It’s a rainy morning here in Medicine Hat. Rainy and quiet – the kind of morning that inspires one to stay in pyjamas, sip creamy coffee slowly (yes, it is a cream-in type of morning), and curl up on the couch with a good book or crossword.
Or in my case, sit down at the computer and attempt to write a blog that I’ve been putting off writing for months now.
I don’t know why exactly I’ve been so daunted by writing about this topic, it’s a joy-filled one and something that makes me incredibly happy. Maybe it’s that its such a huge thing and I would hardly know where to begin such a blog post. Maybe I’m sort of feeling that my thoughts on the matter are hardly original or profound, so I’ve been waiting until I do have something unique to say, some big point to make. In any case, that hasn’t happened, I still don’t know where to begin exactly, but nonetheless I’ve decided it’s time to write.
Those of you who know real-life Jenae or have glanced at my Facebook page – or for that matter, have read the title of this post (which I will come up with later and which will probably give the nature of this little essay away) will know that I am now six months pregnant – 26 weeks exactly today, actually. In this past six months, I’m sure I worked through every emotion possible related to pregnancy and becoming a parent (sometimes lightning-fast too, much to Nathan’s bewilderment and chagrin). Mostly excitement and anticipation, but alongside that there was (and still is sometimes) those feelings of unpreparedness, inadequacy, and just sheer terror.
I remember the day I took “the test”. It was one of those “not trying, but not not trying”, “in God’s timing it’ll happen” scenarios, and I think a big part of me didn’t really think that it would happen yet, not us for awhile yet I’d sort of thought in the back of my head. Nonetheless, after waiting the appropriate amount of time, I peeked at the stick, and almost didn’t believe that I was seeing that faint blue plus sign in the little window! I think I must’ve double checked the instructions three or four times before showing Nathan.
“Well, turns out I’m pregnant,” I said to him. And then I began to cry. No, “bawl” is probably a more accurate description of what I did. I cried because I was so happy that I was going to be a mom, that Nathan and I were going to be parents! I cried because this meant that it would never again be just Nathan & I, that in nine months every freedom we’d had as young, relatively independent people was going to suddenly and rudely be taken away. I cried because I knew my life was about to change so radically, and though I knew this, I had no idea what that would really mean until it actually happened. I cried because the idea that Nathan and I – me! – had created a new life and this was so cool and so overwhelming, and I cried because – well, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you find out you’re going to be a parent?
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In those first months, I never got violently ill (thankfully!), but I was dreadfully tired all the time. I had mono in college, and that is what I would liken my first three months of being pregnant to – mono, but for three months instead of just one, and it’s kind of supposed to be a secret so not only do all you feel like doing is sleeping and eating whatever foods don’t gross you out, but you have to hide it from everyone else! I’d go through the school day and come home and crash, but I actually thought I’d done a pretty good job of being normal, until when I finally made the announcement, all (and I do mean each and every) of the older ladies I worked with said “we thought so! You were always yawning and eating and so pale!!” And I thought pregnancy was supposed to give you some sort of magical glow. Oh well. I guess “so pale” isn’t the least complimentary thing somebody could say (since then, I’ve had “you’re getting so huge!!!” and “look how you’re waddling already!”, which make me laugh a little because at any other time in life, in any other situation, those things would be so not appropriate to say to anybody. But I dont mind hearing them at all).
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This past spring, our Bible study went through Rob Bell’s somewhat controversial new book Love Wins. It talks a lot about Heaven and hell, how we read about them in that Bible and how we usually interpret and teach these topics. It was interesting, if not always particularly scholarly or en pointe (now Rob, is this something you just read into the text and thought sounded nice? Or is there an actual study somewhere where I could read more about this?), and in any case made me think about and evaluate what exactly it is I believe about what happens after death. We talked about how, in many of our growing up years, we felt like if we didn’t talk about Jesus to our friends right now, they could die and go to hell and it would be my fault. Now I don’t believe it was the intention of any of our parents to put this huge burden and potential guilt on our little shoulders, just a “side effect”, if you will, of the way evangelism was taught to us.
