I wanted to cover something today that I feel is under-acknowledged by first-time (and maybe even other) moms: what it actually felt like to find out that I was pregnant. I hope that when Liv is older and stumbles upon this, or when someone mentions how I really felt about having a baby, she won’t believe it. I hope that I have loved her enough that she can’t imagine that I ever DIDN’T want her and have shown her enough love to make up for feeling the way I did at first.
I will forever be jealous of those moms who get to proudly carry their pregnancy tests to the father-to-be (or run wildly to him holding a still-wet stick that, in other circumstances, would be completely unacceptable) to announce their pregnancy. I had taken not one or two but FOUR rather expensive pregnancy tests that all came back negative before taking one at my new doctor’s office. Even if one had come up positive, though, there is no way I planned on parading it around or putting it in a shadow-box for the world to see, I probably would have buried it and waited until someone else noticed a sign of pregnancy and I could no longer deny it. What brought me to the doctor was my increased appetite coupled with mild nausea and some serious fatigue. I thought that maybe I had mono. No, I HOPED that I had mono or some other auto-immune disease, anything but pregnancy and I would have been okay… I just wanted to figure out what was wrong so that I could fix it.
When the nurse came in and said, “well, you’re pregnant, about 6-8 weeks,” I was in shock. Then, she asked me if the news she had given me was good or bad. After staring blankly at her for a minute, she quietly said, ” I guess it’s not good news.” I tried to respond as I held back my tears, tried to explain that having a baby just wasn’t what I was planning, that I had other ideas about how my life would go, that I would be okay but that I just needed some time. I’m not sure that any of those sentences actually came out of my mouth, though, and eventually I made my way to the pharmacy waiting room where I cried for 40 minutes waiting for a prescription that the nurse never actually ordered. I even cried to an elderly lady that made the mistake of looking at me for too long. I’m sure she said something helpful and wise, but I don’t remember it. After setting up an appointment at a nearby OBGYN, I left the clinic and headed off to find some way of telling my husband that we were having a baby… already. I knew that he would be excited, and I remember wishing that I could pretend to be excited for his sake.
I never found anything that I actually liked, not a piece of clothing, photo frame, card. Everything I touched seemed too “good” for the way I was feeling, too planned and happy. I looked for a baby 49ers jersey, an Army onesie, a card that maybe expressed a little bit more hesitation than joy, but I found nothing. I eventually settled on a lame “countdown to baby” desk calendar and overpaid for it, just so that I wouldn’t show up empty handed at my husband’s office. Telling Jason that I was pregnant was hard. His excitement did little to ease my resentment at this baby I didn’t plan for and, if I’m honest, didn’t really want. That day, I wrote the first “letter to baby” which is in my first blog post about being pregnant…and then I cried myself to sleep.
The next few days, maybe even weeks, were a little bit of a blur. I alternated between crying and freaking out over what would happen to my plans with the military (I eventually decided not to attend a three-month military course that would have had me stationed two hours from home. The distance, coupled with the fact that I had no idea how difficult the pregnancy would be on me, worried Jason, my unit and I). I felt like I had let the military down by being that “pregnant soldier” who got out of an obligation due to her own selfish mistake. I had always resented those females and couldn’t understand how you could be selfish enough to bring a baby into the world when you had an obligation to serve your country. It didn’t help that most of the females I knew who got pregnant did so to get out of a deployment, and even if that wasn’t the reason, it was the label they had to live with.
Being pregnant went against everything I believed in, especially because when I got pregnant, Jason and I were at a combined 7 on our “baby chart”. The imaginary chart had been something I’d been calculating for awhile…while Jason was always at a 10/10 for how much he wanted a baby, I hovered between a 2 and a 3. While 7 seems like a pretty decent number, I had gone from 5 to 2 within the course of a few months. If we’d waited any longer, I may have been at 0. But why? We were married, we had a house, I’d graduated college… all of the things I had wanted to check off on my list of pre-requisites for having a baby. I was selfish, am selfish, that’s why. I didn’t want to give up mornings to myself, shopping BY myself, picking up and taking off when I wanted to. These aren’t reasons not to have a baby, but I held onto them fiercely.
The part that is hardest for me to admit now, because it seems so at-odds with the way I feel presently (and I may be crying just typing it), is that there were points at which I did not care whether or not I lost the baby. I honestly believe that I would have been “okay” no matter what. I looked at all of the things I would be able to do if I wasn’t pregnant… go to school, travel! lose weight! drink my wine, EAT SUSHI!!! I had a running list of pros and cons, just to prepare myself in case something went wrong. The sad thing is, I had fewer pros for keeping the baby than I did for losing it. Wow, that is incredibly hard to admit, but I can’t pretend that it didn’t happen.
The rough part when you’re going through something like that is that you can’t admit it to anyone else. You think that your friends with children will judge you, your friends hoping to get pregnant will resent you (and you will resent yourself for being so selfish), your husband will want you declared insane and will hide the liquor for fear that you will start drinking and being reckless. Your single friends may understand a little bit more, and so you are careful who you tell, because you worry that voicing your fears out loud will somehow cause them to happen. It’s the reason moms don’t talk about their babies possibly being sick, having deformities or not being the cutest baby on the planet. Pregnancy, while it will eventually cause you to feel infinitely “whole” also has a way of making you feel like the loneliest person in the world. Pregnancy is simultaneously a community event and a deeply personal one and no one, not someone who has been there before or your husband (who, dammit, PUT YOU IN THIS PREDICAMENT) can feel the things you’re feeling. When you do finally open up to friends, you will find out that more of them felt this way than you thought, and that will make things easier, but it will take a long time before you can actually accept it.
It is easier to say these things now, because at some point, I knew my feelings towards the baby I didn’t want were changing. I starting worrying about the pains I was feeling, started rushing to the bathroom in fear over something being wrong instead of in the hopes of finding something wrong. The first ultrasound where we saw our little jelly-bean softened my heart a little bit, even though she looked like a sock puppet. I owe so much to my husband, who brought home “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and chocolate ice cream that first week, started reading books for expectant fathers and spoke quietly to my belly every night. For so long I couldn’t match his excitement and love and it ripped me apart. Eventually, where resentment and anger had existed, acceptance and love grew and I am a better person because of it. I can not imagine not having this little girl kicking or elbowing her way through my belly, wouldn’t trade the heartburn or headaches for sushi or wine. I used to be so critical of those mothers who got pregnant and wrote endlessly about being “so in love” with their babies that they “couldn’t stand it” and now I understand. Pregnancy changes you, and I am so glad that it happened to me. I’m not easy to surprise by any means, but Olivia has been the very best surprise of my life.