My first trimester, I constantly worried about the health of the embryo. My mind kept repeating the scary medical statistics about women 35 and older conceiving a healthy child. Despite the article in The Atlantic uncovering the sham of those numbers, I fretted that my “old eggs” would be the cause of a chromosomal disorder or miscarriage. I referred to the pregnancy as “the cells” and I didn’t allow myself to be happy or feel attached. I was protecting myself from what I thought was inevitable disappointment.I had my first doctor’s visit in Singapore around 9 weeks and I felt dread as I waited. Eric took the morning off work to come with me and in the waiting room my hero Oprah appeared on TV with Dr. Oz. I saw it as a good sign. When the doctor performed an ultrasound, I saw the blurry white figure on screen. Eric was holding my hand and at that moment, I was overcome with relief. I laid there with my stomach exposed covered in gel and I cried. I felt tiny fissures weakening my emotional walls — that’s my baby. Once I reached 12 weeks and the embryo became a fetus, I shifted my miscarriage worries to fears about my adequacy as a mother. I felt stricken by the enormous responsibility of growing a life inside me AND keeping it alive once it was out. I kept telling myself all the stress was unhealthy. I tried to remember the lessons from therapy, self-help books and Oprah, but my doubts held on like gum on the bottom of my shoe, keeping me from widely sharing the news.
When my belly popped, I saw evidence that I was doing something right. The indisputable bump alleviated my worry that it had stopped growing in there, but I still couldn’t shake my fears about how life changing a child would be. I worried about keeping intimacy in my marriage and I selfishly feared Eric would love the baby more than me. I liked my year as a newlywed and the closeness of Eric and I, the two of us. I knew the baby was going to take over our lives and our relationship would never be the same.
I grew up with six siblings and a rotating stream of teenage foster kids in my parent’s modest home in Peoria. While my parents did the best they could with what they had and knew at the time, I felt like a burden as a child. With so many of us, my parents had little time and resources and I never felt like a priority. I mimicked this pattern of emotional neglect in my romantic relationships until I met Eric.Eric saw me and accepted all of me. For the first time in my life, I was someone else’s top priority. He showed me this again and again during our year of long-distance dating while he finished his MBA. He drove the 8-hour plus roundtrip from New Hampshire to New York City at least once a month and we had nearly nightly Google Hangout dates. When he moved to NY and started a demanding career, we didn’t have a lot of time together but the time we did have was quality. We had real conversations about who were we and what we wanted. I felt completely loved.
I had this fear of a child demoting me well before my pregnancy. I know it’s a selfish thing to want the husband to choose you in the hypothetical question of the sinking car into water. Intellectually, I understand that of course you want the father of your child to LOVE the child but I admit that it bothered me to know that I wouldn’t be his biggest love anymore.
My friend, who is a dad of two boys, sent me a Facebook message after my announcement. “Parenthood is tough, but you’re gonna be awesome…I love my wife, always have. But the unconditional love that you’ll feel for this little critter – I can’t even begin to put into words.” I read this and felt my fears validated, “See, wife bumped to #2 after kids! Confirmed!”
Sunday night over shabu shabu with Eric, I had what Oprah calls an A-Ha moment. I was relishing our couple time when it dawned on me, “Why would I want my child to feel like I did growing up? I don’t want them to feel like they are not a priority from either me or their dad. I want them to feel loved.”
Like that, I understood and accepted that life as I know is ending soon and that’s OK. I am not creating a scarcity of love by bringing our baby into this world. I am growing our love and my capacity to love. It is a miracle and my job right now is to accept the joy.
Thanks again for sending your well wishes and believing in me even when I had little faith. I’m slowly coming into this role as a mom-to-be and I’m sure there are a lot more lessons in the four months ahead.