No matter how many children a mother may have, we always remember the lead up to our first; in the same way we remember our first kiss, first sexual act (ideally, not the one that led to the event of being ‘with child’), first love (though, for some of us – as is my case – there may only be one such person worthy of this description). While the birth of a first child is often anticipated with equal parts of excitement and fear – the great ‘unknown’ – a first pregnancy is followed closely in all of its milestones; thanks too, to the daily companion of applications tracking baby’s size from soft-fruit to stone-fruit to watermelon.
In the fun of pregnancy – in between feeling ill – we may come up with adorable nick-names for our little ‘jelly bean’ (while researching intended names with interest, almost daily), determine we can see a ‘bump’ (when we have simply had a big lunch), insist we have felt baby ‘kick’ (when, perhaps, we may simply be feeling the effects of said big lunch). Whatever the case, necessary or not, often we monitor our condition closely because it is new and exciting; but, also, because there are not yet other children to demand our time and attention.
As our bellies noticeably grow – and even before – we come to realise that pregnancy is not as glamorous as one might think. We may feel ‘hideous,’ believe that we look just as we feel. And even as we begin to feel better – how I feel for those women who are ill for an entire nine months! – we begin to feel impatient, uncomfortable, and can no longer postpone thoughts of the baby’s exit-strategy.
‘You’re huge!’ my sister-in-law said at the sight of my then-pregnant belly.
‘Thanks,’ I replied.
Other women had tight little tummies; a basketball under a t-shirt. Other women glowed. My mother-in-law held up the camera to capture my over-sized belly. Our first baby, the first grandchild; a beautiful thing, she insisted. I felt like an unattractive heifer. Begrudgingly, I posed for the photo.
As the days and weeks ticked over, the baby swelled in size, pressing against my ribs. My stomach, like an overloaded grocery bag that must be held from its base as I shifted in bed. As my due date came and went, I became resigned to my fate – ‘That’s cool, I’ll just be pregnant forever,’ I said to my husband. What followed were various ill-conceived, semi-committed acts of desperation; from driving on a particular road, steep as a roller-coaster, complete with bumpy train tracks, to the excessive consumption of pineapple; all of which failed to deliver – literally.
Two days before I was to be induced my obstetrician squeezed the gel over my tummy, waving his wand over to produce an image of our baby.
‘Baby’s got a big head, huh,’ he said in his South-African accent – I always struggled to know whether my doctor was addressing me in statements or questions; I was pretty sure this was a statement.
‘Ha! Great,’ I said, still smiling. ‘What is he measuring…?’
‘In pounds? About nine pounds, eleven ounces. Big baby, huh.’
Again – I believed this to be a statement (but hoped like hell it was merely a question; that there was some room for doubt on the matter).
‘Fabulous,’ I said, my smile having somewhat diminished.
It was agreed that despite this difficult hurdle, we would remain on course for the birth to take place with minimal intervention as I had previously and expressly wished.
The story of the birth is a story for another time, but let me say this; it’s true what they say, ‘the harder you work, the greater the reward.’ Because never had I worked so hard in my life; nor felt such instant, unimaginable love for another human being. This was, and is, a first to be remembered for all time; all ten pounds of my beautiful baby boy.