Fear, Faith and Cankles: A Pregnancy Story

Me (all 38 weeks of me), earlier this weekYou know how pop culture tells you pregnancy is a 9-month-long affair?

Pop culture is full of shit.

Your due date is set for week 40 of your pregnancy. 40 weeks, divided by 4 weeks a month… that’s 10 months. Yep.

I’m currently in the middle of week 38. And at this point, pregnancy has turned into a waiting game. When will she make her appearance? Today? Tomorrow? In 4 weeks? (Docs usually wait til week 42 to induce labor, barring any complications.)

Here’s the thing: Patience has never been my strong suit.

But I gotta say, I think I’ve been pretty fucking heroic in terms of patience these past few weeks, amidst increasing physical discomfort. Really, at this point, pregnancy just starts to feel like one indignity after another. To wit: I’ve previously mentioned my middle-of-the-night crab-walks to the bathroom; well, they’re only getting worse. The pain is excruciating — truly, searing pain from the pressure on my bladder, to the point that I’m afraid I won’t be able to walk the five feet to the bathroom and will need Jordan to bring me a chamber pot or something. (Note: We do not own a chamber pot.)

Chamber pot: not on our registryAdd to that: feet and ankles that are fat and swollen (the only shoes that fit these days are flip flops); dull pain in my left hip and thigh that makes it impossible to lie on my left side (sciatica?); a belly so itchy you’d think it was covered in poison ivy; and, lately, recurring (mild) headaches. Walking around the block exhausts me, and I gave up on the subway a few weeks back because the stairs were just killing me — so now we’re slowly spending our life savings on cabs to and from Manhattan for our weekly doctor’s appointments. Oh, and I snore so loudly that Jordan needs to wear ear plugs in order to sleep.

 Hooray! The miracle of life!

Now, I know I sound negative, but I’ve actually been pretty Zen about all this. I don’t constantly feel sorry for myself or complain. First, I’m grateful that she’s healthy, and I’m healthy — I’ll take discomfort over serious health issues any day. Second, my friend Katie advised me to think about this phase of pregnancy (and labor… and new-parenthood…) as a yoga practice, and that metaphor really works for me: These discomforts are like challenging yoga poses, and I need to breathe my way through them, rather than fight them, resent them, hate them. Kicking and screaming just exhausts you and makes you unhappy. Giving up — well, you can opt out of a difficult pose in yoga class, but there’s no opting out of the reality of my body these days. Acceptance, while difficult, is really the only path forward. That said, as with a difficult yoga pose — you can and should certainly make adjustments, and breathe, to find equanimity; suffering is not the goal. The goal is to be able to coexist peacefully with discomfort, and maybe to discover potential and abilities you didn’t know you had. And if I can do that now, my chances of doing it during labor, and as a new mom, are bound to increase.

Also, as much as I want the Hirschling to make her grand debut, so that (a) I can finally meet her! and hold her! and (b) I can end the discomfort of pregnancy, I also realize that as soon as she comes, I will miss this. There is a sweetness to these days, and sometimes it’s hard to see beneath all the discomfort, but — Jordan and I will never be on the verge of having our first baby, ever again. We are on the cusp of something huge, and when we look back, from the other side, it will be hard to remember what it felt like.

It feels like: Let’s go on a lot of dates, even though it means springing for a taxi or taking two buses to get to our destination, since I can’t take the subway. Let’s cook dinner and eat it with Cosmo lying on his spot on the carpet, waiting for permission to get up and sniff for any crumbs we might have dropped. Let’s watch multiple episodes of “Parks and Recreation” or “Bored to Death” or “Breaking Bad” and eat ice cream (well, Stonyfield organic frozen yogurt) on the couch. Let’s sit on the deck and listen to the rain on the roof. Let’s read in bed, with Cosmo at our feet, until we tell him it’s time for bed, at which point, he dutifully climbs down the pet stairs to his dog bed, below.

Let’s try to relax, as terrified as we are, as excited as we are, as expectant as we are.

