I am currently pregnant with my third child. I’ve taken all the classes, attended the appointments, and weathered the tests before. No one is holding my hand and explaining how labor and delivery will work, or reminding me each which by what fruit the baby is represented. If I remember correctly, it’s a raspberry this week. I am an old hat at the pregnancy thing: an expert. Or so I tell everyone, but the truth is even though I’m not due for seven more months I’ve already given birth to something, and it is a force to be reckoned with: fear.
It seems ridiculous to admit that after successfully, if not always gracefully, carrying two babies I am more scared today than I was with my first pregnancy. I planned everything meticulously with my first. I read books on getting pregnant, books on eating well during pregnancy, and books on natural childbirth. I could have taught the prenatal classes myself. I was both an expert and a novice, which I used to my advantage. I felt prepared for the things I knew were coming, and anything out of the ordinary I simply chalked up to my inexperience: “That seems odd, but I’m sure it’s normal.”
I never questioned my abilities as a future parent. Maybe had I known what I was getting myself into, I would have, but I didn’t. I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that no matter how many books I read I would never be prepared for the first time my baby pooped on me in the bathtub, puked in my hair, or screamed bloody murder so loud the neighbors called the cops. They should really send you home from the hospital with earplugs and a poncho. Screw the little teddy bear.
With this, my third pregnancy, I have no illusions about peaceful cherubs or restful naps while rocking my sleeping infant. My eyes are wide open and bloodshot. Yet I feel so utterly and hopelessly unprepared for this huge life-changing event unfolding before my ever-expanding body.
The moment the doubt and guilt of this unexpected pregnancy seeped into my mind and my heart, it set off a chain reaction of fear throughout my body. Suddenly I no longer trusted that each new pain or symptom was a normal and healthy part of pregnancy. Every ache pointed to some mysterious omen of disaster that explained the pit I’d felt in my stomach for weeks.
As if on cue, my body responded to the stress with an array of new and exciting tortures to convince me of my or the baby’s impending doom: head aches, high blood pressure, severe nausea, and fevers. I was in Hell, burning up from the inside, and I was terrified.
I sat in my first prenatal appointment, a bundle of nerves, wearing my worried heart on my sleeve, and a backwards gown with my backside flapping in the wind. I needed answers: Is the baby ok? Are the fevers normal? There aren’t twins in there, right? But of course, I received none. The midwife smiled at me from across the tiny exam room and congratulated me on my new baby. She told me not to worry, but I couldn’t even smile back. Instead I burst into tears, huge sobbing, unladylike tears: all the fear and guilt of the past few weeks pouring out of my eyes (and a little bit from my nose) as I wept into my backless gown.
Some veteran I am. Apparently I am shell-shocked.
I was so sure with my first two pregnancies that everything would be ok, and even when it wasn’t, even when the doctors induced me at 37 weeks for preeclampsia with my second baby, I never felt the fear. Until now. This may be my third pregnancy and my third baby, but it is my first experience with the bone-chilling, gut-wrenching fear that something is wrong.
So even though I’ve been through these stages of pregnancy before, I guess I could used a little extra hand-holding and someone to tell me that everything is going to be alright. Even an old pro sometimes needs a pep talk.