Not Alone

Jacodien Vreugdenhil honestly

“Did you fall?” she asks me pointing to the wounds on my fingers. She doesn’t even look up, while she throws the dices in attempt to score bunco. For a second I hesitate. I doubt between being honest and laughing it away. That second betrays me, now she does look up. Her eyes fixed on mine. Loving, inviting. It feels like I lost.

“It was a rough morning,” I confess, making my hand to a fist as a demonstration. “It was rough,” I say again. Trying to make it sound reasonable about why I hit the headboard so hard that it left wounds on my knuckles. She tells me that she once hit a mirror; a thousand pieces on the floor. And how she stood there, in the middle of the mess, the broken glass slivers and bits. I joke how it disappointed me that the board didn’t even break. I muster an awkward smile. But I don’t laugh.

I feel like a deflated balloon. Empty, wrinkled, ready to be totally abandoned somewhere in a dark corner. Hollow. Desolate. It is kind of funny if you think about it. The irony of the contradiction if you would see me. It is totally impossible to hide that I am pregnant. I am as round as a balloon could be. Or at least my belly is.

But I feel empty.

I went to see my midwife that morning my knuckles met the headboard. It didn’t even take her two minutes: “We call that depression,” she said. While my two-year-old sat there, playing hide-and-seek under a chair in the office. “Pregnancy depression.”

It wasn’t new to me. And still it shocked me. Where did this come from? Life is good. I am good. My marriage is great. My kids are … well, kids.

My last two pregnancies had been easy. If it wasn’t for the last few weeks (whew – those babies get heavy) and the labor and delivery (not my strongest skills), I really had no problems at all with being pregnant.

That morning my daughter walked in on me crying. “Mama, why do you have a few tears?” she asked. What could I answer? That I was too tired to fight? Too exhausted to make the decision – every single morning – to be a brave and responsible grown-up, and get out of bed to take care of myself and my children? That those “few tears” had been lots and lots of crying, uncontrollable bawling since the early morning. She didn’t need to hear about the feelings of helplessness. I was glad she had not seen my aggression a little earlier. I don’t have to tell her that I just want to lay down in the dark, under the covers, a victim of my feelings; false concoctions and harmful thoughts.

It wasn’t new to me. And still it shocked me. Like it does with everyone.
“That is so exciting!” they tell me when they hear the big news of baby number four.

“You look so cute with your little baby bump!”

“So glad you feel well, only tired, that’s good!”

They expect me to beam. Glow. Sparkle.
I should be happy. Excited. Longing.

But I don’t. I disappoint myself. Them. Others.
Slowly it comes back. I remember the feelings and the conversations during my first pregnancy.
The pain I caused others, who longed for a baby but struggled with infertility. The frustration of not being understood by others. Because I wasn’t excited, I wasn’t beaming and happily expecting.
How I disappointed friends when they exclaimed: “You really look pregnant now! And you can feel the baby move! I bet you are excited now!” But I wasn’t. I never was.

I had forgotten about it. Moved on with life. I had become a mom. Enjoyed my son. Fully. Loved him. Completely. By now I am a mom of three. Expecting my fourth.

While I push the swing at the park, higher and higher, cook dinners, drive back-and-forth to school. While I do laundry and pick up toys, I realize that it is not new. It is the same as that first pregnancy. And yet so different. I don’t have the chance to lay down in bed; watch TV show after TV show.
The thoughts are the same. The frustration of being misunderstood, it seems like I fail everyone by not being a happily expecting mom. The pain of the fight. The screaming, the hurting knuckles, the tears, the baby bump. It’s the same.
But I get up … with help (Thank God for doctors, midwives, a husband, friends, essential oils and meds!) and go on with life. In a different form than I wished. But knowing that in a few months I will hold my baby. And I will be able to love it. Oh, yeah, I will love it. With all my heart.

I throw the dice. Yippee! 21 points. This round is over.
While we switch tables, she looks me in the eye. I feel known. Understood. She stood in the middle of the mess once. Now I stand in mine.

But not alone.