You know when you hit that stride as a mother when you’re happy and content to have moved past the baby years?
When you can hold someone else’s baby, smile and coo at it, and then when it starts to cry, gladly hand it back with no reservations or aching in your womb whatsoever?
A year and a half ago, I was there. Totally there. With my brood of three kids five and under, I was feeling good. Great, even. The kids were reaching new and independent ages, 2 out of 3 of them could almost always wipe their own butts, and after weaning my youngest, I relished the freedom that was having my body all to myself again.
My husband and I felt renewed, like we were coming up for a gorgeous breath of fresh air after a long winter. “No more babies for us for a while!” we declared with a giddy laugh. “Mama’s taking a break!”
Of course, you can probably guess what’s coming, much as I did with a sudden, stomach-dropping realization when I found myself exhausted, nauseous, and inexplicably furious at the incredibly rude person who cut me off at the grocery store early last December.
I spent the first half of my fourth pregnancy bemoaning the fact that I was pregnant, a little embarrassed for getting knocked up after declaring myself on pregnancy hiatus, and generally terrified of what was to come. How in the world would I handle four kids?!
I eventually came to my senses, of course. After properly chastising myself for any resentment over a gift so many longed for, I tried to embrace my pregnancy. But it was hard. Despite my repeated vows to have a fit pregnancy by dragging myself to aerobics classes, where I mostly tried not to pee my pants during the intense jumping jack portion of the evening, I ballooned up everywhere.
At 30 weeks, my doctor peered over my massive stomach with a look of concern on her face. “Hmmm,” she commented. “It looks like you’re measuring 40 weeks already. We’re going to have to run a few tests.”
After I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios, the “excessive accumulation of amniotic fluid,” (which, my doctor cheerfully noted was “the worst she’d seen in 23 years!”), I had to spend the remaining 2 months of my pregnancy dragging what felt like a full-term belly around. I tried to stay positive, but holy crap I was enormous. Just rolling over in bed felt like a monumental effort that I simply couldn’t muster up the motivation to attempt. I simultaneously wished for my pregnancy to be over but dreaded diving back into the newborn stage. I honestly couldn’t fathom going without sleep again.
I found myself in a strange sort of miserable pregnancy limbo and when my doctor announced that she would recommend an induction at 37 weeks, I was shocked. But! I wasn’t ready! I needed to feel that excitement to meet my baby first! I hadn’t even made a pan of lasagna! I alternated between feeling giddy for practically getting handed a get-out-of-the-last-month-of-pregnancy-free card and worrying about everything that could go wrong with an induction so early.
After consulting with a nurse-midwife in our family, we decided to go through with the induction, but I still went into it in the worst possible mental state ever. Basically, I was terrified and much like when I found out I was pregnant, I just didn’t feel ready. I was panicked and resisted every step of the way — even 14 hours later when my doctor suggested I give a “practice” push “just for fun” and my baby came flying out, I replied, “What? Really? Now? Are you sure?”
Of course, this story has a happy ending and everyone was healthy and our daughter is, quite simply, a complete joy in our lives. Honestly, she is the world’s most perfect baby and she lights up our household in the most unbelievable way. But looking back to the whole duration of my pregnancy with her, I can’t help but feel disappointed in myself for how it all went down.
I acted like a whiny, spoiled little brat dragging her swollen feet through what should have been a joyous time. Instead of a healthy pregnancy, I had complications, tests, and twice-weekly hospital visits. While I dreamed of a natural labor and maybe even a home birth, I instead had every intervention under the sun and felt completely out of control of my own labor and birth experience.
Nothing about my fourth pregnancy went as I had hoped — it happened faster than I had planned for and I spent the entire duration trying to catch up to the reality that once again, my plans for my life didn’t add up.
It sounds silly, but part of me still wants to experience another “last” pregnancy just to give myself another chance to do things right. I want a break to get back in shape, to give my body a break, to have older children, to slow down our lives a little bit — and then spoil the heck out of another baby.
I want to relish the experience of my last pregnancy and my last baby. The past year and a half has flown by so fast that I feel like I’m still reeling from it. Of course, I wouldn’t change anything and I am humbled and grateful that my daughter is here despite my feet-dragging, but part of me still longs for a chance to have just one last shot at experiencing the miracle of pregnancy, birth, and a brand-new baby.
Minus the larger-than-life stomach. I would gladly do without that the next time around.More On