“There’s no way I want to be pregnant in Taiwan,” I’d say to people who would ask when I planned on trying to have another child. “We’ll consider it after our big trip in September, that’s the plan.” Yet there I was, sitting on the toilet two weeks out from our trip with a pregnancy test in hand. I’ve never been so shocked by a little blue line.
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Twelve months after my first pregnancy had ended, my second pregnancy had begun, very unexpectedly. It’s not the closest of gaps, but to me it seemed just yesterday I was waddling around the house, drinking gallons of raspberry leaf tea and breathing through Braxton hicks.
In fact, had I ever not been pregnant? Is ‘motherhood’ just one big long blur of pregnancy? Because I felt like I hadn’t actually had a break from it.
This time, however, not only was I preparing to live in a foreign country for a month, but I already had a time-consuming toddler. I had two part-time jobs. There was life, and housework, and hairy legs, and overdue laundry, and a thousand other things I already didn’t have time for.
I hate to say it, but honestly, I didn’t have time for the pregnancy ahead. That’s the good, old, selfish truth. I’d planned to spend the summer finally wearing cute non-breastfeeding-friendly outfits, to finally fit the denim shorts I hadn’t seen since 2016, and to enjoy a night out with my husband while my toddler (finally) could be left happily with a babysitter.
Was I ready to gain all that weight again? To give up my body completely? Was I ready for the months of searing heartburn?
I wasn’t ready, but I also didn’t have time to dwell on it. Instead I ripened into days of morning sickness and over-sensitive smell, often spending my morning curled on the couch, hoping my son wouldn’t need me until the nausea had passed.
The trip to Taiwan
The day we flew out, I managed to have a last-minute dating scan. Then suddenly we were on the plane to Taiwan. Two weeks in I fell ill.
I recovered, but two days passed and I fell sick again. Very sick. This time, it was a bigger wave of sickness and the recovery was much slower. After a Skype session, my worried mother called my midwife in New Zealand. The news wasn’t great. Listeriosis, she was certain. Was it serious? Not at this stage, she had assured my mother. If Rachel has recovered again, that’s good. But if it happens again, that’s not good. That’s a stay in hospital
Listeriosis is the reason pregnant women become such fussier eaters and refuse so many things. It’s caused by a bacterium found in soil, uncooked meat, poultry, fish, eggs, ill-prepared foods, and unwashed fruit/vegetables. Listeriosis could result in early infant death and miscarriage – and somehow, I’d let it into my system, compromising my health and the health of my unborn baby.
“Hang in there” I whispered to my stomach silently, “it’ll be okay, it gets better, I promise”.
As soon as I thought those words, it hit me: I was completely, ferociously, irrevocably, unexpectedly, head-over-heels for this child.
My soul ached, my heart grew, my plans gave way. I would give up my body, my dainty dresses and my schedule. I would give up my weight and my expectations. This baby wasn’t giving up just yet. It was a fighter, so I needed to be, too.
Once I’d recovered, I was determined to stay healthy. Taiwan is the land of the pre-packaged, ready-to-eat meal and that was a big no-no for those wanting to avoid listeria. So we visited the grocery store and tried to prepare most meals in our very basic Airbnb kitchen. My husband scrubbed fresh fruit for me and put up with my requests for plain ramen or udon.
We passed up on local delicacies and delicious looking street food, much to my husband’s dismay, and suddenly I started to get my groove back. It was going to be okay.
Look, I won’t pretend that all the days will be wonderful. I don’t expect to love every second of this pregnancy and I don’t think this baby will ever get the amount of time he truly deserves either. It’s physically impossible for me to do that.
I do know, however, that this little life inside me is a gift. I do know that it’s worth everything this pregnancy might bring along with it.
And I’ve been getting better. Better at stopping, at resting, at putting the phone down, at feeling the kicks. I’ve been getting better at thinking of my expanding family, rather than my expanding waistline. I’ve been leaving space for things unplanned and unexpected.
How “planned” can we be, anyway? Life is a wild ride full of plan b’s and c’s and d’s. Its chaotic, but it’s life. And it sure is better when you’re surrounded by people you love (whether in utero or not).
So here I am, 14 weeks later, with my belly and my heart swelling. My little boy is kicking. His big brother runs a hand over my tummy and plants a sloppy kiss right by my belly button. My husband has his arm around me. We take in the moment of stillness. I am so unexpectedly grateful.