August 2011 - The three of us glisten in the late evening sun. North Texas has cooled to a balmy 88 degrees at 7:30 p.m. “We’re close to the record – 60 days of over 100-degree heat. I think we’re at day 56 or so,” V pants for air. I nod. Brace myself to speak. It takes a lot of energy these days. Baby Girl is comatose as we wield her stroller up and down the sidewalks.
|Tanned and warm in Texas July 2011|
“You know. The Netherlands has probably never seen 100-degrees. Ever. In the history of the entire country.” I shuffle along the side walk. My baby bump shortens my breath and hinders the spring in my step. “Bump” being a conservative term – more like a beach ball by late August. Flowers wilt in our neighbors’ yards as we pass. Water conservation alerts in Plano mandate sprinkler systems can only be used once a week. “The girl in Accounts Receivable asked again today,” I roll my eyes and attempt to shift the conversation away from the heat – although towards an equally dismal subject.
“She didn’t,” V asks incongruously.
“I swear – if she asks me one more time if I’m having twins, I’m seriously going to report her to HR. This has been the fourth time! It’s not a difficult concept – small people give birth to normal sized babies. I’m only 5 feet tall – there’s nowhere for the baby to go but OUT. Duh!” I’m hot at the thought. Lately, I’ve made a habit of waddling onto empty elevators at work and punching the door close button before anyone else can join me. It’s the only opportunity I have for peace, otherwise I’m bombarded by questions in the claustrophobic space. My cube is on the 9th floor – which proves to be plenty of time for the following seemingly innocent conversation to ensue: “Oh, when are you due? Oh wow – October? You look like you’re about ready to pop!” Which, on my good days, makes me want to want to ask about the progress of their own diet or fitness routines which have clearly failed. On my bad days, I want to punch them in the face. Most of the times I struggle a sarcastic smile and cock my head, which in the grand game that is Corporate America, isn’t much better than the former two options. Good thing I’m moving to the Netherlands in six months. Game Over. “You know what would be awesome?” I say to V as we turn the corner. I see the shining promise of pink bricks basking in the sunset. We are steps away from relief - A/C, Texas Rangers, and my fluffy couch awaits. The evening exercise in the form of walking around the neighborhood after dinner, is almost complete. “You know how we’ve always wanted three kids.” (V nods in agreement. At the time, we are blissfully unaware of the challenges of two children.) “Wouldn’t it be great if we could extend the rotation another year then have our 3rd child in the third year? Imagine!” The idea formulates in my head and grows rapidly. “No miserable Texas heat. No one to bother me about how big I am. I probably won’t even be working! We wouldn’t have to tell anyone. I could possibly, finally enjoy a pregnancy without having to hear all the ‘oh wow, you’re so big’ nonsense! And then, when we come back, I could get a job. . . or not. . . but either way, we’ll have it all out of the way! Since you never want to start a job and then get pregnant six months later or whatever.” (Again, hands-on lesson learned in Corporate America). “What do you think?” I say with as much excitement as a 7-month prego Mama can muster.
|Texas Rangers, couch, and A/C in Texas August 2011|
“Yeah! Sounds like a good idea,” V nods and molds the idea with his own reasoning. “We know the 1st year is going to be tough with this little guy,” he pats my beach ball affectionately. “But the second year should be awesome. By the third year, we’d probably be ready to give it a go.” We grin like conspirators. He puts his hand on the front door handle, gives me a sweaty kiss, and we enter into the cool of our living room.
Winter 2013 “I always wanted three kids, until I had two,” my friend Alexandra laughs with me as we enjoy brunch over the holidays. V is shuffling around the table refilling our coffee cups. “Yeah – we knew the 1st year was going to be tough with Holden, but we didn’t expect the 2nd year to be tough with him, too.” We all laugh. His curls are bobbing up and down the living room as he runs from one place to another for no particular reason. Cosette is sitting quietly at her art table. “He’s put a damper on our plans.” I smile. I adore my son, but over the past couple of years, he’s definitely worn me out. He’s dragging a dining room chair over to the TV. He’s determined to get the remote controls I have placed out of his reach. “But should we really let Holden determine our family size? I mean, he’s not going to be this crazy forever.” (I hope!) “I also don’t have a whole lot of time, me being in my mid-30s and all.” I reason.
