I've battled adolescent depression and disordered eating and soul-shaking heartbreak, but I can confidently say that the early weeks of pregnancy were my darkest days. That's not to say I didn't WANT my baby (future Noah, finding this post on Google), but an unexpected pregnancy is terrifying. It changes your plans — for that year and every year to come — without your consent. It imposes responsibilities and creates new identities and PLANTS A HUMAN BEING INSIDE OF YOUR BODY — all without you signing up. You're walking around with one heart and one brain and one circulatory system, and then all of a sudden, on an ordinary Tuesday, you find out that — nope! — you actually have double the human. So take good care of that.
I mean, this is heavy stuff.
It was like being forcefully dunked to the darkest depths, only to have a current come by and sweep me out to god knows where — miles, planets away from where I thought I ought to be — while I occasionally came up to the surface, gasping for air. Sometimes I saw a stormy fog, other times a more hopeful sun shower — and was that a rainbow way back in the distance? And when the current slowed and the waters calmed, I looked around and thought, damn, there's a bridge over there! I totally could have walked across that bridge instead of fighting the current for 9 months. And hey! I found myself on a happy little island that I never knew existed.
That was a REALLY LONG analogy, but I think you get what I'm trying to say.
This isn't the first time I've talked about my unplanned pregnancy, but my readership keeps growing and the emails keep coming — many from young women still battling their conflicting emotions at the start of their pregnancies. And oh how my heart aches for you.
I kind of sugar-coated the experience when I first started blogging. I described Noah as being my "SURPRISE" baby, mostly because I didn't want to A) hurt my child's feelings, or make him feel, even for a second, that he was an unwanted burden, and B) look like a terrible mother. While I very much wanted to be a mother — and to Justin's baby, nonetheless — the timing was simply terrible. (Or so I thought.) And while a "SURPRISE!" pregnancy sounds cutesy and celebratory — as if confetti shot through the sky and all my loved ones were gathered around a giant cake — it was more like a sucker-punch surprise.
And that's OK.
I didn't want to say that, at first. I immediately worried about my image, my worthiness, as a mother — not to mention how my child would one day react to my honesty. But isn't that crazy? We cloak ourselves in our mom cape from the very beginning, rather than admitting that we're hormonal humans going through the biggest life change we've ever experienced. Since taking his first breath, there hasn't been a day — not a single minute — that Noah hasn't felt my love. And that's what matters — not those early weeks when I'd cry in the shower, gripping the tile to support my collapsing body.
Two years ago I contributed an essay to the anthology Stories I've Only Told My Mom, about my most shameful secret that I had only told my mother. I told her the worst thoughts that went through my mind — that I didn't want to love this baby. That I wanted his heart to stop beating. That I begged for blood on a wad of toilet paper.
"I never wanted something to die so badly in my life," I had told her. Please just take this away.
Writing those words, and then re-reading them, makes my heart feel heavy. Yet it was the truth, in that moment. THAT was my darkest point. I certainly didn't feel that way through my entire pregnancy, but it happened. And it stays with me.
Here's an excerpt from the essay:
I put the car in park and turn around, watching my two-year-old boy watch the world move outside his window. He turns his attention to me, cocks his head to the side, and smiles sweetly. Lovingly.
"My mommy," he says as he holds out his little hands.
I'm sitting on the living room floor, piling wooden blocks into a basket as he hands them to me, excitedly reciting every number, every letter, every animal he sees. Suddenly he takes my face in his hands and says, "I Wuv Ew."
I'll look at my extraordinarily healthy child, exuberant and curious and simply happy to be here, and feel pangs of guilt remembering how I once wished that he never be here at all.
Please just take this away, I had said.
Even worse, part of me is terrified that one day that wish will come true. A wish that was made for a life I no longer want, no longer identify with. In a cruel twist, the Universe will take him back — just as I originally begged.
Please don't take this away.
Although I'd be more than happy to let these private confessions live in a private place, I think I owe you the honesty. It's OK to feel these raw emotions — the fear, despair, guilt. It's OK to mourn your pre-baby life, even though, pretty soon, your original path will be unrecognizable and undesirable.
So to those struggling: Be kind to yourself. Despite the staggering highs and lows, I hope you can find a consistent comfort in knowing how beautiful your unexpected life can become.
And that even the brightest light can grow from darkness.