“Are you nervous?” Craig asked, looking at his hands, folded in his lap.
“No,” I lied cheerfully, focusing on Elle’s busy rearranging of the kids’ chairs placed in this doctor’s waiting room. A 2-year-old and her mischief provide a good source of distraction from apprehension’s creeping shadow – by now, she was pushing the squat plastic table towards a tall stack of magazines teetering atop a toddler-sized side table.
“Martinique?” the nurse called, quickly rousting Craig and I from our chairs and saving the magazine stack from certain disaster.
Elle, naturally, took this sudden shift to be her cue to take off down a hallway opposite from the one from which the nurse was beckoning us.
“I’ll see you in there,” Craig murmured as he veered off toward our toddler’s last seen point.
Craig, Elle, and I had started the day early, braving the 18 inches of new snow in the driveway and winding down into Grand Junction to Women’s Health of Western Colorado with ten extra minutes to spare. We would be getting our first look at the newest member of the family at this, our midway-through-the-pregnancy ultrasound appointment.
It would be an exciting day; a doctor’s appointment to look forward to. But as Craig had so nonchalantly identified during our waiting room stay, there was also a fair amount to feel nervous about.
Being pregnant for a second time definitely has its advantages. While I haven’t necessarily felt like an old pro this time around – I’m still appalled at the size of my butt and was even more floored by the first-trimester fatigue than last time – I have at least known better what to expect during these last four-and-a-half months of my second pregnancy. I’ve known to expect sore boobs, itchy skin and hankerings for pickles and raisin bread. I’ve been more ready to embrace the extraordinary phenomenon of a body undergoing rapid and drastic transformation, from my suddenly thick head of hair to my spider vein-webbed feet. The swelling boobs I’m just fine with; the inflated butt, as I mentioned before, I’ve had a harder time accepting.
While my physical evolution during this pregnancy has felt more natural and comfortable overall, emotionally this second time around has felt like a whole new rollercoaster ride. And I’m not even talking about the hormonal peaks and valleys that take you from a crazed lunatic to a sobbing dramatist all in one afternoon. (My husband can tell you all about that.)
No, I’m talking about second pregnancy anxiety.
In our first pregnancy, the two pink lines on the pregnancy test stick was all I needed to see to be convinced that I was having a baby. We tried, for the sake of tradition, to wait to tell people we were pregnant; but I crumbled shortly after being caught in the act of ordering a virgin mojito at Honga’s and at two months, everyone knew about it.
I remember envisioning baby nursery arrangements in our spare bedroom and collecting baby clothes in the dresser, all before I was even halfway through the pregnancy. I remember holding my breath at my ten-week appointment, not out of apprehension but just because I didn’t know what else to do while the midwife listened for the baby’s heartbeat.
What I don’t remember is ever feeling this nervous.
This time around, I’ve been holding my breath; at the ten-week appointment and every appointment ever since. Will they be able to find a heartbeat? Is the baby growing like it should?
I don’t like to admit that I’ve been anything but happy and optimistic this time around. It seems unfair to this baby to feel so tentative when I felt so confident the first time. But what I realize is that that first-pregnancy confidence was borne mostly out of not knowing, truly and deeply, what was at stake.
Pregnancy is a fantastic ballet, a breathtaking waltz beginning with a series of cell divisions and ending with a fully formed child that may, or may not, have your shape of nose and your husband’s color eyes. What happens in those nine months from conception to birth is astounding, no doubt. But it’s everything that happens afterwards that truly breeds a profound, gut-wrenching appreciation for the miracle of life.
From the moment that baby is placed in your arms, your world is a different place. A place filled with a brand of love you never knew existed. To think that this 10-ounce, 6.5-inch being currently floating in my belly will (come early June) have the capacity to elicit the kind of soul-encompassing love I feel for Elle is mind-boggling.
It’s incredible, and scary.
I settled into my seat in the doctor’s office, and within minutes our family (which had by this time been reunited) saw the first pictures of our new baby.
He or she looks perfect.
When the doctor announced this news, I breathed. It was a small, not a full, exhale: There is, I know, still a lot that needs to happen between now and the time I hold a healthy new baby in my arms. But that puff of relief, albeit small, felt exquisite.
We left the office, my husband and daughter and this squirming, tightfisted spark, and the new lightness in our steps showed our relief.
“Thank you,” I kissed Craig.
“Thank you,” I squeezed Elle.
Thank you, I whispered to the tightfisted spark.
Thank you, I breathed to the cosmos.