I wake early as the sun rises over the gardens opposite my windows. My cat sensing slight movements unfurls and starts to paw at my rippling stomach, swollen and fluid with life. The streets are so silent I can hear the bells ringing for a ghost congregation all the way to the Duomo. Spring in Italy is glorious, the birds fluent with joy and my senses are alive to the radiance of the season.
I have no need to wake early, no urgency to my day and so I lie back cradling my bump, the tight, pulsating home which my unborn son is constantly exploring, testing its boundaries with confident punches. I am in the twilight of my pregnancy, a few weeks until birth. These moments are precious, sleep-filled, protected against the barrage of news, the tightening of life under indefinite quarantine.
There has to be so much gratitude for life when you are pregnant. That reckless choice of optimism, of expectancy, of defiance is a mantra against fear. As the world changes daily, the dreams must adapt like rivers running new courses. My birth plan is battle-drawn in which anything other than the desire for a healthy child is pure indulgence. My pregnancy books, melodious in their offerings of nurture and self-care seem laughably outdated. There is now no close community of women to cradle you with wisdom, no caring visitors, in likelihood no birth partners. I end up shunning the virtual world that leaves me feeling both connected and deeply alone. I don’t trouble overworked midwives and gynaecologists with ragged questions they don’t know the answers to. The appointments that seemed so vital a few weeks ago have all been cancelled so I retreat into my cocoon wherein lies my comfort. My son kicks and wriggles, oblivious to the shifting world outside. He is my courage, my good humour, my solace amidst mounting unrest.
People ask how I sleep. Deeply I tell them, my limbs heavy like ancient roots while my womb rocks constantly, that insistent vibration of hope. It is the quickening, every day more iron-rich with promise as my resilient weed blossoms, blasting my inner body with peachy bruises and stirring my heart with ever more blinding love.
The sand trickles on through the hourglass. I feel like an animal that wants to retreat into nature, to stay sharp on my instincts, invoking the birth goddess Artemis to deliver us both safely but that world must be conjured inside, from the confines of my walls. To leave the house is to be sent home, my presence a panic as my state now draws concern rather than smiles. Whereas a few weeks ago I would walk for hours, I now lie under the dark umbra of interior life, like an old fashioned ‘lying in.’ I am constantly grateful though. For my restless baby that tells me all I need to know. For love that comes in ever more thoughtful and ingenious forms. For the trust that all mothers must have in the process, the faith in all the women out there I cannot see and touch but are themselves ripe with new life to bring into the unknown.
The sun outside is strong and bright. These are the first days of spring and with it that zephyr of warm and abundant tomorrows. I watch my cat outside stalking the romancing birds. I close my eyes and breathe.
Words by Joanna Drot Troha