On getting that positive pregnancy test…
It sounds crazy, but as soon as I got married I suddenly wanted to have a baby. I don’t know if it was my beautiful diamond ring reminding me I was legal to have a child or what, but I wanted a little cooing baby all of my own. Preferably an adorable one, like on a Pampers commercial.
Dave wasn’t so hot on the idea. We just got married and needed to meld a bit before adding a child to the mix. Especially after our engagement counselors told us we were both such fiery, strong leaders we would be a dynamic couple….IF we could stay married.
Anyways. I didn’t want to push it or make our first big fight over having a cherub. So I kept quiet and hoped he would change his mind. Each time I saw Dave with his niece or other children, my heart burst inside. What a good father he would make someday!
Six months later, Dave took me on our weekly date night to Southlake Town Center here in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex. It is a fun shopping area with lots of great restaurants and even a big water fountain near a gelato shop. Dave pulled up into a parking spot near Barnes and Noble for a coffee and magazine date on a Tuesday night. “Well, I think it’s time to have a baby,” he announced, like well, I think it’s time we watered the yard type-of-way. “What?!?!” I kissed him like it was our last kiss, or more accurately like a sloppy high-schooler in a car post prom.
Then I made the mistake I still hadn’t learned to fix in my six short months of marriage. I asked my make-a-decision-and-don’t-discuss-it-anymore bottom-line husband his least favorite question, “Honey. But are you sure?” Dave turned to me, heated. “Leah, why would I say that and not be sure. Are you sure?” I laughed, of course I was sure!!!!!!
I floated in the wood doors on pink baby dream clouds. I made a beeline toward the parenting section while Dave, my man’s man hunter, perused the firearm magazines. I lugged a stack of parenting books back to a small table and Dave ordered us steaming Starbucks drinks. I didn’t take a sip. All I could think about was having a baby.
But we didn’t get pregnant that month. Or the next month. Or the next month. It seemed all my friends were Fertile Myrtle. Their husband just sneezed on them and they got the magical double pink lines. That’s when I entered the fine world of fertility awareness. And subjected myself to stranger-turned-preggo-expert opinions. “Oh, you need to keep laying down for twenty minutes afterwards. You want gravity on the side of the little guys.” Why thank you so much. I’m Leah, what’s your name? The information was simultaneously overwhelming and hilarious to me. Take your temperature. Chart your cycles. Take ovulation tests – the little smiley guy means now is the time!
Turns out, we didn’t really have to get that involved. Six months later we were pregnant.
(More of that story in my upcoming book).
Six weeks into pregnancy, I felt like a female Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had so much energy. I thought maybe it was these awesome prenatal vitamins, or SOMETHING. Then Dave and I celebrated our first year wedding anniversary. Romantic Dave took me to a fine steakhouse with starched white tablecloths and had a bouquet of red roses waiting at our table. That was the first night my food didn’t taste just right. We retreated back to our swanky hotel and I ordered room service to bring me a Sprite.
The next day, when were back to normal married life and went to our neighborhood Wal-mart for some groceries. All of a sudden, the smells overwhelmed me. I dashed back to our car like a preggo track star and stood shuttering and fake vomiting in the parking lot. What in the world? Dave came to check on me. I nobly wiped the saliva off my chin with the back of my hand and told him I wasn’t sure what was wrong.
That was the beginning of morning sickness horror for me. I vomited at least once daily for four months straight, felt queasy non-stop and no food ever tasted normal until the baby was born. Even brushing my teeth or taking a shower triggered the vomiting. I lost 20 pounds in three months. Ginger Ale replaced my beloved Dr. Pepper.
I felt like an invalid, instead of a newly married peppy blonde wife. At my worst days, Dave would return home from work and the only thing I could offer our relationship was a smile from the couch. I couldn’t get up, cook, clean or do anything. Making this baby was dominating me. It was like being really, really sick for 10 months. No one prepared me for it and I felt pretty depressed as having a baby was surreal. I think severe morning sickness is the worst before you have a baby because you really don’t know what’s coming or why it is really, really worth it.
I remember one morning Dave game me the best morning sickness present ever. It was snowing, but I didn’t know it – a rarity for Texas winters. David made me keep my eyes closed until he opened the blinds – “Ok! Look!” Then he opened the blinds downstairs so I could lay on the couch, sick as a dog with morning sickness, to watch the snow fall. He is the BEST husband and morning sickness made me appreciate him so much more.
