe I should just wait and see what happens.
11. How strange will it be if we have a baby that doesn’t go to NICU? Packing a hospital bag for our firstborn was pointless. He couldn’t wear clothes, let alone be touched. I certainly hadn’t registered for cannulas or feeding tubes. How utterly strange it will be if we have this baby and it just…stays with us. (Sidebar: the original article makes a couple of comments about “I don’t care if you’re only 33 weeks”, which is super annoying to preemie parents, who know all too well that every single day in utero counts.)
12. When will it happen, this time? Will my water break at 28 weeks in the middle of the night? Will I become too sick to carry this child to term? The joy of the arrival is dampened if not entirely robbed by the powerful experience of giving birth to a preemie.
13. Quick, let’s do maternity photos now. Just in case, you know? What if things go bad again? I don’t know that I can wait the recommended amount of time for the ideal bump photos.
14. It’s normal to have a weekly countdown celebration on my calendar, right? Because I do. I have 4 more weeks until 24 weeks (viability) and 13 more weeks until I’ll be more pregnant than I was with our son. I think in terms of “let’s get this over with”, not because I am uncomfortable (though this anxiety isn’t sunshine and roses), but because I wish I could just skip to having a healthy baby at home, resting inside my healthy arms.
15. How did that mom of the 24 weeker survive 8 months in NICU? There are some really incredible families in this tribe, many who have been through far worse than I have. I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know if I can do it again.
16. I care about your birth story because it helps me focus on how things might go for me. I love to hear that you had a preemie and then carried your next child to term. I love knowing that you didn’t get diabetes or seizures or high blood-pressure or migraines or (fill in the blank) this time. Thank you for reaching out to me and helping me feel less alone on this journey. Our stories matter. Even if they make others uncomfortable or baffled, our stories matter, too.