What I Think About When I See Pregnant Women

by Kristin Shaw
Originally Published: 

All around me, I notice pregnant women, their bellies stretching the fabric of their beautiful striped dresses and flowing tunics. I see their glow and their happiness, carrying a seed of joy that will be planted in a matter of months, weeks, or perhaps even days.

The memory of that time for me is new, even still, and I can almost pick it up in my hands like fresh soil and inhale the deep primal order of life. Picturing myself in a long red cotton dress, 36 weeks pregnant, I close my eyes for a moment and feel small hands and feet pressing at the confines of his temporary home. It’s not much longer now, I had thought to myself, and three weeks later the child I had wanted for so long was born.

It was a long journey to motherhood for me, filled with roadblocks and potholes. Staying too long with the wrong partner led to a wrong marriage and a right divorce. But the divorce, at 33, left me single, alone, and anxious about fulfilling my dreams of having a child. Then, when I met the right man less than a year later, we gave ourselves a few years to enjoy being a party of two before endeavoring to grow to a party of three or more.

The plastic stick confirmed what my heart already knew, and on New Year’s Eve, 2008, I told my husband that we were going to be parents. He was going to be a wonderful father, and I breathed a sigh of relief: it would be smooth sailing from here.

It wasn’t, however, smooth sailing from there. A litany of challenges plagued us, from Hyperemesis Gravidarum to gestational diabetes leading to a c-section, which led to difficulty nursing and postpartum anxiety.

Even while we were madly in love with our son, we made the decision to stop at one child. There would be no textbook family of four with a perfect little boy and a perfect little girl in a perfect little house. And who really has that, anyway?

Knowing that I do not want to go through pregnancy again is one thing. Knowing that I will never be pregnant again in my life is another. It is a stunning affirmation of mortality to think about the things we’ll never do again, and this one is the one that has affected me the most. I’ll never turn 16… 21… 40… again. I’ll never take a field trip with my schoolmates again. I’ll never drink Purple Passion again. (And that’s a good thing.)

My youthful beauty is softening around the edges, gradually fading into middle age. My body is still strong, and my mind believes that I am still 25, most of the time. However, I am becoming acutely aware that time is not only spilling through the hourglass, it is rushing headlong.

On the other hand, I have much more to look forward to experiencing. I will never have to wonder who I am, the way I did in my 20s. I will never have to wonder what real love looks like. I will never have to wear trendy clothes to fit in, because I know what makes me feel good.

But to think that I’ll never hold my own baby in my arms again. It takes my breath away.

I like what Jennifer Aniston said, not too long ago: “I have mothered many things.”

Even though I will never have another baby, I can be a terrific surrogate aunt for my younger friends having #2, #3, and #9 (I do have a friend having #9 this year). I can help other women in their careers as writers. I can be a role model. And someday, God willing, maybe I’ll be a grandmother and hold another very special child.

And now, it’s time to move on. Motherhood has been the single most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me, and I am enjoying it to the best of my ability.

If you see me looking wistfully at a pregnant woman, give me a kind smile and show me that you understand. I am lost in the remembering.

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