By Maria Paredes, PhD, LPCS
The one in prenatal yoga tonight with a 12 week flat belly. Your first time coming.
I see you.
I started going to the classes around the same time during my 3rd and 4th pregnancies. 11 or 12 weeks pregnant. I went each week. Rarely if ever missing a class. It was sacred time. I craved it between classes, sometimes speeding down the interstate to make it on time. Being there made me feel strong, powerful, normal. Like the others in the class. Like a Mom. Like I was supposed to be there. Fighting the feeling that I was not supposed to be there. That I didn’t belong. That I was different.
In warrior pose, I stood proudly, stretched out my arms, reaching one hand to the past and one to the future.
In child’s pose, I cradled myself and my babies in the fetal position. Safely cocooning their spirits in mine.
In tree pose, I focused, building my stamina and balance for the babies to come.
At the beginning of each class, our instructor asked us to introduce ourselves. Our names, our gestation week, if it was our first.
Hi, my name is. I’m this many weeks. This is my second baby. We just found out. We’re having another boy!
Hi, my name is. I’m this many weeks. This is my first baby. It’s a girl!
Hi, my name is. I’m this many weeks. We haven’t found out yet.
Hi, my name is. I’m this many weeks. It’s a surprise.
My turn. Hi. My name is Maria. I’m 11 weeks.
Is this your first?
Swallow. Inhale. I. Well….No.
How old is your one at home?
Exhale. Inhale. Swallow. This is my 3rd pregnancy but we lost the first two. We’re hopeful about this one.
Eye contact broken. Silence. The instructor quickly moving to the next mom.
Silent tears down my face as I let my head hang loose in downward dog.
Each time, if I didn’t offer it right away: Is this your first?
First time I’ve been pregnant?
First time I’ve been this pregnant?
First time I’ve wanted so deeply?
First time I’ve loved so profoundly and fully?
First time I’ve feared so intensely?
No, it’s not my first.
This pregnancy is different. 2 children at home. No time to carve out the sacred time. Tonight at 24 weeks, I return for this baby’s first class. Rolling out my mat and glancing around at all the momma bellies, I feel different. I’m a veteran. I can almost guess from the faces who is new to the class, who is new to pregnancy, who has little ones at home.
And this time, confidently, I say Hi, I’m so glad to be back. I’m Maria. I’m 24 weeks. I have 2 angel babies and 2 girls at home. And we’re expecting a 3rd girl.
Several moms follow me, describing their swollen bellies filled with their futures.
And then you speak.
Hello, my name is. I have 3 angel babies. I’m 12 weeks. This is the first time we’ve gotten this far.
I see you. Brave Momma.
The cautious joy.
The muted fear.
The sadness, the grief, the pain.
The quiet courage. The hidden strength. The boldness of trying again despite a history that tells you the odds are against you.
I see you.
Steeling yourself. Reaching forward while pulled to the past.
I see you.
Your wanting. Your longing. For the babies that were and the baby that is.
I see you.
I see your babies. 1. 2. 3. And 4.
I see your babies.
The babies you never got to share. The ones you don’t often name. I see them. 1. 2. 3.
The ones that are present always but tucked away in your heart, protected from others’ lack of recognition, protecting others from discomfort of something they can’t understand. The ones you name inside your thoughts while telling the world that “yes, this is my first.”
More moms follow you and then another kindred spirit:
Hi, My name is. I’m 29 weeks. We have 3 angel babies.
Another of us.
We catch eyes on the way out. And in the cold parking lot, I call out, “Thank you for sharing tonight.” You offer a quick, tender smile, and say “No. Thank you. For sharing first.”
We are soon joined by the other kindred momma: Thank you. I wouldn’t have shared if you hadn’t shared first.
And then by a 4th momma who eagerly shares: I lost my first baby too, but I don’t call it an angel. But, I know.
We share a few brief exchanges. Our fears. Our hopes. We don’t have to say much. We say a lot.
A sisterhood of loss.
A shared knowing.
We all smile gently, warmly. Unspoken gratitude streaming among us.
“Good luck” we each repeat.
It gets easier, I say.
And then we all drive off.
About Maria Paredes
Maria is a Licensed Professional Counselor & Supervisor, Certified Eating Disorders Specialist, Counselor Educator, Mother, Aspiring Writer, Believer in Hope, Healing, and Growth. Read more on Maria’s blog: Body Politics with Dr. Paredes.