By Guest Blogger Olivia Folmar Ard
“So, don’t hate me, but . . .”
It’s a conversation my husband and I have had about twenty times this pregnancy, usually about the name we’ll use if our baby is a girl. The formula is quite clear: we discuss the names on our shortlist and settle on a combination, and then a few weeks later, I start having doubts.
My husband—who, God bless him, has had the patience of Job regarding my fickleness—will respond good-naturedly, “What’s wrong with Lucy?” (or Damaris? Or Bernadette? Or . . . you get the picture.
“Nothing,” I always respond, frustrated and confused by my own misgivings. “It just doesn’t feel right.”
Before this pregnancy, I’d always rather scoffed at couples who had difficulty deciding on a name for their child. Surely that was the easy part. I was smug and satisfied with my own large, expansive list of combinations. When the time came for me, I’d pick one of my preapproved choices, and boom! It’d be on to the harder, more important parts of raising a child.
Go ahead, take a minute to laugh at my naiveté.
The truth is, trying to name this child has felt like one of the weightiest decisions of my life. I’ve spent more time thinking about this than I did about choosing a university, getting married, or buying a house. That seemed crazy at first, but a few days ago, I finally realized what was holding me back.
The reason none of these names, all of which I’d been so sure about before that positive pregnancy test, felt right? They were all about me. They were inspired by characters and ideas and people and places that I liked. I hadn’t truly approached naming this baby as a decision that would affect another human being for the rest of his or her life, but as a chance to nerd out a little. And while there’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, both our boy and girl names still have nerdy factors—it shouldn’t be the main focus. Because this choice won’t really affect me, not in a lasting way. Not in the way it will affect this Napa cabbage-sized wonder.
I hadn’t really stopped to think about how my choices would affect my child before. As silly as that might sound, I’ve been more focused on how my child would affect me. I spent so much time and effort getting to this stage of the process so much time in and out of doctor’s offices and pharmacies in an effort to reach this goal of pregnancy, that I hadn’t really thought about what comes next.
I would be panicking, if not for the fact that I feel the aches and pains and inconveniences of pregnancy—the same ones I’ve been quietly bellyaching about—have been preparing me for this great unknown all along. Here are three things pregnancy is teaching me about parenthood.
1. Priorities Are Everything
I’ve never been incredibly realistic when it comes to making decisions or committing to an obligation. Choosing between two or three things I really want to do is no fun—I want to do it all! During high school and college, and even my adult years, I’ve lived this in this boundaryless wasteland, taking on more than I can handle and somehow getting it down, but at great personal cost.
The physical limitations of pregnancy have helped me slow down and realize not only that I’m not able to do it all anymore, but also that I was never able to do it all—at least not in a healthy manner. In the beginning, I was determined not to let this baby “slow me down.” I agreed to a major short-term writing commitment. I signed up for one too many summer classes. In the back of my head, I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to do these things, but I was determined to push through. After all, in college I’d been able to do things way beyond the scope of reasonable expectations, with the help of lots of large latte and all-nighters.
But here’s the thing about pregnancy: it takes that “lots of large lattes and all-nighters” option off the table. I no longer have the luxury of occupying my body solo—for the next 3 months or so, I have a roommate, and a pretty demanding one. I can’t drink caffeine with impunity, and as it turns out, a fraction of my former intake doesn’t cut it when I’m splitting calories and energy with a pint-size wiggle worm. And what little free time and energy I do have, I end up spending on the things I need to do—things like exercising and resting and preparing our home for a new occupant.
This summer, I’ve become a student in the art of trimming down. I backed out of the writing commitment. I dropped the extra class. It wasn’t fun, but it was a valuable lesson: I can’t do all the things, only some of them—so prioritizing is more important than it ever has been.
And this is how it will be when our little one is here, too. It’s not that I won’t be able to do things outside of momming; I’ll just have to be more selective. The limitations pregnancy puts on me has helped me slowly but surely adjust to this new normal.
2. Life is Unpredictable
It never fails. I’ve showered, dressed, put on makeup, and gathered everything I need for the day. Amazingly, I’m leaving for work or my doctor’s appointment on time. But just as I’m about to step into my garage, I feel it. That terrible clenching in my stomach that tells me I’m not getting off so easy. Not today.
I have been fortunate to have a relatively sickness-free pregnancy, but once every two or three weeks, when I’m starting to feel cocky, this wee one decides to assert his or her dominance and remind me who’s really in charge. That’s when I lose my lunch. (Or breakfast. Or, sometimes, water and vitamins.)
After cleaning up, sitting for a moment to recover, changing, and packing a second breakfast to replace the one my body decided to waste, an easy fifteen minutes have gone by. The first few times this happened, I was annoyed at the baby—could it never trigger these episodes on a day when I didn’t have somewhere to be? But the last time I found myself huddled in the bathroom and glancing at the clock, hoping the traffic between my house and the doctor’s office was unusually amenable, I was annoyed with myself for not planning for the possibility.
The truth is, once this baby is here, my morning routine will be arrested by bodily fluids and other unexpected interruptions far more often than once every few weeks. Life, especially life with a child, is unpredictable. Pregnancy, through it’s less-than-savory complications, is preparing me even now to deal with unexpected, gross setbacks—to plan for them, even. It’s unpleasant, sure, but I know I’ll be grateful for what I’ve learned in just a few short months.
3. Parents Do What They Have to Do
When I was undergoing fertility treatments, I swore I’d never complain about any aspect of pregnancy. I would be a pregnancy saint. I would suffer in silence and dignity. Well, that hasn’t exactly been the case. And that’s okay. My expectations before were made in an understandable, unavoidable state of ignorance. I hadn’t spent months and months sleeping constantly and yet feeling more sleep-deprived than a collegiate insomniac. I hadn’t lost control of my bodily functions. I didn’t know. But here is what I do know. All these unsavory side effects of pregnancy have highlighted the power of love when it comes to undergoing discomfort.
Cutting back on caffeine, drinking more water, taking a daily vitamin, eating more vegetables—these are all things I’ve tried and failed to do for myself innumerable times over the years. But the second these things were for my child, rather than for me, it wasn’t difficult for me to do them at all. In fact, it didn’t even feel like a decision. I just did it. And as my pregnancy progresses and new obligations present themselves, I adhere to them without hesitation. The time leading up to each new level of limitation I spend in agony, worrying over whether I’ll be able to endure it, but when the time comes, I’m ready and willing. I do what I need to do.
I know this will continue to be the case if I develop gestational diabetes, or when it’s time to deliver the baby and I have the undergo pain I can’t even begin to imagine. Right now, those things quite frankly terrify me, but I know that when I’m faced with the choice of doing what I have to do or causing my child to suffer, I’ll choose the former every single time. And I know that won’t stop once I have this sweet one in my arms. This is my life now—our life now. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Olivia Folmar Ard is the author of women’s fiction trilogy The Bennett Series and Readers’ Favorite 5-Star recipient ‘Tis the Season. She is also a guest contributor for the online magazine, Christ and Pop Culture. She has a bachelor’s in history and is pursuing a master’s in marriage and family counseling. She and her husband JD live in central Alabama, where they await their miracle baby’s arrival this November.
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