Today I am 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I've been putting on a brave face, but in truth every muscle and joint and ligament and ounce of of my freaking being is uncomfortable. The thing is, I realize that less than a year ago I would have given ANYTHING to be in this position. And I realize that this is the last time I'll ever be doing this. And so, I'm trying to relish every ache and every pain and every trip to the bathroom every 10 freaking minutes - because I wished for this. I hoped for this. I prayed for this. And here I am. In reflection, I wanted to tell this story for the life we're about to welcome into the world. Because I'm uncomfortable - but dang it, I'm so happy.
"It started out as a feeling which then grew into a hope
Which then grew into a quiet thought which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder until it was a battle cry..."
- The Call; Regina Spektor
At the beginning of 2015, I made a secret Pinterest board that was dedicated solely to ideas for announcing a pregnancy at Disney World. It's a notion that makes me cringe even today, but it's true. My husband and I had long ago decided that we wanted our last vacation as a family of 3 to be taken at Disney World.
I have a habit of getting WAY ahead of myself when it comes to planning and given that we were planning to start trying for another baby at the beginning of the year, the timing seemed perfect.
Six years ago, when we found out we were pregnant for the first time, I learned nothing about my reproductive health in the process. For all intents and purposes, we got pregnant accidentally on purpose after one month of trying. It's a blessing, one that I do not take for granted (especially now), but it was unfair. It's unrealistic. It set me up for what would end up being 6 months of sadness and disappointment and above all - confusion.
But, first - Disney World.
Upon packing for the trip we had planned for for months, I realized that I would be able to take a test around the fourth day of our trip there and was sure it would be the most magical positive pregnancy test anyone had ever peed on. I thought of fun ways for us to secretly announce our pregnancy through photographs while at Disney World to share with our families when we returned. I was excited for the trip, yes, but I think I was more excited about what the trip would mean for us.
I remember taking the resort transit to Hollywood Studios on our second day of the trip and suddenly being overcome with nausea. The kind that only exists in the first trimester. I can't even describe the elation I felt at this sudden and inexplicable urge to vomit. I had never been more sure that I was pregnant.
We arrived early at our brunch reservations the next day and while waiting for our table, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. And that's when I saw I had my period.
In my bag, I had packed six different pregnancy tests.
And four tampons.
I walked out of the bathroom with tears threatening to spill down my face. I don't even think I had to say the words to my husband. I think he knew. And he tried to hide it, but I saw the disappointment I was feeling mirrored in his expression. We both decided not to discuss it and to try to just enjoy the trip.
We spent the rest of that day at Epcot. I drank a beer in every country that day. Partially because I could. But, mostly because I was numbing the pain. There was so much self blame. I wanted to space out my pregnancies. It had always been the right decision for our family and now I was filled with so much doubt. Truly, this was one thing I felt like I (personally) was born to do - and I was failing at it. Quite frankly, I felt broken.
The next day, while waiting in a very long line at the Magic Kingdom, I did the thing you should never do when you're panicking about a possible medical problem - I Google'd.
However, the great thing about relying on Dr. Google when it comes to fears about your fertility, is that sometimes you stumble upon a community forum that tells you you are absolutely insane. It was there that I learned facts that sustained me for the failed cycles that would follow. It was there that I learned I was not even close to infertile - just uninformed and impatient.
I learned that it can take up to a year for a healthy couple to conceive.
I learned that a couple only has a 20% chance of conceiving every month.
I learned that I had expected to get pregnant in a fraction of the time that many couples out there have been trying (and some with varied levels of medical intervention).
I learned that accidental pregnancies are pretty much mathematically improbable.
I learned that most pregnancies (including my own previous pregnancy) are pretty much mathematically improbable.
I felt like an idiot. Little Miss "I got pregnant after one month of trying, what's wrong with me now?" really got a dose of her own medicine. I read post after post after post after post of women struggling with fertility, women starting IVF, women who knew so much more about this stuff than I ever bothered to learn. It was like I had fallen asleep in health class in middle school and suddenly woke up at 31 and decided to pay attention.
So, I read. And I learned. I found solace in a community full of women who understood what I was going through.
Who would listen when a very pregnant person complained to me about her pregnancy while I was hoping so desperately to be in her shoes.
Who would sympathize when I was asked over and over again when we were finally going to have another kid.
Who would understand when every pregnancy announcement was like a punch in my (empty) gut.
Even though I was now armed with the knowledge that our timeline was completely normal, I felt less normal as every non-pregnant day went on. I discovered through various tracking methods that sometimes I ovulated and sometimes I didn't. My body just doesn't see it to be a necessary process every month. The birth control pills which had regulated my cycles for years were finally out of my system and in response, my system had no idea what to do with itself.
I put in a call with my OB/GYN for an appointment to discuss my concerns. The nurse I spoke to was very reassuring and sweet and told me that I should give it one more irregular cycle before I made an appointment.
That cycle never came.
And one afternoon, motivated by some sweet women on a board which had become my safe haven for sharing my obsessive charting who saw my chart and told me I would be crazy to not pee on a stick that afternoon, I stopped by a store and bought a pregnancy test.
I was on the way home from our second annual musical and still feeling elated from watching our students and their triumphant performance. I didn't want to ruin that feeling with another disappointment, but I just had to know.
I remember closing the door to the bathroom and standing outside of it. I had seen so many negative tests already. I just didn't want to see another one turn right in front of my eyes.
I cautiously approached the test the way one would approach a live wire. Convinced it would be another disappointment.
But it was positive. I was finally pregnant.
And no, it wasn't Disney World - but it was still magical.
I'm sharing this story here because I am certain there are people out there who, like me, don't understand the reality of fertility. Who think pregnancy is a right rather than a privilege. Who perhaps have never felt the pain of this struggle. Who have felt the pain of this struggle and are glad to hear someone break the silence that surrounds infertility. I was never one to approach people about their plans for procreation - I find that to be a highly personal decision and I never wanted to accidentally harm someone who was unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant.
However, I also never applied those same principles to myself. I approached myself over and over saying "Why aren't you pregnant yet, Amanda?" and it was a very painful and scary time. It didn't have to be. It just took a little bit of self help and education.
And now here I am - 3 days before I'm due with this little man. All I can feel is grateful that I didn't allow the fear and judgment and disappointment keep me from the magic I've wanted for so long.