Never in my life have I wished away summer. No, summers are magic to me, plain and simple. The ridiculously long hours of daylight, the way sun feels kissing your skin, dipping in cold water on a hot, hot day. I love the juicy peaches and nectarines and mouth-watering watermelons that only really taste right in summer months. I love windows down, summer sunsets, later bedtimes, barbeques, summer road trips, the tank tops and sundresses and flip-flops. Summer is my season. I rejoice when it arrives and mourn when it leaves.
But this summer was different.
When months ago the subject of baby #2 was discussed with slightly more than the usual casual mention, I knew one thing would be different about my second pregnancy. If all went well, it would be my last pregnancy. The last time I saw two pink lines, the last time I felt baby kicks, the last time I cradled a baby bump, the last time I gave birth. Which meant that I would make it my goal to soak in every tiny moment. To lock it away in a memory chest of a stage of life I would be permanently leaving behind.
The first time, I hadn’t even set the test down on the counter before the pregnant pink line appeared, faster than I ever imagined possible, darker than the box even said it would be. I was so deeply in shock that I stared at it for the full three minutes, convinced it was a mistake, hoping that pregnant line would disappear.
I was 27 and my wedding was a week away. I was 99% sure I wasn’t pregnant, but being three days late I had decided to take a test to will my period into coming sooner. I took it after I got home from work on a Wednesday, just another thing to check off the list before we did a final walk through at our wedding venue. I didn’t even take off my black highest high heels. There was no fear when I took that test, I was certain I wasn’t pregnant.
This time I am thirty. I take the test first thing when I wake up, tip-toeing barefoot in the bathroom to make sure I don’t wake our sleeping daughter. My hands shake so badly as I tear through the plastic-aluminum-y wrapper that I almost drop the test. My period isn’t due for another five days at the soonest – this is the earliest I could possibly know, according to the box of the same test I took three years ago.
I stare at the test and watch as the indicator line shows up, no sign of that dark pink pregnancy line anywhere. I stare a little longer and then start giving myself a pep-talk. Its too early anyway. I could still be pregnant. I can’t help but feel my heart drop though, as I flush the toilet and wash my hands and look at myself in the mirror. Deep breath. This is our first try. It will be ok.
I pick up the test to slide it back into the wrapper and I decide to look as close as possible one last time. I turn it towards the light, my hands still shaking, my heart still pounding.
That’s when I see it.
The faintest of faint lines, so light I’m not even sure its really there or more like one of those things you WANT to see, like Jesus’ face on a piece of toast. I set it down calmly and tiptoe into our bedroom. “Do you want to come take a look at this pregnancy test?” I whispered to my husband. His eyes lit up as he jumped out of bed and into the bathroom.
I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure if I really saw it.
And to be honest I can’t remember what he even said. I just remember his face, lit up with excitement.
He saw it too.
When we told people I was pregnant with Gia, it was big and dramatic and a good percentage of our friends and family burst into tears of joy. There were questions galore and enthusiasm that couldn’t be contained and constant check-ins.
My severe “morning” sickness made it impossible to keep the secret of baby #2 as long as we had hoped. The amount of canceling of activities and plans I have done during July and early August would be alarming if people didn’t know the reason behind it. Not a single tear of joy was shed at our news this time around. I was expecting that. A surprising amount of people didn’t even acknowledge what we had just told them, acting as if I had just told them I ate cereal this morning. Sometimes no congrats. Not even half-hearted congrats. Sorry, baby #2.
The nausea is all consuming. It is sunrise to sunset, unrelenting. I develop a deep and primal hatred for women who have never experienced it. I ask for reassurance from those I know will be sympathetic. I learn the best gift you can give to someone going through something is to validate without questioning. To validate without suggesting that you should be thankful. To validate without minimizing by saying there are worse things or it won’t last long or trying to fix it or but this is what you wanted. A friend sent me a text that made me cry – It’s the worst. There is seriously nothing worse, she wrote. And of course there are worse things. But what she said was what my heart was aching to hear.
While I thought I was sick with my daughter, this was no comparison. My days spent in earnest determination of JUST. NOT. PUKING. I felt like a smoggy cloud of depression was slowly setting over me, and I couldn’t see to the other side. It feels dramatic saying that, but the thought of one more day, let alone eight more weeks of this feeling, was enough to put me over the edge. I couldn’t do this. Not only was I not “relishing” the moment, I was actively hating it. I was descending into a feeling of hopelessness.
I felt angry, that weeks were passing where I was of no help to my husband or daughter. Every day was to just get through. Getting through it was an accomplishment in and of itself. There were a lot of tears. This was supposed to be the pregnancy where I enjoyed every minute, the one where I got to be one of those obnoxious pregnant women who just LOVES being pregnant. I hate you, I-love-being-pregnant-woman. I hate you in the most jealous of ways.
So I wished away this summer. I longed for falling leaves and a chill in the air which was equivalent to one word for me – RELIEF.
Relief has slowly crept in, in small doses here and there. The nausea lets up in severity, then surges back, then retreats a little, but it is always there, at the back of my throat. As I slowly emerge from the cloud I was under for the past couple months, I am coming to the realization that maybe there are some things in life that aren’t meant for enjoying. I can spend my time feeling guilty and berating myself for not celebrating every single day, or I can give myself the response that makes me finally feel like I can breathe again: This moment isn’t enjoyable. This stage isn’t fun, it isn’t pretty, it doesn’t feel anything remotely close to magical. I can drown in a sea of “should’s”: I should be thankful, I should look for the bright side, I should realize this is a short period of time, I should realize how lucky I am. But I wouldn’t say that to my best friend, so I’m not going to flood myself with that same shame.
So here I am, at the cusp of relief. Here I am, still hopeful there will be moments that will take my breath away (in a good way) over the remainder of my pregnancy. Here I am, finally realizing that maybe not every stage in life is meant to be enjoyed, but that we will later reap the rewards for having been through it. That one day we will look back on that stage and it will be so overshadowed with joy from our current lives that we are given the gift of forgetting what that stage actually felt like.
And to this baby, this little crazy miracle who is making my life more physically unpleasant than perhaps anything else has in my life – I love you with every single beat of my heart, already.
You are going to be so, so worth it.