Since July, I've felt pretty tired and a bit short of breath, and in the last month, my clothes have slowly stopped fitting me. The specific curve of my belly is a give-away to those aware enough to not just assume I've had too many cookies this summer. Yesterday for the first time, a brave neighbour cautiously asked, "Leslie, are you expecting?"
Yes, I am pregnant. It's been seven years since I last experienced these changes; it's miraculous that my body knows what to do. It's very different this time around, however. The physical metamorphisis is familiar, but the emotional terrain is complex. This baby is not mine.
You can read the back story here; the crux is that I am carrying this baby for a dear friend and her partner. Made murkier by physical distance and complicated relationships, it has brought up challenges that I didn't fully anticipate. I'm sure that the hormones I was taking through the first trimester muddied my mind even further; since stopping them, I am more at peace with this incredible project we are undertaking together. We are splitting the full experience of creating a life: I, the physical aspect ... the growing belly, the tweaks and twinges, the hunger surges and satisfying weariness; they, the emotional excitement and thrill of knowing their child is growing and developing, hungrily reading about each new body part and ability day to day. I was a bit surprised to realize that I'm not terribly interested in staying on top of all that. I think it's important to have what I could call a "loving detachment" from this growing person; at the end of this very intimate relationship, there will be a dramatic separation. The emotional upheaval after childbirth is intense under any circumstance, even when a babe remains in her mother's arms and at her breast. I'm aware of the need to love and care for this child now, as close as two people can ever be, while nurturing an acceptance of our inevitable separation.
It's made easier by the secure knowledge that I love my own children deeply, and that they are more than enough for me. I love the ages they're at, just as I will love the stages to come. I love their growing independence, which creates space for all of us and enables us to be more ambitious and adventurous both individually and together. I have zero desire to go back to parenting an infant or a toddler (the diapers! the interrupted sleep! the naps!). So I don't believe I'll feel a regret at passing this baby to his parents. However, there will be a mourning in the parting.
In the meantime, I receive congratulations from folks who knew this was in the works - congraulations that are "pregnant" with the awareness of all our efforts to make this happen over the past year. And I field congratulations from those who don't know the story - congratulations that I accept, and then briefly explain the circumstances. I don't feel they are mine to receive without qualification. I receive them on behalf of this little one's parents, so far away, and so close in my heart and body. And as my belly grows to the point that it's obvious to everyone, I will graciously receive congratulations from strangers who don't need to know the tale - congratulations that I will silently send to Stockholm on heart strings.