Holding a positive pregnancy test. Scary. Exciting. Amazing. Joyful. Scary. If some form of fear did not cross your mind the first time you pee’d on that stick and it meant something, you are a far stronger breed than I.
For me, this is where it began. It was real now. I was having a baby. The world that I so foolishly thought revolved around me just got itself a moon. Naively, or stupidly, I felt somewhat prepared. Growing up with 5 other siblings, babysitting for other large families that we considered an extension of our own. I had the mechanics down. Diapers, late nights, no big deal. And I’m sure the whole nurturing a human being thing would come in time, right? While I was aware that things would be changing, I clearly did not realize that I needed to change the most.
It wasn’t until my second trimester that I really started to struggle with the changes pregnancy brought. It was gradual. A bump forming across my mid-section. Aches and pains. Sickness. Nothing unusual, but not usual for me. My body was changing in ways that I had no power to control. I was quickly learning that having this baby was going to involve more then mere mechanics.
As my symptoms progressed, so did my anxieties. And the findings on my 20 week sonogram were not comforting. A marker for a potential chromosome problem surfaced and it rocked my routine little world.
What had I done? Was it that cold cut sandwich I had in month 2? I never really took those damn prenatal vitamins seriously. My child wasn’t even born yet and the parental worries were raging! But the truth was, I knew better. This was not my fault. And I accepted it. This child already had my unconditional love and nothing would change that.
Things settled down for a bit, but I was weary. Sore, swollen, working long hours, eating more food than in my freshman year of college. I felt my old life, my familiar life, the life that I knew and could predict, slipping away.
Not long after, another suspicious finding on a sonogram surfaced. A potential tumor on the back of our baby’s neck. What could I do? Why was this happening? I was so helpless. Powerless to protect the child within me. Once again, I swallowed the hard pill.
A few weeks later, it was time. Baby was coming. But I had one last lesson to learn. The doctor said baby’s heart rate was not perfect. When it came time to push, everything came to an abrupt stop. Her heart rate had dropped and wasn’t recovering. I was having an emergency c-section.
This was the apex of my journey. My perfect vision of pregnancy, a natural delivery, was shattered. And I understood. This was totally out of my hands. All the memorized statistics and pregnancy prep books in the world could not have prepared me for any of this. The stress. The worry. The anxiety. All that I could do was breathe and do the best that I possibly could.
A few hours later I was holding my beautiful baby girl, with a lovely patch of hair near the nape of her neck (stupid sonographer and her “tumor”). I felt the imaginary strings linking my baby’s heart and mine. I was 99% sure the doctor had sown my heart up into my throat during the procedure. I was overflowing with love and joy!
Moral of this pregnancy war story: the majority of the scenarios we stress about in our day-to-day, or even on extraordinary days, never actually come to be. As a young, healthy woman, I had looked forward to an uneventful pregnancy. But the obstacles had made me better. Prepared me to be a better mother to my child. Because sometimes we have no control over a situation. Sometimes we didn’t do anything wrong. Sometimes we can read all the books, and take all the classes, and still fall on our backs. But the circumstances are temporary. Stress and anxiety will all pass. What makes a lasting impression is our behavior, our reaction. We can only handle what is given to us with poise, grace, understanding, and hope.
The 9 month journey had ended for me. And I had changed. For the better. I had known from the start that my life was going to change but little did I know that 9 months would change my entire outlook on life. The strung out college grad had to put the brakes on hard but I’m so glad (and blessed) that I did.