Every day this week, I have felt her little kicks.
Those tiny, soft little flutters that are almost too gentle to register. Little bubbles bursting, little popcorn kernels popping open. A great big blink, or a hiccup.
I’d been waiting for this for a long time. Expecting it, hopeful and terrified at the same time.
On the same day we found out she was a she – after I’d coming back to work feeling drunk in delirious happiness, after I’d finally made the rounds and told pretty much every single person that this dream of mine was coming true – I finally settled back at my desk, and worked like a mad woman to make up for the time I’d been away. Drunk and delirious in a different way, then – dizzy with numbers and spreadsheets and check lists.
And then – pop. A few seconds later – pop, pop.
You hope, you think, you pray, you wonder – and when it happens, you’re still not quite sure. Or – I wasn’t, at least.
It felt completely different than I’d expected. I don’t know how to describe what I’d expected, except to say different, somehow. Deeper, perhaps, more guttural – and instead, it was like the faintest brush of a sparrow’s wing. A butterfly kiss, a gentle stirring.
Her little movements have been sporadic and spaced out enough that I barely told anyone at first. I conferred with Emi, naturally, because I go to her for every single tiny question whether she might reasonably know the answer or not. (God bless my sweet, patient doula.) I told Shaun, but I deliberately played nonchalant, uncertain.
This, more than anything else, was what I was waiting for, and as ever, I was afraid to get too excited in case I might find out I was mistaken. In case someone might come up to me and insist I was wrong, that this couldn’t be happening to me, not me personally.
The gender ultrasound – that was another Big Deal. I’d dreamed of having my own little girl, since I was still pretty much a girl myself. I rocked other women’s baby girls to sleep in the church nursery, and something inside me ached with a recognition I didn’t understand yet. I heard my own mama tell stories of raising the three of us, how she found each age more delightful than the last – and I wanted that.
I felt from fairly early on that she was a girl. A literal gut instinct, if you will. I was careful, I knew there was an equal chance she was a boy, people were quick to remind me of it. I made sure to say he for every few times I said she. But she kept jumping to my lips unbidden. I rubbed my belly and just felt her, not him.
The last couple weeks leading up to the ultrasound were nerve-wracking. I wanted her to be a girl, but I wanted to be OK, just fine, equally as happy or at least close if she was a boy instead. I just wanted to know, more than anything. I wanted to know, either way; I wanted it to be real, either way. I was ready to know our child, to start understanding her or him as a person, a real child, and not just an idea.
I had three separate dreams about finding out, in the weeks and days before. Both Shaun and I had dreamt twice each that she was a girl. In my third dream, I arrived to the clinic to be told they weren’t doing the ultrasound today, that they already knew what it was from bloodwork a few weeks ago, and that paper work was on file. I’m gonna hunt down every piece of paper in this office until I find out what I’m having, Dream Me told the Dream Nurse.
It’s just gonna be a boy, I started telling Shaun, the last four or five days before. It’s just gonna be a boy, and that’s gonna be fine, and we’re going to love him so much, and Jack is going to be so happy.
Yup, he agreed, we’ll just get used to it now so it won’t be a surprise next week. It’ll be a boy.
In the final days before, I felt curiously calm, and generally sure it was a boy.
It’s not, though, my heart whispered to me, it’s not a boy, you know it’s not. It’s a girl. It’s YOUR girl.
Morning of, I had no clue. I wouldn’t have wagered a solid guess one way or the other. It didn’t MATTER, we were going to find out that day.
I got to work early, I tried to concentrate. Fat rain drops started to roll down the windows. By the time Shaun picked me up, it was pouring and I was anxious, heart-pounding. Thank God they’re not taking my blood pressure today, I quipped, as we wound our way through flooded streets and out to the highway. I’m just going to need my calming music and to sit quietly and breathe for a while, I told Shaun, and he, being dear and sweet and always exactly what I need, agreed.
I listened to my choir music, my classical music. I clutched my rose quartz, I made myself take deep, slow breaths. By the time we got to the clinic, I had managed some semblance of calm.
