It is four in the morning and the sun is starting to turn the sky pink. My bladder is full, again, and I use all of the energy I do not have to kick my legs forward to roll onto my side. I get high centered on the bed, and then roll onto the floor and practically crawl to the bathroom. It's pathetic, really.
My stomach now towers, horizontally, disproportionally, away from the rest of my swollen body. My stretchy clothes are tight, and I feel fancy on the rare occasion when I talk myself into changing out of my leggings, and into my slightly less spandex-y jeggings. My legs are, essentially, a pair of a broken can of biscuits. When I belly laugh, I go into full-on Santa with asthma mode, and my bladder control is about as in tact as what I would imagine Santa's is like. I carry my toddler ten feet and I am breathless. I feel tiny legs and feet tap dancing behind my ribs, arms flailing beneath my belly button. Swift, ninja like punches are thrown at my husband's hand as he runs his finger tips across my tight stomach. My pelvis feels crushed. I ache to the bone.
Even when I finally put my feet up at night, and the false contractions are tightening my stomach, inhale, exhale - it is still somewhat of a surprise to remember that I am nine months pregnant.
Though I am tired, and big, and full to the very brim. I often forget that a human being is inside of me. A new life will be here in a matter of weeks. And that she's been with me since November.
And so it goes the second time. A pregnancy that was unplanned, unlike the first that we waited and prayed for. Chromosomes and molecules, limbs and organs being intimately hand sewn inside of me with power and gentleness for the second time. My body taking shape into a form that it recognizes. Muscle memory turns its gears as it carries this life, and my body stretches in response. This figure, these scars, these curves, are no stranger to me. I've supported this weight before. The hard is easy because it has visited these spaces before. This body houses two of us right now, and I am so thankful to be able to share it.
For the second time.
This wouldn't be motherhood without a good dose of guilt, though.
This pregnancy is progressing nearly identical to the first, but everything feels so different. The first time, I had page lengths of questions at each appointment, I was acutely aware of every symptom, and I worried almost constantly. I was impatient. I was preparing every facet of my life for my daughter, oblivious as to what to expect. I noticed every single flip. I grew her on two minute mug cakes, and 14 hours of sleep a day. I was obsessed with each milestone, documenting each week like it was my job. And finishing the nursery months before her arrival.
Don't get me wrong, this time has its fair share of sleep and chocolate, too. And I document quite regularly, but it is with 10-second self destructing Snapchat images. Snapchat might as well be this poor baby's scrapbook. I do not have the time or the brain capacity to just sit and savor and marvel over the wonder of somersaults, begging to be noticed, beneath my skin.
My feelings this go around very much resemble the truth that I have two hearts beating inside of me. Yin and yang. The emotions are inconsistent and fleeting and hard to catch up with before they're gone again. The eager anticipation and sheer terror, fluctuates about as much as the water weight in my ankles. I count the days as they pass, and even with the knowledge that time will escape me, it slips right through my fingers. I blink, and here we are thirty-seven weeks later. I nearly happy sob at the idea of my daughter having her sister beside her, and then I feel incredibly sad to think that this special time with just us two is almost over. My stomach turns at the thought of the loss she will feel, and my inability to know exactly how to assure her that I will still be hers. How do I prepare her to give up the only life she has ever known?
The thought of two babies in my arms seems life giving and impossible all at once. My ribcage has expanded for what I can only imagine is to make room for the ways in which my heart will grow. I know that I will have the ability to carry it, but how will I distribute out that love equally for the rest of my days? Giving 100 percent to her and her and him and me? Will I have the energy to show them? Will they feel it? Will they understand that I am exhausting every last ounce of my being for them?
People always ask me how I am feeling, but I never know the answer. I feel exhausted and thankful to the very deepest parts of me. I am sore and stretched and more rested than I will probably ever be again. I feel so lucky and so scared and so full of joy I feel I might just burst. I feel guilty and organized and so unprepared.
I am soaring and I am sinking.
I feel everything.
I carry this bigness and this discomfort, and I know when it comes down to it, this journey is nothing but an honor. A privilege. My body is power and love personified. I walk (waddle) down the hallway and see two rooms crafted together for two little girls. Two perfect, loved, and wanted little girls; masterfully designed for me and the person I love most - and it hits me. This chaos, these growing pains, this inconsistent and fleeting season with small children, it is what being alive is all about.
Yes, things are terrifying right before we take this leap. However, this time, I understand the way that peace will find a way to saturate even the dark moments, and I am so ready to live it,
but because this is the second time, I know I am not ready at all.
Words and photo by N'tima Preusser.