“Every pregnancy is different.” It’s one of those fluffy phrases that gets thrown around between women and from doctors to patients. We know that, but it still gets repeated. You probably hear it over one hundred times (if not more) during the course of your pregnancy. But I don’t think I fully grasped or appreciated how much the token phrase was worth until my final pregnancy, which for me, was my third.
My first pregnancy was a rush of emotions. We battled infertility for two years and weathered multiple miscarriages and unanswered questions because I was “still young” in the eyes of the doctors (Please don’t use that phrase to anyone facing infertility). Anyhow, once we did eventually get pregnant and stay pregnant, every breath, cramp, twinge was full of panic. I was certain I’d do something that would cost me my baby.
Then, when it came time for delivery and I was uncomfortably swollen in the miserable heat of early fall in Alabama, I couldn’t wait for labor. The discomfort weighed on me figuratively and literally. So, when my doctor offered to induce my labor, I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, that ended in a cesarean section and months of regret on my part. It wasn’t at all what I envisioned. It was like the event was built up in my mind for months and then when it was over, I felt empty. I had this baby girl in my arms, but I missed her.
I’m certain other women feel this void after delivery too, but it’s often hard to put into words. Dissonance. Maybe that’s the word? To this day, the pregnancy itself was the most vivid of all three. I remember the morning sickness, the cramps, the insomnia, the appointments, and the pain after surgery. My daughter’s first year was also just as vivid and I’m mentally scarred from all the crying and reflux. At the end of that year, however, I still knew I wanted another baby. So, we started planning a few days before her first birthday.
The universe is funny though. I went in expecting several months of trying after our bout of infertility. My son was born exactly forty weeks after her birthday (to the exact day!). That pregnancy was faster. I scanned over it as if only picking the important words from a text.
I remember finding out the gender. I remember moving 700+ miles back to my home state at thirty-four weeks pregnant. I also remember the sadness I felt when I realized my daughter would no longer be the only baby. Guilt crept in when I thought about the slim age gap. Twenty-one months didn’t seem nearly enough at the time.
Still, I was ready for labor. I was excited, fully aware of what I wanted to happen, and prepared for all the curveballs. I had found a doctor that supported my decision to VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and didn’t feel any pressure to schedule a section. What I didn’t prepare for, was the unexpected induction I required when my little guy failed one of his stress tests for lack of movement. He must have been teasing because he started doing backflips the moment they moved me over to labor & delivery.
With a sprinkle of Pitocin and patient nurses and residents, I was able to have my VBAC. It was an easy delivery that left me stunned at how much better a more natural exit was for me and the baby. He didn’t have the crud in his nose and I was up and walking within the hour. I was also thrilled that I wouldn’t struggle to care for my daughter at home. Overall, the entire ordeal, all forty weeks, was fast and enjoyable. Though I don’t have favorite children, this was my favorite pregnancy.
We were “done” for a while after our second-born. He was a fiery little redhead that made for an easy baby, but a wild toddler. Before he could walk, he could climb. Yet, we had settled into our routine and moved once again. We moved into a three-bedroom home. “A room for each of us,” I said.
Third Pregnancy (and the last for me)
But once again, the universe is the ultimate comedian. The most memorable part of my last pregnancy was the moment I found out I was, indeed, pregnant. It hit us like a brick wall. My husband joked that I was usually moody that day and suggested I could, possibly, maybe, be pregnant. I laughed it off and rolled my eyes.
But the moment he left for work, I packed up my two toddlers and went to the dollar store down the street. I only bought one. I figured that’s all I would need. It would be negative and I could have a glass of wine to blow off the steam.
So, I took the test and set a timer. Maybe fifteen seconds passed before a dark line formed under the “T” for test. Panic, the hot stinging kind, washed over me and I fell into a heap on the floor. I started hyperventilating and worrying about how I would tackle three kids in less than four years. I can still feel the visceral fear when I think about the moment. It transports me back to that moment. Maybe because I knew it would be my last, I held onto it.
I held onto a lot of moments during my third pregnancy, though I documented less of it with photos and social media posts. It was almost like I held it closer, something for me and me alone. Every first was marked with a subtle sadness.
The first kick was my last first kick. I held onto the sadness like a worry stone, a constant reminder to be appreciative for all that I’d been granted, even if I had been overwhelmed with worry initially. Every appointment and sonogram was precious too. I celebrated them more than I did with my other two, possibly because it was my only time to myself while they went to the sitter.
Pregnancy with children is drastically different than the first. Naps are fewer, breaks are nonexistent, and no one waits on you hand and foot anymore because you’re a veteran at that point. The exhaustion is crippling. Without those naps you treasure so much the first go around, you find yourself drinking more coffee than those books recommend. That’s not the only thing that goes out the window. You’re eating lunch meat without so much as a second thought, and downing whatever your body craves.
Physically, your body behaves very differently after your first pregnancy. Even with my second, everything shifted and expanded faster. You can expect to start showing several weeks earlier than with your first and your hesitancy to break out those maternity pants is long gone once you realize how comfortable they are. You also question fewer symptoms having done it before. It’s instinctive and there’s something comforting and empowering in that.
One perk to my last pregnancy was not having to purchase a ton of new baby gear. For one, I had saved so much of the “big” stuff. I simply reassembled what was in storage. Secondly, I didn’t “need” as much as I thought I did with my first. I bought some basics and didn’t load up on clothes that I knew would only fit for a few weeks. Preparations were easy and instead, I focused on savoring every last second of my final pregnancy.
I wish I could say that I knew when labor would come after the first pregnancy, but in the end, you still anticipate every twinge of pain as labor since you’re willing it to happen. With my last, however, I didn’t need Pitocin to induce labor and while I had little to no warning that it was coming, I knew instantly when the first actual labor pain hit. It nearly dropped me to the floor, and yet, I was still calm enough to wait for my husband to come home from work hours later to go to the hospital. I doubt I could have done that with my first or second.
Perhaps the biggest difference with my last pregnancy was the overwhelming feeling of relief and finality of it all. I felt fulfilled and knew that I was ready to water the flowers I already had, rather than plant more. I was ready to move onto the kid phase, travel the world, and find time to be with my husband again. We’re not there yet. The baby is almost one, but I can see it in the distance. And this time, I don’t have a nagging “what if” flashing in the back of my mind every time I pass baby clothes at Target or see a newborn in a stroller.
Maybe I’m tired, or it’s mother’s intuition. Either way, I’m thankful for each and every pregnancy, but especially my last.