It doesn’t seem possible that we are already more than halfway through this journey of growing you in my belly. Being pregnant with you is going by with warp speed, a fact that brings with it feelings of excitement and also anxiety. You’ve been growing away for 23 weeks already! Every Thursday, your daddy and I read the current chapters in multiple baby books about your development and size. We also learn about the crazy things I can expect you to do to my body, a list that seems to be ever-growing. It’s actually quite amazing to check each symptom off the list every week as if the authors wrote specifically about me, and somehow comforting to know that what I’m experiencing is completely normal. We love learning about you!
At our last ultrasound a few weeks ago, we got to watch you partying in my belly for 45 minutes or so. Heaven! You waved. You yawned. You did some twisting and turning. You played hide-and-seek behind your arms. Your heart was beating away at 149 beats per minute- music to our ears. You showed off some impressive boxing punches and Rockette-worthy kicks, the same ones I feel you doing every time I lie down to rest. (You seem to be a night owl just like your parents.) You continue to be an over-achiever; you measured a full week ahead and a solid 4 ounces more than the average at that ultrasound. I can only imagine how you’ve grown since. Though I make jokes about being terrified of birthing a 10-pound baby, I’m overjoyed to know that you’re healthy. Keep growing, little one.
It’s pretty awesome to actually see my body adapting to make room for you. In the last week or two, you must have grown by leaps and bounds because my belly is literally expanding before my eyes. Mama can feel it! I used to place my hand on my belly in such a way that would let other people know I was actually pregnant and not just addicted to cheeseburgers. Well, there’s no longer any confusion that there’s a happy baby in my tummy- you have presented yourself as if to say, I’m here! LOOK! I don’t have a “basketball” belly like your Auntie Amanda did; my whole core is apparently a cushion for you to grow. (Your daddy calls it the BB&R- “beautiful big and round.”) I can feel the stretching in my ribs as you get bigger and have recently had freak-out moments that this is all happening so fast. I try to trust that my body will just do what it’s supposed to for you. Oh, and big thanks for not giving me stretch marks… so far!
You are hanging out pretty low in my body, between my hips under my belly button as opposed to up higher near my diaphragm. Nonetheless, you don’t let me eat big meals anymore. You’ve decided to squish my stomach a tad so I try to eat smaller meals throughout the day. I’m so glad that you love cold milk as much as your Mama (which has appeared in ice cream form after dinner more often than not lately). You love peanut butter and dill pickle chips and simply cannot get enough fresh pineapple. You have also (finally) come around to letting me enjoy salmon! For someone who loves food the way I do, it’s a huge relief to be able to eat happily again.
It’s amazing at how your presence has made the difficult memories of the last few years fade. Last November, we were hopefully embarking on our fifth IVF attempt. By then, we were upwards of 50 fertility doctor appointments. I’d ingested countless pills, taken various hormones, suppositories, and medications, subscribed to a regimen of supplements and Chinese herbs and acupuncture and therapy. There had been at least 40 internal ultrasounds. Your sweet dad had squelched his discomfort in causing me pain by giving me over 250 injections in my yummy or booty, sometimes 6 in a day. I can still feel the deep bruise. Our lives revolved around appointments and medication cycles, causing us to rearrange schedules, change vacations, miss the wedding of a dear friend. We toted bags of needles and medicine on airplanes with a doctor’s note, and once, we even met on the side of the highway on an offramp so Daddy could give me a shot at the right time. We crossed fingers through three IUIs, five retrieval surgeries, 2 embryo transfers, and a heart-wrenching miscarriage. Mama’s body went through the ringer- 10 pounds of puffy hormone weight, migraines, extreme fatigue, bed rest, nausea, vision impairment and hallucinations (to name a few), and an emotional drain unlike anything I’d experienced. We experienced a growing disappointment each month but held out hope that someday, something would click. Last November’s 5th IVF failed, but there would be more to our story- more tales to tell on another day. And in a few short months, we will finally meet you. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real.
There’s a big party being planned in your honor this January. We can’t wait to celebrate you with family and friends who have shared our journey with us. You are already so loved by so many people! We’ve made a wish list of items for you and even have purchased some stuff for your new bedroom. There’s a beautiful crib on the way from Grandma and Grandpa and I ordered a glider for the corner near the window. I’m already imagining the hours we’ll spend in that chair, rocking you in my arms, singing to you and watching you smile. Thoughts like those remove me from some of the growing anxiety I feel about being a mommy, and an older one at that. I think most first-time parents feel doubt at some point. We hoped and prayed for you for so long, and worked pretty hard to bring you into this world. You’re a little miracle to us, one we weren’t sure we’d ever see. We already love you more than we imagined we would. And so we’ll figure parenthood out together, day by crazy/beautiful day.
I just have to say that you lucked out in the Daddy Department. I always knew he wanted a family, but I see a different side of your dad now that you’re really on the way. He joins me at every doctor’s appointment. He makes me smoothies in the morning so you get a healthy start to the day. He loves to lay his head on my belly and listen to you twist and turn in there. He doesn’t get tired of feeling your kicks with his hand. He marvels at how much you’ve made my belly grow and tells me how beautiful it is. He talks to you before bed every night, saying “I love you” and encouraging you to keep growing. He does his best Darth Vader impression: I AM YOUR FATHER. He’s sure you’re a Mets fan. I’m pretty sure you’re inheriting the Howe forehead. Even during our most challenging moments, I’ve never doubted his love for me, and that has extended to you, even before your arrival. He never gave up on you. He’s a proud, proud papa and he will take amazing care of us forever.
After you gave me hell for the first few months, I’m happy to say that I feel pretty fabulous. I’m so relieved at how content you seem to be, growing away in my belly. We hike in the mountains together and put the dog to sleep with prenatal yoga videos. I lose my breath easily, even just going up and down the stairs or leaving my trademark long voicemails, but I think that’s your way of reminding me to slow down and rest when I need to. You like to tap-dance like Fred Astaire on my bladder multiple times each night, and you’re too big for me to sleep on my back anymore, so a good night’s sleep has been elusive lately. My back gets sore and my feet have started to swell if I’ve been on my feet too long. (Luckily, Daddy is amazing at offering foot massages and compliments.) Yes, there are plenty of uncomfortable moments with you already, and there are many more coming. But as Daddy reminds me, I’ve waited my whole life to experience this time with you and I treasure every second of it. We both do.
Keep cooking in there, little love muffin! Keep growing and becoming even more amazing for the next 17 weeks or so. I’ll do my best to stay healthy and active this winter, and we’ll make sure you have everything you need to be safe and happy when you arrive. You are already a dream come true.
One year ago: Autumn Cobb Salad with Honey-Cayenne Dressing.