The sweet ultrasound tech lady called us back. Last time, I had been miserable – my bladder too full, my nervous too frayed, and with Mom, Lauren, and Shaun all in tow, I accidentally let myself feel like more of a tour guide — or maybe tourist attraction – than focused inward, on the beauty of seeing our baby for the first time. We were better prepared this time – I drank as much water (and a little OJ) as I personally was comfortable with, I’d practiced calming breathing, Shaun and I giggled over children’s magazines in the waiting area.
I laid back on the table and Shaun took my hand, kissed the back of it.
Are we finding out today? she asked us, and I promptly replied, yes, please.
Bless her, she didn’t make us wait around, she didn’t measure and check every other thing first. She looked to see whether our baby was a he or she, right away.
There’s a little foot in the way, hang on, she said, and she moved the wand around. Shaun and I both admitted later that we didn’t feel like we could read ultrasounds well, but both our hearts had quickened when we didn’t immediately see boy parts.
It looks like I’m seeing little girl parts.
I felt this intense wave of – something wash over me. Not shock, exactly – more like everything I had hoped and prayed and wished for offered to me precariously on a teaspoon, and about to be whisked away the instant I believed in it. And yet – already, tears pressed in my eyes.
Really?! I choked out. Shaun squeezed my hand tighter.
It looks like it! The tech paused for a moment, struck a few keys on her computer, and I still didn’t know if she was saying, for certain – yes, it is a girl!
Are you sure?! Even to me, my own voice sounded quavering.
Let me just say this, she told us, in 16 years, I’ve never been wrong.
Later, when she pointed out anatomy on the scan, and marked it on our print out, and even when I looked at it without her marking – it was clear, it was obvious. Our girl was our girl. Almost as if she didn’t want me to have one single moment of doubt. Yeah, Mom, calm down, I’m definitely a girl, OK, see?!
But in that moment, I collapsed, inwardly. The tech went on to her tasks, measuring head and belly and femur, and I’m not sure I was even looking for a few moments. I pulled Shaun’s hand in mine to my face, covered it as I had a beautiful little meltdown on the table. Shaun petted my hair, leaned over and kissed my forehead, once, twice. He knew, without either of us speaking, exactly what was going on inside me just then. We both teared up, it was the emotional, life-changing moment we’d been waiting to have.
Her measurements were perfect, her umbilical cord was perfect, her heart rate was perfect. She was perfect.
And then, that afternoon, back at work, trying to ape normal behavior – that pop, pop-pop. Little Girl saying hello, for the first time.
And while she’s not kickboxing me every hour, while I may go all day before I feel her, while I may still wonder, was that her, or something else? – she’s moving. A little bit each day. Maybe even a little more each day.
This – all of this, knowing who she was, feeling her move – all of this is what I’ve been waiting for.
I had so much disbelief, early on, so much shock. So much doubt – doubt that this baby was real and not a cruel joke, doubt that I could do this, that I was strong enough and courageous enough and giving enough. Whether or not I could love enough.
Sometimes, you don’t realize how bad you were feeling, until you start to feel better. That was certainly true for me – all winter, I tried to pretend to be OK – calm, excited, invigorated, prepared – and I felt none of those things. I felt overwhelmed with fear and doubt, I felt emotionally dead from depression, I felt like I couldn’t even pretend to muster the appropriate response to what was going on in my life.
And in my last honest blog post, I wrote very hopefully about spring and my second trimester. About what I was looking forward to, about marking the change in seasons in a new and poignant way.
And I prayed those things would be real. I prayed that the sense of dread and fear and unwillingness I felt would fade, that I would feel this was real that I would feel connected and in love with my pregnancy. That I would find within myself a strength and a love I had not known I had possessed. That the faith Shaun had so firmly in me and my abilities would not be unfounded.
And then I started feeling better.
Slowly but surely. Brief glimpses of my normal emotional state. A few hours, maybe a day. Maybe two, if the sunshine cooperated and stuck around for more than a couple hours.
And that’s when I realized – I hadn’t realized how bad I had been feeling. I knew, technically, that I wasn’t myself and that was no fault of my own. But when you’re in the midst of a bout of depression, it’s hard to remember the person you used to be. It’s hard to believe that person is real, and that she is ever coming back.
