Yesterday, I stood in church trying to suck in my 13-weeks-along pregnant belly as my 19-month-old son threw the most embarrassing temper tantrum of the century.
I certainly didn’t want people giving me that look–you know the one that clearly says, Oh, more kids, huh? How about you handle the one you’ve got?
But as most exasperated parents of children in church know, my son was actually and truly exhausted out of his mind, having been up a grand total of ten times the night before. So, there was that…
My efforts to disguise my pregnancy, however, were a complete fail when the man standing next to us shook my hand heartily during the service. “Another one, huh?” he said, beaming with a smile. “Congrats!”
I smiled weakly at him, somewhat mortified that at 13 weeks, I was already showing enough for a complete stranger to take the bold move to congratulate me. What if I had just ate a lot for breakfast, huh?
But still, as I attempted to tuck myself and my son into the most inconspicuous position into our pew, it dawned on me, for the first time, how much different this pregnancy felt than the three that preceded.
Image via j&j brusie photography
For what is the first time, my fourth pregnancy feels completely different because it doesn’t feel like it’s about me.
Allow me to explain.
My first pregnancy happened when I was only 21; a college senior on the cusp of adulthood, ready to take on the world. The pregnancy turned my life upside down, backwards, and then up again when I was given the greatest gift I didn’t know I wanted in my daughter. But nonetheless, having the experience of becoming a mother so young was a journey of self that I had to go through–in a big way. It changed my whole life, from giving me the motivation to become a writer, to instilling a passion in me to help other women facing unexpected pregnancy to leading to me publishing my first book about unplanned pregnancy. In short, that pregnancy was a lot about how my life had changed with a baby. How I went from young woman to mother to woman who will always be a mother.
My second and third pregnancies were planned; again by me, for what fit into my life and my plans for the future. My second, carefully conceived so she and her sister would be exactly two years apart and BFFs. (I knew she would be a girl, of course.) My third, planned so as not to disturb my new job as a labor and delivery nurse. Again, the plans were all about me. Babies working around me and my schedule, not the other way around.
But this time?
This time, my pregnancy doesn’t feel about me.
Now I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a horribly selfish person, but let’s face it: a lot of times, pregnancy feels like it’s all about us. Articles that tell us how to have the birth experience we want, how to bounce back to our pre-pregnancy bodies, how to stay stay healthy and get a good night’s sleep…
Pregnancy is a time of change in a woman’s life, and there’s a lot of focus on her.
But now, for me, this pregnancy feels like it’s not about me.
It’s hard to explain the difference, but it almost feels like I am finally being taught how to let go of the thought of focusing on how having babies and children affects me, and just let them be.
I feel, for the first time, that I have the honor of helping bring this child into the world, not because having a baby makes me a mother or because it’s great timing for my career, but simply because this is the baby that needs to be here, right now.
I am the guide, the faciliator, the vessel for giving a gift to our world, and hopefully the outside world as well.
Maybe I needed a fourth pregnancy to teach me the important lesson that motherhood isn’t always about me; that my children are beings in their own right, with lives that will stretch out ahead of them that won’t always include me.
And all I can do is be thankful for the part I play in them.