I grew up in southeastern Massachusetts. My family used to visit the beach on Cape Cod a few times a summer until I was about 14. I have a lot of fond memories, aided by the pictures my mother would take ad nauseam, of playing with my father in the sand and swimming in the shallow water before the sandbar. I’d watch my dad swim out to the buoys and worry about sharks, and my mother would mutter that he would be carried away. I remember standing in the water when the tides were changing. I’d watch the wave roll in and up my legs, then recede, pulling sand from beneath my feet and challenging my childhood body to hold its ground or be knocked over.
As the heat and humidity become interminable and Oscar’s birthday approaches, I feel the same.
I am standing against waves of time and grief. The water rushes in, a cool and comforting joy, for the life growing inside me. They are beginning to make waves of their own with their newly developed reflexes. But the water never fails to rush out; I feel ungrounded, untethered to the earth, and I fear I will be swept away in the currents. The sand rushes out from underneath me; every difference in this pregnancy, every hour of doubt, every “was that a kick? I can’t tell yet,” pulls at my foundation. It’s hard to keep your feet planted when the very ground is shifting beneath you.
This week has been better. I feel more of that contentment, that quiet connection with this new baby. I’m finding my hand on my belly more often. I’m having round ligament pain, my feet are starting to hurt, and my hands are swollen when I wake up in the morning. I had put on about 30 pounds by this point in my first pregnancy; I’ve put on about 4 this time. The differences have been so astounding that I’ve had trouble feeling like I was pregnant. I think that’s starting to settle in and it’s a welcome friend.
When I was pregnant with Oscar, I had no fear. I felt invincible.
My wife would just shake her head; I was huge and uncomfortable for months, had trouble walking and had no energy; but when someone would ask how I was feeling, I’d smile and say I felt great. Because I did. I trusted my body, I felt deeply connected to her and to the earth, and to the millions who had come before me on this journey. I wasn’t scared of labor or pain. My worries manifested in household things; the recycling had to be taken in, the baby’s room wasn’t finished and felt like it never would be, the grass wouldn’t mow itself. Hawthorne did her best to keep up with my worries; she’d mow the grass or call the guy, but there had been a lot of rain and the heat was near record-breaking. The recycling wasn’t going anywhere, and we had a contingency plan for the baby’s room.
(I should note, before Oscar was born, we only referred to him as ‘the baby,’ or ‘wild child.’ I had to meet him before I could know what his name was. This is one of the few pregnancy/baby worries I remember – what if we named him Oscar now, and when he was born, he was clearly an Ansel?)
But overall, fear was not part of my pregnancy experience. I had gallbladder problems, kidney stones, gestational diabetes requiring four insulin shots a day, and edema in my belly, breasts, and legs. My wife had the fear: for my health, the baby, for becoming a parent. I felt heavy and happy, even though most pictures show me sweating and uncomfortable. I had once thought I would be one of those people who carried pregnancy gracefully, glowing and smiling. I don’t know why; I’ve never done a graceful thing in my life, why would carrying a baby tracking in the 95th percentile for growth be the first thing? But fear never really factored in until the morning of July 17th, when he stopped moving.
Now I feel as if I’m rooted in fear.
It courses through my veins, and worries me that I’m giving this baby an ocean of anxiety to grow in. I fear their muscles will be built of fear, their movements dictated by it. Their eyes will see nothing but the scary parts of this world and their hands will be too jittery to hold another. And while I know this is illogical, it’s just another layer of worry.
I try to focus on that contentment. The fear will ebb and flow and pull at the ground underneath, but I will hold onto and build that connection so that I can be a grounded mama to both my babies, earth-side and star-side.