I used to cry at Hallmark commercials. Now I cry at just about anything.
I am walking around with a small belly and a huge secret. My husband, Joe, and I are waiting until the second trimester officially starts to announce the pregnancy, my first. Secrets in general are not my forte; one of this magnitude borders on physically painful. I would go mad if I tried to count the number of times a day I rub my midsection and think, There’s a person in there. And I can’t tell anyone! The fact that it all seems so impossible (a person! in there!) makes it a little easier to harness my inner blabbermouth.
We go for our first ultrasound during week 12. I am staring intently at the screen, not quite sure what I am looking for, when suddenly, there it is—my baby’s heart. It is brighter than the North Star and blinking like
a manic strobe light. The doctor turns up the volume, and when I hear that tiny, perfect little heart thumping its machine-gun drum, I can’t help myself. I start to cry. Not the wistful, silent kind of weeping you see in the movies, either, but heaving, sniffling, body-convulsing sobs. I’m not just getting fat! This is for real! Joe squeezes my hand and blinks away a few tears of his own.
Somewhere around the 14th week my nausea goes away, and the need for daily four-hour naps disappears. The headaches have tapered off, too—or maybe they’ve just relocated, because my lower back (more specifically, my rear end) aches as if someone has driven an ice pick into the muscle and left it there to rust. My doctor says a prenatal-yoga class might help, so I trade in weights for a little om, sweet om. Not only does the pain go away, but the class also turns out to be a great place to share notes with other moms-to-be on everything from nipple creams and nursing bras to shopping and sex.
I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas as my 20-week ultrasound approaches. We get to find out the sex! (Surprises, like secrets, don’t do it for me.) My doctor rubs the wand over my belly and smiles. The image on the screen is so … babylike, I am actually startled. “There’s the brain … these are the chambers of the heart … this is the spine. ... No sign of Down syndrome … spina bifida … cleft palate … club foot.” She goes through a nightmarish laundry list and finally pronounces the alien in my abdomen perfectly healthy. “Do you want to know the sex?” she asks. Joe and I nod maniacally in unison, giddy with relief. “It’s a girl,” she says. Everything blurs as hundreds of leaks spring around the general vicinity of my eyes. Tivoli’s fountains got nothing on me.
We’re having a daughter. The thought takes a while to sink in. Suddenly it seems as if there are a million things to do, big- and small-picture decisions to be made, right this minute. First of all, she needs a name. Then there’s the nursery to deal with. Where should I deliver? How do I feel about having an episiotomy? (One word: torn. Pun intended.) Will I breastfeed? Am I (and the baby) growing normally? I desperately want to have a hard, round, forward-protruding belly, but at the moment I am sporting a soft, squishy spare-tire-looking thing and a waistline that seems to be growing sideways rather than forward.
And then, just like everyone predicted, right around the 23rd week it happens: I “pop.” My brother stops by after a weeklong vacation, and his jaw literally drops when he sees what appears to be a Butterball turkey hiding under my shirt. He gently puts his hand on my belly and whistles. “Wow, Jen, you’re huge.” For the first time in my life, I take this as a compliment.