Over dinner at Zola’s with my dear friend C. last week, I had an epiphany.
We were talking about what it feels like to be pregnant — and I said that whenever I describe it, the word I keep coming back to is “weird.” It’s weird to have an organism growing inside of you. You can’t see it, but you can feel yourself growing — literally every day — the skin stretching, the belly taut. And you can feel him or her kicking or punching or poking.
But despite this, it’s still hard to imagine that there’s an actual baby in there, swimming around, doing somersaults and growing steadily. I can (sort of) imagine what he or she looks like (from the sonogram), but I don’t know this child yet.
I know I intuitively (and hormonally) want to protect it. I’m eating lots of vegetables, fruit, fiber and protein and I’m monitoring my sugar intake. I’m taking prenatal vitamins. I’m exercising: long walks, prenatal yoga, swims in the Olympic-size pool. I’m managing my stress level and my radiation and chemical exposure. I’m staying away from those smokers on the street (just look the other way and breathe out). And if anyone gets near my belly (mostly on the Metro, where people precariously swing their purses), I’m ready to punch.
But what I realized the other night is that the only other time I used the word weird to describe my feelings was when I was grieving — when my friend and boss John, who was 38 years old, died in his apartment on a cold Friday night in January. It felt like — in a moment — he simply disappeared. It was weird to walk up to my office building in Rosslyn, Va., and not see him out front taking a drag from his cigarette. It was weird that his desk, next to mine, was empty and I couldn’t hear his raspy laugh or see his stunning blue eyes. It was so beyond my comprehension.
And so is this. It blows my mind that a few cells came together in a moment, and within a month A. and I saw a heartbeat during an ultrasound. It’s the opposite of when people die and their cells go back into the earth.
Now, A. and I are on the creating end of the cycle of life. And instead of feeling heart-wrenching, empty and lonely, it’s exciting and happy, wondrous and soul-enriching.
And that’s what makes it so beautiful.