Not long before reaching the 25-week mark of my remarkably pleasant pregnancy, we learned that I could be at a higher risk for preterm labor. After a strange and stressful 48 hours of navigating what, exactly, this meant, we (moi, my unflappable husband Anthony, my brilliant ob-gyn, and some incredibly supportive, well-connected, and research-savvy family members), had reached a sound, proactive, and reasonable plan that brought me great comfort and relief. This, I could do. This, we could absolutely handle.
(Side note: Since those bewildering 48 hours, I’ve been thanking the maternal gods that I’m pregnant now — today and here — and not 200 or even 20 years ago. If you subscribe to “knowledge is power,” than know this: NOW is the golden age of obstetrics. Hallelujah, ladies. Rejoice and be glad. Count your lucky feminist stars. We know more now than ever before. And yeah, sure, women have been having babies forever, but the “something could go very, very wrong” statistics have been massively terrifying since we started tallying such things. I don’t want to belabor this point (sheesh, horrible pun), but I do want to highlight that having a child in a first-world country today is the hands-down luckiest time and place to do so. No question. Isn’t that marvelous?)
Okay. Back to the sound, proactive and reasonable plan….
As expected, I needed to change my ways. I could no longer engage in any activity that would raise my heart rate. I could choose a light task each day (a leisurely lap around a store, a meal/meeting out, or a visit to the library), but then I should return home to relax with my feet up. I would not be on total bed rest — what an extreme, limiting concept that is — but a highly-moderated regimen, which demanded most of my time be spent near-horizontal and melloooow.
“Like bedrest’s disobedient first cousin,” I said.
“However you need to frame it, sweetie,” Anthony said, carrying a hefty basket of my laundry to the basement.
As a writer who already works from home, you may assume my professional life was hardly impacted, but writing — real writing, on-deadline-writing, diving-in-full-force writing — can actually be quite taxing and physical for me. Besides, my wooden desk (and desk chair) are places for Serious Work and Serious Focus. Now I “work” from the soft, supportive surfaces within my home: the leather recliner in the living room, our massive bed, the cozy guest room bed, the squishy upholstered chair in the dining room, my office couch, and, most recently, a lawn chair in the backyard.
Meanwhile, I’m more tired. My best friend and I, die-hard “Friday Night Lights” fans, have been known to tell each other (drunk and sober, facetiously and earnestly), “Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.” Now, temporarily, my life more closely reflects, “Sleepy eyes, feet high, can’t sleep.”
Naturally, this transitional, quiet stretch of lying low has invited some unexpected reminders and revelations to my life. Now, from the downy comfort of the guest room bed, I share 10 of them with you.
1. Dear friends and family members call, text, e-mail, snail mail, and check-in on social media. Local dear friends stop by with thoughtful things you didn’t know you needed (a box of pregnancy-friendly tea, a bunch of handpicked daffodils from their garden, a petite, adorable stuffed tiger for the babe, a cupcake, a playful blown kiss from their toddler in her stroller, a smile, a hug). You will not forget their kindness.
2. Even chippy, splitty, subpar nails can grow ridiculously long and lovely when you do virtually nothing.
3. When you are forbidden from power-walking or prenatal pilate-ing or lifting light weights — activities you pursued occasionally since the positive pregnancy test (and after a brief “You’ll be glad you did it” self pep talk) — power-walking and prenatal pilate-ing, and lifting light weights sounds increasingly more appealing. File that under #grassisalwaysgreener.
4. We have approximately 6,000 TV channels. I watch four of them.
5. If you visit katespade.com often enough, everything (I mean everything) seems purchase-worthy. Yes, I think she would like those bird-inspired studs. Yes, I believe I would use a navy blue clutch (even though I’m a black-over-navy girl). Oh! Those flats that look like taxicabs are on clearance. Where is my purse? (Relief floods you upon discovering your purse is in the other room, and there’s no way you’re interrupting the perfect formation of pillows behind your back and under your toes. NOT. FOR. ANYTHING.)
6. You quickly develop a profoundly deeper compassion and empathy for people with more permanent physical limitations. You’d like to mail them each tea and stuffed tigers and daffodils. From your throne of pillows, you grow teary just thinking about them. Upon closing your journal that night, you say a prayer of gratitude.
7. Once in the third trimester, even if you exert virtually no energy beyond turning the pages of a book, a milkshake somehow feels earned.
8. You are in awe of your husband. Genuine awe. You know that you would do the same for him — the extra laundry, extra chores, extra incessant errands, all of it — but there’s absolutely no way you would shoulder it so well, with such strength, with such good humor, with such work ethic, with such patience, with such unconditional “whatever you need, love” LOVE. This is the beginning of his being a father. This is the beginning of you being madly in love with your child’s father. Your heart bursts watching him scramble eggs at the sink. You slide in beside him, bask in that familiar rush that gets you when you breathe in his cologne, and remember you cannot have sex with him (for the time being). You commit to not buying one damn thing on Kate Spade. You will buy him something instead.
9. Some people will say, “I’m sure you’re enjoying the downtime!” or, “Soak it up while you can!” or, “Sounds like a good day to me!” and these people, though well-intentioned, are not “your people,” for “your people” know you much better than that.
10. On that note, when someone sing-songs, “We just need that little one to cook a bit longer!” their flippant, casual tone will infuriate you beyond belief. After fighting the urge to slug them (this is definitely against doctor’s orders), you will want to tell them that even though you genuinely feel strong and composed, happy, even — as you keep things in perspective, and count your blessings (and insert additional, cliched Pollyanna phrases here) — there is ZERO room for flippancy. ZERO.
On a not-so-great day, you may hint at this, even if only through a sideways glance.
On a more centered, zenful day, you will smile and nod. You will rub your sweet belly and think, “She speaks the truth. She does so in an uncouth, unknowing, prickish way, but it’s the truth, nonetheless.” You will acknowledge that she likely doesn’t know better because she’s never been there, likely never been to a scarier place, either. And not that long ago maybe you shared that in common. Maybe you — in a moment of regrettable breeziness — could’ve said something just like that, but not anymore, not after this.
For an exhale, you’re grateful to have acquired this new awareness, for you will be forever better equipped in the handling of “the big sensitive things.” You’ll write about it, and then you’ll comfort others with more poise and confidence. You’ll rehearse, mentally, quietly, privately, what you would tell them, comforting some fictional friend, and as you do, you’ll no longer be able to recall what made you want to slug anyone at all. Life is too short and fleeting and fickle to be bruised by unintentionally callous phrases, and soon, so very soon, on some sublime, momentous, wondrous day, you’re going to become someone’s mother.