I’ve always marveled at the way pregnant women rest their hands on their bellies. From my jaded perspective, it seemed like a possessive gesture, as if to say: this baby is mine. Or perhaps that round belly is a comfortable arm rest- though if that were the case, more men would be resting their hands on their beer guts.
But now that I’m pregnant myself, with a tiny bump that I wish were bigger, I find my hands resting there too. Because I need to reassure myself that this is real. That I truly am pregnant. That this baby is growing in me.
Thursday morning I woke up and as usual, sized up my baby belly. Looking at it from every angle with dismay, I realized my little bump was smaller today than it was a week ago. And of course, that familiar fear rose up in me: is my baby still growing?
On Monday I had met up with a friend who is also due in December, a happy result of her first IVF cycle. She’s had her share of sorrows along the way, with several miscarriages and a pregnancy several years ago that ended at 20 weeks with a diagnosis of a fatal heart defect at her baby’s anatomy scan. She had done an NT scan with good results, painted the nursery, and thought she was on her way to becoming a mama. Then this unexpected and tragic news at 20 weeks.
Hearing her story again, just a few days before my baby’s anatomy scan, struck renewed fear into my heart.
In the clinic’s waiting room on Thursday afternoon, I looked at all the large round pregnant bellies around me, realizing that I was still the only one who didn’t look pregnant. At 19 weeks, shouldn’t I have more to show for it? Where was my baby bump? Would I ever sit in this waiting room feeling like I belonged here, without anxiety?
The nurse finally called me in for the routines of peeing in a cup, blood pressure, and the monthly weigh-in. I was somewhat reassured as I watched the numbers on the scale go up to a solid 142- I had gained 12 pounds since IVF 3 in March. It seemed like a respectable weight gain; surely some of that was my growing baby.
In the ultrasound room, Mr. T and I told Dr. Nice that we didn’t want to know the gender of the baby. This will likely be our only pregnancy, and I wanted the surprise and the experience of imagining having a boy and a girl as long as I could.
Dr. Nice put the jelly on my belly and got the machine set up to go. I held Mr. T’s hand, gripped hard with anxiety and looked away from the monitor- after all this time still so afraid of seeing bad news.
A moment later I heard the words I needed to hear: “There’s your baby!” Looking like a real baby now- so much more than the tiny speck we first saw back in May-baby was snuggled in, arching his/her back and stretching out a hand and foot here and there.
As Mr. T and I gazed adoringly at this sweet picture, Dr. Nice counted fingers, toes and other essential parts, measuring the heart, lungs, brain. At each measurement she reassured us that all looked perfect. Baby weighs 8 oz, and is measuring right on track.
Several times Dr. Nice had Mr. T and I look away, assuring us that not even our midwife would know our baby’s gender; until our baby’s birthday arrival, Dr. Nice would be the only one in the world to know.
She printed out a string of pictures for us. Beaming ear to ear, I left the clinic feeling lighter and happier, so full of relief.
Later that night, Mr. T and I looked at these fuzzy images, trying to work out if what we were looking at was an ear or eye, nose or hand. For the first time since our miscarriage following IVF 1, we got out the baby name book and started making lists of names.
Today I went to my first prenatal yoga class. Surrounded by all the other pregnant ladies, some due before me and some due after me, for the first time I felt like I belonged in this group too. We went around the room and introduced ourselves, sharing our due dates, worries and aches and pains.
I was last in the circle. For a moment I struggled with how to introduce myself. Should I tell them I was IVFJess? Do I need to go into all the steps that brought me here, to this group of strangers?
“Hi- I’m Jess, due December 30th. Feeling great, and so grateful to be here.”
Then I rested my hands on my belly in an embrace, silently telling baby how much I love him/her. How unbelievably thankful I am for all of this. That I will never take a single day for granted.