“Expectant” is the right word; truly, it’s not just me that’s pregnant — our lives are pregnant. With anticipation. With wondering. We’re scared of the change ahead of us, no matter how many workshops we may teach on rolling with the punches. We know we’ll roll — it’s what we do, and we probably do it better than most…not that it’s a competition, but it’s a strength we have, as a couple.

But — what we’ve had for these almost-13 years of marriage, and these almost-18 years of being together, is so special, and we’re worried that she will jeopardize that. That having a child will jeopardize our freedom to pursue our creative interests, our passion for travel, our need for down time.

We embarked on this journey because — well, for a lot of reasons, that are hard to sum up in a sentence, or two, or three. And now, with my due date just over a week away… it’s like staring down a path that curves, and you can’t see around the bend, no matter how much you strain; and you can’t help straining to see, no matter how much you realize that straining is silly… that it’s just a matter of taking a step, and then another, and another.

Other travelers tell you what they’ve seen, but their words don’t conjure your own journey; you know you’ll see something different, through your own eyes. That the terrain will feel different, under your feet.

And you worry: what dangers might there be? Maybe you should have stayed home, should have avoided this journey altogether.

(That is a hard thing to write. It makes me feel like a bad person. But it’s the truth.)

And then — she kicks, and our faces light up, and metaphors melt away. Fear and doubt melt away. She isn’t an abstraction — she’s… her. And I am overcome with yearning — the yearning to HOLD her, after all this time. And a feeling of peace comes over me, the peace that comes from faith… my deep and abiding faith in anything that grows from our love.

And so… we wait.

Chamber pot photo by Flickr user Walter Aue. All other photos are by Jordan or me.

7 thoughts on “Fear, Faith and Cankles: A Pregnancy Story

  1. Hey Amanda (and Jordan too),I know I've said this before, but hang in there. Cosmina will come in her own time. As for the fear that having a child will jeopardize the identity that you have together, my thought is that it will all be in how you approach the journey. I have seen so many people I know, or am related to, etc. have a kid, and suddenly everything about them changes. It doesn't have to be so. Somewhere in the middle of all the things Katie was reading before Del came was a blogger who mentioned that "their child joined them, not the other way around.". That made sense to me, and I have held it in mind over the last few months as we have settled into parenthood.Yes, having a baby changes a lot. We haven't been out to a movie in a while, and Katie quit her fundraising job, and we moved to save some money. At the same time, I've managed to continue taking improv classes in NY, Katie is finally working on becoming a full-time photographer, and we have managed to remain the same goofy, nerdy people we have always been. I guess I would say that Del requires accommodation in our lifestyle, but not a curtailing of or radical alteration to the things that make up our sense of self-identity. Likewise, the fact that we continue to be who we are will hopefully teach him to be a less narcissistic person than many seem to be raising these days, and that part of knowing who you are in life is finding where you fit in relation to others.The birth of your child can be the continuation of your journey together, if you're willing to take her on as a fellow traveler, and I can hardly imagine people better equipped to approach parenting from that angle.

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  2. Amanda,This time you are in (being 3rd trimester pregnant) and the first couple months of the babies arrival will be the most extreme of your life. Right now, it's more physical extremes (pain, comfort, getting from point A to point B very slowly). But when the baby comes it's emotional extreme (lack of sleep, hormones like you have never seen, unimaginable joy and love, etc.). If you both can get through that time, you can get through anything. It gets better. Physically you start to feel better, after the baby's born. It may take a couple of days or weeks, but you will finally be able to sleep on your left and right side and even your back and stomach again! Your body adjusts to the lack of sleep, so only sleeping 2-3 hours at a time starts to feel normal. Then after a few months your baby will start to sleep at 4-5 hours at night! Then at about 4-6 months you can start a sleep schedule with the baby and they may start to sleep 9-11 hours straight at night!!! Then the baby learns to sit up, crawl and entertain themselves, so you don't have to constantly hold them when they are awake.My point is, not to scare you, but to let you know that at times you may think, "My God this baby takes all my time. I don't remember the last time I slowly ate a meal. How will I ever have a life again." But, you will have a life again. The more independent your baby becomes (over weeks and months and years) you will one day be able to take a slow shower or cook and sit down to eat a meal or get a full nights sleep or spend time browsing the internet or countless other things everyone takes for granted until they have a baby. You may think you won't be able to have a life again, but you will. Your baby will not be a newborn forever. The reason all new parents can only talk about their babies is because that really is their life. That newborn or young baby takes up all their time. Then, one day, you go back to work or your baby starts to play independently, and you get time to yourself again. And you can finally have normal adult conversations again because you finally can interact with other adults and keep up with the news and enter back into the real world and not have it be all about the baby world.So, yes, it will affect your marriage. But I have a feeling it will affect it in a positive way. If you both can work together, you can raise a baby. Yes, you won't have a life for a while because it will all be about the baby (she won't have it any other way), but in a few weeks/months you will start to get that outside life back. And yes, it's very hard at times (breaking point hard), but you learn, grow become strong (physically and emotionally) and finally understand what true love is all about. You and Jordan's life is about to change and no amount of planning/preparation is going to give you any idea how much. But, the best advice I can give is just learn to go with the flow, don't get your heart set on anything because your baby will do the opposite and realize the craziness slowly eases over time.

