I woke up, slipped into the bathroom, and gingerly took the plastic-wrapped test out of the box I’d stashed below the sink. I read and re-read the instructions, followed them, and set the test on the counter. Two minutes. My heart pounded, and a shining balloon of hope expanded in my chest. I took a deep breath—nothing to get excited about yet. I left the bathroom and busied myself in the kitchen filling a glass with water. I drank it in two gulps, washed a mug, and wiped down a portion of the countertops. I went back to the bathroom, and my eyes narrowed on two intersecting blue lines.
The balloon in my chest expanded, but before it could burst into full-blown excitement, I took another deep breath—a positive pregnancy test does not guarantee a baby. Rather than dash back to the bedroom and explode the news onto my slumbering husband, I went to my computer. My first search: “What percentage of pregnancies miscarry?” The top result said 10-20 percent—high enough to keep my excitement in check. Still, I felt a small thrill: there was a good chance that in less than a year, I would be a mom.
I braced myself; a friend had described her first trimester as a sort of “prenatal purgatory.” I was daunted, but also inspired, by the comparison. On the one hand, the prospect of prolonged nausea left me reeling. On the other hand, I liked the idea that the discomfort wouldn’t be a waste, but “a fire to forge virtue” (I congratulated myself on the poetic thought). I envisioned myself transformed at the end of twelve weeks—serene and smiling in the face of pain or discomfort.
My visions of serenity quickly collided with reality. The term “morning sickness” failed to prepare me for the queasiness and fatigue that permeated my mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Three weeks after the positive pregnancy test, I was daunted by the idea of a short walk, and I spent most of my free time sleeping or escaping into the turbulent plot lines of Downton Abbey.
Food soon lost its appeal, but every hour my stomach demanded, “Eat something—quick!” In the same breath, it groaned that my last meal was a terrible mistake. I blanched at meat, vegetables, and almost anything of nutritional value. After nearly a decade of following a paleo diet, I was shocked by the readiness with which I abandoned it. My husband’s bafflement grew alongside mine as I gravitated instead toward items from my childhood—mac and cheese, frozen pizza, bean and cheese burritos. Even more surprising to me, I didn’t have the energy to care.
As my symptoms escalated, my hopes of a grandiose transformation waned. Still, each morning, in the afterglow of my single cup of coffee, I’d renew my initial resolve—I could be stronger, stay positive no matter what. I usually made it through the workday. I hadn’t told my coworkers I was pregnant, so I had no excuse to appear “off” for weeks on end. But by the time my husband got home, my resolve collapsed, and I would dissolve into a puddle of self-pity. I wailed at the smell of garlic (I’d forbidden using it to cook meat but made a grudging allowance for vegetables), demanded my latest craving from Trader Joe’s (and how dare he hesitate to go on the third food errand of the day—immediately), and resolutely ignored the colony of dishes that sprung up around me (a by-product of my hourly trial-and-error snacking).
In particularly bad moments, I’d exclaim out loud—often to an empty room—“THIS. IS. JUST. SO. AWFUL!” And, at the same time, I’d register an unconscious demand: “I must get rid of this feeling.”
Then one day I realized I didn’t have to defeat the discomfort. All I had to do was endure it. By reframing the goal from “I must feel good” to simply “I must get through this,” I felt like I’d been freed from the grip of an indomitable enemy.
After that, I still struggled, sometimes letting feelings of helplessness and self-pity drag me back into the enemy’s vise. But when I pried myself loose, I credited myself with small victories: getting through a meeting while my stomach was making ominous threats, sticking to a social engagement when just getting off the couch felt like a herculean effort.
More surprising, I didn’t agonize over the imperfections—those low-iron weeks or the shampoo I used before hearing about the “dangers” of sodium lauryl sulfate. This was in part thanks to a midwife friend’s reassurances that the baby would be fine, but also because I knew that I could do everything perfectly and things could still go wrong. Oddly, I found this more comforting than alarming. I couldn’t control everything.
By the end of the twelfth week, I hadn’t undergone any dramatic transformation. I arrived at the doctor for my final first-trimester appointment worn out but relieved. That was good enough. I lay on the examination table, eager to put the riskiest stage of the pregnancy behind me. And there, with the sonographer guiding the ultrasound probe through the cool gel on my stomach, I had my most unexpectedly transformative moment.
Now, at twelve weeks, the image on the ultrasound screen was unmistakably a baby. And it was moving. Perhaps it was involuntary, but in my eyes, my baby was arching its back to assume a more comfortable position, raising its arms in response to the strange object pressing down on the walls of its home.
Seeing those tiny feet, those hands curling and releasing, I took the lid off the excitement I’d suppressed since the positive pregnancy test. I left the doctor’s office with a grin that remained plastered to my face all the next morning. As I cradled my stomach, I pictured my “little buddy” nestled inside. The nausea, fatigue, and fears all faded from the forefront, and I was overtaken by a single thought: “You know what, kid? You’re so worth it.”
Editors' Note: Making of a Mom is a column in our Readers Write section. Submit your own story here.