Third trimester update, with a brief look back at what was before

love and happiness to come

Did you know that “gift” in Swedish means married and that the same word used as a noun means poison?

My pregnant belly is growing and the nesting instinct has taken over me, so I’ve been burying myself in doing all sorts of stuff and can hardly find the time, but mostly the disposition to write. After a summer full of travels and emotional torment, the urge to settle down has come over me and I seem to be preparing my nest for the little cub on his way. As autumn was approaching and it became increasingly clear to me I cannot travel such long distances anymore, cannot climb mountains or ride my bike, I felt sad for a while and scared. What’s happening now? Am I going to be left behind? Then the desire to cuddle and nest, making plans to redecorate, putting together the birth plan, shopping for the baby, making plans for our new family – all replaced the former travel plans and plane ticket shopping. I can’t say it’s been a smooth transition.

After a very active year, full of journeys (Sweden twice, England, Amsterdam, Greece, mountains in Romania, Bulgaria) and changes (becoming pregnant, moving house, leaving my job), settling down for the autumn and the third trimester poses a bit of a challenge. Especially with that leaving feeling bugging me every time things go different than I want them to go. So I’ve had to convince myself to stay and create tasks to fill my suddenly dilated time, round and spacious like my ever growing belly. Cooking, shopping, cleaning, redecorating, planning, exercising, taking long walks, sewing etc. Reading and writing have proved a little difficult for my agitated mind… Though I’ve always loved the beginning of autumn, calming everything down and lending the eye such warm and soothing colors after the loud and sharp summer notes. There are moments when I feel I have become way too domestic and fear I’m gonna bore myself to death.

I check my body every day and every day I notice changes: my skin is brighter and more beautiful, I am losing much less hair when I brush, my belly is getting bigger and changes shape as the baby changes positions, my breasts have grown two sizes since the beginning of pregnancy and are now letting out drops of colostrum that mark tiny wet spots on my T-shirt in the morning. I haven’t become fatter though and have only put on about 8 kilos in the past 8 months, which is ideal. Still, I feel heavier and the weight of the baby pressing on my bladder makes walking fast a thing of the past. As it does to tying shoe laces or wearing high heels.

On the other hand, I must confess I fear the postpartum transformations – the bleeding, the exploded veins on my legs, stretch marks, cellulitis, my stomach looking like a deflated balloon, milk leaking out of my breasts, dark circles around the eyes from lack of sleep, messy hair, manicure and pedicure, tiredness and depression.

I miss jogging and writing poetry while jogging. Sex is still fairly good, fortunately, though slightly more complicated due to very obvious reasons that we have to accommodate, but I cannot complain. The increased level of hormones has been a bit of a challenge, nevertheless. People in the street never miss my belly and every time I cross the old town I am offered food at the local terraces. When I ride the metro I either get offered a seat right away or not at all, depending on the route and the time. I am amazed by the level of autism the use and abuse of technology has created – everyone is always checking their phone, looking ever so busy and extremely disturbed by the presence of the others.

Speaking about the presence of others, our relationship has been growing alongside my belly and will mature together with the baby we’re raising. I can’t say we’ve had the time to get to know each other too well and this lack of benchmarks on a carefully mapped and controlled territory is making me quite uncomfortable and I still have trust issues. I am a control freak deep down, it’s true. But who asked for adventure?

The latest ultrasound picture, showing my baby boy smiling, leads me to believe he is happy. I wonder what lessons he has for me, what it is that he is bringing with him from back home, what his personality is like, and what he’ll turn me/us into. He’s been modeling me/ us like clay ever since his arrival, so I don’t expect him to stop once he’s born. Quite on the contrary, actually.

I believe it must have been roughly ten years ago when I was actively trying to get pregnant and nothing happened except frustration and disappointment. To be totally honest, I was so scared it might actually happen that every month as  my period was approaching I felt so much anxiety. I couldn’t tell which perspective felt more frustrating – getting my period or not getting it. I got it every month, with the strict regularity of the sunrise, much to my partner’s desperation.

