Not knowing

This whole pregnancy, this is what I’ve really felt like saying instead of “No, I haven’t been sick in the morning.”

We sat cross-legged on our yoga mats last night, hands on our bellies after a series of stretches and poses made more wobbly by our altered centers of gravity, and our instructor addressed us as Mamas. It felt strange and unearned — almost fraudulent — to be called that for the first time, when at 18 weeks I feel more like a clueless kid going though a wardrobe crisis than a nurturing sage in lotus pose.

As Mammy says in the classic line from “Gone with the Wind”: I don’t know nothin‘ ‘bout birthinbabies.

Most of my life, “to get pregnant” was a concept used in sentences preceded by “DON’T!” Catholic school, we signed chastity pledges as part of our sex ed. I vividly recall the cool boys being asked to come to the front of the room, take a swig of water and swish it around, and then spit it back into the cup. They were then instructed to give that cup to the girl of the dreams. (Picture awkward 8th grade me, crossing my fingers that one of those cups would come my way. None did.) The girls were asked if they would drink from the cups. Umm, gross! If they didn’t want to do that, the facilitator said, then why on earth would they want to have sex, which is waaaay more intimate than drinking spit-sloshed water. Of course, then they lifted up the cups and things like CHLAMYDIA! GONORRHEA! HERPES! PREGNANCY! were written on the bottom. {True story.}

I am weirdly half-grateful of and half-outraged at this scare tactic approach. On the one hand, I did not become a statistic, forced to make choices I didn’t want to make. On the other hand, I spent half my life mildly terrified/self-educating based on anecdotes from friends, old issues of Cosmo and the Internet. But if Mary could become pregnant presumably without doing any of the 69 tantalizing tips on the magazine cover…? Freshman year in college, my friends absolutely stuffed my winter break bag with condoms so I would have to scramble, horrified and beet red, to pick them up when they exploded all over my room at home. I was finally at a public school.

So that was things, until getting pregnant was no longer a thing to be avoided.

Then here I was, a 27-year-old, married woman who had no idea that I needed to wait, like two whole weeks to take a pregnancy test. And who found that, even after reading up on ovulation and all that jazz, sometimes you don’t get pregnant immediately. Unless you’re 16 and in the backseat of a car, of course. And who once she did get that “pregnant” notice on the test (because that plus/minus/double line stuff is seriously impossible), came to realize that it doesn’t necessarily mean a baby in nine months. Instead, this summer it was a trip to the Farmer’s Market, followed by a long and crampy bike ride, a visit to urgent care, and tears. And then opening ourselves up to the vulnerability of not knowing whether things will work out, but trying again. And then holding my breath as the weeks go by, hoping I wouldn’t wind up with another empty ultrasound. This fall was holding brand new nieces and nephews and friends’ babies as a tiny seed of something started to grow, but feeling like dreaming or hoping or talking or planning too much might jinx things. I wouldn’t let myself order “Great with Child” until after the first trimester. It’s been tempering excitement and expectations and reading weekly updates, but generally a lot of not knowing. Whether those are kicks I’m feeling or last night’s tacos. What “normal” is and if everything will be OK. How being a mom might turn my life upside down and change my priorities and how it might feel to see the world fresh through my own child’s eyes.

My own mom was always open with me about that fact that she lost twin girls at 21 weeks the year before she had me. It was always this shadow life fact she followed with “but then I wouldn’t have had you.” I’m just now understanding what that might have been like, and I’m glad my mom was there when it happened (thankfully, much earlier in the process) to me. I might not feel like a mama, but in a way, losing that first pregnancy called me to tackle my key weaknesses in a real and profound way:

Patience. I am not a patient person by nature. When I want something, I go for it, because I want it right then and I’m motivated to make it happen. Pregnancy is a lot of waiting and being a mom requires boatloads of patience. We’re so close to being able to find out this baby’s gender and all of the sudden, my impatience to know seems to have evaporated. I’m considering not finding out. It’s strange.

Jealousy. You know that smart quip “Comparison is the thief of joy”? I need to hold that concept close to my heart. Not only are the things I’m comparing myself against most likely not the whole wide-angle lens picture of reality, but here’s something I’ve come to understand: Someone else’s happiness does not diminish my own. Her being an 8 on a happiness scale doesn’t knock me to a 2. We can both be 8s. Heck, we can both be 10s! And the things that get us to that point might be different things. Happiness and joy are not limited resources. So stop turning green.

Managing expectations. Managing expectations could be a whole big post. The very euphemism for pregnancy is “expecting.” I’m all for daydreaming/trying to plan some, but I think expecting things that are outside of my control to turn out a certain way is a setup to be miserable. I need to keep my expectations for this child and my post-baby life in check and not aim too low (sweatpants cannot become my uniform) or unreasonably high (cough). Let’s face it, I could get one of those adorable Walnut Animal Society toys I covet, but my kid’s favorite thing will likely be something made of plastic that repeats the same obnoxious thing over and over again. (Wilbur, in all of more-cat-than-doglike ways has been decent practice for this.) Not knowing is the truest thing I have.

I’d like to think that I could tackle my big Achilles heel faults without the sadness, and maybe I could. I will struggle with those issues as a parent, but I’m working on them. I came out on the other side of an often painful wedding planning process* understanding a few more things. More than the sparkly rings or sweet onsies, the tough stuff makes experiences like marriage and having children into catalysts for changing into adults. *Yes, my mom is planning a baby shower for me. It may or may not be baby manatee themed. She’s mega-excited. Lesson learned.

I am excited, too. That nervous-excited-anxious-hopeful kind. We’ve started to read to the baby a little bit each night. This morning was the third time we heard its galloping heart beat. I took a blood test for birth defects and don’t have the results back yet. This baby is roughly the size of a bell pepper. I’m supposed to get my Master’s two weeks before my due date. I’m baffled by options for strollers and cribs and car seats. We’re talking about a small upstairs addition to the house. June will be here soon, soon, soon.

As I stretched last night, teetering in a modified tree pose, I didn’t quite feel like a mama, but I felt newer than the old version of myself. I’ve let myself relax into being excited about the not knowing, accepting that there’s room yet to grow and making space.


Filed under Baby, Life lessons

8 responses to “Not knowing

  1. Congrats! I’m 18 weeks too and I totally get the “baby vs. tacos” comment;) Good luck with everything.

  2. Heather Lilienthal

    I’ve followed your blog and writing for awhile and this is so heartfelt and honest. I send you prayers, hope and happiness through your journey to parenthood!

  3. Thanks, ladies! I don’t normally get this personal on my blog, but I am always grateful when others do and this has been on my mind for awhile.

  4. Just by reading this I can tell that you are going to be a great mom!

  5. AnnaP

    Brianne – I love reading your blog and I used to love reading your bits in Juice and this *might* be my first comment but I just had to say that you are going to be a great mom and this was written so well that I teared up a little! Best wishes!

  6. Beautiful. Becoming a mom is harder/stranger than I thought, too. There is no way to really wrap my brain around it all when I haven’t even met the kid yet. Even if I don’t feel like a “real”mama, that is what I am turning into.
    Also, I’m truly sorry you had to experience a loss.

  7. R.H.


    I was unaware of the news. Congratulations to Joe and you! I’m very ecstatic!!!

  8. Pingback: Staying in touch | BS in the Midwest

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