Monday, October 12, 2009

Ready or Not

In theory, the benefit to actively seeking out a pregnancy for so long as opposed to being surprised by one, is that you can try to prepare for all the ways in which your life is going to change. It’s not like you’re snorting coke in the bathroom of a club one day and scouring for info on the different colors and textures of baby poop the next. Well, hopefully not, anyway.

In the three years it took for us to get pregnant with Charlotte we did a lot of preparing. Shortly after we started “trying”, convinced as we were that we would immediately conceive, we began to prepare ourselves for life with a baby. We’d eye the couples loading cumbersome infant seats and diaper bags into their cars and giddily exchange “That could be us soon!” glances with one another. Over the next few years we would prepare ourselves for many other lifestyles. We tried to gear up for more years of infertility, wondering if we had what it took to make the long haul. We had a successful IVF and began again to get ready for life as parents. Then we had a miscarriage, ran out of fertility funds, and began to prepare for a life without children.

And so it was that just like most people on this planet, we were completely smacked-upside-the-head-shocked by the extra blue line on my pregnancy test. I was nursing a slight hangover from too many martinis at Cinespia the night before. I was annoyed that morning because I wanted nothing more than to sleep off the Bombay buzz, but I was lured out of bed every twenty minutes or so by my stupid bladder. It wasn’t until later that afternoon, while discussing a possible weekend in Laughlin with a friend that my morning pee marathon raised any kind of red flag. I remembered that early in pregnancy, hormones can be a catalyst for frequent urination. Then again, anyone who knows me, knows I have a bladder the size of a walnut, so I reasoned it was probably nothing out of the ordinary. But I had that feeling. You know the one. The one that nags you all day in a whiny, high-pitched voice until you finally throw up your hands and say, “Fine!”

So, I decided to take a test. We were having friends over that evening, and we had been at Chris’s work all day. I dropped Chris off so he could hastily tidy the house, and I ran to the store for beer and a pregnancy test. You can imagine the look on the cashier’s face.

What followed was a moment I never could have prepared for. I felt doubt. Doubt, which caused me to reread the instructions to my pregnancy test, as if three years of practice wasn’t enough. I felt, of course, extreme happiness, giddiness even. I felt fear. Fear that it wasn’t real, or that it wouldn’t last. And, perhaps most surprisingly, I felt a twinge of disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to drink the beer I had procured earlier in the evening.

The pregnancy was more or less what I expected: crippling exhaustion, mild nausea, too many pounds, and not enough alcohol. Oh, and a ripe batch of hormones that caused me to get a soccer mom haircut after years of growing my hair long. It was a mostly uneventful pregnancy; tedious, but smooth. Labor and delivery, too, were about what I expected. Water broke, went to hospital, had epidural, had baby. The whole thing took eight hours. But the second Charlotte entered this world, and every moment since, I began an amazing and difficult journey, and the experiences and feelings I’ve encountered along the way have all come as a complete surprise.

Intellectually, I knew there would be little sleep. But I couldn’t have fathomed the sheer delirium of those first few weeks or the general sluggishness I would still feel six months later after nights of sharing my bed with a restless bed hog of a baby. I knew there would be boredom, but I didn’t know I would spend hours and hours on my couch, breastfeeding and watching bad television. I knew I would feel emotional, but I didn’t anticipate the staggering highs and soul-crushing lows I would come to know or the frustration and anger I would feel at myself, my husband, even my poor, defenseless daughter.

You know what’s coming next. Because it’s what all mothers say after complaining about their children. And I say this because it’s true and because I would mean it even if I wasn’t obligated to say it…I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Sure, I’d make her sleep more, cry less. If it were up to me, she would be more cuddly instead of flying out of my arms to get to her dad, the dog, the floor full of toys. I would like more energy, more time, a cleaner house. And I guess while I’m at it, I’d take a gym fortified body and more money, as well.

This whole experience caught me totally off guard. And there are countless surprises in store for me, for us. There are fresh frustrations ahead, but there are also countless joyful moments. Moments that make me feel like I’m living in a cheesy movie, like the time I found myself singing and dancing around the house with my husband and daughter, or the time I realized I had taught Charlotte to clap. I’m ready for it all. Well, as ready as I can be, anyway.

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