I don’t feel like a mother yet.
Some people feel like they’re born to be mothers; I was never one of those people. My desire for children was more complicated than that.
We felt the baby’s first kicks at week eighteen. It was pretty surreal, to feel that faint flutter of life for the first time. After a large meal consisting of burgers and milkshake, what felt like delicate bubbles popping began to tickle my full middle. My husband, his hand serendipitously on my belly for an affectionate pat, felt it first, even before I did. This doesn’t surprise me.
“I just felt it kick!” he exclaimed.
“No, you didn’t, that’s gas…oh wait! Oh! Now it’s kicking!”
The baby’s been rolling around and bopping my bladder, my abdomen, and whatever else is in there for about five weeks now, growing gradually stronger with each week. He gets especially active after I’ve eaten something sugary, or after coffee. He loves it when I drink coffee, and this makes me smile every time. I can tell that he sits at the right side, as my growing midsection swells more there, his tiny feet kicking downward and to the left, exploring his new continent that is me.
We discovered the baby’s sex at week nineteen, that unmistakable little protrusion telling me that I would be the mother to a little boy. My eyes widened at the screen, the little arrow the OB/GYN pointed at the pertinent anatomy. All I could say was, “Wow.”
“Congratulations! It’s a boy!” she chirped.
Did I know how to do this? What did I know about boys? What did I know about raising them to be men? I think I was in shock for at least two days, wandering around like a lost tourist in a foreign country.
Most of the time, if I’m being honest, being pregnant has been a certifiable nightmare. The initial nausea that prompted me to eat every hour or so, causing unanticipated first trimester weight gain; the insomnia that caused me to awaken at four a.m. on the dot for months, unable to fall back asleep; the perpetual cold I keep catching like a round of bad luck at the craps table. Walking, once my favorite pastime, has now become an ordeal of struggling to catch my breath and limping along as my tendons groan in sharp protest. Rolling over in bed? Forget it. Once I’m in a position, I’m stuck there until I haul myself out of it, wincing, at dawn. I always thought I’d be one of those super-healthy pregnant women who gained the minimum amount of weight, exercising as regularly as ever throughout. Ha. Like learning how to be a sober alcoholic, this new phase of life is all about letting go of expectations.
Dealing with the physicality of being pregnant is, I’m sure, part of the reason the reality of this pregnancy hasn’t sunk in yet. Who can focus on imminent delight when they cough so hard they accidently pee their pants? When their clothes no longer fit? When simple, everyday activities like going to work feel Herculean?
Right after my friend Sean died was when I felt my first moment of love for my baby. The previous three months were wrapped in a shroud of nausea and wondering if the embryo would stay put. While I wept for Sean inopportunely on the freeway on the way to work, I felt overpowered by a monumental urge to protect my new life, to bring him into the world Sean was leaving. Though I haven’t told anyone this, that’s when I knew I was having a boy—when I opened the floodgates of grief for the spirit of my friend departing the world. How’s that for some serious woo-shit?
But most of the time, I feel confused.
Who am I going to be when he arrives?
When will I find time to still be myself, as self-contained as I am?
What will happen to my career, my dreams, to which I’ve been devoted for more than a third of my life?
Am I going to be miserable in my new role being a tiny human’s caretaker?
Am I going to love it so much I’ll abandon myself?
Will I regret the decision to become a mother?
What will this do to my marriage, my friendships?
Will I still recognize myself?
I’m pretty positive many impending mothers feel this way, but they certainly don’t talk about it on message boards, which are basically just forums for joy. There’s no room there for uncertainty.
Therefore, when people ask me, “Are you excited?” I always answer, “Yes,” because I’m learning in casual discussions of motherhood there is no other answer. Nuance you save for your spouse, close friends and the whirling Charybdis in your mind.
Stay in there for a few more months, little guy. Though I don’t feel like a mother yet, I already want to meet you. I’m not certain about myself, but I’m certain about you.