Symptoms and Sacrifice

I have never been the poster person for pregnancy. While being tall I’ve been told, “I carry it well”—I have yet to be spared a single symptom including: hyperemesis, migraines, daily headaches, dormant asthma resurfacing, dormant allergies resurfacing, insomnia, vomiting, high blood pressure, acid reflux in the form of GURD, melasma, and PPD. I officially surpassed uncomfortable right around the time my once rebelliously pierced innie became a Cabbage Patch outie. I recognize none of these symptoms are tragic and I do feel grateful every day that I created life, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Like, really, really hard.

This last week my kids were hit with a cold and then croup and now another cold. One night, Maddie climbed into bed with me coughing so hard I thought her little lungs would burst. I pulled her in close wanting to somehow absorb all her discomfort so she could heal and in doing so she spewed phlegm directly into my open mouth—guaranteeing my fate that there was no escaping this illness. What I couldn’t anticipate was that the combination of pregnancy and croup would resurface my 12-year dormant asthma and I’d develop a wheeze at night that sounded like a seal was slowly being deflated by an angry mouse. Before this, I was waddling along feeling like I could conquer the next piece of large fruit the baby would grow into and now all I want to do is throw a 1.85-woman-pity-party.

There comes a point in pregnancy where a thought begins to creep in and like inception, it can start to take over the last few ounces of rational, and you think, I don’t want to do this anymore. Your body becomes a claustrophobic foreign-territory. There is no escape or pause button and what makes it worse is it’s the only thing people see when they look at you—or rather, look through you. I could have just won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for literature and all anyone would say is, “Yes, but when’s your baby due?” And I am just as guilty as the next, because when people I love create tiny people, I want to know every detail. But sometimes as a pregnant woman you want to scream, I am in here too! Somewhere buried under this watermelon-sized-belly and dueling circus act of boobs, is my individual identity. I have sacrificed over 30 months of my individuality towards creating my girls and I know how that sounds—this was a purely selfish, miraculous act and yet I’m asking for it to be viewed as noble? Take it however you do, just believe that I know the truth; every mother I know is a warrior. No one else can truly comprehend the sacrifice of a mom, except for another mom. We can whisper together in those dark corners of motherhood the secrets that are hard to say out loud, without feeling judged, or harder still, without judging ourselves.

I took my girls to the Sacramento Zoo and Gunther’s Ice Cream the other day and it was the perfect afternoon right up until our minivan pulled into the driveway and the girls fought over who would get to close and re-close the automatic sliding doors with the magic button. To them, somehow the memories of monkeys and the dessert disappeared and were forgotten as they both entered the house in a hysterical fury that is reserved for silly squabbles between sisters. But I hadn’t forgotten. I hadn’t forgotten the way they reached for each other while the lions circled restlessly in unison and when their little tongues reached up towards their noses to retrieve those last drops of ice cream; that’s how I know it’s all worth it. It’s worth everything.