Love-in-Waiting

SAM_1392Rachel Jeffcoat studied English at Oxford University a few light-years ago. These days she works as a freelance writer and editor, in between finger painting and feeding the ducks with her boisterous eighteen-month-old, and spending time with her lovely husband. She loves to read, cook, and write intense love letters to the semicolon. She blogs at http://makealongstoryshort.net.

This winter I learned about love-in-waiting.

It’s been about a month since we started telling people about our second pregnancy. All of them said the same thing.

How wonderful! Congratulations! Are you excited?

I didn’t tell a single one of them the truth.

No, I’m not. I’m not excited. Oh gosh, I wish I were.

When I carried my first son – now eighteen months of cannonball energy and toothy grins – I was taken over by the wonder of it, right from the pukey beginnings. I followed his development obsessively. I felt his little presence almost from the start. There was sacredness in it. And since his squalling, two-week-early arrival I have loved him with a white-hot intensity: to his core, to his bones, to the tips of his pudgy fingers.

This time – well, this time has been a long, hard slog. I dropped into a black hole I’d never seen before, soon after the sickness arrived. I knew there was so much to look forward to, but it didn’t resonate with me. I felt like I was at a party of people leading triumphant, glittery lives, and I was the only one sat in pajamas. And everything was an effort: getting out of bed in the morning, making lunch, having a conversation, smiling. Being myself. I lost myself. Where was I?

It was bewildering, and writing it fills me with hot, prickly shame. Not least because I know so many women who would give anything to be in this position, who are heartbroken by its absence. I felt I’d betrayed them. And I imagined my boy or girl to come, waiting excitedly for their greatest mortal adventure. Could they see me, unlovely and unloving? Did they feel unwanted? It made me ache for them, and for me. But I still couldn’t love either of us.

One day I knelt and asked God whether He loved me. I needed some connection with my old self. It was the strongest, warmest ‘yes’ I ever received. I felt it to the tips of my fingers. And I determined that I would act as though I felt the way God did, until I was able to fill the blanks. I wrote a list of my positive qualities and stuck it on my mirror. I read it, mechanically, every morning. I reviewed old blog posts about my first boy in all his breathtaking newness, and told myself that it would happen again, just the same. In some ways it was only love on autopilot. But in other ways – and I felt this quite distinctly – it was spiritual creation. Love-in-waiting.

My dear little thing, I am coming back to myself slowly. Be patient with me, as you’ll have to so often in our life together. I don’t know how long it will take: I am flying by the seat of my pants. But I do know this: one day soon, I will love you with a white-hot intensity. To your core, to your bones, to the tips of your pudgy fingers. Yesterday, I woke up and I was excited.

17 thoughts on “Love-in-Waiting

  1. I don’t think these feelings are all that uncommon. Prenatal depression is real. Also, even if you’re not to that point, pregnancy can be rough; it can be hard to be your normal self. Thank goodness for revelation, as well :)! This last pregnancy I had a dream that I would have a little boy, and I would love him so, so much. I also had the feeling that my sacrifice was temporary and small in comparison to the gift of birthing a soul. And I believe it :).

  2. When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth, it was two days before my third went in for a second major skull surgery. While we knew we weren’t done, the timing was unplanned and unexpected. I spent the next week in the Pediatric ICU with my 16 month old, crying, “Now? Now is the time for another baby?”

    It took a long time for me to accept and want the little person on his way. It wasn’t until I went into preterm labor at 30 weeks, then again at 31 weeks that I realized how much I loved my baby-to-be. It wasn’t until 8 months in that I became actually, genuinely excited for a baby.

    You’ll get there. Right now, your energy has to be devoted to your spitfire toddler. Be patient with yourself, you’ll find sooner rather than later that your new little person has worked their way into your heart.

    And the parenting two littles? It’s way hard. But your love for both of them will shock you with its intensity. You’ll be amazing.

  3. Thank you. I’m expecting my second and not excited. We tried for several months, and the one month that I did not want to get pregnant, I got pregnant. The timing seems wrong. I’m sicker this time around. I’m just not excited. And I feel guilty for not being excited. And lonely, since my husband and I won’t tell anyone the first trimester. Thank you.

  4. I’m pregnant now, unexpectedly, and having a hard time being happy or excited about it, and feeling guilty over that. It’s good to hear from you and other people that I am not alone. Thank you.

  5. p.s. this is why I did not tell many people for a while. People always want you to be excited, and it’s hard to fake enthusiasm for something that has been so difficult to process.

  6. i am so glad you got a strong, warm yes. not everyone does. some of us have to slowly come back to ourselves without it. some of us never make it. God bless you.

  7. This is refreshing, honest, well-written. Mother-guilt is hard to talk about, whether it’s a pregnancy we’re not thrilled about or the serious thoughts we frequently have of just bolting from the whole, LONG, tedious project of raising kids. It’s all worth it, we know that, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Thanks for being Voice for all of us today.

  8. Thousands, millions manage to choose to love someone as their child even though it doesn’t start out easy. You are in good company and it is ok if it isn’t easy. I feel like I took longer to “bond” with my babies after they were born. Post-partum depression I think contributed to it.
    Luckily I don’t feel guilty about it. I think it is ok. And when my friend adopted older children I told her it was ok to feel like she did, and I promised her that if she kept working on it she would feel it.
    Anyway, that’s what I believe. I don’t think loving my family is about what I feel. It is about what I do and how I do it and why I do it. So many people who claim to “love” family members do very unloving things. Love is more action than feeling. That’s what I believe.

