I’m pregnant again. It’s early, and I’m not really telling people yet. But I’m taking a calculated risk in sharing the news with you, since I think not many people who know me read these columns. If you do know me, surprise! And please help me keep my sweet secret.
This pregnancy wasn’t exactly unplanned. But when we confirmed it was really happening, my joy was tempered with the cold smack of a reality check. While in many ways my first pregnancy was pretty easy and straightforward, there were lots of ups and downs.
My first trimester was the dead of winter, bleak January and February, and I felt profoundly tired. Waves of nausea came and went, but the bone-deep exhaustion was a constant. I would come home from the office and sprawl lengthwise on the sofa and stay there until bedtime. Over the two months that I felt this way, it wore on my husband and me. I felt useless…and guilty, that so many of the burdens of the household fell on him.
Then there was the third trimester, when I inflated like a blimp and filled the bed with pillows to help me keep comfortable as I tossed and turned, ensuring my husband didn’t sleep either. At the end, I felt less like a woman than I did an overstuffed delivery vehicle for my kicking and squirming future child. I also felt neurotic and moody as I experienced hormone surges and counted down the weeks and days, increasingly anxious to meet my baby.
Of course, there’s lots of joy and fun too. On balance, I loved being pregnant the first time. For every ache and inconvenience, there was the incredible knowledge that a person was growing inside me—that in the midst of feeling weak, I was accomplishing something powerful. And during the good days of the energetic second trimester, when I could feel the baby kick and see my belly swell with life as I went about my day, I felt truly unstoppable. Then too there was the hope and anticipation of a miracle whose arrival was getting closer by the day.
So with all that goodness ahead of me, I’m just sitting here struggling with the prospect of turning back into that unattractive, needy mess I felt I was for much of the first trimester and a good portion of the third as well. Bottom line, pregnancy provides many opportunities for my husband to see me at my worst and most needy. He’ll pick up my slack and soothe my soul and (if my last pregnancy is any indicator) probably clean up my barf.
And it’s not lost on me that he is exceptional for being willing to do all these things and I am truly blessed to have him. I have friends who had to negotiate the pains and pressures of pregnancy on their own because they are single mothers or because their husbands were disengaged or absent.
I’m reminded, therefore, of the vows that we made on our first day as a family: In sickness, and in health. At the time, I only thought I was promising to care for my husband through all seasons and in all conditions. Now I know I was committing to accept his care as well, even when it hurts my pride to do it. It’s still brutally humbling to surrender my independence and self-sufficiency and allow him to care for me when I can, it seems, offer so little in return. But I’ve come to see this pain I feel as part of the sacrifices that we are making together for our yet to be born child.
The months of pregnancy strip away the pretense and highlight the imperfections. They find me at my most vulnerable and stretch us both as we learn to love through difficulty. But the payoff of these labors of love–both mine and his–will be sweet indeed.