Last Tuesday, I had an appointment with my midwife.
I was 28 weeks pregnant, so it was your standard blood-testing, baby-poking, pee-in-a-cup appointment. My visits with my midwife are always pretty straightforward, for which I’m very thankful. I’m used to hearing the words “good” and “normal” and “perfect.”
So I wasn’t really ready when she poked my stomach with her little heartbeat microphone thingy and frowned.
“Hmm…” she said. “We’ll try again in a minute.”
We chatted some more and she scribbled in the green notebook I have to carry with me everywhere I go.
The second time, it was the same thing: more frowning, more “hmm”-ing.
“It’s a bit fast. I’m going to send you to the day unit to have his heart rate monitored for a little while. Just to make sure.”
The day unit is in the hospital where I had Adlai, and where I’ll have this baby. It is on the ward where I spent a week waiting for Adlai and I both to finish a round of antibiotics, where I slept in one room while he was fed every hour in an attempt to stabilize his blood sugar by nurses down the hall in the neo-natal unit.
I hadn’t been there since November 2010.
As Simon and I sat outside the day unit door, waiting for our turn, I watched the midwives standing around their station. I saw a couple I recognized, including the one who came and got Adlai out of my room a few hours after he was born, who inserted the nose tube he fed through for the first few days of his life.
I felt weird and uncomfortable, so I held Simon’s hand with one of mine, and used my other to feel this new baby kicking and rolling beneath my ribcage.
An hour and a half later, they called my name, and I climbed onto an uncomfortable hospital bed. Another midwife hooked me up to a heart rate monitor and told me she’d be back to check on me in a few minutes. As I watched the baby’s heartbeat register on the screen, I called after her: “What’s normal?”
“Anything between 110 and 160, depending on how active baby is.”
They say that a lot here. “Baby.” Not “the baby”, or “your baby”. Just “Baby.”
Simon sat in a chair by the bed, and we watched the numbers on the monitor: 143, 138, 132, 144, 155…
Normal, normal, normal.
It went on like that for nearly an hour, and with every passing minute, I breathed easier.
A second pregnancy is different to a first.
With my first pregnancy, there was not much to do but rub my belly and dream of my child and marvel at the miracle taking place inside me. There were hours of prayers and epic lists of names and near-obsessive counting down of weeks.
With my second pregnancy, there has mostly been Adlai. There has been Adlai’s playgroups and Adlai’s naps, and writing letters to Adlai in the little journal I keep for him. There has been preparing Adlai for a new brother, and disciplining Adlai, and thinking about potty training Adlai. And, occasionally, there is a quiet moment in bed at night when I am still and the house is quiet and I feel this new one kicking and flipping, and I smile and remember he’s there, he’s coming. There are a few names scribbled in a notebook by my bed, a conversation we revisit every couple of weeks. There is an app on my phone that tells me how many weeks along I am and, truly, sometimes that is the only way I know.
The hour and a half I waited for my turn, and the hour hooked up to the monitor, were an inconvenience. I had work to do, and dinner to cook.
But as I sat there and watched the needle jumping, scribbling out this tiny boy’s heartbeat, writing down his existence, I felt thankful for the inconvenience. For the few minutes of uninterrupted time to concentrate on the life of my second son. Even the few minutes to worry about him, and then to be relieved to know he was okay.
Sometimes the numbers jumped up to 158 or 162, just as I felt a little foot squeeze into my ribcage, or a lump of something roll under my belly button. I could imagine him in there, content. Oblivious to me out here, wondering if he was okay, nervously watching his every move.
My eyes filled with tears and I held Simon’s hand.
“We’re going to be his Mama and Daddy,” I said, because it felt like news.
“I know,” Simon said, because maybe he already did.