My partner back then really loved me, though. There was absolutely no doubt about that. I was on top of his priority list, I was number one. That made life easier and more comfortable, as I felt relaxed and wanted and special. He used to express his love to the best of his abilities, telling me he loved me all the time, bringing flowers and gifts, writing short poems, preparing surprises, making sure I lacked nothing. And still, we didn’t appreciate our life together. We were so critical, so sarcastic, so sloppy and we gradually grew apart and unhappy. Eventually lack of communication and lies crammed up between us, driving us apart, each with his own separate life, longing for love and authenticity. So, having spent roughly half of my life in that relationship, I left for fear I might wither and die otherwise. And leaving that life behind was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Then my two years of freedom followed, travelling on my own (Hungary, a nomad month in Romania, then England, Sweden,  Norway, Thailand, Cambodia, Turkey) dating, making plans independent of other people’s ideas or desires. Just me and myself and my dreams. It was awesome, I confess. Though it felt lonely only too often, that feeling of freedom was something I just had to experience before committing to a new life. I am not nostalgic, I can still remember very well how my dating life went and what a nightmare it could be at times. Yep, it’s been published in The dating nightmare – and by the way, in the meantime the friend of a friend got married, the two friends I was confessing to have totally disappeared from my life, along with the Turkish physicist, the creepy Canadian (thank God for that!) and the schizophrenic stalker, while the cancer guy with the job interview communication style proposed.

Life has such funny ways! And now it’s all new. ALL of it. So I still get cold feet from time to time and wonder if I’m on the right track. Who can tell? And what does “right” mean, anyway? I’m on the track that I am on, becoming someone new. No turning back. We’ll see where it takes me. From time to time, I am shaken by little earthquakes and start questioning everything again. And still, the baby is here, I can feel him moving inside me and that is the most special thing I’ve ever felt in my life. Maybe it’s weird, but sometimes I still find it hard to believe it’s real…

I am grateful for a beautiful and easy pregnancy so far and I’m so scared more often than I like to admit… But I can honestly say this is the greatest adventure and the most special journey I’ve ever been on. And I still think it’s absolutely miraculous how life goes on, in spite of everything. No matter what you’re going through, the earth keeps moving, the sun keeps rising and setting, people are born and die and life continues through the happiest times and through the most painful dramas. Miraculously.

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PS Took the photo at the National Museum of Literature.

“Have you ever felt the ground falling from beneath your feet?”

The thin, short haired lactation consultant asks the three of us, sitting with our hands resting on our bumps at this white, round table in a shabby chic corner tea house in the old city of Bucharest, the only customers this sunny summer morning.

And I’m suddenly back twelve years ago.

“I want us to split”, my boyfriend tells me bluntly, sitting legs apart in the small, torn armchair by the balcony door in our rented studio five bus stops away from the University square in Bucharest. “I don’t love you anymore,” he adds, stretching his long legs across the Turkish carpet in dusty shades of blue on top of the worn out linoleum covering the floor.

I’m mute for a few seconds and I feel my throat exploding and wonder if I’m ever gonna be able to utter a sound again. At the same time, I remember our love making the night before and the goodbye kisses that very morning and the “I love you” before he closed the door behind him and went to work. They all seem like faint memories from another lifetime. What’s happened in the meantime? When did I die? I have no job ’cause “you’ve just finished university, don’t get hired just yet, let’s travel this summer” and nowhere to go. I can’t breathe.

Five months later, having spent about a month apart, we are married. Too afraid of loneliness, both of us, to pass the opportunity. Nine years later we are divorced. On our ten year wedding anniversary we sign the bank papers so I’ll no longer be part of the mortgage contract on our commonly held apartment – a home so hard to leave behind. That same day also happens to be the first day of my last menstruation before I get pregnant.

