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Learning To Share: A Mom-To-Be Practices The Art Of Storytelling

Coburn and her partner, Brad, are getting married over Labor Day weekend, and will be having a child in January. She is appreciative of all the lessons that working on this blog have taught her. i

Coburn and her partner, Brad, are getting married over Labor Day weekend, and will be having a child in January. She is appreciative of all the lessons that working on this blog have taught her. Courtesy of Brad Horn hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Brad Horn
Coburn and her partner, Brad, are getting married over Labor Day weekend, and will be having a child in January. She is appreciative of all the lessons that working on this blog have taught her.

Coburn and her partner, Brad, are getting married over Labor Day weekend, and will be having a child in January. She is appreciative of all the lessons that working on this blog have taught her.

Courtesy of Brad Horn

I'm a wimp when it comes to sharing. In fact, I wish you weren't even reading this right now. One of the reasons that I became a photographer, and then photo editor, is that I like to hide behind the camera, behind the keyboard, and not disclose too much of my personal life to strangers. But as one of the three blog hosts of The Baby Project, I've been inspired by the openness and honesty of our blog moms to share my own pregnancy story.

So yep. I'm pregnant. Right now, as we speak.

Much like Lateefah, I spent most of my adult life trying not to become pregnant. I didn't feel ready for the selflessness that being a mother desperately requires. I was still living my life, and wasn't quite ready to let that freedom go. A visit to the doctor a few years ago put things into perspective. During a regular check-up, the nurse taking my blood pressure asked how old I was and whether I had any children. When I told her I was 32 with no kids, her response was, "Honey, your eggs are old!" That line became a recurring joke among my friends whenever we started talking about age, family, career, etc. Inevitably, one of them would pull out the line "Honey, your eggs are old!" and we'd all have a good laugh.

But deep down, it wasn't all that funny. What if my eggs were too old? What if I couldn't ever have children? What if I waited too long?

The process of getting married and having a child simultaneously has been stressful, but has also brought them closer together. i

The process of getting married and having a child simultaneously has been stressful, but has also brought them closer together. Courtesy of Brad Horn hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Brad Horn
The process of getting married and having a child simultaneously has been stressful, but has also brought them closer together.

The process of getting married and having a child simultaneously has been stressful, but has also brought them closer together.

Courtesy of Brad Horn

Last October, I got engaged to a wonderful man, and we set our wedding date for this Labor Day weekend — the second anniversary of our first official date. Brad is 34, and I'm 35, and we both feel incredibly lucky to have found each other. Early in the relationship we talked about what we would regret not accomplishing in life, and my first answer was "having kids." And somehow I instinctively knew that I wanted to do it with him.

This February, we decided I would stop taking birth control, and I went to the doctor for some preliminary blood work. After that, we took the approach of "whatever happens, happens," and figured we'd be lucky if we were able to get pregnant easily. We didn't have to wait very long.

The timing of my pregnancy and the launch of this blog were purely coincidental, and the two have come together in many wonderful ways (co-host Erin Killian is pregnant too!). I get to spend much of my time researching pregnancy-related issues, and it's made me a more diligent reporter since many of the topics affect me directly. I've also become very attached to all of the other blog moms, and I often get teary reading their posts.

And thanks to them, and to their honesty, I've begun to realize that you can make all the plans you want about birth, but you should always be ready to expect the unexpected.

I've been healthy my whole life with no major problems, so I assumed that everything with my pregnancy would be normal as well. But after our 20-week ultrasound, we got a diagnosis of "marginal placenta previa," which, in short, means that one edge of the placenta covers my cervix, and if it doesn't move out of the way, I might need a C-section. That was never part of the plan.

