Tonight on my way home from tutoring, I saw a hardened old, grocery store clerk snarl at another employee while arranging a strange winter display of watermelon outside the storefront. And just when my mind was made up about said curmudgeonly store clerk, I watched him secretly slip an ice cube from his watermelon display to an aging golden retriever passing by on the street. It was a quick reversal of thoughts–from resenting this old man for yelling publicly at a coworker, to loving him for sharing an ice cube. Of course as frequently happens when a pregnant person experiences two emotions too close together, this little gesture made me tear up at the crosswalk between 92nd and 93rd street.
I’ve had a lot of thoughts that I wanted to write down during this pregnancy that I’ve desperately (publicly!) longed for but I hadn’t found the right entry point until I saw this surreptitious act of ice cubing. I haven’t wanted to seem ungrateful for this opportunity we almost thought impossible, but also, in the spirit of authenticity I strive to maintain on this blog, I’ve also wanted to acknowledge that my stomach seems to sabotage me with a weak appetite and then punish me for waiting too long between meals (because meals should be every half hour now, according to my fetus). I’ve wanted to be real about my experience, because even if you want it really bad, pregnancy is still kinda hard.
Someone recently told me they’d read somewhere that, “You can be mad at God. He can take it.” There have been spaces and times where I’ve leaned into that a little bit. I’ve had long conversations (in varying degrees of angst) with God that started long before pregnancy about why, on God’s literal green earth, He had to make pregnancy so hard for women. With every one of my friend’s anecdotes on nausea, on fatigue, on anxiety, on heartburn, on constipation (fun surprise!), on postpartum depression, on weight gain, on stretch marks, on losing hair, on contractions, on getting c-sections, on losing babies at all phases of pregnancy–during all of these anecdotes, I’d turn an angry eye towards God and ask a long, whiney whyyyyyyyyyyyy.
I built a wall between us before I got pregnant. I had decided what pregnancy was before I had a baby inside me. Now that I finally am pregnant, I’m trying to dismantle that wall stone by stone.
If you read this blog even once in the last year, you know that all of that pre-pregnancy angst was probably partially a defense mechanism for not being able to get pregnant myself. Our fertility journey hasn’t been an easy journey to start–and it didn’t magically become easier once I actually got pregnant. I felt all the requisite side effects of early pregnancy with a vengeance, and I was surprised to find that rather than being angered by them, I welcomed them–little check-ins that baby was still in there. But then we got some alarming test results that suggested that baby will likely have a shortened journey that ends with a c-section and time in the NICU. This pregnancy has been hard in all the ways I could have anticipated–I’m sick, I’m fatigued, and I’m crying at the crosswalk between 92nd and 93rd. And then, what was already hard by itself was made harder by the anxiety that at the end of all this, it’s possible that I might not even have a baby to show for it.
But in that meaningless moment where the hardened store clerk that had just snapped at a coworker turned around to tenderly slip an old dog an ice cube, I found an unlikely metaphor for my fertility journey: Hard things (like the store clerk) can also be good.
I fully believe that a person can be mad about something and grateful for it at the same time. That was how I expected to feel about pregnancy to some degree–mad that it was so hard to get to this moment, mad about the heartburn, and the frequent peeing, and the headaches. I expected to be mad that it’s still hard to know if our baby will be born after all of this emotional disarray. But the angst just doesn’t read as true anymore; not when I feel little popcorn popping inside me that’s actually my baby’s first kicks. Not when I hear his heartbeat on the ultrasound, strong and short and true. I can’t find the angst anymore because I’m too overwhelmed by the idea of holding his tiny foot–a foot that I made!–in my hand for the first time. And while I try not to get too churchy on my online presence, I’m finding that when I let God into the harder moments instead of lamenting that He gave them to me, I find His presence with me louder and more supportive than ever before. Amidst all the tummy aches and the tiredness, that part feels pretty good.
I’m finding the mad I experienced pre-pregnancy is just melting away, stone by stone by stone. I don’t blame or castigate or deride myself for feeling anger during and largely before this journey; the anger is part of the process of healing and growing, a necessary starting point as I start to understand that hard things can also be good.