(Nota bene: the pictures in this post have almost nothing to do with the content. This is mostly because my husband refuses to take pictures of me, also because I find selfies to be too self-aggrandizing to bother taking any, and because it’s winter in Sweden and the light is shit.)
I’m just over 32 weeks into this pregnancy, which leaves me with about 8 to go. All’s well with the babe, who’s kicking, stretching, punching, rolling, hiccuping, and performing all the usual fetal feats. But while the baby is doing okay, I’m having a rough go of it this time around.
My first pregnancy was effortless and joyful, and I was shrouded in the miraculousness of growing a tiny human within me. I had only minor complaints—some heartburn here and there was probably the worst of it. My second pregnancy had more aches and pains and more fatigue, which made sense because 1) I was the full-time caregiver to a full-power toddler, and 2) we moved from Sweden to New Jersey back to Sweden during the pregnancy, with stops in the UK and Michigan. A lot of the joy of that pregnancy was muffled in the exhaustion of frequent international travel and the stress of relocating internationally (oh, and James undergoing the process to become a US citizen, which required him returning to the US just weeks after we’d moved to Sweden, leaving me alone in our new country at eight months pregnancy with a toddler in tow).
This third pregnancy has had none of the external hardships of the second, which is great, because it has come with its own set of internal difficulties.
In the first trimester I was mind-numbingly tired. Unfortunately, this coincided with the kids’ one-month break from preschool, so I had little time to rest. Luckily James was on vacation, too, so the kids weren’t stuck alone with a barely-functioning (and quite boring) mother. Each day we would go to the beach, where I would park myself on a towel and moan and complain about the heat (complaining about the heat in Sweden is like complaining that you got everything you ever wanted for your birthday: ridiculous). James was wonderful in taking over most of the daily housework (cooking and doing dishes especially) and childcare, without a single complaint.
I got a decent surge of energy during the second trimester, though around that time my father passed away and I traveled back to the US to be with family, both of which drained the energy I’d just gained. In its place I got pretty bad heartburn (and occasional reflux), terrible restless legs, pregnancy insomnia, varicose veins (in shocking locations), supreme fatigue, upper back pain, and perhaps worst of all, total brain fog. It feels as though a numbing fog has settled over my brain, and it’s incredibly difficult to function with it there. Writing this blog actually has been a huge challenge recently, and keeping it up the past couple weeks has taken every bit of motivation and will power I can muster. Many days I haven’t been able to, as you may have noticed from my less-frequent posting the last few weeks.
I am sure some of this comes simply from being in my late thirties during my third pregnancy; I’m a bit older and things are a bit harder. I’ll almost admit that I wasn’t in great physical shape before getting pregnant, and I haven’t done enough exercise during the pregnancy to build energy and endurance. And it finally occurred to me a few weeks ago that the dark Swedish winter probably plays a role in this, too. While I supplement with a pregnancy multivitamin and additional vitamin D, the lack of sunlight certainly affects how I’m feeling both mentally and physically. I have a desperate, desperate hope that our two weeks in Spain (we’re leaving Thursday!) will infuse me with enough sunlight and energy to make it through the rest of the pregnancy with a little bit of joy and enthusiasm.
There are some things that help now, though. The boys love to lavish kisses on my belly, and August especially gets very excited when he feels Bing Bong moving in my tummy. James continues to do more than his share of housework without complaint (while I mostly lie on the and moan); he’s been so wonderful about stepping up and doing everything he can to make these 7 months a bit easier for me. And of course, simply reveling in the wonder and beauty of my “outside babies”: feeling the heft of Leif resting on my shoulder while I carry him, or feeling the warmth of August’s palm as we hold hands walking into a store, or watching them build increasingly complex and creative things out of block and building sets. It is astonishing and almost incomprehensible to imagine that another one of these little beings will soon be with us, sharing in and adding to our love and laughter and joy.
In truth, all the aches and pains and complaints are nothing—nothing—compared to the love that awaits. For me, this is motherhood: accepting that everything is more difficult, everything is a challenge, and sometimes, everything hurts, and choosing it anyway, again and again, because the soft purr of a baby (a toddler, a boy) nestling into the warmth of my body is shattering, is completing, is the closest to grace I’ll ever come.
Women with multiple children: have your pregnancies been different? Were they harder as you got older? Would you have had more if you’d started earlier?
Most photos by me, some by James.