“Oh, lots of people have kids in their 40s,” my friend Erin attempts to reassure a few days previously. Pregnancy, amongst my expat friends, has been a hot topic. I repeat the observation to Alexandra but shake my head. “I already feel like I’m about 100 years old some days after chasing Holden around.” (Holden get down, no. No remote. Okay. That’s good. Curls race away. Vinny? What’s he doing in the kitchen? I hear him dragging the stool over to the sink!) “Besides, I don’t want the kids to be too far apart in age and I’m worried if we don’t at least try, we’ll always regret it. We’re so stubborn in our dreams.” I raise my eyebrows at V and he pauses to smile and nod before returning the coffee pot to the kitchen. “Oh, I don’t know. . .” Alexandra says, “Isn’t having a child an ultimate part of the expat experience, though?” She smiles.
“True. I mean – you only have a limited time to bear children. We’re only in the Netherlands for a limited time. It’s kind of funny that it corresponds.” I imagine myself with a cute baby bump in front of the Eiffel Tower, walking over the canals of Amsterdam with a sense of calm and purpose, and pedaling my bike around Leiden with 2.5 kids. “It would be pretty cool.” I agree. “Besides, we’ve always wanted three kids. And who knows if it will even work. We’ve had trouble before. And surely, even if we do get pregnant, it will be a calm, sweet little girl. The universe knows loveable, energetic Holden is all the boy I could handle.”
January 2014 – I knew as soon as it happened. In previous pregnancies, there’s a sense of wonder, confusion, and curiosity. It wasn’t my first rodeo and I knew. I felt horrible from Day 2. Queasy, turned off by even one glass of wine (now you know something is wrong), and already tired. By the time I took the pregnancy test, I was already showing. V eyed my bump with suspicion. “Yeah. I’m pretty sure that’s not just. . . “ he trailed off. I waited until the appropriate amount of days, anyway. And while the pregnancy test instructions were in Dutch, French, and German, I didn’t bother translating. The photos, and the pictures,
|Baby Bump Feb 2014 - just a few weeks along|
“So! You come here because you are pregnant?” our family doctor asks. “Yes,” I smile, a little sheepishly. “This is good news, yes?” she is confused already. “Oh no. Yes, it is good news.” We say. “You took a test, yes?” Of course. I nod. “Oh-kay. So. In the Netherlands what we do, is that we refer you to a midwife. Unless. There is a specific reason for you to see a gynecologist,” she shrugs and waves her hand. I’ve heard this before. Midwifes and home births are very common in the Netherlands. It was the reason that scared me enough into giving birth to Holden in the United States. I now know that home births are not common in the expat community. “Actually,” I interrupt her dismissive waving hand, “I’ve had two C-sections.” This grabs her attention. Natural births are also common in the Netherlands. “Oh okay then. That would be a reason to see a doctor.” She nods and takes out a pen a paper. Time to get serious. I’m glad she’s not going to fight me about this. She interviews me about the details of my C-sections, my mother’s C-sections, and my sister’s birth experience. She documents everything. This is all important to state my case to see an actual gynecologist. Whatever it takes. In the end she says “Oh yes. You have a very special case. You definitely need to see a doctor. Call tomorrow. He should see you in about three weeks.” My brow furrows. Special case and three weeks do not add up in my head. That means I won’t see the doctor until I’m nearly ten weeks along. I feel absolutely horrible, which of course is a good sign. But I’m already showing and have questions – is it twins? Is it developing properly? What about my hCG levels? “Do you want to take my blood or anything?” I ask.
“Oh no!” (Dismissive hand again) “That would be too much trouble to transfer the results.” The doctor’s office is next door to the hospital which houses the gyno. “You took a home pregnancy test, correct?”
“Yes, of course.” I nod again.
“Then you’re pregnant.” She smiles, shakes my hand, and ushers me and my husband to the door. And with that ‘official’ assessment, my most courageous or crazy adventure yet, begins. . .
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