As we read our way through the book, I was struck time and time again with the thought “and I have to somehow figure out how to teach this to a child? Not only will I (and Nathan, of course) be responsible for this child’s physical health, but also (and just as importantly) the moral and spiritual health. I mean, Heaven and hell alone are huge, controversial, complicated subjects, but they’re not even the most poignant things! What if we do a bad job? What if we stress the wrong things? It would break my heart to have my child become bitter and disillusioned with Christianity because of misguided teaching, because we introduced her to a fraudulent version of Jesus. It’s an astronomically huge responsibility, and makes me feel very, very small, but I guess we’ve got a few years yet to figure that one out yet.
* * *
Bonding with my baby has been a bit of a process for me. I can’t say that “maternal” has ever been a real accurate personal descriptor. I like kids, but it’s only after they can walk and form complete sentences that I’ve ever really felt comfortable around them. Attempting to handle a newborn, I’ve always sort of felt like a gorilla attempting to play the violin – no real clue about how to hold it comfortably or keep it from screeching. I was actually sort of worried about this at first. When my belly began to swell, it did not fill me with any sort of sense of wonder or tender anticipation. No, instead, I had thoughts like “this looks more like a beer gut than a baby belly!”, “people are going to think I’m fat!”, and “I don’t wanna get huge!!!”. The idea, honestly, of feeling the first movements freaked me out a little; I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about something moving around in there that wasn’t just digestion or really, a part of my own body (this may be partly to blame on too many sci-fi movies). Hearing the heartbeat for the first time was neat, but at the time I didn’t have anything really tangible to connect it to, and it was the same with a pregnancy book somebody lent me that had pictures of the development for every day.
And then one day, as I was driving with some friends, I felt it. A little nudge, right under my belly button, that was unmistakable. It was not gas, it was not digestion, it was definitely, beautifully, my baby. My baby. And it made me smile a genuine, joyful smile. This was the little person who, when upset, even when squalling as a newborn, will want me for comfort above any other person in the world. The little person I would get to watch learn first to make eye contact, then smile, then roll over, and crawl, and explore the world. My baby! As these realizations grew from that moment, as I began to feel more and more flutterings and pokes and kicks, so too began to grow a love for this little person, not just an intellectual yes of course I will love my child, but a real from the heart love for the little person inside my belly right here, right now. It was (and is) an emerging love, a love that is being learned day by day. And through it I am learning bit by bit what it means, and will mean, to be a mother.
* * *
Just over a month ago, Nathan and I went to our second trimester ultrasound. This was very exciting for a variety of reasons: our first ultrasound was very early, so the baby then was literally a tiny blip on the screen. This was going to be the first time we’d get an idea of what our baby actually looked like! Not only that, but I’d been dying to find out if we were having a boy or girl since the day I took the pregnancy test, and here was finally the chance! It was an awesome experience, getting to see the little hands and feet and body, to see the heart pumping and see the baby move as I felt it happen! Then the ultrasound tech said to me, “here is where the legs are, can you guess what you might be having?” I hesitated, and she went on, “let me put it this way. It might be hard to see, because there is really nothing there to see.” Understanding what she was saying, I exclaimed “A girl! We’re having a baby girl!” It truly was a surprise, as my maternal instincts really had given me no intuitive feeling one way or the other as to what we were having.
We have decided to name our little girl Alice, no middle name yet. I like being able to call her by her name, Alice, rather than just “the baby” or something generic.
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Yesterday I went to the Labour and Delivery section of the hospital. In the past few days, I’d been feeling less pronounced movement from Alice, and instead of sitting here worrying, I decided to go for a fetal movement monitoring test. I don’t like being able to physically see whether or not everything is okay with Alice. Anyway, it turned out everything was just fine, and actually the nurse said that the results were surprisingly good for how far along I am. This made me very happy to hear. As I was laying there, pressing a button every time I felt movement and chatting with my mother who’d come along, we suddenly heard this low, almost primal scream echo from down the hall. It was long, it was loud, and it was unmistakably the sound of a woman in the middle of giving birth.
It was terrifying. And I couldn’t help realizing that yup, that was going to be me in t-minus three months from now.
I can’t wait.
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As I’ve been sitting here writing these past couple of hours, I’ve noticed that the rain has stopped, it’s slightly less gray out there and the clouds are beginning to break. My coffee is finished (not to worry, I am allowed a certain amount of caffeine per day!), and I have no inkling to refill it. I guess it’s time to get out of these pyjamas, and get ready for whatever happens next!