Expecting Raneem: A Pregnancy Summarized

I remember how hot and heavy my tears felt as they rolled down my cheeks on a Wednesday night in April. Ahmad held me in his arms as I sobbed and sobbed, asking him, asking the universe, “So what does this mean? What do we do now?” He continued to hold me and comfort me as I attempted to calm down while reitterating “I can’t go through this again. My heart cannot handle another loss.”

Our journey to start a family had not been an easy one.

I could not allow myself to feel elated that I’d gotten a positive result when I was still recovering from two back-to-back miscarrages in 2018, one that had sent me to the emergency room and another that happened without warning or sign. The emotional and physical toll was so heavy that I was willing to set aside our plans so I could recover in ways only I knew how: throw myself into work, pick up a new hobby, exercise beyond belief, and, of course, travel.

And that was the case that April: we were two weeks away from undertaking a huge roadtrip through Sweden and Denmark. I was spending most afternoons and Sundays at the gym for hours on end. I was making great progress on my memoir. Things had been going amazingly at work.

Very early days, in Copenhagen

I pretended to everyone I knew that I was fine, that pregnancy loss is shockingly common (1 in 4 pregnancies ends in loss), that the extensive workup I had done revealed all was well and normal physiologically. It was just bad luck. Really bad luck.

But now, this positive test threatned to throw it all way, to bring us back to square one.

Except, thankfully, those fears never materalized.

In the first trimester, I went through the motions, keeping myself numb while going through the typical morning sickness and food aversions. Even when the Beta-HCG numbers were increasing, even when the first ultrasound confirmed an embryo, even when we came back from the trip and we heard a heartbeat (which we had never gotten), even when every biweekly appointment gave me nothing to worry about, I held my breath and told myself I was not going to get excited. I withheld announcing the news to close family until the NT scan at 12 weeks came back absolutely gleaming.

Our travel themed announcement

The second trimester brought a flurry of activity with it just as the summer kicked in. The nausea finally eased off and I got my energy back again. We found out we were having a baby girl- and along with that revelation, started buying little dresses and things in cute pastel shades. We started researching nursery furniture and diving deep into the merits of different stroller and carseat brands. My beloved black H&M jeans no longer buttoned up so I went shopping for maternity clothes (another story for another day). But I was still on edge, fearful that the detailed scan would turn up some congential anomaly that would deem our little one incompatibale with life- fears that kept me up all night. It was an improbably scenario that I’d fabricated in my mind so I could not get too attached, just in case things didn’t work out.

It remained a fabrication, as it should have. Once again, the scan, at 20 weeks, suggested nothing but a healthy, very active (she had just begun kicking) little girl who was going to turn our world upside down as of December. It was at that point that I finally let out a huge sigh of relief and allowed myself, Ahmad, and our families, to enjoy the incoming bundle of joy and the process to get there.

Around 22 weeks

Like any pregnant woman halfway through her pregnancy, I threw myself into making sure we were prepared, well even better than prepared. And because this is me we’re talking about, I drew up extensive lists of what we needed to get done, read all the resources I could get my hands on, and undertook a two week home rennovation project because this was our only chance to do so. In the meantime, the bump began to make itself very well-known, and I stopped trying to hide it. When friends, and even random strangers, wanted to discuss how I was feeling or how things were going, I let down the guard (but not too much) and didn’t get as defensive as I had been. Discussing pregnancy made it feel all too real and I was finally ready to embrace that.

Then a revolution and our car being out of service as I was well into the third trimester threatned to really dampen my mood. My anxieties took a hold of me: would I be able to make it to the hospital with the roads closed, and better yet, how would I make it to the hospital? This was a particullary funny thought I kept having, fully knowing that the hospital I was going to deliver at is also my workplace- and I’d not been absent for a single day.

I was looking for something, anything, to worry about, even though everything was fine and December was just around the corner. I kept working, counting down the days, getting everything in order until the very last minute.

Baby laundry, so much fun…

Our little one, probably already too much like her mother in that she needs to get things done, ended up making her grand arrival just as November was wrapping up, two weeks ahead of her due date but not a minute too soon, going to show that you can make all the plans in the world, and they still won’t materalize exactly as you wanted them.

Raneem, which means beautiful voice, was born bearing an uncanny resemblance to Ahmad, with her big eyes, lashes for days, and button nose. It was immediately apparent that the poor girl had inherited my unkempt hair. Oh and she has our dimples! Both her weight and height were above average, and after the routine two days in the hospital, we were cleared to go home and start our new life as a family of three.

And on that first night back at home, as I held her close, it’s true that I was terrified of what was going to come, just as I had been terrified when the test was positive. And it’s true that I didn’t necessarily know all the ins and out of taking care of a newborn. But I was also overcome with this weird sense of calm, the same one that eventually took over when I was pregnant: this was the happiest I had felt in a very, very long time. And I knew that this feeling was going to carry me through those sleepless nights, just as it had done in those tense months.