Women can show their strength in all sorts of ways, but the one that’s the most miraculous is our ability to create life. This month, as part of our Phenomenal Women series, we’ve partnered with Ammaglow to capture the beauty and strength of the pregnant form, and to reveal the stories behind a woman’s pregnancy.
Petrushka Bazin Larsen is the vice president of programs and education at Brooklyn Children’s Museum and an expecting mom. Her first pregnancy with her daughter Ila was a breeze when it came to managing work and getting around town, but this time around is far from being effortless. She tells us how stress and her job have factored more into this pregnancy, and why she’s not sharing much about her pregnancy on social media this time.
How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant the first time?
The first time I was shocked, but not surprised. I thought, “Wow, this is happening,” but it wasn’t a bad thing. I think, if anything, it was the timing of our marriage and then finding out that I was pregnant. We had just gotten married [and] it was probably three or four months [later]. It was a little shocking, but still welcome, because we knew we wanted to have kids, so it was fine.
I was totally into it after that initial “Wait, wait, that thing says plus?” It was exciting and totally welcome.
How does your daughter feel about becoming a big sister?
She can’t wait! When I first told her that she was going to be an older sister, I used the birth of the cartoon character Daniel Tiger’s baby sister to explain that she too would be an older sibling. Daniel’s sister is named Baby Margaret in Season 2 of the Mister Rogers spinoff, so we call our baby girl on the way Baby Margaret. All of her classmates and teachers know that Baby Margaret is coming. She gives her hugs and kisses and tells her secrets by cuddling my stomach and whispering to it. Just today she made a couple of my girlfriends give Baby Margaret hugs before they could give her hugs. I think she’s taking her new role pretty seriously and with pride.
With one more month left in my pregnancy, she asks me pretty frequently if Baby Margaret is coming home today. She is going to be a great big sister. Of course, she’ll have to adjust since she’ll have to share attention, space, and toys, but I think she’s totally into being a big sister. It allows her to tap into her inner “baws”—read, boss.
What was your first pregnancy like?
It was very easy in comparison to this one. I was working a lot but I didn’t feel held back at all by it. Maybe there were a couple of times where I was like, “I can’t fully lift that thing over there,” but I felt very agile. I was biking the first trimester [and] the only reason why I stopped was because our office moved to another borough and I had a commuter bike.
I think that initial exercise and constant movement was really helpful. I just had a baby in my stomach, but I didn’t feel weighed down by the baby at all.
In comparison, I feel way more feeble and vulnerable with this baby. I’m constantly being reminded that I need to take a step back. I’m being reminded by those who are caring for me, whether it’s a family member or friend or midwife or doula, to just chill out a little bit and that I can’t be at the same level, which is a little annoying to me because I’m being hampered by my own physical limitations.
What was the defining characteristic of this pregnancy?
I don’t want to be negative, but the first word that’s coming to my mind is “limitation.” And that’s not great, but I feel very limited in a way. I think also because I’ve likened my job to having another baby. I’m basically having two babies at the same time because this is a new job and there’s a lot to do.
I’m basically having two babies at the same time because this is a new job…
Let’s talk about that more, balancing the demands of your pregnancy and your job.
That’s been a challenge in a way that it wasn’t for me the first time around. I had been at my other job for longer, and it was a different environment. I was concerned with the first pregnancy because I was the first and only employee at my job when I conceived Ila, our first child. But it was actually at that same time that we were bringing on another staff member, so it kind of all worked in divine order. I told everyone way earlier than the three month mark because I wanted to make sure we would be in a good place in my absence.
With this pregnancy, I basically received the offer from my job and a week or two later I found out I was pregnant. I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I wanted this baby a year ago!” Not that I don’t want her, we definitely wanted to have a second child. The timing was just a bit off.
It’s been a very trying experience. In the first instance, I told my employer super early because I wanted to make sure we weren’t in a lurch. With the second pregnancy, I didn’t know what to do because I was working for a new employer. So I waited past the first trimester; I didn’t say anything until somewhere between the fourth and fifth [month].
I told my boss on my birthday. I thought, “I’m a year older, and I’m grateful for my life. Why not throw this fun fact in to celebrate the day?” She of course did not get mad; she has three kids of her own. She said, “I’m really happy for you and we’ll figure it out.” I knew that she would be understanding, but it’s just not conveniently timed.
It’s still very trying at times because there’s still so much to do at my job—we’re in a state of transition. It’s really like having another baby. It’s like I’m having twins, but one baby will not take care of me in my old age. They’ll both give me gray hairs, but one is going to give me hugs and kisses.
Have you found yourself calling on your community differently this time around?
I’ve been retracting from my community in a way because I’m always at work or in transit to work. I spend my morning walk from the train talking to my mom. I don’t know if it’s a combination of these milestone moments bringing us closer, but I talk to her every morning and she prays for me.
I have a really great group of girlfriends. My high school friends and my college friends are all friends now. It’s a wonderful community of women who know each other that I’ve known for years. And there are newer friends who I’ve gotten to meet as a result of Ila’s presence in my life and meeting other mothers with similarly aged kids.
With this pregnancy, because I’m having these tandem births, I kind of haven’t really been talking about it. There are a lot of people who don’t even know I’m pregnant. I’ll see them and they’ll go “Whaaaaat?!”
I haven’t posted anything on social media. When I found out we were pregnant with Ila, I posted something on Facebook like, “We’re having a baby!” and we were all excited. This hasn’t been a public pregnancy at all. If you know me, and we see each other, then you know. If we don’t see each other that often, then you don’t know because I haven’t made it known. In general, when you post things on Facebook, there’s a lot of energy that comes back to you that can be really great, but it can also be overwhelming because you’re mediating that energy. It’s good, but I remember the same thing happened when I got engaged. I was like, “Oh my God, I’m engaged” and it was weeks of calling and talking and retelling the story. I don’t actually have the energy or time to retell how crazy the timing of the baby is for me.
It’s weird, because it’s good energy, but it’s still energy coming toward me and I’m depleted. I just want to go sit quietly in a corner and eat cookies.
What are your hopes for the delivery?
I hope it’s as quick as Ila was. I hope that we don’t have any post-pregnancy drama. After Ila came out, we had some moments with my placenta that I don’t want to repeat. I had a homebirth with her, and I’m choosing to go to a birthing center this time because if I do have placenta-gate again, I need some drugs. I need some hard drugs. It was worse than the labor; I would have four babies in a row than to do that again.
I hope I don’t have a train baby or a taxi baby. [I hope] that I make it to the birthing center on time and that it’s a quick delivery.
I hope her arm is not coming out of her eye socket because of the amount of anxiety and stress I have fused into her amniotic fluids. [Laughs] I just hope that she’s, in short, healthy. And a happy baby, [that] does not ultimately have anxiety issues. When you’re really stressed, it has effects on your child.
How have your thoughts about pregnancy changed over the years?
I’m not sure if they have really. I started this journey thinking that the labor part of a pregnancy was like running a marathon. I don’t think that’s changed. I don’t know if I’m entirely ready for my second marathon, but know that I’ll finish. When I was pregnant with Ila, I do remember looking at everyone on the train and thinking, “You belong to someone. Someone birthed you.” I was kind of struck by the miracle of childbirth. I still am in a way, but I don’t have the same reflections as frequently.
This is part of our ongoing Phenomenal Women series. Click here for more pieces on phenomenal women. This photo essay was recently honored as a BlogHer Voices of the Year.