I Really Miss Being Pregnant

Really, I do.

I miss being amazed at what was happening to my body. I’d seen so many family and friends experience it and I had so desperately wanted this. When my turn finally came – not without its own set of struggles and heartache – I was equally thrilled and terrified. Could my body actually do this? How would it feel? Was I capable of growing life inside me?

Fortunately the answer was yes, twice over. Every day, I was enthralled and amazed at how my body knew what it was doing, cultivating these balls of cells into bones, limbs, organs – life. Those first 20 weeks or so, as I expanded and expanded and expanded, and couldn’t get enough food into my body fast enough to extinguish the bottomless hunger and refute the fatigue, I actually doubted I was really pregnant. Maybe it was phantom? Maybe I really was just a greedy pig?

But as my expanding boobs and protruding pooch finally met in the middle, making me look less like a three-ton whale and more rotund like an actual pregnant person, I felt special, even glamorous. I imagined the life growing within me shone out through my skin, my eyes, my smile. My hair and nails never looked finer. And then I started feeling that baby move, confirmation that there was someone in there, moving and all too often, hiccuping. Hello baby, I’d say in my head, rubbing my belly, trying to connect with this thing inside me. Every thump in the ribs, every hiccup was a grateful reminder of this miracle in the making. It was, surely, the most beautiful experience. Though I’m not religious, this was the closest I’d ever felt to it.

I miss that.

Hey, don’t worry, I’m definitely not feeling clucky. That ship left the dock eight years ago. Quite frankly I’m too old and way WAY too tired to ever EVER do that again.

Because then I remember the heartburn. I remember the tossing and turning at night. I remember being oh so hungry but not being able to fit enough food into my stomach which was then situated precariously close to my throat. I remember how the muscles in my neck and back became increasingly thick and immobile. I remember how foods I had loved were either forbidden or became strangely unappealing. I remember exhaustion like I’d never known before (but quickly knew in the weeks following their births.) I remember how, especially with my first, I wasn’t just pregnant in front – I was pregnant all over! There was not a part of my body that did not expand. I remember the strange, dull ache in my loosey-goosey groin muscles. I remember the leg cramps (which have never left me since.)

My husband remembers me being a bitch for 40 weeks and 3 days the first time around, and then again for 32 weeks the second time. “When do I get my wife back?” he would sigh.

I remember contractions, my insides deciding they were going to repeatedly squeeze and contort themselves to force that thing out from inside me. I remember how medical it all was. I remember all the prodding and oozing and the machines that went beep and, ugh, that one nurse who had too much perfume on. I remember how frightening and weird it was that these people were cutting me open, putting my intestines off to one side and extracting a baby, all while I couldn’t feel a thing. My husband distinctly remembers how they counted all the swabs and tools as they closed me up.

So, yeah, maybe I don’t really miss being pregnant that much. Or at least, I choose to remember the magical parts.

Every mother has their own pregnancy and childbirth story. This is mine. And let’s not forget the prize at the end of the journey – the babies.

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Imperfect Model

by Kerri Ames

(The following was written and performed by Kerri for the recent Listen to your Mother Boston show. It is republished here with Kerri’s permission. You can – and should – read more on her blog (Un)Diagnosed and Still Okay.)

Photo credit: Amy/Emily Photography

Photo credit: Amy/Emily Photography

I used to pity parents whose child had a disability. I would see them in a restaurant, a movie theater or other public outing and think to myself: “Thank God that is not my child”.

I used to say the word, retard. A lot. As in “I’m so retAHded”, “stop being retahded”, the list goes on.

I would think to myself, God how awful for them. The parent’s whose child was in a wheelchair, had a feeding tube or a breathing tube. Wondering what made them decide to let the child live.

I would see a child having a temper tantrum in the grocery store and whisper to my husband, why don’t they just smack that kid.

I had my first, perfect child and became the paragon of how to be a working mother. I knew the answers to putting the baby to sleep at exactly 7pm. I let her cry it out and slept through the night. I had a schedule. I was that model working mom. The one you read about in magazines. The one who “does it all”, showers daily and who kept a clean house. Abby was well behaved, well-traveled and the child you could take to any event.  I could leave her with anyone for any amount of time. The girl, who sat quietly in restaurants, did her school work and reinforced my thoughts that “those other” children were just a result of poor parenting.

Five years later, my second daughter was born.

At just four days old I found myself in the NICU as I begged the doctors to do anything to save her life. I didn’t question brain function. I didn’t wonder if we were taking extreme measures. I saw my baby and feared she wouldn’t come home.

I bargained with God.

I offered my soul. I told him I could handle a retarded child. Just please, God, let my child live.

We came home with a beautiful little girl. One who vomited every 20 minutes, one who would only sleep if she was snuggled on your chest and who cried. A lot. If she was awake, she was crying, unless she was being held.

So I held her.

Bridget wasn’t achieving her milestones and the doctor ordered testing of her brain. We knew she was different. That she wasn’t the perfect child you dream. They performed genetic testing and told us she had a genetic mutation that had never been discovered. The testing revealed a slow brain pattern.

I asked, “Is my daughter retarded?” and I was gently told, “We don’t use that word anymore. But essentially, yes.”

The best advice I received that day was to never put limits on Bridget. Do not limit her with labels or assume she would not achieve greatness. That perfection has a new meaning.

One of the greatest things Bridget has achieved is changing the world view most of us have. We have more empathy for that mother in the grocery store. We have a smile for the parent who is pushing their child in a wheelchair. We buy a glass of wine for that mom in the restaurant. We look at our disabled child and think, “Thank God this IS our child”.

We have banned the “R” word in our house and in our lives.

Bridget has changed the lives of not just her parents, but her community. She is the mayor of her school. She is hugged in the grocery store. She has allowed friends to be comfortable asking questions. Hard and difficult questions just six years ago I would have been embarrassed to ask.

When I was told my daughter would be developmentally disabled, the world I knew was destroyed and recreated. I resolved that this would not change the way I would nurture my daughter, that she would be provided the same experiences and opportunities as her sister. By not placing limits, Bridget has created an advocate in her sister.  She has given an 11 year-old a purpose and a drive. One who includes her sister in everything because, in Abby’s words, “that is what sisters do”.

I have grown in so many ways since that first day in the NICU. I will educate when someone says retard.  I have become knowledgeable in any treatment, medication, therapy or doctor who can positively impact Bridget. It was through motherhood I learned the value of friendship, and which of those friends to leave behind.  Being Bridget’s mother has allowed me to find my voice.  We have created a village of support that includes therapists, friends and families who understand that life with a child who has special needs is still a fantastic life.  A life where the smallest accomplishments are celebrated.  A life where we cry and laugh with equal measure.

I am no longer that perfect model of the working mother who can do it all. Motherhood trumps meetings.  I frequently go a day without a shower, happy that I managed to brush my teeth. My house is rarely clean, but it is full of life.

Six years ago I bargained with God to let my daughter live.

It took being Bridget’s mom to show me what living was.

Kerri Ames is a working mom from Cape Cod with her husband, two daughters, untrainable dog and a bunny who was supposed to live outside. Kerri writes about raising two children, one whom has a rare genetic disorder, with humor and honesty at (Un)Diagnosed but Still Okay. Kerri possesses many titles: mom, wife, advocate, business manager, writer, trail runner and lover of wine. Her passion is advocacy for all children to be accepted for who they are regardless of ability. Kerri believes you can conquer any challenge in this world with good friends, family and a bonfire on the beach. She acknowledges that without her village of support her life would be infinitely more difficult.  You can follow Kerri on Facebook and Twitter at @undiagnosedbut.

 

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