It’s not just about that soft gleam of naivety in my eyes. Or the fact that I’ve clearly visited a professional hairdresser sometime in the last few weeks rather than squinted over a sink with a comb and a pair of rusty bathroom scissors, feverishly swearing whilst trying to remember that teenager’s YouTube tutorial. It’s not even the sad reality that gravity has yet to slump my pregnant belly into this strange, over-hanging pouch of a baby-hammock I’m currently sporting… It’s all of it. The fact I have no fucking clue what’s about to hit me. The destruction that tiny little foetus daughter of mine is about to wreak on my body as she makes her slow way out of it. The annihilation of grown-up evenings, solid blocks of sleep, freedom… I knew it would be hard. I didn’t know about the life sentence of worry, obsession, googling every little quirk and symptom, their tiny fingerprints on the corners of my heart even when I’m miles away and they are safe in their beds…
But I didn’t come here to get all deep. I came because I’m on the brink of a full-term third pregnancy and I thought I would re-visit a couple of moments from my first and second pregnancies and think about what’s changed. Not just gravity. Though, gravity. Yeah. That’s a thing. Also age. I’m not exactly ancient now, but I don’t half feel old when I look at these photos. My life isn’t even as stressful, in some ways, as it was then. I don’t have to get up at 6am to commute 60 miles to work, I don’t have press days or exhibitions to attend. The dreaded vox-pop is a distant memory. I’m a SAHM attempting to get a novel published. My life at the moment is pretty good. And I can say that without feeling too hateful because I know in a few weeks it’s all going to be turned
to shit upside down once again.
Maybe that’s the thing about third pregnancies… There’s no innocence anymore. When I had my second daughter it had been almost four years since my first, which makes a huge difference. I had, for the most part, forgotten the tearing agony of full-on labour. I’d forgotten the darkness of the early nights when the baby is feeding for the millionth hour and has just pooed AGAIN which means in a moment you will have to haul your broken, torn-up body out of bed and change her, waking her up in the process and ensuring at least another half an hour of feeding to re-settle her back to sleep for a paltry 45 minutes before the next cycle begins. When you look at the small mountain of used nappies stacked beside the lovely, grown-up designer handbag you won’t be using again for at least a year and wonder why the hell you have done this to yourself again…
And it’s not just the third-time-round parent-to-be who has well and truly lost that sparkling gleam of new-baby excitement. First time around we were surrounded by such intensely excited relatives that I was a little scared one of them might make off with the newborn from the post-natal ward. Nowadays I’ve come to quite enjoy the look of abject surprise when I answer the door/ remove my coat/ walk into a room. Even my own mum has told me, more than once, “Ooh, I just looked at you and thought you’d gotten really fat for a moment then!”
But the biggest difference of all has to be the fact that I know this is probably the last time I will do this. So I am trying to make the most of it… Such as I can. Yes, the novelty of feeling the baby kicking has pretty much worn off at this point. Or at least been counter-balanced by the shitty indigestion, shooting round ligament pains, fanny daggers, occasional incontinence and all the other delightful symptoms one can expect to experience at least once or, in my case, repeatedly over the nine long months. Yes, as I heave my swollen, unrecognisable body out of bed to go and pee for the eighth time that hour, I do look forward to not being pregnant anymore. But I haven’t forgotten the darkness up ahead. I haven’t forgotten that life is about to get really hard for a while. That labour is really fucking painful. That newborns are bloody hard work. That around caring for one I’ve also still got to be up and ready in the mornings to pack a lunchbox, dress the toddler, take all of us to school/activities on time… as well as think about starting potty training one day soonish, losing the masses of winter/fuck-it-all-this-is-the-last-one baby weight I’ve piled on and temporarily pause all plans and processes for novel publication for at least the next six months.
So I will go to the toilet again. I will cuddle my daughters around my enormous, protruding belly for as long as I can. I will shift into a comfier position on the sofa in the evenings and enjoy not having to negotiate a cluster-feeding infant whilst also obsessing over the opportune moment to go to bed in order to wrack up the biggest possible number of sleeping minutes… I will smile beatifically at the eleventh person to ask me how I am feeling today, and agree that haven’t I gotten big, and yes, I’m sure I certainly will have my hands full with three of them… But perhaps the strangest thing of all is that despite all the cynicism and impending doom, I am still excited. Definitely not the same way I was five-and-a-half years ago. Or even 20 months ago. But I am still looking ahead, past the labouring and the nights-of-nappies-darkness and the early weeks of trying to adapt to a probably quite horrible ‘new normal’… I’m looking forward to the other bits. The tiny, greyish-purple, brand new body passing into my hands. The relief that I never have to endure another second of childbirth. Sleepy, snuffly snuggles into my neck. Sisters becoming sisters again. And him; our boy. And all the complete wonderfulness he will bring us.