Friday, August 11, 2006

I Know the Feeling

I can’t believe I’m having another baby. In another two months or so, a new baby is going to enter my life. I feel fine, no bloating, no constant need to pee, no swollen ankles or raging hormones. I’m not tired, and I’m wearing all my regular clothes. It’s very strange, this pregnancy. And yet, after all the screaming and pushing is over, I’ll have another beautiful baby in my family. When I sat down and started filling out the birth class information, even though I’ve been through two pretty successful births (they came out and everyone lived- I think that’s pretty successful), I was at a loss for how to answer “Is this your first birth?” I finally scribbled “Kinda.”

You see, it’s my partner’s turn. And while straight new parents-to-be may discuss how to divide the workload equitably, most don’t get the opportunity to decide who will birth the baby. We did. I had the first two, and she’s having the last one. After all, I’m 37 now, and she’s only 34, and we did want one more baby. More than that, we both wanted to be pregnant, to go through the experience, to give birth to a child. Most of my straight friends shake their heads in envy. “I’d have two more if I didn’t have to be pregnant!” I mean, let’s face it, being pregnant, and taking care of other children is hard. “I’d have him have one just so he would know how it feels!” I do know how it feels. But now, so does my partner. The shoe is really on the other foot.

This became clear to me when my partner, in her first trimester, was complaining about how sick she felt. I agreed wholeheartedly. I could do more than imagine having morning sickness, trying to equate having the flu with the nausea of raging hormones. I was that sick, too. She shook her head, “No, you were just a little lightheaded- I’m really sick.” And there it was. A unconscious confession- she really didn’t think I was all that sick. She was sweet to me when I had morning sickness, very supportive, held my head, brought me ginger ale, but never really got it. Then, in true pregnancy induced dementia, was sure that she really really felt bad, the worse than any other woman alive could ever have felt, and could she have her pasta, no sauce, salad, no dressing and peanut butter toast now, please, before the next wave of nausea hits.

As the pregnancy has progressed, I’ve come to realize that while I do have a wealth of experience, her pregnancy really is unique to her. I’m not the one having the baby. This became very clear when we went to our first birth class. I went in, questioning whether or not we needed to go to one at all, and left in awe of my new role. I am packer of the bag, holder of the stopwatch, organizer of arrangements for the kids, and head cheerleader. Suddenly, it hits home that I’m the spectator, not the event. I won’t be the one who will know when it’s time to go to the hospital, I won’t be the one who will have the undeniable need to push. It isn’t my body.

That’s the hard part, the great part, the difficult part, the wonderful part. I watch this wonderful belly emerge, grow and move, and I know exactly how it feels to learn my baby’s rhythm by it’s movements. This one, this time, I’m the one watching. At night, spooned together, I feel the baby kicking against my back, and it’s wonderfully reminiciant and totally different. I get one little faint kick, and my partner get’s the bladder bouncing, lung squishing complete effect.

I worry, secretely, that I won’t have the same feelings for this baby as I did the ones who entered the world through me. It’s hard not to. When I watch my partner, though, with our two kids, I know better. The bond between them comes from endless sleepless nights, skinned knees and angry words. It comes from the day in and day out of life, their shared experience. Blood is a connection, but it isn’t the only connection. Giving birth doesn’t guarantee a good relationship. I know she couldn’t love them more. My worries quiet, and once again I marvel at the new life growing right before my eyes.

I have a new role this time. It will be challenging, different, new. I’ll surely struggle with it, talk about it, grow into it. I’m prepared, because, after all, I am a parent. It’s what I do every day.


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