This post has been incredibly tender to write, but I believe in authenticity, always. I believe it better to be known than portray an incomplete version of myself.
I’ve always dreamed of being a mother. In hopes and plans for the future, I never imagined a life without kids. I remember crying to my then-husband, confiding that I felt a strange jealousy when our mutual friends were getting pregnant, because our relationship wasn’t at that point, and I always thought we’d be in those chapters at the same time. When we divorced and the decade dream of having children together was gone, I still didn’t rule out children. I turned one of my savings accounts into an adoption fund and started saving faithfully.
I imagined pregnancy to be joyous from the moment I would find out, to feel confident in my newfound glowing skin, finally embracing the stomach I always hated myself for. I imagined taking pictures each week to document the bump, growing snugly. Since I already don’t drink coffee, I imagined giving up my beloved red wine as the only major caveat. I imagined making pregnancy look as effortless as you see celebrities like Blake Lively achieve.
I found out I was pregnant in March, shortly before heading to Europe on a two week, five city exploration. I stared at the test as the two lines appeared, whispered our baby name, and cried in the bathroom. The tears, one would assume, would be those of happy, I-cant-believe-this-dream is being realized, emotion. I wish I could tell you that’s what it was.
Our plan wasn’t to wait until we were married, but we hadn’t planned to start trying until September. The plan was to have a summer baby, in which baby and I would be able to enjoy the sunshine, with options to go for a warm walk around the lake or work in the salsa garden during nap time, without clearing snow or bearing through a dreary, gray day cooped up inside until what little daylight there was decided to give up at 4:30 p.m. Truthfully, I’m scared of the winter, of the cold, of the dark, and I have strong feelings post-partum depression could hit me harder during those months.
Selfishly, I was also looking forward to European wines, as well as two wine trips planned with friends back in Northern Michigan during the Spring. Wine tasting is something of a sport to me and I take it seriously. I was looking forward to a summer of working out, happy hours, visiting with my sisters in Cape Cod, grilling out with friends, finishing a few projects with the house, and mastering my newer job. This summer was to be a bucket list of activities and dreams before deciding on starting a family.
Within the week we found out, two couples close to us confided that they each suffered miscarriages. Their babies would’ve been born just weeks before ours. They had each been trying, praying, and planning for the addition to their family, and were devastated by the loss, rightly so. This pain takes residence in people, and because we care deeply about them, their pain matters greatly to us too.
I felt enormous guilt that it was so easy for me to get pregnant, that we weren’t even trying, that my reaction wasn’t pure joy, when so many of my friends are struggling with fertility. They’re crying in the bathroom each month staring at just the one line, trying medicines, and shots, and IVF. They’re mourning the physical and emotional fallout of miscarriage, and they’re angry at their bodies. And at the very same time, I was angry at my body for betraying me, for getting pregnant when I didn’t want to be. At best, I felt ungrateful, and my worst during the first trimester was much, much uglier.
The first trimester was incredibly hard on me emotionally and physically. There’s a level of exhaustion that crept its way in like a heavy fog that didn’t totally dissipate until week 18. On good days, I threw up once or twice. On my worst days, I threw up 12-20 times, pulling over on the highway, running from the bed to the bathroom, or hugging public toilets in major cities as flies buzzed around the warm, wet bathroom. I didn’t even have the energy to produce tears.
I lost a significant enough amount of weight that my doctor put me on IVs filled with antinausea medication and fluids to make it stay down. At $153 a visit, I emptied one of my retirement accounts to keep up with my new expensive habit which also took 90 minutes out of my day. I excused myself from nearly all social events, opting for the couch, or my bed. I missed out on social engagements I looked forward to, and felt I let my friends down, all while keeping my pregnancy a secret to most, not ready to share, not yet feeling excited about our growing family.
The first trimester was hard on our relationship. My fiancé was thrilled from the moment I told him, which made it hard to comprehend or share my polarizing emotions. He often felt helpless, just wanting me to feel better, to eat something, to be able to offer something that would magically work. He would stand nearby the bathroom, ready with a cold washcloth for my forehead and a Gatorade, and would tuck me into bed, sometimes as early as 7:30. I am so incredibly grateful to have an amazing partner: patient, kind, helpful.
My sister gave birth to her first born, Lily, in May. Her pregnancy was physically great, but it was incredibly difficult to witness the lack of support, excitement, and celebration my family had for her. Christie and I attempted to pick up the slack, to generate excitement, and to do everything we could ourselves, but our efforts didn’t mask what was missing. Knowing I was also pregnant made me reluctant to share our news, and sad to need to emotionally prepare for a lack of support and celebration as well.
When we began to share the news with family and friends, there were comments that got under my skin, the kind that are hard to ignore, and more difficult to forget. Fortunately, our relationship has only grown stronger through each one of them. Our path may not be traditional, but our commitment and love is strong as ever.
When we were able to hear the heartbeat and see our baby’s image projected on the wall, kicking and wiggling, it started to change things in me emotionally. The baby was real, the heartbeat was strong, and this baby wasn’t leaving me. The part of me that fears abandonment and loss so much, I realized, was holding me back to the point I couldn’t bear to get excited about the baby until I knew it was certain.
The first trimester was incredibly tough for me, physically and emotionally. It’s a period of time I know I’d like to gloss over, to forget, to pretend it didn’t happen, but I don’t feel right about that. Perhaps by sharing my experience, someone else will find connection, to know its ok to feel this way, and to know that it gets better in time, just as life always does.
We’re starting to plan the nursery, gender neutral with grays and whites, and I’ve had a lot of fun looking at little outfits for our baby.
This experience has been a different journey than the one I expected, but it has been beautiful in its own way. And as I sit here to write this, feeling the kicks, there’s no mistaking the tears in my eyes come from happy, I-can’t-believe-this-dream is being realized, emotion.