My husband José and I are expecting our third baby around the end of February. As I have just about 4 or 5 weeks left, I thought now would be a good time to reflect and share how things have been going, and some interesting inklings we’ve had about who our new child is going to be.
It has been over six years since I’ve been pregnant, so I knew what to expect, but I also forgot a lot of things. For one, I forgot how yucky morning sickness felt in the first trimester. I can’t help but wonder if we are biologically programmed to “forget” this! I also forgot how sacred this time can be for couples in bonding with the new life they have made together.
Renewed Hope and Renewed Commitments
This pregnancy was rocky at first, and as I have at many, many other times over the past eight years, I questioned the integrity of our marriage. But we’ve worked hard on our relationship over the past six months, and love won out.
I will never forget some of the most healing moments we’ve experienced together.
There was one day when we were just passing in the hallway and I stopped and asked José, “Do you really hate me for wanting to have another baby with you?” After a long pause he looked up at me. “No,” he blinked.
The closer we creep towards the big day, the more José has loved holding me and feeling our baby move. It is our third baby, but the first time José has been present with me during a pregnancy, and the first time ever he has felt his baby move in utero. (Our first baby gestated while we lived apart in Korea and our second baby gestated while he was deployed in Afghanistan). This morning José told me that he dreamed of the baby again. This pregnancy has been a very special bonding time for José and baby.
I don’t know if it is all the pregnancy hormones (probably), but I feel more in love with my husband than ever. We have come a long, long way in eight years and I am really proud of us. I am proud that we never gave up, even when everyone told us to. I am proud that we finally learned the secret of marriage: it’s fucking hard and it doesn’t get easier. Well, maybe it does eventually but I think it probably takes at least a decade to get there. And to get there we don’t have go anywhere. We just have to stay.
I’m proud of us but I also have to say that I am proud of José all by himself. He’s had a really hard life, and there have been plenty of times he wanted to give up on himself too.
José and our 6-year-old Lizzie have a thing together where Papi is Batman and Lizzie is Batgirl.
About a month ago Lizzie said to me, “Oh! I know why Papi is Batman! Because he never is smiling.”
Three years ago he was medically retired from the Army, and he was in the darkest place I have ever seen him in his life. He still goes back there sometimes, but now most days are better than others.
When someone you love is sick, you always think that they are going to be one of the survivors. You never think that they will still be sick in a year, two years, three years, forever. But when years go by and they are still sick, you finally start to lose hope. There were plenty of days when I started to wonder. Is he ever going to get better?
There were plenty of days when I lost hope. But our new baby has given my hope back to me again. Our baby isn’t born yet, but he has already given our family the gifts of hope, love, and joy. Hope is not the thing with feathers. Hope is the new thing who is not yet born.
When We Know Better We Do Better
Millennial parenting seems to bring into the picture of parenting so many new aspects of the experience of parenting that previous generations were not aware of. We are a hyper-conscious generation, intent on deconstructing every piece of advice and latent emotion lodged in the back of our brains. It can feel overwhelming, but like a magic eye picture, once our eyes focus and we see, I think we realize just how magical this new level of awareness truly can be.
As I type this now with my fat fingers (25% of women develop carpal tunnel during pregnancy), I feel a reminder in every little twinge of not only how far I’ve come in my marriage, but also how far I’ve come in my relationship with myself. I have never felt more powerful, more beautiful, or sexier before in my life, ever. I have reached a new height of confidence in my body, mind, and heart I didn’t know I would ever be capable of attaining.
I know that part of this newfound power has come from my decision to accept full responsibility for this pregnancy and birth, but some of it has also come from the knowledge I have gained from studying birth. Knowledge is empowering.
For the first time, I love every inch of my body, and I love being pregnant. I am of course anxious to meet our baby earth side, because after all, that impatience is part of this experience, as Maryn Green so wisely reminds us in When Will It Happen? Staying Present During the Weeks Before Birth. I am reminding myself every day that these last few weeks of pregnancy are precious. I want to enjoy them as much as I possibly can.
As I reflect on my pregnancy so far, I see that it has not been a time of deep emotional or spiritual reflection for me the way I imagined it might manifest. I haven’t had any dreams. I haven’t done any private journaling or taken up drawing mandalas of what my baby looks like in the womb. Rather, this has been a time of great learning. Last night I fell asleep listening to Maryn Green’s podcast on her Communication with Spirit Babies and I am starting to connect my experience with the soul (personhood) of the baby growing inside me as it unfolds.
