In the valley of the shadow of birth

25 January 2022

8:28 AM

25 January 2022

8:28 AM

I was five weeks pregnant when I found out. At that point, it’s nothing more than a little gestational sac of potential. My ob-gyn informed me it wasn’t technically viable and, given my age and history — I’d had an ectopic pregnancy in 2019—not to get my hopes up.

“How do I make it stick?” I asked.

“Honey, if I knew the answer to that I’d be a billionaire with a private island,” she said.

“Yes, yes of course.” I felt stupid.

It was seeing that sac for the first time that I felt the stirrings of a longing in my heart that terrified me. It still terrifies me. In fact, it has always terrified me. Still in shock and trying to guard my heart, I kept repeating psychotically, nervously, “Well, we’ll see!” I couldn’t admit to myself that I wanted the baby more than anything and that I would be devastated if anything happened to that little sac.

At six and a half weeks, the baby was as big as a sweet pea. Although I couldn’t hear the heartbeat yet, they could see it. The sac was progressing and although the bond between me and the sac with the heartbeat strengthened, I still couldn’t process what was happening.

I’d never envisioned myself walking down the aisle in a white dress with a veil. In the same way, I’d never fantasized about pushing a baby out of me or raising children. When relatives and friends talked about their pregnancies, my eyes would glaze over.

In fact, until I met my husband, one of the only reasons I’d wanted a child was just for the experience of pregnancy and childbirth. It was something I was curious about in the same way I was curious about what it was like to go to Burning Man or what it felt like to get a tattoo — and, unlike a tattoo, a child is a permanent commitment. Needless to say, until recently I had avoided both tattoos and children. (I have been to Burning Man, because of course I have.)

It was apparent to me my reasons were entirely selfish, primal and immature. And at forty-two years old, even though I was finally with a man I loved and could see being a great father, I’d accepted that carrying a child wasn’t in the cards for me. We decided that we would rather travel and save money than spend it on very long-shot, very expensive IVF cycles. So we let it go. But as the saying goes: Man plans and God laughs.

Aside from the actual pregnancy itself, there are many other things I didn’t expect about pregnancy. Things that happen to the body. Things that happen to the mind. I didn’t realize that suddenly everyone has an opinion about everything. What kind of birth you should have, the best onesies, the best things for teething. Get the booster. Don’t get the booster. In Los Angeles, the natural progression of basic-bitch aging means you go from all your girlfriends knowing someone “you just have to see for Botox” to “OMG, I know the best doula, you have to reach out to her.”

In these moments, I wished I had paid more attention to the wise women in my life when they talked about their pregnancies, their labor, their morning sickness, their doctors and doulas, and the millions of things you learn and decisions you make when suddenly there is another life growing inside of you. If only I had hung on their every word and pored over their birth-story Facebook posts instead of being so interminably selfish, I would perhaps be able to comprehend what was happening and know what to do.

But pregnancy revealed that I didn’t know anything. I didn’t even know my blood type. Could I work out? Could I have sex? How many genetic tests do I need? What exactly is a placenta? In the first trimester, my hormones were so unmanageable it triggered bad memories of psychedelic trips. And just like a bad trip, I felt out of control and nauseous. Would I ever be able to eat red meat again? Never before have there been so many resources available to the mommy-to-be. Never have I felt so unprepared and uninformed no matter how much I read.

All of this is background noise as the weeks go by and the tests and scans keep coming. I wondered who on earth would do this more than once. At the time of writing this, it’s Week 23 and the mantra in my heart and head continues to get louder: “I hope she’s okay down there.” At some point it dawned on me that this mantra was never going to go away so long as this pregnancy continues and beyond. It will be with me forever. It’s what I’ve run from, terrified of loving anything as much as I love this little being inside me. It’s taken me weeks to understand that what I’m feeling — it’s motherhood, already begun.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s February 2022 World edition. 

The post In the valley of the shadow of birth appeared first on The Spectator World.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments