Pregnancy affects everything, absolutely everything. Blood, bones, teeth, eyes, hair, digestion, skin, nails, tendons, muscles, hormones, mind, stamina...everything. Pregnancy is like a science experiment you conduct on yourself, one that changes every time you go through it, and you're fairly confident of the outcome but that's not certain either. A healthy, live baby is only one possible outcome and every pregnant woman who is willfully, joyfully pregnant lives every moment with the knowledge that things might not go right. Miscarriage is far more common than is acknowledged in general society, stillbirths happen, and babies can be born with conditions that range from the mildly inconvenient to the major but fixable to the not fixable but livable to those which mean a child will never live to see adulthood, or even a year. So you hold your breath through the first trimester, waiting for those confirmations that all is well. A strong heartbeat, an ultrasound. You hang onto even the worst symptoms, knowing that they signal all is going along as it should be.
The second trimester brings some relief, both from symptoms and from the fear (since miscarriage is unlikely) but there are fewer overt signals that all is well until, sometime between 16-22 weeks, movement is felt. Fluttery little signals that many first-time moms mistake for gas or hunger pangs. Still, even after movement there is the fetal anatomy scan to be gone through, to check for anomalies. We were far less stressed out about it this time, laughing and joking with the ultrasound tech, but it was still a relief to hear those magic words, "She looks perfect!" I know people who've had a tech quietly leave the room, only to have a doctor enter a short while later to say that all is not well and to discuss options.
Still, for most who reach that point things will be perfectly normal and healthy. Which doesn't mean it's easy. As you grow more confident in your pregnancy, you're also getting bigger and less capable of doing things you usually take for granted. Everyone begins to comment, to question what you're doing. "Are you sure you want to stand on that step-stool?" Your growing belly is evaluated and commented on endlessly. "I bet you're having a boy. You look like you're carrying a boy!" Thanks, stranger on the bus.
The third trimester brings on a slew of new and uncomfortable symptoms. I'm not sure if I'm really more uncomfortable this time than I was last time, or if I've forgotten just how uncomfortable I was during my first pregnancy. Things are definitely different. The only thing that has remained consistent is my rampant heartburn, for which I take safe medication pretty much daily. But while I'm not getting the leg cramps that, last time, woke me screaming out of sleep at least a couple of times a week, I instead feel like my pelvis is being crushed from the inside. Instead of having to change which side I sleep on, in agony because my hips feel like someone was hammering on them while I slept, this time my hands and feet are swelling (edema) more. When people ask how I'm doing I always answer, "Fine," but if I was being honest I would say, "Everything hurts, and I'm tired." One of those things will begin to change for the better when baby is out, which adds to my natural impatience to meet this child.
And the comments get even worse the bigger you get. Last time my least favorite thing to hear was, "Wow, you're huge." As if I didn't know that? This time it's been a range of mildly annoying comments, from the people who tell me I must be having either or a boy or girl, depending entirely on how they perceive I'm carrying this child, to a coworker telling me that I seem to be managing my weight gain well. I'm sure you can imagine how much I wanted to yell at him that it's inappropriate to comment on a coworker's weight that way, pregnant or not. I actually preferred the random woman on the street who muttered that I'm a "whore", because that at least made me laugh. (Still does, when I think about it.) Don't even get me started on the people who randomly touch my belly because they "just can't help themselves". HusbandX pointed out how rapey that excuse is, because in no other circumstances would it be at all okay to touch a stranger's abdomen without their consent. Reminder: being pregnant does not make a woman's belly public property.
We weren't entirely sure we were even going to have a second kid. There was certainty in the beginning. We had a plan, after all, a number of kids we'd agreed on before embarking on the whole project. Then the Munchkin was born and I told my spouse we wouldn't even discuss a second kid until she was at least two. When she turned two, we were jobless and living with my parents. Not exactly a great time to dream up having another kid. And did we even really want another one? I like to joke that our Munchkin is a four parent child. That is, the ideal number of adults to watch after her at any given time is four. As anyone who knows her knows, she's more than a little handful. She's exhausting. Wouldn't a second kid make life that much harder?
We went back and forth. I tried to talk myself out of wanting a second kid so very, very many times. It didn't work, clearly, and we finally agreed (among other reasons) that our kid was the sort of kid who needs a sibling. This last year has also shown us the importance of having siblings. I can't imagine living through my dad's death and taking care of my mother without having my brothers. This is not to say that every kid has to have a sibling, we know and love many only children and respect all the varied reasons their parents have for not having a second kid. But we realized that our sociable daughter would love to be a big sister. And it's true--she's been talking about "the baby sister you're making for me".
|A baby shirt my brother and|
sister-in-law got for us.
So into all of the chaos of 2017, because we hadn't taken on enough projects, we also need to get ready for this baby. However, the prep is far less onerous than most people make it seem. Just like every other transition in life, our society has deemed this time to be one in which rampant consumerism is necessary. There are endless lists of what you "should" buy for baby, all of which seem to assume that you have an endless amount of money to spend on things your child might use once or twice before they outgrow it or their development makes it unnecessary. To me, this is a mask for what people are really feeling at this time. Despite knowing that we will have a healthy baby, there are still so many unknowns. How will this birth go? What will baby be like? Will she sleep, or will she be like her big sister was and torture us with sleep deprivation and crying whenever she's not in my arms? People cover up this anxiety with actionable items, like decorating a nursery and buying All The Things. This is not to say that you don't need anything for a baby, far from it, but most of it doesn't need to be gathered before a child even enters the world. Clothes, a safe place to sleep, and food are pretty much what a baby really needs. The rest is just stuff to help make things easier for the parents.
With our first we started with the assumption that when we needed to put her down we would do so on a blanket on the floor. She hated that. By the time she was two months old we bought a (used) bouncy seat to put her in so that I could at least go pee without the background of infant screams. $10 very well spent. This time around we're keeping to the same loose plan. We kept much of the stuff from the Munchkin's babyhood, just in case we decided to go ahead and have a second, so we have clothes, baby blankets, books, toys, carriers. We have a bassinet and a crib, a pump and some bottles and a nursing pillow. The only prep for those items was to wash them, since they'd been in storage totes for years in most cases.
What we haven't bought are any of the big things. We sold that bouncy seat when we moved and haven't bought a replacement because who knows if this kid will require one? We haven't bought a swing or exercauser or even a play mat. We haven't bought a monitor. If we decide later on that we need any of these things (and remember, babies have been born and raised for millennia without *needing* these items) then we can always get them after the baby is born. Why stress about it now?
I kept my maternity clothes, so I didn't need to run out and buy all new clothes. When I discovered a lack in my wardrobe I sent out a call to my Buy Nothing Group and one woman offered up some clothes. Not all of them were my style or terribly flattering, but I picked out the pieces I wanted and have been wearing those. I'm getting ready to pass along all of my maternity clothes to a friend who is pregnant with her first, and the ones she doesn't like or want will go to a women's shelter. Why should any of us buy a whole wardrobe for roughly six months? Taken all together I've needed maternity clothes for less than a full year between my two pregnancies, yet it would be easy to spend thousands of dollars on new maternity clothes.
It would be hypocritical to say that I haven't bought anything, or that I haven't bought any new things. I needed new maternity/nursing bras this time and "splurged" by getting three (last time I only had two) as well as a nursing tank top. I bought cloth pads for the postpartum period, since I hated both buying and wearing disposable pads for weeks on end last time. Aside from the expense and the waste, the chafing was real, and who needs to be even more uncomfortable after just having a baby? No one, that's who.
One of the only things bought new for baby herself were some cloth diapers. We've loved using cloth diapers with our first (who is finally growing out of her nighttime need for them, hurray!) and it wasn't even a question of whether or not we would use cloth again. However, the diapers we've been using were hand-me-downs, and they're falling apart. The covers are losing their waterproofing and elasticity, the inserts are falling apart and not terribly absorbent anymore. I made extra inserts out of old towels just to get us through this last little bit of nighttime diaper needs for the Munchkin, but for a baby who will be in diapers full time we needed all new ones. My in-laws generously purchased the ones I wanted as a gift, and they're so cute I'm actually excited to use them.
My biggest preparations haven't been in what we've bought. We've slowly been building up some easy meals in our freezer, from breakfast (baked oatmeal muffins and banana bread muffins) to dinners (soups and these potstickers). I wrote a giant list of freezable foods a while ago, knowing that I would likely only get around to about half of them or even less. But having any wholesome meals in the fridge to help make parenting while sleep-deprived just a tiny bit easier, that's a huge win. Huge.
The other biggest transitions and preparations have been about me. I miss being just me. I'm so happy to be pregnant and to be having another baby, but I miss myself. The last time I got on a bike I would not have been able to get on if it wasn't a step-through, because I can't lift my leg high enough to swing it over a saddle anymore. Then my belly wouldn't fit between the saddle and the water bottle holder. When I finally got up, my balance was so shaky I thought I was just going to fall over. I cannot trust my own body to do the things I'm used to doing. I can't walk for too long because then my feet hurt and begin to swell, which also happens if I sit in a chair for too long. I've spent far too much time on the couch with my feet up, watching Netflix, because I can't do the things I'm used to doing. It's hard. The mental fortitude it's requiring is wearing me down as much as the physical pains are. I am so ready to be done, for this baby to be on the outside. .
Even with that, however, I'm glad to be going through this. Adding a second kid is even more exciting, in many ways, than the first. I get to not only welcome a tiny new person into the world but we get to watch our older child transition into her role as Big Sister. We get to watch the two of them play and interact and grow as siblings. Even knowing that there will be tough moments, I'm looking forward to this. When asked, the Munchkin has told us that she can't wait to hold and hug and kiss her sister. She's complained about the wait (I completely agree) and told us that she's always going to play well with her sister. We've gently explained to her what babies are like and how the baby will affect things for all of us. We've read books about babies and what it's like to bring home a new baby. We know that the reality will involve some hard lessons still, and that there will be some jealousy. However, the fact that she's so excited to be a big sister is confirmation that we made the right choice. No matter what hardships come our way from a newborn baby, it will be so worth it for the whole family.