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.