Time

Elizabeth Donelson Collective

My phone buzzed. Its little vibration on the counter reminded me that today I turned 27 weeks pregnant. The beginning of my third trimester. The home stretch as my husband so graciously offered me. The clock read 9 AM. I’d been awake since 6, editing photos and responding to client e-mails, changing the laundry, and feeding my two year old Costco fruit and a yogurt pouch with Pooh Bear on its packaging. I hadn’t eaten, looked in the mirror, or brushed my teeth, and yet I had managed to use the bathroom six times already. I downed a protein shake and like every morning around that time, laced up my shoes for a walk. The sun was bright, my lab was bouncing up and down as I leashed her to the stroller, and McCoy had all of his digger toys piled on top of him in the jogger. His shoes were on the wrong feet and I debated if skipping sunscreen on his sweet little face would be okay, just this once. They say that showing up to your workout is the hardest part, and in my case lately, every single morning it is. We made it down the steep hill near our house and immediately I had two concerns. I had to pee and I had a side ache. Feeling the need to pee was a common occurrence so that didn’t worry me. The side ache, however, paralyzed me. all I realized that I could not keep going and I would in fact, have to walk all the way back up that horrifying hill.

Thoughts ran through my mind: You can do this. You can keep going. Just keep to your usual route. You run endless miles when there’s no baby in your belly. You take hot yoga, too. And you do HIIT training. YOU CAN WALK FOUR MILES. And up until that point in this pregnancy, I did just that. I walked like my life depended on it because out of everything that happens in pregnancy that was out of my control, those 4 miles were not. They were mine and mine to keep.

I apologized to my smiling toddler that the park would have to wait and I slowly waddled myself and everything else up that hill. I got everything and everyone back inside and I went to the bathroom. Feeling better, I went downstairs and decided that maybe I’d try a slow walk on the treadmill. They say that even a little something is better than nothing, right? Thirty seconds in I was once again struck in pain by a side cramp. “What is going on?,” I thought to myself. “You can do this. What is wrong with you?”

Tears filled up my lashes and I realized two things.

One: I could not do this.
And two: There were many things that felt wrong.

You see, I spent months after my first child was born knowing that I would at some point in time have another baby. I also told myself that when that time came, I would embrace it, every single week. But 27 weeks in and I was heaved over on the treadmill realizing that I was far from embracing anything that had to do with it. In fact, I was doing way more than what my body could handle. Mixed in with everything else that life threw at me as a mother, I was forcing my tired body to walk four miles every day, trying so desperately to avoid gaining too much weight this time around, all because I thought I was disciplined enough to do so.

Healthy people stay skinny when they’re pregnant. The words would run through my brain as each week passed, as each mile added up to some sort of total that made me value my worth as a pregnant woman. The truth was, I hurt. I was tired and angry and frustrated. And I so badly hurt.

What people don’t tell you when you become pregnant with your first born is that pregnancy is hard. They also don’t mention it when it comes time for number two, because well, you’ve experienced it before. Let me be the first to tell you, pregnancy is HARD. And it has every right to be. There is a living person inside of you, every single day, for 40 weeks. Let me also be the one to mention that healthy people gain weight in pregnancy. And so do the short people and the tall and the muscular builds and the thin and frail. If you are a woman you will gain weight when you provide a physical home for your baby.

There I sat, wide legs sprawled on my treadmill because there is no way in Jesus’ name that I could pull them into my chest and hide like I normally would if tears ever appeared. Failure beat itself against my brain. I looked down at my chest and cried harder when I realized that I had literally gone up almost 4 cup sizes and there I was, trying to fit into a size small sports bra. Ugly, I thought to myself. Ruined. Then a little voice appeared from behind the unframed wall of our basement. He was pushing his old infant walker, trying to tell me that his baby brother would sit in this too, just as he did. He is just over two, mind you, so the sentence wasn’t all that clear. But the words brother, sit, and there were all tumbling out of his mouth followed by one final word: cute.

Cute.

My heart lifted for what felt like the first time in weeks. I walked over to him, held his hand and took him over to the box labeled Infant Toys stacked against the wall. We pulled out teethers, soft animals, squishy balls, and toys that sang lullaby songs about Jesus and how he loves us so. He lined them all in a straight line across the floor. The last toy he laid was a Fisher Price clock. He again, said, ‘cute,’ and laid it amongst the others.

The tiny clock was staring at me. Big numbers, a blue and yellow second hand that I could spin around until it clicked to move steadily on its own. I paused for a moment and used that spinning hand to erase those terrible words I had said about myself from my mind. I erased them completely. I realized in that moment that motherhood, along with all of the other defining words about this job, could easily be summed up into one: Time. Being a mama is giving your time, losing your time, getting lost in time. It’s carrying your babies time after time, both inside and out of the womb. It’s bedtimes and story times and lunch times and nap times. It’s a clock that keeps going and going and then one day your first baby becomes your second baby and the two of them might become your last babies forever and ever. It is then that you realize that maybe the hardest part about this job, is never getting all of theses magical times back.

I thought about my side ache and the fact that I could not go on my precious walk. I thought long and hard about the pressure I put on myself as both a mother and a pregnant one at that. And then I looked down at my boobies and my 27 week mass of a bump, and I smiled.

Cute, I whispered.