“What is done in love is done well.” (Vincent Van Gogh)
My son turned ONE at the beginning of this month and I’ve been thinking a lot about my pregnancy, his birth, and the past twelve months as a family. I know this is just the start of our journey, but it’s hard not to be in awe of the time that’s passed so far.
I’ve never been great at transitions. I get cranky and uncomfortable in the spaces between one thing to another. Being pregnant is a state of constant transition. At first, you don’t even know your baby is there. By the end, all you can think about is what it will be like to have that baby in your arms. In the middle, there are months of growth and discomfort, excitement and expectation. With each passing week, your belly becomes a clear sign that life as you know it is about to change forever.
My first pregnancy ended with a miscarriage at 9 weeks. It was my first lesson in motherhood: even when we try to do everything right, so much is out of our control. Nothing is permanent or guaranteed. There are greater forces beyond us.
I always wanted to be a mama, but that loss deepened my desire in a palpable way. Within a few months, I was pregnant again.
On the Sunday morning of a 3-day music festival, I woke up before my alarm with a wave of intuition. I didn’t want to spend the day drinking if I was pregnant. I took a test just to be sure. It was quiet in our apartment, with only the soft sounds of the city humming below. I snuck out of bed and for an hour or so, I was the only person who knew about this very tiny, very exciting thing. A new transition was upon us. I snapped a picture of the positive test, crawled back in bed, and started to think. There would be doctor’s visits, blood tests, and ultrasounds ahead. I hoped it would all be okay this time.
I wore a flowy dress to the festival. As we swayed to the music, I imagined what I’d look like with a bump under all that fabric. I was exhausted by the time the headliners took the stage that evening, but grateful we got to spend the first day of this pregnancy in such a memorable way.
We didn’t see a heartbeat at the first appointment. The doctor said it was just too early, but I struggled to keep my fears at bay. Even a few weeks later, when we saw a strong reassuring flicker, I had a hard time believing everything was okay. I was stuck in the transition between being someone who had a miscarriage and someone who was excited to be pregnant again. On top of that, the strangeness of early pregnancy weighed on me. As my body worked double time to grow a tiny human, it depleted my resources and left me exhausted. I found myself holding onto my faith in magic and miracles, in bean and cheese burritos, and the hope that coffee might taste good again someday.
We traveled to Australia and Fiji during my first trimester, before we told our families. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary in Sydney at a fancy steakhouse. While I’d normally indulge in red wine and a nice filet, nothing sounded good to me that night. During that trip, I was texting with my grandmother about how I had a head cold. She replied by asking if I was pregnant!? I was stunned by her question, but I held onto our secret. We wanted to share the news in person.
I searched Etsy for ornaments, mugs, and t-shirts that we personalized for our baby’s soon-to-be grandparents and great-grandparents. When I was thirteen weeks, we traveled to Ohio for Christmas and surprised my husband’s side of the family. The next week we traveled to Arizona for my grandparents’ 60th anniversary party where our news added to the occasion.
When the New Year came, we talked about what it’d be like to live in our one-bedroom apartment with a small baby. We could make it work, but we also liked the idea of having more space. We dreamed of a nursery, a guest room for our families, a home office, a back patio and grill, a place to call home. Our search began on January 2nd and on February 16th we had our keys in hand. It was quick, but we found a new home that exceeded our criteria. We took the leap and made it ours.
Everyone copes with being pregnant in different ways. When I was in school, I perfected the art of procrastination, always waiting for the last minute to study and complete assignments. I knew I wanted to take a different approach with my pregnancy. I had advance notice, a growing belly and constant reminder of the changes ahead.
I quit my job at the end of February and became obsessed with two things: getting our house settled and preparing for birth. Each day I worked towards my goal of feeling ready. We took countless trips to IKEA, Target, West Elm, and Crate & Barrel. My husband built furniture and hung pictures, while I played on Pinterest and shopped online. When he was at work, I read, listened to podcasts, and immersed myself in the project of being pregnant.
I connected with women who helped me find comfort, strength, and joy in my pregnancy. My husband started referring to them as Team Kaileen. I had an acupuncturist / nutritionist who helped me cope with anxiety and headaches. I started seeing a massage therapist with strong, healing hands. We took HypnoBirthing classes from a chiropractor who aligned my spine and taught me how women’s bodies are designed to birth our babies. I deepened my yoga practice with a teacher who guided a room full of non-pregnant students while subtly giving modifications I could continue practicing into my 3rd trimester.
I made friends with other expectant mamas and found a doula cooperative with great prenatal classes. I went on neighborhood walks in the mornings, napped in the afternoon, and took baths at night. I did special stretches and exercises to help coax my baby into the ideal position for birthing. I practiced visualization, breathwork, relaxation techniques, and repeated mantras daily.
It felt indulgent to put so much into the act of being pregnant, but that was exactly what I needed. Through all of my effort and preparation, I manage to find ease in the transition. Each step of the way, I was saying a slow goodbye to my old life and giving motherhood the warmest welcome I knew how to give.
Photo credit: Angela Doran