When our Pregnant Bodies Fail Us

My sister phoned me a few weeks ago: she was almost 40 weeks pregnant and her cervix was not doing what it is supposed to do in terms of inducing labour. Her amniotic fluid levels were dangerously low and her placenta was calcifying – this baby needed to be welcomed into the world. R felt guilty and she was stressed – why was her body not doing what it was supposed to do? Why was it failing? She felt as though her only job at this point in her journey through motherhood was to safely deliver her unborn baby and she was unable to do so.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I, at 29 weeks pregnant, am sitting across from my gynaecologist, telling her about the period-like cramps and low lying pelvic pressure I have been feeling. I am worried, as during my previous pregnancy I was admitted to hospital at 34 weeks for threatening pre-term labour. The Dr checks my cervix and it is thinning – my body does not seem to want to carry babies full term and I feel as though I am failing my unborn son. In a panic, I immediately think of Bean – he is nowhere near ready to have me ‘missing’ from his life for the next couple of weeks and how will my husband manage him, the household and work the hours he does? I am put on medication, get administered steroid injections for the baby and have to be admitted to hospital for a few days. Needless to say, I am ordered bed rest (which is not so easy with a 2-year-old).

I now need to heed my own advice so easily given over the phone to my sister: do not feel guilty (there is nothing you can do about it), do not panic and, most importantly, trust. Trust the doctors as they know what they are doing, trust your family to be there for you and trust that everything will be OK.

Isn’t that what life is all about? It throws curve balls when you least expect it and you need to simply put those big girl panties on and deal with it. No amount of worry, or complaining, or crying is going to make it better. Parenting is hard and sometimes it’s hard even before the baby is born, but all we can do about it is to put up our hair, have that cup of decaf coffee, get on with it and hope for the best. No amount of guilt is going to make anything better.

Yes, I am overwhelmed and scared and yes, I am worried: for my sensitive and gentle Bean and how he will deal with my absence and for my little baby who is still way too small to be thrust into this world. But, I have faith and I realise that life would not throw something at me I cannot handle. We, as mothers, as parents, are stronger than we realise.

I will not let this failing body of mine define me or my journey through parenthood.

A Second Pregnancy: The Good and The Bad

The pregnancy test is sitting on our bathroom counter and although I try to ignore it while it is ‘thinking’, I cannot help but stare at the screen in anticipation. Finally, the result is in and instead of the expected ‘Not Pregnant’ sign, the result is positive. Elation, joy and gratitude all wash over me as I call for my husband to come to the bathroom QUICKLY! Then, as he walks in with our almost two-year-old in tow, I feel a surge of panic and guilt.

Unlike my first pregnancy, which was mostly characterised by an almost naive joyful anticipation, I am overwhelmed by feelings of guilt toward our first born (how could I share my love and devotion toward him with any other being?), guilt toward this unborn little miracle growing in my belly and the utter fear of having another baby, another newborn to contend with. Although most people say you forget how hard those first couple of months with a new baby can be, I remember them all too clearly.

It is as if this second pregnancy is simply less important, less of a milestone than the first. People seem less enthusiastic, less eager to find out how I am (it’s not like I haven’t been through this before, right?) and, at the same time, I am a lot less fussed, often forgetting exactly how far along I am, not obsessively checking how big the baby is every waking moment of every day and simply moving on with life (I still have a two-year-old who needs my full attention after all).

It makes me feel like I am somehow depriving both my kids of the complete attention and total love which they deserve because I now will have to be shared.

And yet, at the same time, I often catch myself lovingly stroking my growing belly, waiting in excited awe for another small little kick as I sit and play with Bean. I might not be as rough and tumble as I once was with him but I do still shower him with admiration, love, discipline and devotion. Things are changing, but change is not always a bad thing – soon Bean will have a little brother who hopefully will become his lifelong friend and ally. Our family will grow and instead of sharing the love we already have; our love and hearts will grow and expand to include this new life.

When the fear of another (unknown) newborn phase grips my heart, I try to focus on the good: that unmistakable baby smell, that first smile, the tiny little hands and feet, those special baby cuddles, and I get gleefully excited. I envision how gentle and loving my big-hearted and kind Bean will be toward his new brother, how our new little fire will grow up with love and admiration in his eyes as he follows his older brother around the room. I smile as I think of sibling fights, followed by love and laughter and I want to literally jump for joy when I think of our chaotic and busy family life, those busy little toddler and baby legs keeping my husband and me on our toes.

Of course, there will be hard times, added financial stresses, there will too many things to do at once and we will be tired, but as any parent knows, the good will definitely outweigh the bad. It will be ok. It might actually be wonderful.