Expecting Baby Tarpley in February 2016

It’s difficult keeping a secret that affects your mood, your energy levels, and the size of your belly. After months of waiting, though, Troy and I can finally share the good news: we are expecting a little one in February 2016!

We’re so incredibly grateful that I got through the first trimester without any complications and that we’re going to be parents. This little baby inside of me is steadily growing, and I now have a (tiny) bump to prove it. It has tiny arms and legs, its brain is undergoing rapid development, and it’s currently the size of a big plum.

Despite all the worries I’ve experienced throughout the first trimester (and the nausea and fatigue), I’ve felt a deep level of comfort — the kind of comfort that comes from knowing that the loved ones you’ve lost in your life are still with you.

Ever since my mom died of breast cancer when i was 11, I’ve spotted signs from her. I’ll hear “I Will Remember You” — the song that she dedicated to me before she died — when I’m thinking about her or missing her. Other times, when I’m having a bad day, I’ll see a robin, a bird that shares the same first name as my mom. Or I’ll see my mom’s “special time,” 7:24, symbolic of her July 24 birthday.

My paternal grandma — Gramz — knew all about these little signs and used to call me when she spotted them. Gramz helped raise me after my mom died and became my maternal sounding board, my second mom. I turned to her for just about everything, and always knew that she’d freely give me her honest opinion and words of wisdom that can only come from years of experience. As I got older and moved to Florida after college, we didn’t talk quite as much as we used to. But I still considered her to be like my mom, and turned to her for advice about buying a house, getting married, and becoming pregnant.

In April, I told her that Troy and I wanted to have kids and that I’d been trying to get pregnant since January, after running my first marathon.

“I don’t know why it hasn’t happened yet,” I lamented.

“Mal, you’ve only been trying for three months!” she said, reminding me that what felt like an eternity was far from it. “It took me two years to get pregnant with your father and I was 31 when I had him.” I never thought about how old my grandma was when she was pregnant with my dad, but realizing that she was just about my age (in the 1950s, no less) made me realize that I still had time — that my timeline for getting pregnant wasn’t going to pan out exactly as planned and that was ok.

“Just don’t worry,” Gramz said, knowing my tendency to be worrywart — a trait I acquired from her. “I worried about getting pregnant for so long, which is probably why it took me two years to get pregnant. I’m praying every day that you’ll have a happy, healthy baby soon.”

“Thanks, Gramz,” I remember telling her. “You’ll be the first person I’ll tell when I’m pregnant.”

That was the last conversation I ever had with Gramz. She died a couple weeks later at age 92. When she passed, I wept. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that she and my mom wouldn’t get to throw me a baby shower, or share their pregnancy stories with me, or offer up newborn advice.They wouldn’t get to meet our little baby. In the days after Gramz passed away, I secretly hoped that my mom and Gramz would work their connections in Heaven and help me get pregnant.

You determine your due date based on the first day of your last period. I got my last period the day of my grandma’s funeral, shortly after I walked into the funeral parlor. My due date is February 3 — just a few days before the anniversary of my mom’s death. Sandwiched between these two bookends that symbolize the passing of my two moms, a life is emerging. And I’m becoming a mom. As I think about this next step in my life, I’m reminded of the cyclical nature of life. When one person leaves our lives, something or someone else often steps in to fill the void and ease the pain. Signs emerge, reminding you of the life you’ve lost and sending you clues about how the void will be filled.

IMG_4138A couple days after my Gramz passed away, I looked through her house with my dad and found a tattered 1956 copy of Dr. Spock’s famous “Baby and Child Care” book in the back of one of her drawers. It was the book she referred to when raising my dad and uncle. I took it home and kept it by my bedside, hoping I’d soon have a use for it. The other week, I came across an invitation to my baby shower from 1985. It had my mom’s name on it, and my grandma’s handwriting. She had used the back of the invitation to write down a grocery list of food she wanted to buy for the shower — a typical move for Gramz, who always nourished our bellies and our hearts with food and love. Gramz had sent me a copy of the invitation a couple of years ago, thinking I would like to have it. I had misplaced it until I recently found it nestled in a stack of old family photos.

I’ve kept these signs, these maternal memories, close to heart and have no doubt that they’ll keep popping up throughout my pregnancy.

It still seems surreal to know that there’s a little baby inside of me. With each passing day, though, it feels more real. I recently heard the baby’s heartbeat and my little bump is starting to protrude more. Troy kisses it every day. I’ve been listening to lullabies, even though the baby can’t hear yet. I’ve been reading books galore, and recently read that if I poke my belly at this stage in the pregnancy, the baby will wriggle around. Even though it’s too early to feel it kick, I can picture Baby Tarpley having its own little dance party inside the womb.

Pregnancy has been an eye-opening experience for me on so many different levels. It has changed how I manage stress, how I care for myself, how I eat, and how I feel about my body. It’s changed me in ways that I wasn’t sure were possible. There are so many related essays I want to write, so I’ve created this blog as a home for those essays (and for pregnancy — and eventually baby — photos!) I want to share this experience with all of the family, friends, maternal and paternal figures that Troy and I are fortunate to have in our lives.

It’s a relief to know that I’m heading into my second trimester and that this little baby inside of me is no longer a secret. It’s a precious gift, a bundle of joy — one that Troy and I can’t wait to bring into the world.

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