We started to prepare our house for a little human. We replaced the carpet with wood floors for easy clean-up and also purchased leather, not cloth, couches. We felt pretty smart and like pro-new parents looking at the gleaming brown loveseat, “yeah, it will be so much easier when the baby spills, like, their little sipee cup or something.” Sipee cup. Oh, say it again. We felt like expert parents-to-be.
Grocery shopping list during morning sickness: rice crispies, applesauce, cottage cheese, frozen fruit bars, ice cold watermelon, water crackers, lemonade, grapefruit juice, white bread for toast, crunch sugar cereal to eat dry. They say if you make only one change while pregnant, try to get down two eggs daily. How to get an egg down with morning sickness: burn a piece of toast so you have texture and lay the egg on top. And thank goodness for Chick Fil A lemonade. I sucked preggo pops during church – the citrus taste cut the nausea.
David finally decided to start cooking since I hadn’t cooked for six weeks. For lunch he is made Instant Ramon noodles (I got to choose chicken or beef) and for dinner he is made Mac n’ Cheese. I think those were some of the most love-filled meals we have ever shared. Forget five-star foodie restaurants, I’ll take a simple two-ingredient, packaged process meal with a kind husband at our kitchen table any day.
Prenatal massages are the closest thing to pregnant-heaven-on-earth. Except when you almost pass out afterward because you are so dizzy and light-headed that your wonderful husband must come pick you up afterward. Good grief. The lady finished and led me to pay. I dug into my purse, with shaky hands, for my credit card. Scribbled a signature then asked to go back to the waiting room to sit down. I told them I couldn’t drive and called Dave on my cell to pick me up. I almost burst into tears when he answered. I couldn’t believe, after all the vomiting and nausea, I had more pregnancy problems. Four straight months of vomiting and now this? After I hung up, the masseuses kept coming in to check on me, popping in their concerned heads through the curtains. I felt like such a weirdo. What had happened to my body? I used to be so strong – I played sports, worked out and was highly active. Now I was sickly and useless. Blah. Who are you, Pregnancy?
Morning sickness felt like this private war within that no one knew about. There was a silver lining – with no effort of my own, I was skinny with vomiting abs of steel. Because I was so sick and thin, and on top of that carried my baby so compactly, no stranger ever asked if I was pregnant until I was six-months along. I just beamed when they did – I still remember the elevator I was in at a hotel. “Why, YES! Yes I am!!!!” It felt so nice to be acknowledged for all the hard work – finally I could see tangible signs for the “whys” of morning sickness.
(More on morning sickness in my book).
THE LAST TRIMESTER
I have the sweetest sister and mother in the whole world! They came over and helped me sort through all the baby things post baby shower and set up the nursery. Mom finally left, while Faith – my sweet sister – helped me finish. At the end of all the gift bags, we had collected a staggering family of bath ducks: SEVEN. “Should I take some back?” I asked. “Nah,” Faith smiled. “You can never have too many ducks in a bath.” She was right. It started to sink in that we were near go time when Dave set up the Diaper Genie.
I remember looking at it in our quiet, still nursery decorated in grey, white and black since we didn’t know the gender of our Peanut. (That’s what we called the baby, bless it’s heart, because that’s what it looked like on the first sonogram. Eventually, we merged our last name into the nickname to foster the catchy name: Spinut. (Spina plus Peanut – “spee-nut”). Eh, eh?) I sat in my rocker, slowly gliding back and forth and looked out of the window. What was about to happen? Was our world about to change?
I played tennis through eight months pregnant. I’ll never forget the day I finally, and officially, asked Dave to tie my tennis shoes for me because I could no longer reach. And my non-maternity tennis dresses started to look hilarious hiked up like a miniskirt to accommodate that growing bowling ball underneath.
I never set anything on the ground anymore – it is too hard to bend down to retrieve it! I felt like I was 400 lbs and 100 years old. I got out of breath all the time. I still tried to go on walks, although it’s hardly a smooth walk in your final days. I liked that quote, “I do not have a waddle. It’s called Pregnancy Swag.”
You know you are pregnant when you stop to fully exhale before bending over for anything so your lungs don’t get in the way, too. I had never had so many people stop me to ask, “Do you need help with that?” I think I’ll get pregnant more often. I felt like the Queen of England everywhere I went.
