First pregnancy: you are superstitious about telling people and only confide in a chosen few. You aren’t that good at keeping secrets so this expands gradually until practically everyone knows. Everyone is hugely excited for you, you can’t stop beaming as you deliver the news, and it’s all just the best thing that ever happened.
Third pregnancy: you tell virtually no one until after the 12 week scan, not because you’re superstitious but because you can’t quite believe it yourself. You find yourself delivering the news in an apologetic fashion, and not just to your boss. Very few people jumpup and down and scream with their excitement for you; most people look at you in total shock and/ or assumes you’re joking. This is totally acceptable, because it’s probably the way you would react too. Almost everyone asks if it was planned. (They couch it in gentler terms, such as ‘oh! Was that a surprise for you too?’) Some of your friends who last accompanied you on the baby journey six years ago react with genuine horror, imagining their current existence of children who can get their own breakfast and get into cars by themselves reduced to rubble. They go home and tell their husbands that sex is never happening again pre-vasectomy. You become a cautionary tale. The more people you tell, the less real it seems.
First pregnancy: you have no other children, although work seems really hard work at the time (you haven’t yet worked full time with two small children so you have no real idea of what exhaustion really is) so every night you get into bed about six pm. You intend to get up at some point but you mostly end up sleeping for fourteen hours. You tell everyone how tired you are (which you are; it’s just that it’s all relative) and revel in all the lovely sympathy.
Third pregnancy: you stagger through work, children’s tea, reading, homework and bedtime unless you can beg your husband for an hour’s sleep because otherwise you will lie down on the tiled kitchen floor, fall asleep and never get up again. Despite his general amazingness at giving you this rest and doing pretty much everything for the whole of the first trimester, you become increasingly more bad tempered. You remember a time in the distant past when you were a good mother with your older children and had some reserves of patience, but it’s too long ago to really grasp it and get it back.
First pregnancy: It’s pretty bad, but you sort of welcome it because it reassures you that everything’s fine. Every time you throw up you have a tiny glow that your body is just doing so well producing all these necessary hormones. Also, you have no children (I’m not sure whether I mentioned this before) so you can go home after work and go to bed. Everything feels better with sleep. It ends soon after the end of the first trimester.
Third pregnancy: It’s so bad it takes over your whole life. You spend all your time not at work throwing up on the bathroom floor or lying on the sofa boring your husband (in person) and best friend (via text) with how terrible it is. You begin to bore even yourself. Your daughter doesn’t know why you’re sick but takes to running to the cupboard and bringing you a dry cracker every time she finds you on your knees in the bathroom. Your son tells everyone that you’ve brought a sickness bug into the house. You ask your midwife why it’s worse this time around. She suggests it’s because you’re older. You already feel like a geriatric thanks to all this ‘older mother’ stuff and do not welcome this diagnosis. It gets worse soon after the end of the first trimester. You anticipate that you will never experience not feeling sick again, ever. You will have a slight green tinge and look this horrendous for ever, too. This is just life, now.
First pregnancy: you have enough time to sleep beforehand and therefore continue to go on nights out. You don’t drink but everyone knows you’re trying for a baby so it’s a dead giveaway and they leave you alone.
Third pregnancy: your friends greet the idea of you not drinking with hilarity and disbelief. They buy you vodka anyway, and then admire your restraint. You mutter blatant untruths about detoxes and then eat all the crisps In sight. ‘Funny detox,’they say, happily unsuspicious, because you are so far off their pregnancy radar you are off the scale. After week 5, you never go out at all, because that would mean leaving the sofa. And the bathroom.
Thoughts of the future:
First pregnancy: you are lost in rosy daydreams about this little being you’ll have. You can’t believe you could be this lucky. You can think of nothing else. Life glows.
Third pregnancy: you are too tired and sick for rosy daydreams. When you think of the future you mostly think of sleepless nights and going back to work when you have a small baby and all that pursuing it around the house while it relentlessly attempts to damage itself. Sometimes you think of tiny newborn cuddles and how much you loved the baby stage with the others, but it all feels surreal and you can’t really imagine having a baby. The other babies seems so long ago.
And then you reach the 12 week scan and see this little being waving its arms on the screen, all alive and vibrant and miraculous. You see its little face and realise that somehow your body has created this – this tiny being. You tell your other children, and you realise this is the best present you could ever give them. They don’t ask whether it’s planned. They aren’t shocked or surprised or horrified. They scream and jump up and down and throw themselves upon you and their little faces are lit up with the greatest excitement you’ve ever known.
And you look at the scan picture with them, and you think of how this one will be a whole other human being. A little creature all of its own, bringing with it the greatest joy and love and wonder in the world. A little gift, with its tiny beating heart and its own beaming smile and big, wondrous eyes.
You feel blessed.