first appeared in Holl & Lane, Issue 8
These drawers are overflowing with stuff. Toothbrushes still in their boxes, travel sized shampoo bottles, samples of cosmetics, shower caps. I know it’s in here somewhere. I only used the one. Pushing aside half-used mini bottles of shampoo and travel sized tissues, I find the box. A side is ripped open, the instructions crumpled up and shoved in the bottom of the box. There’s one test inside. I pull it out.
There’s no way that it’s going to be positive. It took us two and a half years, months of fertility testing and a prescription for Clomid before I got pregnant last time. There’s no way it’s going to be positive. How could we have done it without planning? While I was nursing? Before we were ready?
I sit down. Pee on the stick. My hands aren’t shaking. I know it’s not going to be positive. There are a million other explanations for the symptoms I’m experiencing. I only got my period back two months ago and my cycle has been anything but regular. There’s no way.
I put the cap on the test and set it on the side of the tub. I turn around to the sink and squeeze the toothpaste onto my toothbrush. In our bedroom, I hear the sound of our toddler laughing in bed with his dad. It’s only been a few seconds, but I put the toothbrush in my mouth and turn around to see the test anyway.
There are already two bright blue lines in the window of the test.
I trip over yet another plastic ball, rolling around our uneven hardwood floors. Our house, my dream house, is well over a hundred years old. It’s bigger than most houses in our neighborhood, but it’s not big by normal American house standards. We have a spare room.
Correction. We had a spare room. Now we are tasked with turning it into a baby’s room. Or transitioning our toddler to the spare room, which would be a big boy room, and keeping the nursery for the new baby.
Our living room doubles as a play room. A big black and white striped teepee stands in the corner, as a semi-attractive and acceptable way to house my son’s toys. Stuffed animals, puzzles, blocks and balls are constantly taken out of the teepee and thrown back in on a steady rotation all day long. A puzzle gets dumped out. I kick a ball back in. A teddy bear is pulled out by his arm. I toss a stuffed dinosaur in. All day long. The living room is the same space as our dining room, the only place to eat in the house. We try to keep the areas separate, but things bleed over. Chair legs run into blocks under our dining room table.
I can’t see the living room from my kitchen. Cooking is a constant dance. Chop, and peek out and check on the toddler. Stir, and peek out of the door. Sauté, peek. Defrost, peek. The baby in my swelling belly kicks.
I look around the house.
There is no room.
It hurts to roll over.
I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way my pelvis, my hips, my entire region between by belly button and the tops of my thighs aches constantly. There’s no pivoting. I can hardly bend over. I’m sleeping on my side exclusively — I can’t breathe for more than 30 seconds when I lay down on my back — and so I rotate sides throughout the night. Back and forth. Left and right. Towards my husband and away. This shifting of weight takes it’s toll on my bones. They ache with the weight of the baby, the fluid, the extra blood volume, everything that I’m holding in these days. It feels like I’m holding in more every day.
I get up and waddle to the bathroom. It’s probably the third time tonight, and hopefully the last before the toddler wakes up. Hopefully he gets up after the sun.
It’s getting harder. The settling in to the new house, the finding places and spaces for everyone’s belongings. The chasing of a toddler who is getting in molars. Who got in his molars and is now getting incisors. It never ends. Lately he constantly wants his dad. I’m no longer a fun mom at this stage. I can’t get down on my hands and knees for more than a few minutes to roll trucks. There are no more piggy back rides. I can’t rock him to sleep in my arms, bend over and lay his resting body in his crib. My growing stomach and the baby inside get in the way.
I look down at my belly.
There is no room.
His bag is mostly packed. I’ve been waiting for this day for months now, and tried to prepare as best as I could. There are already pajamas in there, and a couple outfits. Now, at the last minute, I throw in what I couldn’t pack before. His pillow with the cloud pillowcase. The pacifiers he’s still obsessed with, his favorite yellow ones. His blankie. I pick it up and inhale the scent of him before folding it up gently and putting it in his suitcase. As I bend over, another contraction washes over me. I close my eyes and breathe. I can feel a lump forming in my throat. When he comes back he will be a big brother.
Back downstairs, he’s ready to go. His dad has him zipped up in his coat and his hat is on, sagging to one side as usual. I ask my mom to take one last picture of the three of us before she takes the toddler to her house for the next couple days. I smile easily, my eyes glassy. It’s going to be ok, I remind myself. She snaps the picture, says she’ll text it to me, and heads out the door with my baby. My first born. My husband is behind her with his car seat, and they are all outside securing it. Another contraction hits and I lean over, head pressed against the cold December air on the other side of the window. I gaze outside at my little boy. My big boy, now.
Within two hours, I am bending over the counter stool in my kitchen. My husband is calling our midwife, and they are agreeing it’s time. We are each half an hour out from the birth center, and with rush our traffic, we all need to get a move in. I grab my back that’s been packed since the afternoon. My husband helps me put on my shoes. I bundle up in a fleece blanket and slowly make my way to the Subaru in our garage. He’s opening the door for me, lying the passenger seat all the way back, and putting my body pillow inside for me to use with each contraction. It’s all I can do to not ask him to lift me into the car.
And we are off, my birth playlist drifting through the speakers. I grip my husband’s hand through contractions. I try to remember to breathe. I concentrate on the music, breathe in the words, remind myself that this is good, this is normal, this is happening and I can handle it.
But then something inside me breaks. A contraction ends, and I picture my little boy, rolling his suitcase to the front door today, ready to spend the night at his grammy’s house. My heart… it’s too full.
There is no room. I wonder how we will make room, let another one in. My love for him takes up every fiber of my being, this love that only a mother knows. How will I do this again? How will I fit more in? Give more of myself to another tiny human, when I feel like I’m not even giving myself enough?
The water is hot, and for that I am thankful. I press my legs as hard as I can against each side of the triangular-shaped tub. I look at the faces in front of me, all blurry. My mother. My midwife. The nurse for our baby. I feel my husband’s supportive arms behind me, lifting me up, as I push. My eyes close and I bear down, pushing as hard as I can, and in minutes he’s there. My body feels a rush of relief and emotion as his small, soft body is pulled out of the water and placed on my chest.
And instantly it’s grown. Our family. My heart. It’s as if he’s never not been there, this small, yet-to-be-named baby.
We find the room. In our hearts, in our lives. Just as we’ve done before. Left the too-small house that we adored and found a bigger house in a newer neighborhood. Just as my body has done before, stretched until it could stretch no more, as evidenced by the scars on my soft belly.
We always do.