I recently finished reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s a harrowing, heartbreaking novel about four male friends living in New York. Described in this review as “dark and traumatic” and “as bleak and addictive as they come”, I wouldn’t call it a light read! But it’s definitely a page-turner.
The novel centres around Jude, a man who survived an unfathomably traumatic childhood and is trying to live a ‘normal’ life (whatever that looks like). Jude is adored by his friends, despite revealing very little about himself or his past. The novel is ultimately about friendship, but it’s also about family – it explores the relationship between grown children and their parents.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the beautiful shock of becoming a mother – the hormonal cocktail of deep love, fear, and awe that I experienced when Zoey was born. Those first few weeks are raw and challenging, and there were moments when I wondered if I’d ever feel ‘normal’ again.
And then, almost like magic, the shock disappeared and was replaced by a deep sense of belonging. I no longer feel like a stranger in my own skin. Yes, my life will never be the same again – but I’m still me. I still like reading cheesy historical fiction, and meeting friends for cake and tea, and going for long walks in the sunshine, and writing. I still dislike cleaning the bathroom, and weeding the garden, and putting out the rubbish, and white-tail spiders. The person I was before I had Zoey hasn’t suddenly vanished. I just now have another title to wear with pride – daughter, sister, partner, friend, writer, mother.
I knew giving birth was going to be a challenging, life-changing experience. I was prepared to feel pain, and I expected my emotions to run high. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer shock of becoming a mother. After all, hadn’t I spent the past 9 months getting ready to meet our daughter? Hadn’t I spent my entire pregnancy obsessing about our baby? How is it possible to feel shock about meeting the soul I’d been carrying for 40 weeks?
Yet shock was the dominant emotion I felt when our baby was placed in my arms. Complete, utter shock.
Many people say preparing for birth is like preparing for a big endurance event. Like running a marathon or climbing a mountain. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought this analogy made perfect sense. But as “race day” inches closer (it could be today!), I’m struggling to see similarities beyond the two obvious: that, like any endurance event, giving birth will be a mental and physical challenge.
As I sit here typing with swollen-sausage-fingers, I couldn’t feel further from a well-prepared athlete about to start the race of her lifetime. No. Instead, I feel like a giant puffer fish!
I’m 32 weeks pregnant. Right now, a baby girl is wriggling gently in my uterus. She should weigh around 1.8kg and measure around 45cm, according to the pregnancy app on my iPhone. But at our last ultrasound, she was tracking a week and a half ahead and measuring in the 90th percentile in terms of size.
“That’s a big baby,” said our obstetrician, as he measured the circumference of her head on the grainy black-and-white screen. We have another check-up tomorrow. I’m impatient to find out whether she’s still measuring ahead. Will she be a big baby or an average-sized baby? Is she healthy and strong? Where is she positioned in my uterus? Is she head down or head up? Is her back to my stomach (good) or her back to my back (not-so-good?)
So many questions. That’s one way to sum up my thoughts on pregnancy so far. So many questions.