I shuffle through the plastic bags that have collected under my desk. In the farthest corner I find one with a leftover pregnancy test, now over 2 years old. Do these things have an expiration date? Yup, and it’s not expired.
I take a deep breath. I already know what it will say. My body has been surprisingly consistent with my other three pregnancies and birth, right down to the weight of the babies – all three within an ounce of each other. I can feel the fullness of pregnancy, see it in the paleness of my face. All I need is the official confirmation of the test.
In the movies, everyone always throws up and that’s how they find out they’re pregnant. This has not been the case for me. What has clued me in instead is a strange sharp pain in my abdomen, an odd soreness in my armpits where milk ducts are suddenly active, a bizarre (and ultimately disgusting) ability to smell everything.
The nausea comes later and sticks around for the first trimester or so – an underlying seasickness that churns predictably whenever I am too hungry or too full, so that I resort to keeping graham crackers beside my bed, saltines in my purse – a little something I could force down to stave off the threat of having to go into a bathroom and heave, until eating becomes an obsession, a constant consideration. Gone are the days of rolling out of bed and forgetting to eat until 2 in the afternoon. Pregnancy brings me right back into my body, forcing me to nurture it thoughtfully.
When I see the positive test I am overjoyed, but I dread telling everyone. My parents. My friends. My colleagues. My board of directors. What will they think about a fourth child? I couldn’t just be happy with three, like a normal person?? Will my husband be upset? Happy? Too exhausted to care? Will everyone ask me if it was “an accident?” How can I explain the power of my desire for one last baby? For a big family that will love and care for each other throughout our lives?
Now in my last trimester of pregnancy, I have decided that the second trimester gets shorter with each pregnancy. A year or two after I’ve had a child, I always think to myself, “Pregnancy is not that bad. Maybe I’ll do it again.” But then I get pregnant and it is that bad, up until that blessed second trimester, when I have enough energy to function, and I don’t throw up a little every time I smell something weird. It’s glorious!
But hardly have I begun to enjoy this phase when I begin to notice that it’s suddenly become a challenge to move my body. Navigating a doorway when I’m carrying a laundry basket or bending down to pick up something I dropped (most likely a snack), begins to feel nearly impossible. Everything is swollen, even my nose. Walking has evolved into something in between waddling and lumbering. I am constantly winded, and I have heartburn that, if personified, would look like an evil yellow monster clawing it’s way up my throat.
I have a burning sensation at the top of my abdomen where my muscles are separating little by little (this is apparently called diastasis recti, and it’s not my favorite). I have a superhuman ability to burst into tears every time I see a baby or think a sad thought. Whenever I think about the countdown to the horror show, uh I mean, giving birth, I have a flash of utter terror.
But I also have the knowledge that no matter what happens, I have something more important going on inside of me. The weight of other people’s judgments and expectations can feel heavy, work may be stressful, the house may be a mess, but my most important job is to nurture myself and my family, and the child growing inside of me. It’s exciting and stabilizing at the same time. It is a time I cherish. I am so lucky to experience these small trials, to be able to love this brand new human, and to care for her for whatever amount of time we are both in the world.
I can’t bend down to reach that corner under my desk anymore, but I settle heavily down on the floor to clean up the discarded bags and papers that have gathered. I put a few of my children’s drawings in a folder to keep for posterity, or more likely for my own bleary, exhausted eyes to gaze at when I return to work from maternity leave. I think about how fast time seems to whirl by. I settle my hand on my wiggling belly and thank God for the preciousness of life.