Once upon a time, my husband and I were going to be empty nesters in our mid 40’s. We started our family in our mid-twenties and our first-born daughter was due on the date of my husband’s grad school graduation. We had our second daughter when I was 27 and hoped for a third two years later, but after two pregnancy losses on the heels of the second trimester, we decided that we couldn’t withstand another heartbreak.
Fast forward to 2018 and we have made the parental turn onto Easy Street; that sweet spot in parenting that occurs between early childhood and teenagerhood. With an eight-year-old and 11-year-old girl, car seats and diapers are ancient artifacts; temper tantrums and sleepless nights seem like lightyears ago; and car rides are enjoyable now because The Wiggles and Wheels on the Bus requests have been replaced by requests for Bonjovi and Weezer. Easy Street is all downhill with beautiful scenery and no bumpy roads. I’m not saying that we didn’t thoroughly enjoy the earlier years of parenting, but those precious years were hard and spent in the trenches, elbows deep in dirty diapers and running ragged with no sleep.
Back in May of this year, we were on cruise control, coasting down easy street and enjoying a family camping trip when I started to feel my health decline. My energy took a sudden downward turn, I started to lose my appetite, and I was overcome with nausea. Fears of serious illness crossed my mind until a couple of weeks later when I realized that my symptoms were synonymous with pregnancy. Once it was confirmed, I was in complete denial. I feared for another loss and thought for sure that I would miscarry any day. I didn’t even allow myself to feel excitement, hope or joy. I kept my pregnancy secret for 16 weeks–I didn’t allow it to be real.
Here I am now though, at 32 weeks pregnant, and this is all very real.
Pregnancy this time around is a whole lot different than it was with my first two. First of all, this one is considered a geriatric pregnancy because I’m over 35, so apparently my delivery from the stork will come with a free subscription to AARP magazine and hopefully a hefty discount on Depends since I’ve done exactly three Kegels this pregnancy. I also haven’t spent my days reading “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” because I feel like I could write the book. I haven’t read “Baby Wise” or “Happiest Baby on the Block” because I know that I might get a screaming colicky baby or a chill Koala baby, and sometimes the knowledge in a book doesn’t have the power to change that. Plus, I should be reading about the uncharted waters of the teen years.
At my last appointment, my OB/GYN asked me for my birth plan, and all I could think of were two words: Surprise me. Because honestly, after having a 24 hour labor, last minute epidural and an emergency C-Section with my first, followed by a 27 hour labor, early epidural and VBAC birth with my second, the words “birth plan” project an image of a unicorn in my mind. I will write a birth plan, but I will also have zero expectations for everything to go as planned, because when you’re a geriatric pregnant woman riding into your third birth, you know that you just have to stay on the saddle and hold on tight. Maybe my husband can freeze some Ensure cubes to feed me during labor. I’ll add that to my elderly birth plan.
The clock keeps ticking louder as I approach the big day; the day we step into that DeLorean and turn the dial back to newborn. I find myself thinking about the projected timeline of my life and how it has changed so drastically in the past eight months. I think about how I’ll be driving my oldest to college, my middle child to high school and my youngest to elementary school in the same year. I wonder when I’ll be able to go on my next girls’ trip. I think about how this baby is going to have to go with the busy flow of our family, traveling to her sisters’ sporting events and practices daily, never knowing the luxury of a nap schedule. I wonder if time, experience and age will change my parenting style for this bonus baby.
I think parenting as a whole this time around is going to be so different. With my first two, I was obsessed with constantly stimulating them, reading to them, talking to them, worrying about development, not to mention being terrified by every single illness. I was the mom who would call the on-call pediatrician at 4am when a fever spiked. But now I feel like a seasoned pro; I’ve handled influenza, strep, ear infections, pneumonia, tubes, Lice (the worst), stomach flu, croup, you name it.
I know that it gets easier and I know that I will sleep again. I know that the rewards of parenting far outweigh the pains. I know that the magic of holidays will live a little longer in our home now. I know that my heart grows bigger with every child. Every day, I get to see my two girls grow into healthy, smart, brave and kind young ladies, who bring immense joy to our lives, and I have no fear that our little bonus baby will bring the same joys to our family. Who knows, if all goes well, maybe we will go for bonus baby #2. For now, we are just gearing up to go back in time. Great Scott!