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COMING CLEAN: A Bright and Uncertain Pregnancy

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My midwife and doula assure me there’s a healthy baby in my belly. That’s all I know.

I’m about 25 weeks pregnant with baby No. 2, and I really have no idea what I’m in for.

We don’t know the baby’s gender, aren’t sure how our 2-year-old daughter will respond, can’t be certain if our cat will tolerate another body in his house. We can guess at the budget adjustments we’ll need to make based on round 1 with our toddler, but we are dreading tallying up the daycare totals.

To be clear, I’m not a spontaneous person who might typically embrace this ambiguity. A first-born female Virgo, I get a thrill out of organizing my calendar. My job as managing editor focuses on shuffling production cycles and deadlines to help our team plan and find a more blissful balance to their workloads. One of the greatest delights in marrying into my husband’s family was when I learned of his mother’s shared affinity for planning ahead, and how her extended crew’s Christmas party is scheduled nearly a year in advance. Brilliant!

When you learn this, you may think I’m a bit of a control freak. Truth is, I’ve softened my approach over the years through a combination of mindful practices, meditation, and acupuncture. Wanting our first baby in 2008 but having to wait five years while I worked on improving my health, hormones, and reproductive system also forced me to loosen my grip.

The more I learned to go with the flow, the better prepared I felt for all the uncertainty that comes with being first-time parents. We also didn’t know her gender until she arrived, didn’t have the nursery decked out in magazine-quality style (to the dismay of my perfectionist self), didn’t know how long a nanny would last before deciding to find a new calling. While there were moments of anxiety (OK, I’ll admit the caregiving plan for while I was at the office was the most worrisome), I did my best to take a deep breath and give myself permission to simply not know the answer.

With this pregnancy, my laid-back approach is more apparent. I rarely pause when people ask me how I’ve been feeling, forgetting they are asking about my pregnancy. And, although I have slightly less energy and more moodiness and stomach sensitivity than my first pregnancy, my symptoms have been fairly manageable. Overall, I’ve been lucky to coast through these past six months in good health.

Maybe my relaxed attitude comes from what my doula lovingly refers to as “benign neglect” for second pregnancies. Parents are busy with their first children, work, and social and family obligations, so they tend to be less vigilant with the second pregnancy. The babies are usually healthy and happy — anecdotal reports suggest that second kids are simply easier in temperament, sleep habits, etc., although it may have something to do with the parents feeling more confident about No. 2.

When my doula and I reconnected, she asked me to share what I loved about my first pregnancy and birth.

“Now, forget everything you just told me!” she said, adding that I needed to honor this experience for what it was and not compare it in any way, shape, or form. “There’s no better or worse, just different,” she advised.

I loved my doula even more for saying this to me. Her kind and wise words have been a huge relief. I had been worried about not losing the baby weight from my first pregnancy, about not exercising regularly, about eating too much takeout too often, or not taking enough vitamins. I worried that I’ve been too stressed out and my un-Zen-like attitude would make the fetus develop an on-edge personality.

The worry, I’ve come to realize through the wise sages in my life, does me no good. It wastes time and energy.

Embracing uncertainty can be particularly beneficial as I age, too, as EL deputy editor Craig Cox recently noted. Writing in a journal can help, as advised by Dale Carnegie, author of How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. PhilosophersNotes.com founder Brian Johnson outlines three key questions from Carnegie for the fretting mind to ponder:

  1. Do I put off living in the present in order to worry about the future?
  2. Do I embitter the present by regretting things that happened in the past?
  3. Could I get up in the morning determined to get the utmost out of the next 24 hours, regardless of the circumstances?

To worry about what this birth will be like or how our toddler will adjust removes me from enjoying my everyday life. I tarnish the excitement of this present experience by ruminating on the greatness of my daughter’s birth. And, to answer question No. 3, the answer is, Of course: Each new day with our toddler is full of adventure and newness, and if I shift my mindset to one revved for discovery in this wild world of parenting, then my Zen is bound to return.

After all, I could take comfort in planning for uncertainty. Now how do I schedule that in?

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