Since the beginning of this pregnancy, I’ve had some kind of pregnancy insomnia. Almost every night I wake around three and lie for long moments, staring into the darkness, wondering if tonight is a go back to sleep night, or a two hour wakefulness night. Most are the latter.
It’s in these hours of wakefulness that I feel most afraid. There have been distinct phases of emotion in this pregnancy: in the first phase I was fatalistic- whatever happened would happen. I was 38, with two previous miscarriages (although they had been a long time before); the concept that this one would make it was one with which I didn’t engage too closely, out of fear. Then came a distinct phase of joy and happiness: seeing that little being on the scan made me remember the miracle of it all – his little heart thumping, his tiny legs flailing, his hand reaching out, fluttering in the smallest wave. And now – now we’re back to fear.
With a third pregnancy has come a raft of new fears and worries. In a society where two children is the norm, I have this ridiculous notion that maybe two children is it: that with my lovely, healthy two I’ve worn out my credit somehow. As he kicks and squirms I am filled with fear that he isn’t as healthy as he seems; that by bringing him into the world at 39, the third of three, I’ve somehow moulded him in a way that I shouldn’t have, that his little body won’t work the way it should. I’ve become preoccupied by the things I should and shouldn’t eat, by BPA in water bottles, by the environment in which I live. I think about the birth, about the horror stories I’ve heard, about the fact that in a single few moments, something so natural can go so wrong. And there your life turns, in those moments, from all that it was before, to all that the after holds.
And there are other, much more minor worries. With my first two, I took two years of maternity leave, followed by two more years of part time work. With this final child, I plan to go back to work at Christmas, when he’ll be eight months old. Quite apart from concerns that should be more pressing, like who the hell will look after him, the thought of it all seems daunting. I don’t always feel like the best mother to the two children I already have. I spend a huge amount of time at work, or working at home. Who could blame them if they grow up thinking that a pile of exercise books is more important than they are? I’m often tired, snappy, impatient. I don’t always give them the attention they deserve. How will I manage to split myself three ways, to give enough time to my beautiful sweet girl, my wonderful boy, and a baby?
And will I love him the way I love them? After all, my love for them has had six and seven years to find its rhythm, to grow and to swell, to imprint itself upon my heart. Will he be too new? Too newborn? Too tiny and washed clean for me to feel that love that clutches at my heart? Or – undoubtedly more probable – will I love him immediately the way I loved them, definitive, definite, all consuming – so that I can no longer go out into the world without feeling vulnerable and raw, surrounded on all sides by things that might damage his tiny perfection?
As I near the end of my sleeplessness in the night, I know in my heart that all of these worries are entirely pointless. He is what he is, my small, almost-formed boy. My worries about how we will cope are first world problems, precipitated by the reading of too many blogs and too much media coverage of how women can’t have it all. He will be a privileged, well cared for middle class child, surrounded by food and books and toys and people that love him. He will have siblings who worship him and parents who give him everything, including the twin examples of work ethic and determination.
And he will have love. All the love that any child could have or need, from his family, from his siblings, and from his parents. One day soon, I’ll gaze into his little face and all of these middle of the night fears will recede into nothing beside the perfection of the little creature he is. It is always this image that I hold close to me as I turn over and go back to sleep in the darkness of another night.