The two lines on the pregnancy test, on March 8, at around 3 am leave no ground beneath my feet, nothing to hold on to,  and force big tears out of my eyes like in a manga comic. Happiness and panic, two long and slippery snakes mating in my solar plexus. Another burial awaits – the girl I used to be is struck dead by two pink lines on a white background she’s just peed on, alone in her boyfriend’s bathroom, the whole universe spinning around her. Yet never again alone, to be accurate.

Then the phone call I get when I am 15 from my first lover, announcing me he’s cheated on me and “I need to meet that girl and discuss our feelings for each other… I’m sorry. Please don’t cry.” I can’t talk. The dirty receiver is heavy in my right hand and my thighs are getting wet as I’m kneeling by the bedside cabinet of my ground floor neighbors, who keep poking their heads around the door to check up on me from time to time. We don’t have our own phone, you see. I have to go down two floors to take the call, leave my corpse on my neighbors’ bedroom floor and then carry my ghost back upstairs again.

Then it’s early morning again, last year in spring, and I’m standing in front of the bed in that scruffy hotel room in Sultanahmet in Istanbul, dimly lit through the thick and brown heavy curtains. Ten years younger than me, short and handsome, amber skin, light brown hair, thick eyebrows and long lashes, full lips covering his tobacco stained teeth, my Syrian lover seems perfect. I’ve taken a shower, put my makeup on, got dressed, packed my suitcase and I’m ready to leave. And I can’t. I can’t wake him up. I can’t open and close that bloody door behind me.

I can’t stop looking at him sleeping there, so vulnerable, his bare chest moving up and down with his soft breath, a bent knee resting over the white sheet, his toes almost reaching the wooden side of the bed. I feel my chest exploding in a thousand pieces at the sight; silently and deadly. I’m perfectly aware I’ll probably never see him again. “Don’t make it difficult”, he says, seeing my face as I pull myself together and wake him up,  whispering his name while running my hand over his face. “Take care of yourself, Dhana”, he advises, knowing I’ll never listen. “Just go…”, he adds when I go back the second time for one last kiss. Minutes later, in the car seat taking me to the airport, I say goodbye to the sea.

“How do you know?”, the Cancer boy I’ve met using a dating app asks me, his big, beautiful eyes resting on my lips, unable to look higher. Lying flat on my belly in his bed, I tell him exactly what he did on a specific day in December last year, precisely one week after our first date. “I hate lies”, I warn him. “Please forgive me, I promise I’ll never lie to you again. Can we just leave this behind us? We have so much to do together…” I know I can’t trust him about the first part, but I am perfectly aware he’s absolutely right about the last part. Still, a leftover from the innocent me dies in this scene, too.  About a month and a half later, in the same bed, a strong light warms up my womb as if a comet hit the earth and I describe the whole experience in my diary the next morning, so that five weeks later, holding the two lined test in my hand, I find the exact conception date: Valentine’s day/ night. Three weeks after that, manga tears again as I’m listening to my baby’s heart during the first ultrasound in the doctor’s office.

“Yes, I have…” I answer when the lactation consultant says it’s my turn. The other two expecting mothers have already spoken while my memories were flooding my brain like a swollen river on a sunny day in mid spring, when the snow melts all at once.

“And? What can you share with us?”

“You know, my life has changed so much and so many times… And there have been moments when I felt I couldn’t breathe, when there was absolutely nothing familiar to hold on to anymore, nothing to cling to, seemingly no one and nothing to rely on… I’ve felt driven out of my own life. I’ve died. And I’ve survived every time. The hardest thing, feeling suddenly suspended in mid air, was having enough patience to get to the bottom of the pit, having enough patience to fall all the way, to hit the ground. Then crawl and cry down there for as long as necessary and climb back up again. To a new life. I’ve survived all my deaths… Every time… All of us do.” I answer, giggling at the revelation, an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and confidence filling me up as my left elbow reaches behind over the bentwood chair back, to make room for my growing heart.

There’s a short silence as the three smiling women are all looking at me as if I’ve just said something important.

PS Attachment is the name of the monster I’m learning to tame.

PPS Took this photo in Văcărești natural park earlier this week – felt like early fall is creeping in…

sunset in vacaresti natural park