I am currently 38 weeks pregnant with my third baby, blissfully awaiting the little one’s arrival. My youngest was about 13 months old when I found out we were expecting again so I thought “well, I just did this – it’ll be a breeze.” And what a foolish thought that was! The physical, mental and emotional strain of this pregnancy have been unparalleled. I am in the homestretch now and sincerely overwhelmed with anticipation to meet our newest member but this certainly has not been the sentiment throughout my pregnancy.
To start off, this was a completely planned pregnancy. Almost freakishly so! My husband and I discussed that if we were having more children we would want them to be pretty close in age. And with not being quite sure about how many more we might want, we decided not to wait too long to try for the next one. This mama isn’t exactly a spring chicken and waiting too long may limit how many more babies we are able to make. Not to mention the fact that my first child was about to be a teenager and I’d really prefer to not still be cranking out newborns when my oldest baby is legally an adult. And so we planned. We considered how old our youngest would be when baby arrived. We looked at how we could best take advantage of my husband’s vacation and parental leave. We strategized on which due dates would give us the best shot at reusing the majority of my son’s clothes, which by no coincidence are mostly gender neutral for the purpose of recycling for future babies. I mean we really did some thorough brainstorming. So when I surprised my husband with that positive pregnancy test during our ideal conception timeframe, we were both ecstatic! When something that you plan for begins to unfold according to that plan it’s amazing…right?
Well, fast forward a few weeks to the onset of first trimester nausea and exhaustion. I have had a pretty rough first trimester with each of my preceding pregnancies. Or at least I thought I did until this one! I was completely miserable. I could barely lift my head off the pillow most mornings, let alone get out of bed and be productive. My husband would leave food and water bedside in case I never made it down to the kitchen. Somehow in all of our planning it never crossed my mind that this would be the first time that I was home with a toddler while pregnant. Sure, I was excited about not having to drag myself out of bed, commute to an office and pray that I didn’t vomit during a meeting. But I didn’t put much thought into what my days at home would be like.
I was home with a super active, exclusively breastfed one year old who could not care less about my nausea or exhaustion. Furthermore, one of the benefits of me staying home that we really took full advantage of was not having to put my son on a rigorous schedule. We really loved how flexible and spontaneous we could be and he thrived on going with our flow. Part of this happy-go-lucky approach to parenting meant that our son went to bed when we went to bed, which ranged anywhere from 10pm to midnight. This was great for my mornings since he would easily sleep until 9a or 10a. It was also great for my new need for midday naps – when he went down, I went down. After a while, it ended up not being so great for Mama’s sanity. Because we all know that toddlers are savages. They do what they want when they want and nothing more. So if baby wasn’t feeling like a nap, there was no nap and some days it felt impossible to keep up with him. I was always on duty. He was awake when I was awake so there was never a moment to myself. And even when my husband would get home and take over, I would still have to nurse him because he had never taken a bottle or cup and refused them. Plus I still had another child that needed attention, help with homework, hair care, food, etc. Sure she was old enough and capable of doing many things on her own but it was important to me to still be present and available so that she wouldn’t resent her siblings or me for continuing to create them. At this point, I was honestly forgetting that I was pregnant. I was so deep into survival mode that I could not even embrace and enjoy the miracle that was happening inside of me.
You may be wondering “why not ask for help?” – valid question. Believe it or not, I am an incredibly private and reserved person. I am happiest and most comfortable keeping the things that are important and special to me very close and quiet. Having a baby is a joyous occasion not just for mom and dad, but for all those who care about them. But I cherish having our own little secret for the first few months before we share the news with our circle. It is super important to me to have this time to embrace the gift with just my husband. So, it’s not something we were willing to compromise for help. Fortunately, moms being the intuitive creatures that they are, my mother has known I was pregnant long before I planned to tell her each time. Once she finally got me to confirm being with child she was quite helpful with the kids, giving me (and my husband) some much-needed breaks and rest.
Once we had reached the point in this pregnancy where we were comfortable sharing the news, it just felt different. I wasn’t looking forward to it – I almost dreaded it. When I tried to put my finger on why, I realized that I was a little bit ashamed. I was about to have two children under two and for some reason I was overwhelmed thinking about the potential for people to frown upon our decision. Would people assume it was unplanned? Even though our situation was a dream come true, I found myself far too concerned with what others may have been thinking. I started to ask myself: Was it too soon? Was this a bad idea? I’m barely managing the toddler while pregnant, what’s going to happen when a newborn is here? These thoughts made it difficult to connect with the life that was growing inside of me. So now I was also feeling guilty. Guilty for spending one second caring what anyone else thought. Guilty for being blessed with this gift and not being able to appreciate it. Guilty for not immediately bonding with this baby the way I had my other two the moment I knew they were inside of me. It took until I was basically halfway through the pregnancy for these feelings and thoughts to settle and to truly find the joy that I desperately wanted to feel.
Now that I was feeling better mentally and emotionally (surely due largely to the pregnancy hormones beginning to stabilize), enter the physical difficulty. Remember how we talked about this mama not being quite a spring chicken? Well, this pregnancy was reminding me of that more and more each day. I mean I’m not that old and much older women are having beautiful, painless pregnancies every day. The thing that was working against me is that I had the memory of having my first child at 19 years old and I whizzed through that pregnancy like nobody’s business. I barely felt all the extra weight I was carrying. I had absolutely no back pain. But my now 12 year older body was doing a great job of showing me the other extreme. It was a bit surprising because not only did I begin this pregnancy 20 pounds lighter than I did my last one but my nutrition was impeccable! I was the healthiest I have ever been in my life. But between my expanding belly and lifting, carrying, flipping, restraining a toddler all day, my body was taking a beating and I was feeling every lick. Not only was my body, particularly my back, constantly sore but the pain was making me feel extra fatigued. I had to do something! I knew that as much as I didn’t feel like it, I needed some formal exercise. Chasing a toddler absolutely counts but I wanted to try something that targeted stretching and strengthening specific areas. So I started doing yoga and the difference it made was mind-blowing. It gave me the guided physical stimulation I was looking for and some time to myself. I even started taking a class that got me out of the house, alone, once a week. I was finally beginning to feel like myself and enjoy the little one in my belly.
Though this pregnancy has been everything that I never expected, it has forced me to lookout for and be honest with myself on completely new levels. It is often said that every pregnancy and baby is different. Well I think that with each of her pregnancies, a woman becomes an entirely new mama and all the challenges and joys that she experiences make her exactly the mama that all her babies need.
What emotions did you experience in subsequent pregnancies? Did they go as you expected or were you surprised by the feelings that came up? Share below.