I’m sure those of you who follow this blog semi-regularly have found that I’ve been posting pretty rarely this summer (this post is long enough to make up for that, trust me). And it’s not because I’m so busy there’s not enough time for blogging. Quite the contrary, actually. But there’s a different reason I haven’t been doing much blogging: I’ve been adjusting to my life’s new normal, to some very big changes.
Big changes like I’m pregnant.
I found out I was pregnant while in London in May. I’ve always been the girl whose periods you could set your watch to (sorry if that was TMI), so while overseas I had a growing dread, knowing I was late. So I popped down to a Boots pharmacy around the block from the apartment where we were staying one day mid-trip. I didn’t have much cash on me, so I opted for the cheapest pregnancy test. I was probably just freaking myself out, right? I’d missed a period before from stress, so it could happen again, right? Anyway, I waited an agonizing 24 hours to take the test (you’re supposed to take the test in the morning right when you get up). The instructions said to wait for three minutes for results. Well, my results were immediate. No theatrical sitting on the toilet in the bathroom waiting for the test to confirm or deny my fears like the movies. There it was, the pink line. Oh. My. God. I hurried back over to Boots and bought another pregnancy test, praying for false positive. The test I bought was twice as expensive and boasted of a “conception counter.” I didn’t wait until the next morning but took the test right away: “Positive. 3+ weeks.”
From the beginning, my thoughts have been conflicted about this new development. This is not an opportune time for me to get pregnant. I’m going back to school at the end of this month for a bachelor’s degree (my third… it’s ridiculous, I know) in sustainable crop production. I’m shifting my life away from a career that wasn’t working and I’ve been so excited about it. I spend my free time reading books about organic gardening and homesteading. I fantasize about the CSA I hope to operate one day, planning out the little things and dreaming big. And Shawn and I have been married less than a year. Our big plans included having children in about five years. On top of this, to say money is tight is an understatement. Shawn and I are relying on loans for this round of schooling and the bill at the end is not going to be pretty. I’ve been unemployed for three and half months. The Phil Vassar song “In a Real Love” has been playing on endless loop in my head since May:
“Well I was 22 workin’ double overtime.
I was spendin’ dollars and makin’ dimes.
We were overdrawn, and barely hangin’ on.
Then one night you came to me
With tears in your eyes and the EPT and said ‘guess what?’
Yeah, baby, ready or not.
Well, I just smiled but I was scared to death.
How am I gonna’ have a kid when I’m still a kid myself?”
I waited to tell Shawn the “big news” until I returned from London/Denver. If taking the pregnancy test was agonizing, waiting a week to tell my husband that we’re going to be parents was torture. And, being my stupid self, I couldn’t hold it in and blabbed to my dad, my sister and my mom. Something I wish I hadn’t done until my husband was told, but that’s water under the bridge at this point. People have asked me how the London trip was and I’ve tried to be as enthusiastic as possible in telling them what we did and saw, but really, I had four good days there and four very difficult days there, carrying the secret of my pregnancy around like a rock in my gut. Suddenly I felt set apart from everyone around me. And as silly as this sounds, it really sucks watching your dad and sister eat sushi (I could live the rest of my life eating only sushi, I love it that much) while I abruptly could not.
So I passed the week and flew back to Montana, reading my new copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting on the airplane, hoping that somewhere in the book I’d find all the answers to my million questions (some answers were found, yes, but I still have so many questions of a very different nature). I got off the plane, greeted my husband and we drove to a coffee shop to get some java before hitting the road for the drive home. I wanted to wait to tell him until we were out in beautiful countryside, but I couldn’t. I froze up. And soon enough I had to spit it out, in a parking lot behind the coffee shop while watching a flooded creek rush past.
“I knew,” he said.
“How?” I asked.
“You’re not very subtle,” he said.
We spent the rest of the drive talking about things like baby names, both in too much shock to really process the enormous knowledge of this life-altering person inside me who at that point was still just a collection of cells, not even developed enough to qualify as a fetus. I thought Shawn was taking the news much better than I thought he would. And he mostly did, except for some days.
Since that time, life has been an emotional roller coaster. We’ve both had days of excitement, knowing that we’re going to be OK, that we’ll be the best parents we can be to this little person. And we’ve both had low days, days of “I don’t want a kid right now, maybe ever.” Days, at least for me, that felt like I’d been robbed of all my dreams by a baby I didn’t want. Plus, the morning sickness kicked in like clockwork at the six-week mark and the nausea continued for a month. I realize now that it could have been much, much, MUCH worse (I never threw up and it didn’t last that long), but feeling like you’re going to throw up all day, every day for a month — and did I mention this was during my overdue honeymoon? the one where we were supposed to go to Napa but had to scramble and re-work the trip to go to Monterey instead? — is extremely unpleasant.
While I’m being brutally honest, I’ll admit we considered abortion. We had our reasons, but, in the end, decided that we just couldn’t do it. We wouldn’t throw away the life. But it was tempting, especially considering the cool reception we received from our family. Until recently, my mom and my grandmother have been the only people excited for us. Everyone else has been “concerned.” (Understandably so — I’m quite concerned myself — but saddening too, because this little person should be celebrated and it’s not his or her fault he or she is about five years early. It’s hard to carry an baby that seems unwanted by everyone.)
