I wasn’t lying when I wrote this post about feeling more relaxed this pregnancy than I did when pregnant with Winnie. I do. I’m also terrified. Not at all of what remains of this pregnancy or of my birth– though I’m not naive enough to think that birth will certainly be a breeze and that postpartum recovery while caring for a toddler will be anything less than a joyous hellscape– but because I’m not sure how I’m going to grow the size of my love along with the size of my family.
Our first pregnancy forced us to shift our priorities, to hold paramount needs of someone we hadn’t yet met but who would form the foundation of our family. My subsequent pregnancy with Winnie was both a fulfillment of what I felt that first pregnancy had promised and the manifestation of our family, of Mike and me as parents. But now I have this magical, real, burgeoning human who blows my mind every single day and is just right there in front of me– I can see her, hear her, touch her– and I’m wondering if it’s possible to duplicate the love I feel for her for another little one. Have I limited our moments together by introducing this new being? Will I make enough love, or energy, or security for them both?
In flipping through a birthing book recently, I shook loose an ultrasound print from my third trimester with Winnie. In the grayscale shadows, you could make out her little nose, her chin, her mouth. It was Winnie, and it broke my heart, because I didn’t know her yet, even though she knew the kuh-thud, kuh-thud of my heart and heard my voice and felt safe inside of me. My body doesn’t feel like a safe space to me– I can’t see the babies it carries, I can’t do anything to be sure I’m giving those babies what they need. And despite the reassuring kicks and elbow pokes and that kuh-thud kuh-thud on the doctor’s doppler every few weeks, I don’t know them. I didn’t know Winnie before she was born, and I don’t know this baby. Part of that is amazing– because they so quickly become PEOPLE, with will and desire and inquiring and discerning minds– but right now, it’s utterly terrifying.
I heard Winnie before I saw her as I pushed her out into being, and I remember needing to mark that moment with something, anything, so I cried out the words, “That’s my baby!” with whatever shreds of energy I had left after so many hours of labor. And then I saw her, and she wasn’t who I thought she would be, she was who she was, which was delightful– but it also meant I’d never met her before. This was the first moment, and she was telling me who she was. I hadn’t known before, I couldn’t have known.
Here I am again, knowing I just can’t know who this human inside of me is. I don’t get to pick, I don’t get to know until she decides to let me know. And I trust with even more faith than I should be humanly capable of possessing that I will love this child, with more love than I have, with more love than I know to exist in the whole world, but it really seems impossible to love anything more than I love my little, tangible family right now.
I don’t know what it says about me or my faith or my parenting skills that I find it easier to believe that the wine and bread I consume each Sunday becomes the very substance of God than that I will soon love my children and not just my child. But here I am. This babe will be loved, and we will do the loving, and it will grow all of us. I guess I don’t need to know how or when, so long as I know that it will.