Babies are miracles. Let me rephrase that: having a baby is a miracle. It’s impressive that a cluster of cells grows into a bundle of joy and smelly diapers over the course of nine months, but the real miracle is pregnancy, namely, surviving it. I know I wouldn’t.
My wife is pregnant. This is her third go-round with the stork. She is as tough as nails.
I watched a series about Navy SEALs once. It followed these perfectly fit human specimens through weeks of grueling training. Pushups, situps, running, more pushups, carrying logs around, swimming, diving, shooting stuff, blowing stuff up, more pushups. I’d never say this to a Navy SEAL (because he could kill me with one of his knuckles while blindfolded, upside down, and asleep) but they got nothing on a pregnant woman.
I can’t relate to being pregnant; not at all. So I’m not even going to try. I’m just going to write about pregnancy as a spectator. I’m basically an embedded journalist here. She does all the fighting and I run around with a camera and a notepad.
It all starts calmly enough. Usually there’s some suspicion. You try not to get too excited. You look at each other across the breakfast table and say things like “these Honey Nut Cheerios are better than I remember” or “wow, it really is Wednesday, isn’t it?” But you both know what you’re really saying. You’re saying “You’re/I’m pregnant aren’t you/I?” And so the testing begins. The tests are like little Magic 8 Balls. You stare at them and wait for an answer. The first few tend to come back with a “Reply hazy, try again” but if you’ve hit the jackpot the 8 ball says “It is decidedly so”. And so there’s laughing and crying and phone calls. A lot of people will say things like “I can’t believe it!” when you call them, which always seemed funny to me. I mean, if I had called and said “we just bought a pet tiger and are going to start our own traveling magic show!” I could understand them saying “I can’t believe it!” but a baby never really seemed to be in the realm of the unexpected. The reality begins to sink in soon after the phone call stage; you start shifting from the fantasy world where visions of cute little babies in receiving blankets dance in your head to reality where there will soon be more bills to pay, more milk to buy, and less sleep to be had. And then the puking starts.
The first trimester is a roller coaster. You will find yourself thinking things like “who are you and what have you done with my wife?” There’s nausea, discomfort, exhaustion, mood swings. You’ll wonder how what she’s eating is even remotely palatable. What she wants from you, her sweet husband, more than anything in the world, is for you to leave her alone. She is tired. She is cranky. She is pregnant.
Then, like an angel descending from pregnancy heaven, the second trimester arrives. Things calm down and stabilize a little bit. She starts to feel like she is among the living again. She looks beautiful. Her belly grows. She worries about fitting into a dress. You think she’s crazy for not seeing how gorgeous she is. You talk about names. You’ll see the baby on a computer screen in the doctor’s office and, no matter how many times you’ve seen it before, your eyes well up and you say ‘wow’. You’ll feel the baby kick and punch and twist. You have the occasional moment of thinking ‘holy crap there’s a baby in there!’ You look at paint colors.
Then comes the third trimester. The home stretch. The baby is big and getting a lot bigger at an alarming rate. She slows down. There is no such thing as easy movement. Everything takes effort. Rolling from one side to another seems to take an eternity. When the baby kicks, sometimes you’re certain it’s going to be like that scene in Alien where the alien just comes flying out of the guy’s body. Looking at her stomach, you can discern knees and elbows with ease. You wish there was something you could do to make it all better. But you’re just the embedded journalist. So you sit there with your camera and your notepad and you rub her back and offer up sound bites of encouragement like “only 8 more weeks, honey” while she battles with the pain and the swelling. A lot of help you are.
And then, seemingly in a flash, you’ve reached the end of the road. Sounds like a poor choice of words, but it is the end of the road; the end of one journey and the start of another. You’ll walk out of that hospital and strap that baby into the car seat. You’ll pull away, both hands on the wheel, driving slowly, carefully. You’ll look in the rearview mirror, at the miracle in the back seat, and think “we did it”. But, truth is, you didn’t do jack. That woman sitting next to you? She’s the hero. She gets the ticker tape parade for this one. And don’t you ever forget that.