Part 1: The Pregnancy Lessons
My daughter turns three tomorrow. Which got me thinking: I will be celebrating three years of parenthood!
But then I realized, not quite.
I count the months before my daughter’s birth because I think pregnancy is a form of parenting, too. To be fair, I’m not sure I became a mother the day I saw the positive pregnancy test. I think that happened a week or two later.
There I was, maybe five weeks into my pregnancy and I noticed spotting. It was significant enough that I got worried. I called my midwife’s office in a panic. The nurse explained that it could just be bleeding from implantation. Or it could be something else. She explained how at this stage there wasn’t really anything they could do. She encouraged me to rest.
My heart dropped. I curled up on the couch and cried.
I learned the first lesson of parenthood: vulnerability.
I remember thinking, wait a minute. This is really scary! The worry…the fear…so much was out of my control! How was it possible to become so attached to a being so small that its heart beat couldn’t even be detected yet?
Which taught me the second lesson of parenthood: surrender.
There was nothing else to do but surrender to what was. I didn’t like it, I didn’t want it, but I had to remain suspended in this in-between place. Where it felt like everything and nothing was possible.
Who knew parenthood was one big Zen practice?
My husband was surprisingly laid back about the whole thing. If it isn’t meant to be, it isn’t meant to be, he said. He didn’t get it, not yet. This embryo the size of a grain of rice (or was it a poppy-seed?) wasn’t real to him yet. Not like it was to me. If it—my baby!—stopped growing, if it wasn’t meant to be, I would still be devastated.
This taught me the third lesson of parenthood: gratitude.
Three weeks later I was sitting on a cold vinyl examination table. The midwife asked a few questions and then stopped abruptly. Wait, we were moving out of state soon? (Yes, in a month!) Why on earth were we in her office? she asked. She explained that we could have waited to find a provider once we moved.
I remember being aghast. Was she joking? Wait?! There was no way I could have waited. The bleeding had stopped and I wanted confirmation that all was well.
She proceeded with the ultrasound but I am sure she thought we were a couple of overly-neurotic new parents. (OK: fair enough.) Suddenly there was a rapid sound, like a horse galloping, I remember her saying.
That was my baby’s heartbeat. It was more than well.
My heart swelled.
I understood gratitude that day. It was a gift, this live child growing inside me. It wasn’t something to be taken for granted. There were no guarantees in this journey.
All this and I was only eight weeks into parenthood. Six months later, while eight months pregnant, I learned these lessons all over again, magnified by 1,000.
[Tomorrow: Part II, The NICU lessons]