Dear Pregnant Mama, take the belly picture.
You just peed on a little white stick and watched two solid, pink lines appear from the nothingness. You’re barely five weeks along but there’s a child growing within your womb, a little bit of your DNA mashed into an ever-growing and dividing clump of cells.
You place your hand tenderly against your stomach and feel nothing but skin and a little bloat. There’s no evidence that this little one is here. Your stomach muscles have yet to stretch and give way to the life within. Everything is seemingly the same, and only you know it’s all begun to change.
And so, you feel silly asking your partner to take a belly picture. It seems strange to stand sideways against the wall and take a picture of “nothing.” You tell yourself that you have time.
But sadly, not all of us do.
You spend the next few weeks hovering over the toilet bowl, alternating heaving and munching on saltine crackers. You feel sweaty and worn, exhausted, and baggy-eyed. The little paunch growing around your mid-section is mostly just gas and so you skip the photo once again. You want to wait for the bellybutton-popping bump and the flattering, sunrise maternity shoot.
Pregnancy isn’t always glamorous. Most days it’s stretchy pants and a sore back, smell sensitivity, and a body that evolves into something less “you” and more foreign-whale. It’s easy to want to avoid documenting this journey, especially the beginning weeks when no one knows whether it’s a baby-bump or just too many cookies.
But don’t wait on the belly pictures.
From someone who has lost a baby in the first trimester and in the third, I want you to know that you won’t regret cataloging bits and pieces of this tiny miracle growing within your womb. You won’t regret the photo with messy pregnancy hair that no longer stays in place, or the few extra pounds you carry in your face. You won’t regret that brief snapshot of a moment spent with your unborn babe.
Because for some of us, that snapshot is all we’ll ever have.
Pregnancy loss is not an easy thing to think about, especially during pregnancy. More than anything, I pray that you will arrive at the end of this with a healthy, squalling baby. I pray with the desperate prayers of one who knows what it’s like to lose someone you never truly met. I pray your belly grows big enough and wide enough to support a tiny life until that little life is ready to support itself. I pray that you will look back on a nine-month journey with the wonder of one who gets to take her baby home from the hospital and watch him grow.
But the agonizing truth is that not all of us get that far. Some of us awake in the morning to find blood spotted sheets and hearts sunk deep in disappointment. We awake to find our stomach housing nothing more than empty dreams and echoes of a broken heart. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss. It’s a difficult fact to stomach, but it’s a statistic that many of us end up unwillingly participating in.
Most of us live with the naive assumption that a miscarriage or stillbirth could never happen to us — I know I did. But the truth is, life is precious and so very fragile. Like all stages of life, there is no guarantee for tomorrow, so take the time to cherish today.
Cherish those swollen ankles and forty impossibly-long-feeling weeks, the stripes of one whose belly stretched past the first trimester, and that incredibly painful yet relieving feeling of labour.
Document those moments with your baby.
For some of us, the belly-bump days are the only memories we get to store in our hearts. The only tangible evidence of a life that once intersected so sweetly with our own. And whether this pregnancy ends in bliss or a heavy-heart, you will never regret the moment you stopped to snap a picture of it all.
Babe in womb, heart overflowing, you will never regret that photo with the one you love.
So, cherish these days. And take the photo.
A Mama Who’s Walked This Road Before