On Being Pregnant, Or I am Doubting Thomas
May 10, 2015 § Leave a comment
A couple weeks ago, Ben preached a sermon on the text of Doubting Thomas — the infamous apostle who goes down in history for something so human and mundane: for refusing to believe in Jesus until he felt and saw the wounds in his hands. To me, that sounds pretty logical most days. In the sermon, Ben tells a story about his time on internship in North Dakota. The story goes like this:
The Spring of Ben’s first year on internship, the farmers were able to get their seeds into the ground nearly a month earlier than usual. Ben commented that it must be a sign it’s going to be a good year! But the farmers said: we don’t know if we’ll get enough rain during the summer. It’s looking like it might be kind of dry this year. But by July 4th, the corn was shoulder-high, and Ben said again to the farmers: this has got to be a sign that it’s a great year for crops. And the farmers replied: that all depends on harvest. At harvest time, farmers were out in the fields gleaning every cob, every kernel they could and it was, indeed, one of the best harvests they’d ever seen. Finally, Ben said, so it was a great year after all! But the farmers said: we don’t know until we sell — we don’t know corn prices yet. Anyway, in the end, the prices were good, and the farmers were finally able to celebrate their banner year.
During the telling of this story, I couldn’t help but think of my pregnancy. How similar it felt. How at each supposed “milestone”, friends and family were asking me if we’d picked out names or decorated the nursery, and I could barely keep myself from saying: well, that’s if we get a baby in the end! It felt as though I should be jumping up and down with excitement, but instead I was measured in my replies: we’ll see how our next appointment goes.
I was ten days late. I’d been late before, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up. On the way home from a family celebration — on or around that 10th day of waiting for that monthly sign as regular as the new moon — Ben and I stopped in Sauk Center to buy a pregnancy test. I didn’t want to stop in Alex or Fergus for fear of running into an acquaintance. We got home, and I sat on the couch and read for a while. It was almost midnight and Ben asked, “Well, aren’t you going to take the test?” My reluctance was born out of fear. Fear that I wasn’t pregnant. Fear that I was pregnant! I peed. The stick instantly declared our impending parenthood. And I was really, truly happy.
We had our first appointment at eight weeks. Too early to do any kind of ultrasound or fetal Doppler, but my pee still said I was pregnant, and up until then, I had been feeling as though I’d been on a boat for too long: a little queasy. Literally the day after our appointment I felt fine. The nausea went away. I didn’t seem to crave any foods like I had in the previous weeks — no mad dashes to get chocolate milk or pounds of strawberries. The Internet was full of stories that sounded just like mine that had ended tragically. Friends told me to be grateful, but I literally prayed for nausea — at least that would prove I was still pregnant. We wouldn’t have our next appointment for four weeks, and time dragged on. We decided to tell our families during this period, but I could not jump for joy. I didn’t want to do any planning. I just didn’t feel pregnant anymore.
Week 12 came: our first ultrasound. I was so, so nervous. I get nervous for things like running marathons, or public speaking. This felt like a strange thing to get nervous about — something out of my control. When I saw on the monitor arms and legs moving — kicking! — I exhaled, which felt like the first time in a long time. And yeah, that cliche scene you see so often in movies where the parents-to-be hear their baby’s heartbeat for the first time — the one where they look at each other, eyes welled up with tears? It’s pretty much true. It feels like you’re hearing a miracle.
Over the weeks, my belly started to round out a bit more. Finally, I thought! A physical sign of my pregnancy. But our 20 week ultrasound was coming up — the hour long ultrasound where the tech makes sure baby is developing properly. So, we held our breath again, looking at that baby on the monitor — looking more Gollum-like than baby — but, the doctor had only good things to say: everything’s looking normal.
We have five months to go. We are excited. We have names picked out (Ben’s requirement: something Biblical; my requirement: it can’t sound home-schooled), the nursery is starting to house hand-me-down infant onesies, and my nights are often filled with stroller or car seat research. But now I wait for kicks, and fear sets in if it’s been too many hours since I’ve last felt them (how many hours is too many?). I feel the need to announce it out-loud every time I feel it. “Baby’s kicking!” I shout to Ben, or to no one. And so most days, I feel like Thomas: needing proof that she or he is alive, waiting and hoping to hold that miracle in my arms.