It’s nearly nine months since Antonia was born – we are nearly at the point that she has spent more of her life outside of me than inside. Tonight the long spring evening was calling my name and I snuck out for a walk, as I did nearly every night for the last four months of my pregnancy. I could not stay out long – Antonia is a notoriously bad sleeper and I didn’t want to leave Michael with an inconsolable baby. Though, touch wood, the evenings are improving slightly at the moment and pretty soon I think there’ll be a two hour window when she doesn’t need me, so hopefully more evening walks are in my future. They are just utterly lovely – quiet, glassy, cool, the sky strewn with pastel clouds, and no small creatures asking me to play, or for another drink, or why can’t they have jelly for breakfast, or MAYBE they can have a new toy, just MAYBE, or even snuggling or sucking or crying, or crawling under coffee tables. Just the pale sky and the tiny leaves on the hedges.
Thanks in part to how wretchedly sick I was about a month ago, I now fit comfortably into all the clothes I wore before I got pregnant. I no longer need to roll over sideways to sit up in bed. The ability to sit up directly from lying down still impresses me – it took nearly half a year to return. I’ve been wearing my old favourite pair of jeans, and it’s funny to think about the point at which they got too tight, the small firm lump I never tired of checking was still there, that grew and grew. Before bed I would look at myself in the mirror, with wonder.
A pregnancy draws your attention inside, within. I found it ridiculously difficult to concentrate on work in my last trimester. To the point at which I delayed and delayed finishing an article that I ended up having to write in Australia, and to which I am still adding the finishing touches. It would have been easier then. But I just couldn’t.
I had waited so long for this pregnancy. In June 2013 I sat on the sofa for two weeks, knitting. I had just been through surgery to take care of my third consecutive miscarriage, at close to ten weeks. The first two had been much earlier but so sad all the same, and now I didn’t know if it would ever work for me again. It seemed extra cruel that my latest miscarriage happened around the due date of the first one. So I ordered some thick, soft organic cotton, and made a baby blanket. My head and my heart didn’t believe at that point that I would ever have another baby, but my fingers did. I let myself imagine a baby lying on the blanket on the floor. I had no idea how much of Antonia’s early life would be spent wrapped up in it. I called it the magic blanket: it soothed her and me perfectly every time.
For by the end of November I was pregnant. I suspected before I even took the test, because things smelled different. And within a couple of days of knowing, I was sure it was a girl. I remember pushing Felix on the swing in Stirling, Australia, feeling revoltingly nauseous, around nine weeks pregnant, saying to Mum – ‘It’s definitely a girl. I’m just saying this to you now so later you believe me when I tell you I knew all along.’ ‘Don’t be so sure!’ she said. But I was.
Of course, for the first twelve weeks or so, I was very nervous. And unspeakably tired. And pretty sick – much sicker than I had been with Felix. Not as awful as many women have it, but not pleasant. I was in Australia for the second half of the first trimester, and I told my parents and grandparents what was happening, but few others. I hit twelve weeks just as we left, but I didn’t want to say anything publicly before another scan. I’d had two scans in Australia – one around seven and one at ten weeks – and the little flickering heartbeat was the most beautiful thing in the world. We had a lovely radiologist doing the second scan, and she moved us to another machine so she could print us out a picture. ‘The most important thing’, she joked. ‘No,’ I said, staring in relief at the tiny, persistent heartbeat, ‘that’s the most important thing.’
I remember up to around 20 weeks, or maybe more, looping a hair-tie around the button of my jeans so I could keep wearing them. I had to let work know around 16 weeks, because it was getting obvious, at least to the most discerning of my colleagues.
I am writing all this down now while it is still a recent memory so I don’t forget. The nicest things about that pregnancy were: my chats with Felix, such as those I recorded here and here; my long evening walks; the gorgeous summer weeks I spent with Felix at the lake; and feeling Antonia’s little kicks while I was at work. I interviewed for my dream job when I was about twenty weeks pregnant, and I got it, because Norway is amazing like that. And when they told me I’d won my job, I went downstairs to the little cafe, and sat with a coffee and the article I was reading, as Antonia prodded me gently, feeling like the luckiest person on earth. And all the time, it was you.