But I have found comfort from the ladies in the blog, and especially knowing that out of nine births, only one, Emily's, went according to plan. (Except for Ashley, who just decided to go with the flow.) Reading about Loriani and Andrea's emergency surgeries, Lateefah's broken epidural, and Christy's pre-eclampsia has made me realize that, "yes, these things could happen to me." But the blog has also taught me that even if something unexpected does happen, the odds are pretty good that I'll be OK, and most importantly, so will our baby. (Full confession, though, I did cry a fair amount the night we got the news. Brad was totally calm and supportive.)

Working on the blog has also taught me the power of opening up and being honest, even about things that are quite personal. I've begun to share my pregnancy stories with my mom, my sister, my grandmother, my cousins, my mother-in-law. And the more I open up about my feelings and fears, the more they open up to me as well. It's made me feel closer to them. I told my cousin about the previa, and she told me she had had it too. I sent my mom the ultrasound photo, and she started telling me how she felt during her pregnancies. In a way, I feel like I've learned more about my family in the past four months than I have in many years.

Coburn gets some belly rubs from her great aunt, Barbara Monroe (center), and her grandmother, Anne Hobler, who are excited to welcome their newest relative. Sharing the news of her pregnancy has elicited personal stories from Coburn's family. i

Coburn gets some belly rubs from her great aunt, Barbara Monroe (center), and her grandmother, Anne Hobler, who are excited to welcome their newest relative. Sharing the news of her pregnancy has elicited personal stories from Coburn's family. Courtesy of Brad Horn hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Brad Horn
Coburn gets some belly rubs from her great aunt, Barbara Monroe (center), and her grandmother, Anne Hobler, who are excited to welcome their newest relative. Sharing the news of her pregnancy has elicited personal stories from Coburn's family.

Coburn gets some belly rubs from her great aunt, Barbara Monroe (center), and her grandmother, Anne Hobler, who are excited to welcome their newest relative. Sharing the news of her pregnancy has elicited personal stories from Coburn's family.

Courtesy of Brad Horn

For example, a few weeks ago my 94-year-old grandmother told us about getting sent home from the hospital for false labor with her third child. Not wanting to return home to two sick kids with the chickenpox, she jumped on a train from Montclair, N.J., to Manhattan, and asked my grandfather to take her to lunch. When he refused (he said he was busy), she met up with a friend instead and spent the day in the city. My mom was born a week later. I love picturing my pregnant grandmother traipsing around New York, and I love that more than 60 years later she's still around to laugh with us about it.

The sharing and storytelling has been a beautiful experience, and one that makes our upcoming wedding that much more meaningful. My family won't simply be observing a ritual as casual observers, but will be participating in, and helping to shape, the two most transformative events of our lives — marriage and the birth of our child.

Brad and I feel honored to get to be parents, and in the midst of other stresses — planning the wedding and dealing with the pressures of work — the baby actually seems like the one calming and peaceful part of our lives. When I feel the baby move, it seems like nothing else matters.

Brad and Coburn try on some gnome outfits while visiting Wisconsin. This was their 2010 Christmas card photo.

Brad and Coburn try on some gnome outfits while visiting Wisconsin. This was their 2010 Christmas card photo. Courtesy of Coburn Dukehart hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Coburn Dukehart

And in the meantime, Brad has comforted me when I cried about feeling fat, about feeling sick, and about getting a less than "perfect" diagnosis. He's listened to the baby's heartbeat via speakerphone when he couldn't make the doctor's appointment. We have scaled back our honeymoon road trip extravaganza to incorporate more car camping and less strenuous hiking. Sure, the relationship has been a bit messy at times, but not surprisingly, we've found that sharing our feelings has been the best remedy for that, too.

Most importantly, we are looking forward to celebrating the wedding with our baby. I'm excited that we will be able to point to my belly in the wedding pictures and tell him or her: "You were there." Now that will be the ultimate experience in sharing.


Coburn Dukehart is the Picture and Multimedia Editor at NPR.org, and one of the co-hosts of The Baby Project. She and her partner Brad Horn are due to have their first child on Jan. 3, 2012.

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