We couldn’t help but find irony in the little things. Things like we watched “Juno” right before I left for London. Things like the five-ish couples we know who are “trying” to get pregnant. They’ve been trying for months. Us? We’re accidental one-hit wonders.
I think that’s what helped me start to see the proverbial light, however. The realization that we have friends who really want children but are struggling to get pregnant. Shawn and I are lucky, really. There’s no disappointment of the depressingly regular period. No mechanical sex timed to the exact perfect moment for conception. We don’t have to pull out the big guns and go the in vitro route. No doctors finally telling us it just isn’t going to happen and have we considered adoption? We’re lucky. We can have children, and evidently with surprising ease. And though I’m not one to be very vocal about my faith, I do feel blessed by God that I am chosen to bear children, unlike so many women.
And we’re young. It felt like a death sentence in the beginning, but we’ve realized a few things. First of all, having children younger means fewer complications (usually) and my body should bounce back much quicker. And when we’re in our mid-40s, we’ll be empty nesters, unlike so many of our friends who are waiting until their 30s to have children.
I’m in my fifteenth week of pregnancy now. My body has started to change. My tummy is getting firm and I can’t “suck it in” anymore. But I’m not really showing yet and my clothes still fit fine. Hopefully I follow my mother’s example and I won’t have to start wearing maternity clothes until six months. But at the same time, I feel less like the site of an alien invasion and more like I’m going to be a mother at the end of January 2012. The hormones are definitely firing on all fronts! And I realized this morning that I’m just five weeks away from the 20-week mark. The halfway point. Holy cow.
When that 20 weeks rolls around, we’re going to have the ultrasound to tell us what gender we’re having. We’ve had enough of big surprises. Let’s just hope my child doesn’t act like me and roll away from the ultrasound (that’s right… I rolled away during the ultrasound my folks had done and my mom had numerous “signs” that I would be a boy. Yours truly was “Thomas” until she was born.)
But despite being almost halfway done with the pregnancy, this summer has been, in a word, interminable. Until this past week, I didn’t have a job. I’m not good at doing nothing for months on end. I find myself actually looking forward to moving next week to a different apartment because it’s something to do.
I found a job working in a sandwich shop and coffee house. I wanted a job that would be completely unrelated to school. I’ve done two shifts at the sandwich shop. The people I work with are super nice and laid back and my boss is so chill. I’m thankful for this job. But I tell you what, I have a whole new definition of exhausted now. The past two days when I’ve gotten home after standing for eight hours straight, I’ve been so tired I could barely chew my dinner. Part of it is that I’m not used to being on my feet for eight hours straight. But mostly it’s because my body is already putting a lot of effort into making a person. And that pregnancy weight so far isn’t anywhere in sight. In fact, I’m losing weight (my doctor assures me this is OK — the baby will be perfectly healthy even if I don’t gain weight). My friend Meagan, who just had a darling baby boy, asssures me that I should start to perk up soon. The books say too that the second trimester is the easiest. I sure hope so.
And there are new concerns creeping into the mix. Babies are expensive and Shawn and I both have pretty low-paying jobs and we’re going to be in school full time. In fact, canceling my plans to go back to school is not even an option for me: The insurance paying for this child’s prenatal care and birth is provided by the university. I’m really excited for this first semester, but frankly dreading the next one. Will I have understanding professors? Can I take most of my classes next semester online? I’m going to miss at least two weeks of class (probably more like a month to six weeks). How will I pull that off? I have to maintain two classes to keep my insurance. I have to maintain four classes to keep my loans. Will the loan office be understanding? Can I work something out? What about daycare? How much will that cost? How can I breastfeed while going to classes?
There’s no doubt about it, this is going to be a tough ride for the next few years. Really tough. I’m terrified. Shawn’s got at least three years left of school, and with this child, my three years of school will likely turn into four. Three to four more years of paycheck-to-paycheck. Loans. WIC. It’s unbelievably stressful to say the least.
There’s always, thankfully, “but.”
But despite these fears, despite the enormous struggle this summer has been and the coming years will no doubt be, there’s a little person growing inside me. A little person that Shawn and I created. A person who will one day have hopes and dreams of his or her own. I’ve always heard that women fall in love with their unborn children and this is completely true. I’m already feeling a tenderness I’ve never felt before and a joy that, though it started out as barely a flicker, has grown into a light that burns away my fears.
And we’ve had some luck, at long last. We found a beautiful, gently used crib and crib mattress at a garage sale for $40 (I found it online… original retail for crib and crib mattress = $500). I’ve made a few tentative baby purchases: I bought a crib sheet with little animals all over it. I bought a couple of picture books. And we’ve received a few gifts from friends and family, too. A darling tie-dye infant outfit. A crib mattress cover, picture book and fuzzy blanket. Shawn’s mom and sister have been hunting for us at garage sales, turning up little outfits and a vibrating chair. Things are coming together. My aunt is throwing me a baby shower over Thanksgiving.
So that’s my big news, the news of Baby Christensen.
And guess what? We’re so excited.