Today I went back to work after the Christmas holidays and realised that I am starting my last term before maternity leave. This should hardly come as a shock; I’m twenty five weeks pregnant, and I look and feel every day of it, so it’s not like I haven’t had time to prepare. But somehow it is a shock.
With child 1, my pregnancy crawled past, time hampered as it was by my constant worry and neuroses. He took up every spare thought in my head: was he moving? Why hadn’t he moved? Would we make it to the end? What would he look like? What colour hair would he have? Why the hell did time go so slowly when I was so desperate to meet him? With child 2, I mostly forgot I was pregnant because my love for child 1, still only a tiny baby at the time, was so overwhelming and new and sparkling and different. I wanted to meet her, of course I did, but people filled me with horror stories about two children within twelve months and how I’d never be the same again. I wasn’t of course, but not for the sleepless, exhausted, harried and hurried reasons they suggested, but because being a mother of two changed me as irrevocably as being a mother of one had. Each of my children have changed me and impacted me beyond all reason, leaving their tiny, dense fingerprints upon my receptive heart.
And this time has been entirely different again. The pregnancy has been the hardest of the three, paired as it is with a demanding full time job and two other children, but it has also been the one that has sped by, each week beckoning, racing, then receding into the distance. Each milestone has come and gone at speed: a nine week scan, the twelve week scan, telling the children, feeling those first tiny, fluttering movements, the twenty week scan, finding out the gender. Each one I have reached out and tried to grasp, to hold on to for longer than minutes as it slipped through my fingers, before we raced to the next, and each one has slipped away.
And now, as we reach twenty five weeks, he and I, this little being who spins and jumps and squirms and kicks, I am, for almost the first time, impatient to meet him. I’ve tried not to think about him much, superstitious and neurotic and crowded with fear as I am, putting away thoughts of a little newborn head beneath my chin, a small arm lolling against my skin, tiny breaths puffing against my neck. But now I think of him often, wondering who he’ll be, this brand new little being. Will he have fair hair, like child 1, or brown eyes, like child 2? Will he be talkative, like child 2, or self contained, like child 1? Will he remind me of them, or will he be, like they are, so entirely different from each other?
On nights when the prospect of a third child almost seven years after the second, a baby when the first two are becoming so independent, a tiny, needy creature when the others are beginning to be so self reliant, daunts me, I think of him, and who he will be. I watch child 2 sleep, in all her perfection, and gaze at child 1’s face, filled with wonder, as he watches the stars in his planetarium. And I think of the miracle of another child, like them and yet not like them, a whole other human being with all those complexities and talents and fears and longings and wonder.
And I wait and hope all the things we all hope for our children, present and future, and as I do his tiny kicks imprint themselves gradually and indelibly upon my heart.