This pregnancy is different. I mean, they’re all different, right? Every baby is different, every pregnancy is different, every stretch mark is like a special snowflake of love that represents the unbreakable maternal bond and the whole of the history of humankind, right there in the scarred tread marks of life’s snow tires. I think I read that somewhere.
My first trimester I was sick, and it made me kind of a bad parent, the kind of parent who feels a little bit of joy when her toddler asks for Barney instead of snuggles and is content with eating bowls of cold cereal and avocado halves ad nauseam. Not that I think that anyone else who prefers those things is a bad parent, just that I had such high hopes for the kinds of practical life activities and creative expression projects we’d undertake as Winnie grew, and instead of being concerned with offering developmentally appropriate anything, I became concerned with us both being alive and not covered in Mommy’s puke when Mike got home from work. So, Barney. And cereal. And maybe some raisins that fell on the floor a few times, so what.
Despite thinking that I’d tandem nurse until the kids could each write an essay on why they would like to wean, I developed an overwhelming aversion to nursing. I started to dread our nursing sessions, and then feel guilty for the dread, and then resent the guilt and the dread, and usually by this point I had to hork again. Our routine changed, and pregnancy stretched out before me like it would never end, and I struggled with making a connection with the bundle of cells in my belly that was losing its tail, gaining its fingernails.
A few weeks into my second trimester, a fog lifted. I had more energy, less nausea, could parent my child with a sufficient level of engagement. We got back on a schedule, and Mike and I started making plans for the future. Winnie weaned, and we both felt better for it. It turns out I am actually capable of parenting when not nursing, a delightful surprise. I’m not sure if it’s creepy or hilarious or both that Winnie’s current favorite joke is to yell, NUUUURRRRRSE! and come at me like she’s going to nurse, then yell NOOOO AH HAHAHAHAHAH and crack herself up for several minutes. I think as long as she finds another joke before eighth grade, we’re fine.
Here we are, a few weeks into my third trimester, about two and a half months from my due date. This pregnancy is still different. My brain is different, and my body is different, and my family is different, and this baby is different. During my first and second pregnancies, I read everything I could get my hands on, wanted to know how and why and when my body would change in reaction to its beloved invader. This time– and this is going to come as a shock to those who have seen my pregnancy book collection– I couldn’t care less. I mean, it’s just going to grow a baby, right? With or without me? Mostly with, of course, but it’s not like my knowledge of progesterone is going to help things out. I take all of the vitamins I need, shove all the choline and folate and fiber into my diet that I can, and the baby grows. I check in with my provider, listen to a heartbeat that sounds delightful, do all the non-invasive tests that might identify a problem for which there is a solution, and that’s that. (I’ve also been reading some new books on the birthing process, if not pregnancy– so much good stuff out there!)
As with Winnie, there have been a number of supplementary ultrasounds due to placenta previa because apparently the placentas I make are realllll lazy and don’t like to move up to where they should be until later, but no one seems particularly concerned– it’s statistically likely that it will move, and that I won’t need to have a c-section. It’s so likely, in fact, that it seems silly even writing that. Also in the category of weird-stuff-I-find-out-when-pregnant, it turns out my joints are delightfully flexible, so flexible that the bones that enable me to walk/run/stand/sit/twirl/swirl/glide aka my pelvic bones don’t really like to stay together as a unit, thus causing all sorts of fun problems. Imagine one of those high school anatomy lab skeletons trying to walk with a midsection held together with old Bubble Yum. Congratulations! You just imagined my pelvis. Now imagine that skeleton wearing a super cool heavy-duty-elastic-and-velcro-support belt. Boom, that’s me.
Winnie seems about 70% excited about the fact that my belly has become a baby and that a new baby will be joining us at some future date. We’ve started checking a lot of new baby books out of the library, and dropping one or two into her book baskets and suggesting them for storytime here and there. I’ve created a list of the books we’ve read/intend to read if you’d like to check it out here. So far we’re loving:
Hello in There! A Big Sister’s Book of Waiting // Jo Witek, Christine Roussey
I mostly love the aesthetic of this one, with a growing sphere of belly on one page, a little lift-the-flap to see the hilariously-besmirked fetus, and a big sister with a cool bob. Winnie likes lifting the flap, but the text is just a smidge too old for her.
Peter’s Chair // Ezra Jack Keats
There is an actual Peter’s Chair at Prospect Park! The first tiny chair Winnie ever sat on was that bronze chair, and she thought it was a potty and started making amazing grunting sounds. (So glad stories told on the internet live forever.) Not sure she gets that Peter’s Chair is actually about a new sibling, but we like it anyway.
These are by far Winnie’s favorites. They’re full of observations and questions, said in the voice of the older sibling, about the baby: “Is the baby still asleep? The baby smells like milk! Why is the baby crying?” paired with simple illustrations. According to the wisdom of Amazon one-star reviews, some people don’t like these books because they aren’t stories. They aren’t! They’re malleable statements and illustrations that serve as a jumping off point for conversations about the new baby.
Both the baby and the older sibling are gender neutral (though there is a mom and a dad in each book, because heteronormativity), the child’s observations can take on a positive or negative or neutral voice, and there is lots of room for discussion. Winnie gets excited that she recognizes things in the illustration (Nursing! Diaper change! Milk! Apple! No baby, no apple, apple Winnie!). Oh, and there is also a page where mom is laying on the couch asleep while partner and sibling prepare dinner while whispering, which is my personal favorite because that is basically my life/dream.
It’s fun to go through this with Winnie, to see how she reacts to other babies, to see her understanding of the people in her life grow. She loves identifying and listing her friends and family members, and I hope this is laying a framework for processing the growth of our family. It’s going to blow all of our minds, I know, but so did Winnie, and we’re all the better for it.
This pregnancy is different, this baby will be different, and our love will be different and bigger once she is here. Somewhere between nine and fourteen weeks to go!