I’m waiting to give birth to our second baby. At 40 weeks, my tummy has taken on a life of its own, bulging and rippling like an ocean with the force of a thousand little kicks. The only thing stopping this new human from breathing in the outside world right now are the walls of my body.
Even though I’ve done this all before, I’m still filled with the same fascination at watching those stomach-ripples, still nervous about the journey ahead before the little life that’s inside me will be safely in my arms.
But that’s not to say that everything has been the same the second time round. Being pregnant while also being the mother of a toddler is definitely harder work. In fact the luxury of bump-watching is something I’m only able to do because I’m in my day job – come 6pm and my other, three-foot-tall ‘boss’ has no patience for such naval-gazing.
And our almost-two-year-old isn’t the only one not impressed by my ever-changing body. The first time around I felt magical, ethereal, filled with wonder and gratitude at my growing bump and tickled pink with excitement to read about how the fetus was developing from the size of an olive to the size of an pineapple. The second time round and that sense of wonder has mostly been replaced with a sense of exhaustion, while email updates about fetus size often go unread as I put the toddler down to sleep and slump in a heap next to his cot.
Before, my phone was crammed with side-on selfies tracking the progress of my bump; nowadays it usually shows the ‘iPhone disabled’ message thanks to little one’s button-pressing (and there’s not a single bump pic.) In the past, my husband and I also spent long, indulgent evenings in nice restaurants discussing how our lives were about to change. Nowadays we eat out in daylight hours, usually in a mall food court, where not being able to hear yourself think is a bonus because it makes our toddler’s shenanigans less noticeable.
The weekly antenatal classes in which we had time to mull over questions about my impending labour have been replaced with sporadic smartphone googling to refresh our memories, and a constant sense of anxiety about the fact that I STILL haven’t got round to packing my hospital bag yet.
Meanwhile my sentimental binge-watching of One Born Every Minute (and secret hope that I might be among those women who miraculously experience pain-free labours) has been replaced by Teletubbies on loop and the inexorable knowledge that childbirth definitely hurts after all.
But it’s not all negative contrasts. The sense of wonder might not be so great, but that’s because I’ve already dealt with that mind-boggling identity switch from woman to mother, and am therefore also less existentially angsty than I was the first time round. By now I have at least a vague sense of what to expect and how to care for a newborn, so I will hopefully be a calmer and more confident mother because of that.
I might not have had the time or energy to take bump pictures on my phone, but I forced myself to get professional maternity photos done, because I know that, however self-conscious I am about my ballooning body now, I will regret not having a proper record of it in months and years to come.
And most of all, I now know how much love it is possible to have for another human being, and how that can grow day after day like an ever-expanding universe of affection.
I know how quickly the newborn moments – both good and bad – pass, and I won’t wish away the tiny-baby days impatiently hoping to spot the next mini milestone, but will do my best to relish them for what they are. Yes, I’ve done it all before (and got the t-shirt stains), but actually I think it’s all the more exciting because of that.