My recent 20-week ultrasound, for this third pregnancy, was quite different than for the other two. The first time I counted down the days, triple checking where to go, what to do, and that Kevin had the day off. I had no idea what to expect, and then the concept of new lives – my daughter’s and mine as a mother – solidified into reality when I saw her tiny body growing.
During my second pregnancy, we left the flailing 15-month old at home for the big ultrasound, but talked more about her than about the new life we saw on the grainy screen (oh, second babies). I was more aware of potential problems, and my anxiety was at a new and treacherous peak, so all I cared to see was that my son was healthy.
To ultrasound round three, we brought the whole four person family fiasco. The lab room is not large, the equipment is not indestructible, and my kids are (many good things but) not well behaved. It could have gone two ways: meltdown disasters or heartwarming sweetness. It was somewhere in between and perfect.
Addie was fascinated by the blue “goo” on my stomach (“Is it sticky? Can I touch it? I want to eat it!”). Owen, already used to going to checkups with me, settled right in and snuggled. He asked all morning “We go to doctor appointment? At Kaiser? See baby sister?” Kevin wrangled both of them, no one fussed too much, and I was relieved to see my healthy 3rd baby squirming.
I hoped it would make the idea of our family growing a little more real to the kids. Who knows if that happened, but they were excited and involved. They know that we are in this together, as a family, as we prepare for her arrival.
Not so long ago, after careful deliberation on the matter, Kevin and I were solidly done having babies. Turns out we were wrong, obviously. I blame this blog post: No More Babies. The natural law of parenting is that once you proclaim the way things are, they instantly change. Doubly true for announcing it on the internet.
Wherever the blame belongs (with Kevin, my super cute part-time third baby, or my bold public announcement) the new reality is pregnancy and planning.
The first round, pregnant with Addie, I was both plagued and relieved by the unknown of it all. With no images of what daily life would look like, no anticipations of the challenges, I was also blissfully unaware that crossing the line from no kids to kids would be a permanent shift in every fiber of my being. I was unencumbered by dreams of false perfection or preconceived notions of how things should be, and had no prior mistakes upon which to improve.
I started out by accepting less control over life and was forced to live in the vast unknown for nine or so months. It turned out to be great preparation for parenting; damn, this business is unpredictable. The only constants are change, chaos, and a love so heavy it shatters and puts you back together every day.
Round two, pregnant with Owen, I had a better sense of how much a new human changes everything, which was a source of grave anxiety. I spent those nine months anticipating every challenge from the first time reoccurring. I was prepared for an early baby with jaundice and months of extra concern over growth charts and milestones. I was braced for the spit-up, the sleepless nights, the unexplained crying, and the total lack of personal space and time. I dreaded postpartum anxiety and the anguishing recovery from giving birth. Knowing that babies are 24-7 curveballs, I figured we were in for a whole heap of new issues too. I felt doomed.
I doubted my ability to handle it all – the moment to moment, day to day, around the clock, work of parenting two under two. What would I do when both babies were crying, sick, or clingy?
More than anything, I worried for Addie. I did not yet appreciate the resilience of kids to change. My heart broke every time I imagined having to put off soothing her to tend to the needs of some stranger baby.
I took comfort in the overwhelming, automatic, primal love that I felt for my baby boy.
I took comfort in knowing that, even if Addie’s life was temporarily destroyed, she would get a sibling out of the deal – a lifelong companion, a little buddy to boss around.
I took comfort in her being so young that she would never remember life without him.
Everything (and everyone) is different this third round – from the group appointment to the ultrasound photos tossed haphazardly on the coffee table, instead of on the fridge or placed carefully into a baby book.
This round, I make no assumptions about her personality, our challenges, or the kids’ reactions.
This round, I am not focused on every little pregnancy symptom – I have no time to do that.
This round, I have less concern for the logistics; I pretty much know where she will sleep, and I have a car seat for her – that seems good enough for now.
Baby #3 will find her place in our home, our family, and our hearts. I know now that all of those areas of life stretch and multiply to make room for more love.