I had felt bad, and I was not myself – but now I am. I am coming back into my healthy self, my excitable self, my joyous self, my generous self. The version of me that believes wholeheartedly in love triumphing over all, who believes in the goodness and kindness of those I know to be pure and loving souls. Who believes in the goodness and kindness of my own heart, and doesn’t taint that vision of myself with doubt and negativity.
And now I know my baby is a girl, the little girl I’ve dreamed of for years, dreamed of even more intensely once I met Shaun. I feel her little fluttering kicks, and as one day rolls into the next, I keep feeling them.
She’s real. She’s here. She’s mine. Mine and Shaun’s, and we made her, and God, we love her so damn much already – and I didn’t think that was possible. I thought she’d have to be here, in my arms, red-faced and squalling, for me to really feel that love. And I know any emotion I feel right now will seem just a sliver and a shard when compared to how we will feel when she is here – but I feel it. I feel what I’m supposed to feel, naturally. I feel her little fluttering kicks and I think – that’s her! That’s my baby, and she’s real, and she’s with me, all of the time.
What I’ve learned is to keep on trusting myself. All of last year when I was praying we would get pregnant and we didn’t and we didn’t – I was learning to trust. As hard as I fought that lesson, I was beginning to see that I had to trust in myself, and trust that the timing would always work out.
And as the first trimester rolled into the second, I have continued to learn it. There are so many “wrong” things you can do in pregnancy – we as pregnant women are constantly bombarded with reminders and well-meaning advice telling us what to eat and what not eat, how to exercise and how not to exercise. Complications we need to worry about, bad things that could happen, remote possibilities that could become a reality. We are awash in them, and as mamas-to-be the responsibility seems to rely solely on us. We are the carriers, we are the homes for our babies, and if anything goes awry, how can we not first look to ourselves to blame?
I told Shaun, after we left the midwife a couple weeks ago, every time we leave and we get a good report, I just think to myself, oh my God, thank God, I’ve not done anything to mess this up yet.
That marked a change in me. Every time I’ve listened to fear-mongerers and advice givers, I’ve felt the fear. I’ve doubted my own intuition. I didn’t listen to my gut that was usually telling me the exact thing I needed to here. That I was doing fine, that we were doing fine, that baby (GIRL!) was doing just perfect. Every time I’ve relied on someone else’s opinion instead of my own intuition, I’ve caused myself more anxiety and more worry than was even necessary.
Because the thing is? We are healthy. I have been blessed beyond belief so far with a remarkably calm pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy. I’m still pregnant, I still get aches and pains and exhausted beyond belief — and I know those things will only increase as the weeks go by. But for being pregnant, I’ve felt pretty damn good. And every time we check on Baby Girl, she’s doing great too. She’s always exactly where she’s supposed to be, as big she’s supposed to be, functioning exactly as she is supposed to be.
We’re doing this. We are. Shaun is, and Baby Girl is, and most of all — I am doing this. I am doing just fine, and I’m through worrying about the ten hundred things that could go awry. I fully accept that there may be complications, there may be developments, there may be aberrations in the plan. That’s the reality of the situation, and as much as I think happy thoughts, I can’t 127% make those risks go away.
But until one of those things becomes a reality — if it even ever does — I’m trying not to worry. I’m trying to relax. I’m trying not to spend this entire, beautiful phase of my life wrapped up in what other people think is right or good or best practice. I’m listening to my gut and my heart, and when I don’t know for certain, I’m asking advice, and at the end of the day, it’s still Shaun’s and my decision to decide what to do, and no one else’s.
And that feels so good! It feels so right! It feels like — parenting, almost. It feels like taking responsibility for this life we created together, and this life we will cherish and nourish into becoming a beautiful, tender soul of her own. Relying on myself and on the magic that’s happening inside of me — it gives me courage. It gives me strength to face the long and admittedly testing road ahead of me.
And that — that is exactly where I need to be right now. That’s exactly where I hoped to be, back in January, when I felt off and bad and wrong, and couldn’t fathom how my happy vision would become a reality.
And yet, here I am, here we — living it.