Cankles and Fragile Joy

pregnant me

It’s just 9:30 in the morning, and I can already tell that by the time I get home tonight after teaching, my ankles are going to disappear into my calves. They’re not swollen yet, but it’s coming. Because when you’re thisclose to forty and you’re thisclose to delivering your fifth child, you just know these things. Like how I know when I haven’t been drinking enough water. Or how I know that I need to get to a bathroom RIGHT NOW. Or how I know that I’m resting my hand on my baby’s soft little rear when I can’t even see her yet.

There are a lot of things about this baby and pregnancy that I already know, but there are also things that I knew that I got so very wrong.

When I found out that I was expecting, my reaction was awful. I cried almost constantly because I was going to have to do this alone. Of course Rich was going to be there with me, but I was convinced he was the only one, and in the darkest moments, I wasn’t even certain that he would be. Not only was I going to be the adulterous woman, everyone was going to know it. I couldn’t hide a baby forever. I remembered how people reacted to a fourth pregnancy when everything was all legitimate and fine, just much faster than one might expect.

“Congratulations, I guess,” is a phrase that sticks with you.

Knowing that might be the best reaction I could hope for tore me apart. How could I carry the shame of a baby conceived outside of marriage? How could I face my family not just with a new husband, but with a new baby? How could I convince my kids that they were still incredibly important to me when I was having a new kid with someone else? How could I tell friends that I had been so irresponsible that I got knocked up almost immediately? How could I give birth and not have my own mother there to celebrate with me?

I was quiet about it for a long time. With my first four pregnancies, I was on the phone sharing the good news before the pee had even dried on the test, but with this one, I told no one. As months went by and it was becoming more and more obvious that I was not just one person, but two, I struggled with how to tell people. I had come to my own excitement about this new little person growing inside of me, but I didn’t want to have that excitement crushed by negative or shaming comments. My joy was real, but it was fragile, and I did not want to have it extinguished. And I knew that it was going to be. People were going to assume that I had trapped Rich into marrying me by getting pregnant. People were going to shake their heads at me, scold me, abandon me.

But my knowing was wrong. Yes, there were some reactions that were less than ideal, that left me crying later. My mom passed away when I was not quite half-way through the pregnancy, and I hate that she won’t get a chance to hold this new grandchild the way she held my others. There have been whispers that I wasn’t meant to hear.

However, the response has been overwhelmingly welcoming to this new life and to me as a mother-to-be. People have offered help and encouragement at times when I expected rejection and derision. There has been support offered, gifts given, love extended. Once again, I have seen grace when I expected to see judgment. There has been blessedly “regular” talk about pregnancy – about gassiness and cankles and various aches and pains.

Rather than seeing my own fragile joy broken, I have seen it strengthened by the joy and excitement of others. Allowing my heart to be expanded doesn’t make my feet ache less, but it makes that swelling a bit more bearable. 

8 thoughts on “Cankles and Fragile Joy

  1. Alise, I can certainly understand your reluctance to share the news of this precious little one. All I can say, is “I am glad you shared it with us” and a very sincere “Congratulations, to you and Rich!”

  2. Trust is a hard thing. To trust others with this good news, to trust they won’t crush your joy, intentionally or otherwise is difficult. But some hard things are greatly rewarded.

    Hoping for continued blessings, continued support as you travel this new road. ❤

  3. Oh. The cankles. Oh. Oh. Oh. I still have nightmares about those.

    But I will always remember with joy the bubbly butterfly bumps. The way my babies would respond to my husband’s voice and when I played piano.

    With all the ack of pregnancy is a whole bundle of joy. Same thing with all the other stuff you’re going through.

    Just know that I’m happy for you. And, if anybody wants to be rude…well…that reveals more about them than you.

  4. “People were going to assume that I had trapped Rich into marrying me by getting pregnant. People were going to shake their heads at me, scold me, abandon me.”

    I’m going to rant, here. Pardon me. Also, if you’re offended by foul language, you probably shouldn’t keep readying.

    Alise… What the hell kind of people have you been hanging around? I mean, I know you’ve gone through a very rough time (which isn’t over yet) involving divorce, affair, and remarriage, but these concerns sound so weirdly antiquated to me… and would have even back in the eighties. I realize I may be showing my privilege, here, but having a baby out of wedlock isn’t shameful. It’s a concern because it’s often difficult, especially for teens with no income and no life experience, but it isn’t a sign of Bad Character; at worst, it’s a mistake.

    Everybody gets to make mistakes. Sometimes that’s the only way we learn. I mean, it would be really lovely if we could learn from other people’s mistakes, but that’s not how it works.

    It’s 2014, for fuck’s sake. We may not have flying cars, but most of the population has acknowledged that divorce isn’t just sometimes the least of possible evils; often it’s the best choice available. Having a baby with a new husband when you’re thisclose to forty doesn’t sound like “trying to trap yourself a man”. It sounds like sensible biological timing – if you’re going to have a baby with Rich, this is the time to do it.

    Seriously, what kind of retro-idealized 1950s social views are you being judged by, here?

  5. I love your bare bones honesty .That’s sometimes hard to do when you have to face people on a daily basis. Love you Alise! It was such a joy serving with you and Rich and singing together. I still miss that. Looking forward to pics of the new little one. He/she will be a blessing! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s