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  3. You're right to be proud of this. It's a wonderful post, and brings some fond memories to me, when my now 22 year old girl was still in utero, and a newborn, and taking those first steps….The love you two have shared will be there, it will get stronger, it will be a model for your precious daughter, and it will be the glue that holds your family together. For once, an advertising campaign got it right when Gerber states that "A Baby Changes Everything." And it's in a good way. Embrace the journey. And take pictures. 🙂

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  4. Thank you everyone, so much, for these incredibly thoughtful comments!Zach – I love the idea of embracing her as a "fellow traveler"… and we really admire how much you and Katie are still obviously "you," even just a few mos. in, so it's reassuring to hear your perspective. Anne – thank you for the reassurance that after an initial period when she will demand everything of me, life will not have to always be 100% about baby and mommyhood. And Mark, thank you… I like thinking of our love as the glue that will hold our family together :)Thank you all!

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  5. I agree with both Anne and Zach – though their perspectives are very different. The biggest difference is that Zach is a father and Anne is a mother. Being the mother is a profoundly different experience, I think. Your child is IN you, will come OUT of you, and will depend physically on your body for a long time to come (YES! Breastfeeding is what human bodies need to do!) . Anne is very right – for a time all you'll be able to talk or think about for MOST of your concious hours are baby-related things. But not because you've lost your identity – it happens because you're taking an immersion course in a new culture and language. You wouldn't move to Paris then bemoan how you just never talk English anymore —- NO WAY! You'd celebrate your new fluency in French and all things French and marvel at how you've learned to tell Burgundy from Cotes du Rhone with a single whiff and how you can find your way through the streets without getting lost anymore. Becoming a mom is like that. Eventually you will talk "English" again, but let the You that you know immerse herself in the new thing. You really have no choice anyway, your biology will demand it of you and your baby will reward you for yielding to it. I am about to write more on my own blog – there's a theme developing in my mind I need to work out. Till then, you're on my mind and I am very happy to get to share this time with you, albeit from too far away.

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  6. I am in awe of you and the mothers I know (Katie & Letty included in that list). You allow your bodies to become a vessel & serve another life – whether in the "normal" pregnancy sense or in the cankles & chamberpot, or in the spend two months in the hospital laying at a 45 degree angle sense. It's truly inspiring and I cannot imagine how it feels. And I know you're all good parents whose kids are lucky to have you. I do really identify with you on the 13 years of marriage (us, too!) and 18 years of being together (20 for us this year) that will undergo a major change. Katie's words are comforting in that she & Zach are not totally different people. But it's surely an adjustment.Parenthood is something that deeply terrifies me, mostly because of the idea of identity loss. I guess I don't do anything halfway, and I feel like I'd have to give up on everything else to dump myself into the mom role. And I'd worry. Oh holy crap I'd worry. Then again, it's not something I ever felt a big yearning for, so I guess I'm all right. ;)I am looking forward to hearing about your daughter's arrival & how your journey continues.

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