I caved into friend pressure to take maternity photos. (Man, that is the beginning of photography mania once you have a child – newborn, three months, six months, nine months, one year, eighteen months, Christmas photoshoot, etc). My sweet sister in law agreed to snap them at our local botanical gardens. Truth be told, it felt weird capturing photos when I felt as attractive as an obese orangutan.
I went on a walk with our dog Princess in my final trimester and a gigantic German Shepherd attacked us. It was like something off of Ocean’s Eleven, except with a pregnant woman instead of a hot movie actress. I screamed and then high-kicked the German Shepherd over and over in the face until his owners could grab him away. I felt like an eight-month-pregnant Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
Dave immediately ordered me a new walking weapon – an ASP Tactical Baton. I was now the most feared walker of all my neighborhood. (Really, I felt like a British park warden from 101 Dalmatians with a little black stick).
It was awesome being an eight-month pregnant bridesmaid on a hot Texas beach for a beach wedding. My ankles and face were so swollen, I could have been a character with no added make-up for Lord of the Rings. Then I tried to make-up for my lack of beauty at the reception by dancing like a party girl gone wild. The next day, I literally could not walk because my feet hurt so bad.
I remember going to a Stars hockey game at the American Airlines center in Dallas, full-term. For me, pregnancy beat me down but fun occasional social outings like this shiny stars in a vomit-dominated existence. I waddled past all the happy fans, downing their cold beer, to our row of seats. I timidly set a hand down on the plastic arm rest, but those seats are so so so low. There was nothing I could do. You have no ab control at that point. I took a look at everyone watching the obese whale of a pregnant woman trying to sit down, smiled, and then fell into my chair. Plop. I felt really sexy, also, when I had to ask Dave to help me up again and again and again so I could use the bathroom. My bladder was the size of a hockey puck, thanks to the baby the size of a hockey goalie.
I came out of the closet before a family dinner, irritated because I felt so uncomfortable full-term. Dave took one look at me and exclaimed, “Good grief, Leah! You are NOT wearing that tonight!” I looked at him blankly and then looked down at the same black v-neck t-shirt I had worn all through pregnancy. “You look like you work at Hooters!” I took a glance in the mirror. That top and neckline looked totally different now. I could have doubled for Dolly Parton. But I was no longer vain as a full-term preggo. Oh, no. I was just irritated I had to change, again. Do you know how tired I was and how much effort it takes to get dressed pregnant? It’s like an acrobatic act at Vegas to put clothes on and off with that huge belly in the way.
My mom was ecstatic with my first pregnancy because it would make her a grandmother. Oh, yes. I was carrying the first grandchild. One day, however, she was a bit overzealous feeling the baby.
“Look! Leah! I feel the baby’s foot!”
Me: “No, mom. That is my rib.”
“No, honey! Feel right here! It’s a tiny foot!”
Me: “Mom. That is my rib.”
THE FINAL DAYS
Not knowing when your baby is coming is like a bride-to-be waking up each day and wondering if TODAY is the wedding and she will finally be a bride! So much preparation, but no date!
My two sweet friends, Jenni and Esther, planned a special “due date lunch” on my due take. They brought thoughtfully written cards of new mom encouragement and gifts for my upcoming changed world – including a few sanitary pads for post birth and tea bags for nursing problems.
You know you are close to your due date when your husband brings home post-baby survival food: an economy-sized box full of individual packages of Ramon instant noodles.
I tried walking to kick myself into labor when I went past my due date. Each afternoon, I lugged my pregnant body into the local gym. I tapped the elevate button over and over until the treadmill was raised as high as Mount Everest, then mashed the accelerate button to a walk that rivaled the Olympic walkers. All the other gym patrons gawked at this mammoth pregnant woman walking with purpose. Reminded me of that Sesame Street song “Which of these things just doesn’t belong here? Which of these things just isn’t the same?” I didn’t look at them because I was looking at the mounted TV’s, watching my tennis idols, the Williams sisters, dominate Wimbledon. My only concern was that my water would break right there on the treadmill in front of everyone and they would chant, “TOLD YOU SO! WHY WERE YOU DOING THAT?” But when you go 10 days over, you really don’t care anymore.
(rest of the story is in my upcoming book!)
Want more stories like this? Order my new book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on my site here.