I just woke from a strange and frightening dream. In it, I was 29 weeks pregnant and went into labor. I rushed to the hospital and asked them to help me, thinking they could stop it – but before long the baby was born, impossibly tiny.
They told me they had put her in the incubator, but when I opened the glass box, all I could find in the nest of blankets was an apple. Was our baby an apple? I held it in my hands, trying to feel for a connection, but I found nothing. Then, buried inside the fruit, I saw a tiny red baby lying very still.
I woke up feeling dread. Could a 29-week preemie even survive? In fact, Google tells me that a baby born at 29 weeks has a very good chance of survival, despite being more than two months early. That made me feel a bit better. Next I reached for the fetal doppler on my nightstand and pressed it against that spot just below my belly button, waiting for that familiar swish. It took me a little while to find it, and it first it was so faint – but then the baby must have rolled over, because it suddenly it came through loud and clear.
Lying in bed now, as the sun streams through the curtains and the terror and confusion of that dream fades, everything starts to feel better. But I’ve been thinking, too, about other premature dreams – not dreams of premature babies, but dreams that are themselves premature.
For example, I’ve been wondering a lot lately whether this will be my only pregnancy. Though I’ve been blessed with a fairly uncomplicated pregnancy so far, I do think it’s been taking a toll on my health.
The gestational diabetes has been manageable with dietary changes, but it has made weight gain – never an issue in the past – a struggle. At nearly 18 weeks pregnant I’ve still not been able to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. The insulin shots are likely not far down the road.
I had never given much thought to the increased mucus production caused by the increased blood flow to the mucous membranes during pregnancy. It usually results in rhinitis of pregnancy, but because of my CF, it has also meant increased mucus in my lungs, and I can tell I’m more congested than usual. I hope it doesn’t lead to an infection.
All of this, plus the fatigue and the potential for bed rest later in pregnancy, make me wonder if I can really do this again in a few years. I could, most likely, but would it be smart? Would it derail the career I’m building? Would I be able to care for my first child, too? And if I can’t get pregnant again, would she be missing something, as an only child?
I’m also having other worries about caring for this child I’m carrying. Will I be empathetic enough? Will I know the right things to say? I yelled at the cat for throwing up on our bed at midnight last night – am I going to be a mean and unreasonable parent? Who will stay home with the baby when she gets sick, and we both have a full day at work ahead? Will she resent us for putting her in daycare, or having her grandmother live with us to help raise her? Will she see how much she’s wanted and loved, even though some days I’m terrified of what we’ll do when she actually arrives?
Ultimately, all of these thoughts and visions feel premature because I have no idea what it’s going to be like when the baby is born. There’s no way to mentally prepare for such a change. Maybe we will love her so fiercely that the idea of having more children will never be a question, just an eventuality. When it comes to parenting, we’ll make mistakes, but hopefully we’ll get it (mostly) right. We’ll make it work. I just don’t know how, exactly, yet.