Brock walked through the door and put down his things. I met him at the stairs – I wasn’t upstairs, I just really liked standing a stair or two up so it was easier to be eye-to-eye with him. He walked over to me and could tell that I had been crying. He hugged me and held on to me and asked, “Mandy… what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
I didn’t answer immediately. He was home and I was faced with telling him what should have been beautiful news; I was crying anew. I tried valiantly to choke my sobs back so I could say the words.
Again, he asked, “Why are you crying?” He paused, “…Are you pregnant?”
Boom. Stole my thunder.
I laugh-sobbed and nodded. I had this really incredible mix of excitement, fear, and shame over getting pregnant so quickly, and also before we were married. I said, “I’m so sorry,” as I hugged Brock and continued crying. He laughed and hugged me back and told me I didn’t need to cry, I didn’t need to apologize.
I felt so guilty. Brock had said that he didn’t want to have kids yet. He wanted us to be married for a while before we started having kids. We wanted to be married… to enjoy being married. To be a couple together before being parents. To travel. When I had said that I wanted to stop taking birth-control pills so that my body could clear out the hormones and return to normal, I assured him we wouldn’t get pregnant.
But we did.
I tried not to have any hangups about being pregnant at my wedding. It was early, and I had already been married before, and really… who decides what is the “proper” way to do things, anyways? Do I agree with them? Brock and I had been living together for nearly two years already. It didn’t seem worth my time to be upset about it. So we just continued forward with everything as planned.
Our guests started arriving, and everything came together exactly as it was supposed to. We were married in a beautiful service, and then spent an incredible afternoon on the hottest July 5th I could remember. I drank sparkling lemonade in our toast. We danced, and mingled, and the afternoon was over before we could imagine it.
We went to the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon. An all inclusive resort! It was my first time! I was so sick the entire trip… I couldn’t drink alcohol and couldn’t eat any of the food, and slept almost the entire five days we were there. I felt incredibly guilty about that as well.
So! Anyways. We were married, and pregnant, and catapulted unforgivingly into actual-adulthood.
We started down the typical path of pregnancy – there was no other option for me – made an appointment with an OB/GYN that was in the same building as the High Risk doctors that I worked for. It made sense to me to be able to have my appointments without having to drive anywhere and miss the least amount of work. It meant that I would deliver down town instead of at the hospital near me, but I was okay with that. I waited several weeks to tell my employers and co-workers that I was pregnant. Despite my feelings of guilt and shame, I was honestly expecting everyone to be excited for me. The reaction I got was exactly the opposite.
The other techs in the practice that had, up until my pregnancy announcement, been kind and welcoming were suddenly cold and distant. I was snapped at and corrected and made to feel like I wasn’t doing my job well, nor pulling my weight. I was taken aside a few weeks into my second trimester and told, on no uncertain terms, that there were techs in our building who had been suffering from infertility, and no one – NO ONE – was happy that I had waltzed in there and turned up pregnant. I wouldn’t be celebrated, and none of my co-workers wanted to hear about my baby.
I have been hurt many times in my life to varying degrees. I wasn’t particularly popular in school, and kids can be quite mean. I was made fun of for the way that I dressed, and teased about the financial status of my family. I was incredibly intelligent, but not included with the smart kids, loved theater but not really in with the drama crowd, good at sports but not good enough for the athletes. I spent most of my entire school career with one or two close friends and really no one else. Despite all of this, I had never truly known what it was to be hurt by an entire group of people – how exclusion and mean-spirited derision could tear you open and destroy your worth.
What was supposed to be one of the most exciting and life-affirming stages in my life suddenly became a painful reminder that I didn’t belong, I wasn’t cared about and I would not be validated.
Pregnancy was much harder for me than I expected. I had always wanted to be pregnant, and dreamed about what it would be like but the reality was so much different than my dreams. I didn’t have terrible morning sickness, but my nausea was unrelenting. I found it easier to not eat, or only eat “safe” foods in order to prevent the desire to throw up, which ended up in over ten pounds of weight loss in the first few weeks. There were more pains and cramping and discomfort than I had been prepared for. And since work wasn’t a safe place for me to talk about what was going on within my body – and I didn’t really have any friends – I withdrew pretty deeply into myself.
I was still excited to have a baby, of course, but I was very much lacking any kind support system.
At 22 weeks, I began to recognize that the “tightening” feeling in my stomach was not, in fact, the baby ‘balling up’, but were actually contractions. I knew the information that we told our high risk patients – any more than 4 contractions in an hour were worth checking on. I knew that we told our patients that we couldn’t tell the difference between contractions that were changing the cervix and contractions that WEREN’T without checking. I knew that there was no way to know whether or not I was going into labor early, or just had an irritable uterus. I brought it up at my next appointment, and my doctor immediately scheduled me for an ultrasound. I was contracting every 7-8 minutes, and she was highly concerned. However, my cervix was long and closed, with no evidence of ‘funneling’ (where the portion of the cervix closest to the baby began opening) so she felt confident that we could just keep an eye on it.
At 27 weeks, I asked one of my doctors if he knew why my belly would be hurting so badly. I was still contracting multiple times an hour with no cervical change, but the area along and around the top of my bump was getting unbearable – tender to the touch whether or not I was contracting. He said he wasn’t sure why, and we would again, keep an eye on it.
Two days later I was in the hospital.
To be continued.