  9. This sounds exactly like my experiences with antepartum depression. I hate hate hate being pregnant. I love my kids (especially after the postpartum depression fades) and so I keep doing it. But I cannot pretend to like being pregnant even a little bit. I do make sure to always clarify that I’m grateful for the ability to have kids, but the incubating part? It beats me senseless. It is worth it, but only just. Also, for my second baby onward I have not been able to “bond” well until about 5 days post partum, and I take 3-6 months to fully bloom into love with each new baby. And you know what, it’s ok. Being dealt antepartum or postpartum depression is not your fault. It is not something you can control, and it almost always goes away and allows you to get back to life once it finishes its nasty cycle. Knowing you are not crazy or alone in it is helpful though.

  10. What a beautiful post. I experienced these kinds of sentiments with my third pregnancy (a surprise pregnancy when I was still breastfeeding my second, who was conceived when I was still breastfeeding my first — I was not. happy.). It took me a while to feel a change of heart. I remember making her a blessing dress as a sort of peace-offering effort to reach out to her before she was born.

    I love how you describe your efforts as spiritual love creation. Love-in-waiting.

    Love. Thank you.

  11. As a Mother of 5, I have felt that as well.I was a failure at maternal joy. I felt smothered and tied down at my last pregnancy. I had 4 children from 6-14 and loved my life with all that babies bring happily behind me. I had felt the sting of infertility and was blessed with my 4, but at the arrival of #5 I just could not feel grateful for this wonderful gift.I knew of what was coming, the sweet whispering of “it will be alright” got me through a very difficult pregnancy and nightmare delivery. My mommy love kicked in at birth. My 10 year old son brings so much joy to me, he was worth it. Babies are a wonderful way to grow a person.

  12. Thank you all so much for your responses – it’s so good to hear that I’m not the only one who has experienced something like this.

    Cheltz – yes, thank goodness for revelation! And what lovely reassurance, that your sacrifice was small in comparison to the gift of a soul.

    Stacy – oh goodness, that sounds like a scary moment! I hope your little one is ok. No wonder you struggled at first. Thank you for the confidence :-)

    HK – I was sicker this time round too, and I did wonder if that had anything to do with it. You do feel guilty, it’s true – and not telling anyone is so hard. We did the same, and I felt like I was just struggling by myself in a bubble. I’m happy to say that I’m feeling a lot better now, though. Hang in there.

    Emily M – Oh, I hope you feel better soon. You’re right – your feelings about a pregnancy can be so complex, especially when you’re trying to process huge life changes as well as all the hormonal inbalances.

    Marta – thank you so much for sharing. Yes, I was very grateful for the reassurance – it really helped, and I know others who continued struggling without one for a much longer time.
    Melissa Y – thanks! Yes, I love a good semicolon. Virginia Woolf leaves my jaw on the floor :-)

    Lisa – it is something we don’t talk about much – for me, because I’m always anxious about being sensitive to someone listening and thinking ‘do you know what I’d give for a husband/baby? Be grateful!’ Doesn’t stop it being ludicrously hard some days, though. It’s good to come together and commiserate!

    jks – ‘ I don’t think loving my family is about what I feel. It is about what I do and how I do it and why I do it.’ YES. I love this. Absolutely true. I also think that sometimes, love really can be one of those ‘fake it till you make it’ things. Going through the actions of love is often enough to spark it.

    Em – I’m beginning to think I’m not much of a pregnancy fan either. I love the growing-a-baby part, and get excited about kicking etc, but struggle with all the physical changes. But yes, it is ok. I don’t think how you carry your children is your test of motherhood, but what you build with your family afterwards.

    Michelle – You are amazing – three so close together! I love the idea of making your daughter a blessing dress as a peace offering. What a beautiful thing to do. Thank you.

    sandra – Wow, I can imagine that must have been difficult to process. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I love this: ‘babies are a wonderful way to grow a person’.

  13. So beautiful. When I was in the throes of infertility, one of my best friends, very newly married, became pregnant. She was devastated. I felt that I was given divine ability to compartmentalize: to grieve with my friend for her undesired pregnancy, to grieve for myself for my undesired childlessness, without any bitterness. It taught me a lesson about God: rejoicing with the one in his happiness while simultaneously mourning with those who lack, sometimes on flip sides of the same event.

    I love my sweet daughter with everything in me. I was grateful for every day of pregnancy. I treasured holding her in the wee hours. But I recognize the validity of the pain of others in similar situations to mine, and I know that things can quickly change and I may find myself on the flip side next time. So I hold tight to joy without apology while it is mine and love others the best I know how. So when the time comes that I need compassion, I hope I will find an outstretched hand.

  14. Thank you for these beautiful words. I had a hard first pregnancy emotionally as well and I felt like there was something wrong with me. Was I the only one not to be excited about a (even planned!) new baby? It was only through a priesthood blessing that I felt that exact same love and peace that you describe. I feel lucky, not all get to have the change in feeling be that immediate.

    And that love that we feel for our little ones?-I think that is something that we inherit from the divine and I think all of it have it within us. Really-thanks for sharing. So lovely.

  15. After having 3 girls, I cried when I found out our fourth was also a girl. Then I felt really guilty for similar reasons to the ones you’ve expressed. It was hard to reconcile happiness with disappointment, but I just let myself have time to work through the feelings, knowing that I would love her just as much as the others.

    Then the same thing happened to my sister and we were able to talk about our guilt and disappointment and reassure each other that it was okay. The best part was each of us knowing that someone else knew what we were going through!

    Now that little one is 4 months old and she’s the happiest, giggliest baby. Of course I adore her.

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