Two Souls, One Body
Upon reflection, I remembered that when I was pregnant with Mia (8), I had an unquenchable urge to craft and create things with my hands. I cross stitched and knitted and taught myself to crochet and sew diapers during that pregnancy. Mia is now a budding young artist, and spends nearly all her free time between school paper crafting. We are nurturing her talent by bringing her to drawing class every week. I can only imagine what mediums she will discover as she continues to grow up.
When I was pregnant with Lizzie (6), I was deeply immersed in community commitments, and spent much of my time attending playdates and gatherings and hosting my own. I was teaching lots of cloth diapering 101 classes at the time and in the third trimester made the decision to close down my cloth diaper Etsy shop and instead to focus on growing my fledging 501(c)(3) nonprofit. I realized that helping parents learn how to cloth diaper and succeed in the endeavor was my primary motive. Nurturing my friendships and contributing to my community were my greatest passions, and I believe this shines out in Lizzie’s personality. I love it when I catch her talking to “a new friend” on the playground. She is quite sociable and just simply loves to have fun and be with people. She genuinely cares. We are planning on supporting Lizzie’s talents by registering her for the next session of group ice skating lessons at a local rink.
It is amazing to see how the girls’ personalities reflect so much of what I was involved with while we were one and the same: mama-baby. Earlier in this pregnancy I heard/read somewhere that pregnancy is the only time when there are two souls inhabiting one body. What a mind fuck.
In a very real way, this new baby has taught me everything I have learned, because he has empowered me to open my mind. José’s dream was that he was teaching our child something, and the child learned it really fast. I was not surprised. Learning and an intense love of learning are clearly very, very important to this soul.
I have learned far more during this pregnancy than during any pregnancy before this. My lust for knowledge has been ravenous. I have read over twenty books and listened to hundreds of podcasts. I literally can’t get enough. The more I read the more I want to read and I rarely want to stop and just lay in a hot tub and meditate. I’d rather keep reading.
The only reason I have listened to so many podcasts is because when I’m cleaning or driving or laying in the tub or laying in the dark in bed at night not sleeping, I can’t read, but my desire to continue learning overpowers me. I literally fall asleep every night listening to a podcast – learning until my very last waking moment – because it is the only way I seem to be able to fall asleep.
At this point, I feel depressed by what I have learned, but also enlightened and empowered. I’ve realized that the depth of knowledge that has come to me is not something that I can pass on or simply recommend to other pregnant women the way I want to. I can’t just say “Here, read this one book,” or write one blog post that explains it all. I would have to write a very long book of my own and even then, every disparate piece of information I have collected would not be represented.
Birth is an enigma to us because it is both extremely simple and extremely complex. On the one hand birth undisturbed is straightforward: a baby and his mother’s body know what to do to birth themselves, and there is not much we really need to know intellectually or do physically to help that process along. On the other hand, there are hundreds of physiologic applications for the dozens of different birth hormones that flood both mother and baby’s bodies during pregnancy and birth and postpartum, and misguided medical interventions complicate this delicate orchestration in literally thousands of different fucked up ways. For example, there are over 300 known uses for the hormone prolactin (Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, page 216). And that’s just the ones we know about.
A Great Love of Learning
While I know I cannot plan for every contingency, it feels good to be educated. I have been careful to temper my education with a healthy dose of “don’t know.” In Mindful Birthing, Nancy Bardacke reminds us on every other page just how important it is to keep this in check.
There are so many don’t knows in birth. On the one hand I am an advocate for free birth and for taking control of one’s own birth, but I also love that we can balance our confidence and autonomy with a wise recognition that we are never completely in control of our birth, because no one is ever completely in control – of anything. The birth also belongs to the baby and it also belongs to God/the universe/fate.
Not only are there are too many variables to expect to control all of them, but Birth herself is also simply a mercurial creature who manifests differently for us every time, and just gets a real kick out of surprises.
I can’t help but think that this soul I will be birthing with so soon has a great love of learning. Perpetual learning paired with thoughtful temperance has been the most striking theme of my pregnancy so far, at an intensity that I have never experienced before in my life. How this will manifest in the person he grows up to be is as yet a great unknown, and its gradual unfolding is one of parenthood’s great rewards – like a flower bud blooming into her full glory. But considering this new penchant, and how much of an avid learner José has been his entire life, I would not be surprised if our son/daughter ends up being a scientist someday! Or a professor or a researcher of some kind. It would not be at all surprising.
We are so excited to meet our new little one and get to know all about him outside of the womb, but it has been fun to receive these inklings. I hope that someday he/she will read this and know how deeply we have already fallen in love with his soul. How deep is our gratitude for his being in our lives, and how deeply we have cherished every minute of his experience with us in the womb. ❤