At some point in the next seven days, the two babies in my belly will leave their cozy home and join us in ours.
This is almost certainly the last week of my last pregnancy.
The plan was always two kids and we got a bonus one this round, so barring something extraordinary, my family is complete. That means seven more days, or less, of growing life inside my body. It means that this very particular chapter, in which people are part of me but not, independent in movement and anatomy and thought but connected, literally and figuratively, to my body and soul, will be ending for good. No more babies in my belly, these two or otherwise. Just a regular body again, more stretched and more used, but also more purposeful, more wise.
I am done being pregnant.
I hurt, I am tired, I miss my body. I miss the regular things, like peeing and eating like a normal person, and the things that I pushed it into, the half marathons and handstands. Not to mention the wine. And turkey sandwiches. And getting out of bed. And getting up and down from playing with my son on the floor. And walking more than a block without feeling like I’m going to pass out. And the unsolicited comments, questions, touches. Yes, I am done being pregnant.
But – but. There will never be life inside me like this again.
This is the last time that I get the opportunity to grow people. When I felt the twins kick for the first time, I thought, “Oh yes, that’s what it feels like.” In just three years, I had forgotten. I know I will forget again. Being pregnant isn’t something you can capture in a picture or on paper. The growing belly, yes; those infinite and infinitesimal moments, no. It is and can only be a phase. This too shall pass, with all of its implications.
Carrying a baby (or babies) is transient, ethereal, the most intimate thing I’ve ever done.
In a life spent fighting loneliness, it is a time of certainty and security. You are never alone. Eventually, they will come out, they will grow up, they will leave. But for these 8-9 months, you are more than whole. You are singular and multiple. There is so much awe and so much wonder as your body just does it, without intention or instruction. This is the opposite of willing yourself to put one foot in front of another, to hold the pose ten seconds longer. While you eat, sleep, work, forget, your body grows people. It is, even to this cynical agnostic, a miracle.
And for me, right now, the chapter is coming to a close.
The joy and heartbreak of the last pregnancy aren’t mutually exclusive, of course. It’s very possible to be sad that the experience is complete and happy to have your body back, not to mention meet these little people whom you’ve been cooking so judiciously. But it is especially poignant compared to other times in our lives when we’re asked to hold two seemingly contradictory ideas at the same time. I want these babies out of my body and into the world. I will never have the experience of creating and nurturing human being(s!) inside my body again. I will go back to normal.
In that respect, perhaps the push and pull of pregnancy is simply a trial run for parenthood.
Life as a parent is a constant, unending series of holding two conflicting ideas as truths. I want to be so close to my child that our bodies meld into one. I need more space, endless space, all the space in all the ways. I don’t want to miss a single minute of his childhood. I need everyone to leave this house and give me two hours of peace or I might snap like dry wood and just drive the hell away. I need this child to sleep through the night on his own or I might actually die of exhaustion. I want ten more minutes of snuggles, one more whiff of that sleepy-sweaty-toddler smell, the weight of his arms wrapped around me, the honor of being the only thing that lets him release and rest his strong, soft little body.
Pregnancy, like parenthood, throws it all at us at once.
The joy and the pain, a heart more full than we ever thought possible and a heart broken by change, separation, distance. In these last seven days, I must be present. I must feel each movement and sear it into my brain even though I know it’s a lost cause. I will feed them and nurture them and sustain them to the best of my ability. I will close my eyes and sense their spirits and imagine their faces. I will set aside the pain and the stretch marks and the anxiety and hold them tighter than I will ever be able to again.
I won’t be pregnant anymore and it will be joyful and it will be devastating.
I will begin the long slow march back to a regular body. It will be hard and it will be rewarding and one day, I’ll run 13 miles again or maybe I won’t. But every day, I will look at my children and know that many things that seem paradoxical can be wholly, equally true. That miracles don’t only occur on the inside. That I will never be pregnant again but they will always be part of me, and that for these little people, every moment of delight and despair has been and always will be worth it.