April 28, 2009
Less Apparent Miracles
I’ve always been a believer, in that all will be well, and things happen for a reason, and in the everyday miracles apparent all around us. Which is a kind of faith, if not the religious kind, and I’ve never had to to look far for awe and wonder.
But for a while now, I’ve been struggling with a less-apparent miracle. I’ve been unable to believe in things I can’t see, and though in some circles this might qualify me as sane, they’re not the ones I’ve been travelling in lately. Everyone else I know has found it easy to comprehend that for the last thirty-six weeks, a baby has been budding inside me.
A baby: the most extraordinary ordinary occurrence to happen to nearly everybody. Which is why no one else is even fazed, but I can’t believe it’s happened to me.
I was supposed to believe initially because a blood test told me so. The test results were even evidence enough, for a few hours, but then doubt crept in: how could I be having a baby, and it be Friday afternoon, and I felt ordinary, and my house, and the street, and world were just as usual? Shouldn’t the sky have looked different, the weather portentous, and wasn’t I supposed to be emitting a glow? A baby was impossible.
Which was ridiculous. Because I very much wanted a baby, had planned for a baby. My husband and I knew we were ready, and we’d been thrilled to have our wish come true. But it was so unbelievable, and too simple– to want so much, and then to get? Surely, there had to be a catch.
I felt like a fraud, arranging for a midwife, like I was just playing a part as I purchased a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. We told our close friends and family, who reacted with excitement, but moments when I’d let my excitement match theirs were few and far between.
I wasn’t supposed to be excited anyway. The first trimester, I’d been warned repeatedly, was fraught with risk. My “baby” was the size of an apple seed. I’d heard so many stories of women suffering miscarriages that actually managing to be born seemed like a long-shot. The survival of my baby was as improbable as its existence.
It was very unromantic. I wanted to be pregnant like the women on TV, surreptitiously gathering nursery items, smiling with a secret, the kind of woman to whom labels like “over the moon” are assigned. But I was “out of my mind” instead– conscious of every abdominal twinge, terrified of bleeding, adamant something was wrong if I ever woke up feeling good. And it was only when so convinced its wee life was imperiled that I could believe in the baby at all.
So I looked forward to my first ultrasound. Surely, I thought, the sight of the baby would make it real, though I was also nervous. Everyone I know who’s ever gone in for a scan has been terrified of what the technician might find there. An ulcer, a tumour, a cyst or a monster, or the awful fact of absolutely nothing,.
But absolutely there was something, however blurry and undefined. We saw its pulsing heartbeat, and the squirming sprouts of arms and legs. It even looked like a baby, if you held your head back and squinted. And the baby was real, actual, or at least as believable as anything ever projected on a screen. Which wasn’t so believable, once I’d thought about it. The baby on the screen was just as abstract as the one inside my head.
With the second trimester, however, things got better. Once my apple-seed baby had surpassed apple-size, and every week grew comparable to an even bigger piece of produce. Crossing the twelve week mark gave me permission to relax, and to imagine things might turn out all right. We could tell everybody we knew, and they were so convinced by the news, I felt silly not going along with it.
But still, it wasn’t real. Which I thought would change when my belly started to grow, and when nothing changed, I thought, when it grew a little bigger. Or at the 19 week ultrasound, where our baby was definitely a baby, and we saw its tiny toes, its hand tucked under its chin, and how its whole body bounced up and down when I laughed. But then how could that be inside me, I wondered, looking down at my still and quiet– albeit slightly burgeoning– belly.
It would have to be the kicks, I decided. Though I wasn’t sure– I’d been wrong before, far more than I’d been right. Already in my pregnancy, we’d determined that I had abysmal intuition, and was about as in tune with my body as a passing stranger. But still, the kicks– could anything be more definite?
Of course, they started off as flutters. Butterfly wings, breaths and whispers, so how could I be sure they weren’t just in my mind? What if I wanted to feel them so badly, I’d imagined them? How could anything so wonderful really be true?
But it was. Just like the ultrasound images, bigger and stronger every time. And the gorgeous galloping stampede of its heartbeat, and how our baby had persisted in growing and thriving all the while.
Because the flutters turned into thumps, then kicks, our own little miracle doing the fox-trot on my ribs. With boots on. Even other people could feel it. And soon it became impossible not to believe in the baby anymore, as well as obvious the baby didn’t care if we did. This baby, clearly, had plans of its own. Probably not believing in me either, or even the world, but determined to arrive here regardless.