I just don't feel anything. Not dislike or resentment that would make my admission even more terrible to read, just a blank spot in my head or in my heart where I imagine that love for my developing baby ought to be blossoming.
Instead, all of the little wonders and annoyances that I found charming in my first pregnancy now seem irritating. Like the kicks and jumps that tickle or even at this early stage can register as shockingly hard. Like having to pee desperately, then not having to go at all. Like more and more of my wardrobe being stuffed into boxes in the attic. All of the signs that someone new will be joining our little trio in the fall, everything that should be making me so happy, is instead just putting me on edge.
On some level, it's not entirely surprising I don't feel anything toward this baby. I purposefully avoided even thinking about it during its first 12 weeks of existence, lest its tiny heart just stop beating. Then, shortly thereafter, I got a call saying that my blood levels for Down syndrome didn't look good and because I go to a practice that respects patient autonomy, it was up to me to decide what to do about that. And we had to wait, no matter what I decided, until the baby was bigger, so I put it out of my mind as much as I could.
Until I started feeling its miniature handsprings, which I didn't tell the BabbyDaddy about so he wouldn't have to be as sad as I was. I couldn't unknow its presence after that, but there was a certain amount of anger that served as balm. In far fewer words, I telepathically transmitted the message Why can't you just leave me alone? every time I felt a new bump. The MaterniT21 test came back negative. I fought to mentally accept the results, though I honestly didn't experience any elation upon hearing them.
And then a clerical error meant traveling back into the city for a second (and as I later found out, unnecessary) anatomy scan. The thing about the city hospital is that once they have you in their system, they treat you like you've been a patient there forever. At my second scan, I was told to come back for another scan in two weeks to check my cervical length - even though my local hospital is perfectly equipped to scan for cervical length and my cervix was was deemed normal and my history of prematurity involves only one healthy 34 week preemie. The long-term recommendation was for scans every two weeks until the third trimester, but no one could give me a straight answer as to why. That's the other thing about the city hospital. They will tell the referring practice about their findings but not the patient. They don't take the time to answer questions or explain tests. And the self-importance with which they perform examinations is close to cartoonish.
So there I was, at 19 weeks along, waiting to hear from anyone why these doctors felt it was so urgent for me to take a half day every two weeks to drive into the city to measure my cervical length. What weren't they telling me? What were they worrying about?
As it turned out, nothing. Nothing at all. Thankfully, my local practice is a little less intense in their handling of maternity cases and agreed with me that it would be fine to wait another month to scan for cervical length - and then another month after that, but only because I might be traveling. And they were frankly surprised that the city hospital would feel it necessary for me to travel there when all of the equipment necessary exists no more than five minutes away from my own home.
This, all of it, is what I think is behind my monstrous lack of feeling. Worries heaped upon worries. So little time spent thinking about this as a baby; too much spent treating it as a problem to be sussed out or solved or overcome. Things this pregnancy has been about: The threat of miscarriage. Down syndrome. Prematurity. Blood tests and scans and cervical measurements. Things this pregnancy has not been about: Having a daughter or a son, who will be a sibling for the P. and the person who turns our trio into a foursome.
Coming to grips with this has been difficult. I thought maybe doing or buying something that was for the baby - something that concretely said 'we're ready to welcome you' - would snap me out of my ambivalence. Thus far it hasn't worked.
Recently, I read What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen and I was struck by this exchange that she had after she and her husband faced the possibility of their adopted daughter having Down syndrome and were later given the news that she had the usual number of chromosomes:
"How can we go back to that ecstatic feeling of unconditional love, before it was marred by uncertainty,"
I asked Patricia, our adoption social worker.
"You can't. Parenting is not about going back," she said. "Parenting is all about moving forward, and
constant unpredictable change."
Sound advice. But I haven't had a peaceful moment to experience that ecstatic feeling of unconditional love, so getting back to it isn't the issue. The problem is finding it at all.