It's May. Oh my goodness. That means that by the end of this month - the 31st at the very latest - I'll be holding my newest (and last, sniff sniff) little man in my arms instead of in my grotesquely bulging abdomen.
Seeing as this is my last pregnancy, I'm really trying to enjoy it ... but, y'all? I can't sleep. I can't walk without feeling like a wishbone about to split in half. I can't climb four stairs without huffing and puffing. I'm hot and sweaty all the time. I have like two shirts left that still (kinda) cover my belly. And I'm getting the looks every time I go out in public - not to mention the comments. Literally everywhere I go, I'm asked a.) if there's more than one baby in there or b.) if I'm overdue. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
There isn't. And I'm not. I'm just huge, okay? Sheesh.
But when I feel extra-complainy (that is totally a word, by the way), I think about the years I spent wishing - more than anything in the world - that I could experience this. I think about the despair and desperation when, each month, for years on end, I wasn't pregnant yet again. The feeling of isolation when it seemed like everyone else was. The searing, involuntary jealousy every time I'd see a baby bump. The frustration at not being able to do what, as a woman, my body was designed to do. The inability to attend a baby shower, or even walk through the baby section of a store, without mourning something I thought I'd never be able to have. The sting of the well-meaning but hurtful comments and suggestions like, "Just relax," and "All my husband has to do is look at me and I get pregnant, har har."
Every month, I was pumped full of fertility-assisting drugs and monitored and poked and prodded in places that most women only have to expose to their doctors once a year. The bend of my right arm bears a permanent scar from the sheer volume of blood draws I underwent to check my hormone levels. I had exploratory surgery and injected syringes of medication into my abdomen on a daily basis. My brain, my emotions, sometimes felt like PMS times a thousand. My privacy and dignity, and my husband's, were handed to the fertility specialist on a sterilized stainless-steel tray as he tried to do in his office what most people can accomplish in their bedroom (or, you know, the couch).
And I prayed, ceaselessly. And I hoped, fervently, with every fiber of my being. And I thought about it all the time. And every month, I went through hell ... only to look down at a pregnancy test with one stark, lonely line; a cruel visual confirmation of my body's repeated failure. It was a crushing blow, equally hard each time. But every time I thought I couldn't take another poke or jab or comment or baby shower invitation or negative test, I thought about the purpose - my sole reason for going through all this in the first place - the chance to have a child.
Now I'm one of those women who, theoretically, could brag about my fertility. I mean, I'm about to give birth to my fourth child ... whose presence, although as joyous as any of the others, wasn't exactly planned. I never in a million years expected to be in this position, and I don't know how it happened. Not the pregnancy (I'm pretty sure I know exactly how that happened) but the fact that I could get pregnant at all after everything that we went through. The fact that my slow-learning body just happened to "get it" one day and was like, "Oh. So this is how you do it." No explanation has ever been offered, no solutions ever found. There was never a magic key, nothing I did that suddenly allowed me to get pregnant.
But however it happened, whatever miraculously "clicked" ... I have what I wanted most. Our amazing, beautiful, wonderful sons ... and one more to add to the mix in a matter of weeks.
So while I may be uncomfortable (and just as I typed that, I felt a tiny knee or elbow or foot scrape painfully against my bladder), I can't complain. Not really. Not legitimately. Not when there are countless women (and their partners) out there who would give anything - everything - to experience this. All of it. The simple physical discomfort I'm going through is laughable compared to the suffering they're feeling, every day, every week, throughout the whole never-ending cycle. Because I know that at the end of all this, I'll be holding a baby.
And they don't have the luxury of knowing that.
And that's the worst part of all.
If you know someone who's having trouble conceiving, hug them extra tightly as soon as you can. Offer no advice. Don't try to console, only commiserate. Just be a shoulder if they need one to cry on. And if you're pregnant, or can get pregnant without effort, or can tuck your kids in at night and watch them as they sleep peacefully ... be sure to count your blessings. Today and every day.