My baby is as big as a plum.

That’s a good thing. It means I’ve reached the 12-week mark, where the chance of miscarriage is significantly lower, where I’m nearing the end of the dreaded first trimester. My pregnancy hormones should calm down somewhat and give me a bit of a break.

I’ve been feeling nauseous. And tired. And irritable. And frustrated.

And worried.

My baby is as big as a plum

“Worried” is too kind.

“Anxious” is a credible substitute. At the beginning, it was “terrified.”

The first week that I suspected, and then confirmed, that I was pregnant, I barely ate. I couldn’t sleep well. I had a pit in my stomach and what felt like a log lodged in my throat.

I thought you were ready.

I was ready!

But now, I’m not.

And no, another month wouldn’t help. Another two months wouldn’t help. Three, four, five—even a year. The desperation to have a child might have grown, but the terror when it actually happened wouldn’t have lessened.

Every baby is a miracle. Every button-nosed, blue-eyed, little-hands-and-toes bundle is a work of art, a piece of Creation. And I know that.

I know it too well.

Because I learned it the hard way.

I already have one child. A child I love to the heavens and back, a child I would give my life for. A child who fills my heart with such an intense feeling of pure joy and gratitude that it hurts; it takes my very breath away.

That child is now 20 months old and is growing, maturing, navigating her tender way through life. She is no longer a tiny bundle, and I marvel at her growth, reveling in her simple happiness and limitless energy.

I adore her with my entire being. Yet her birth—and the slap across the face that came with it—ensured that I would never be the same.

My sweet piece of heaven was born with a cleft lip palate and three short fingers on her left hand. She had a literal hole in her face.

I look back now at pictures. Her beauty, her purity looks back at me, her crystal blue eyes two shining seas. But there was no denying she had a terrifying face. I had to pick her up in certain ways, look at her only at certain angles. The feelings her face evoked make me cry even now.

It took four surgeries to “redo” Layla’s face. Today, Layla is the prettiest, sweetest, most outgoing child on the block. She is stopped by every passerby—or stops every passerby herself—to say, “Hi.” Comments such as, “She is such a pretty girl!” “Oh my goodness, she is too cute,” “What a perfect little face!” make me swell with pride and laugh inside all at once. If only they knew, I think to myself.

Those comments hold so much more meaning than that passerby would ever know. They are a balm to my wounds. They are my triumph, my victory over the journey with a cleft.

And now, here I am. Twelve weeks pregnant. The stark differences between my first, innocent pregnancy and this second one are heavily apparent in every step of my day, in every emotion, in every thought.

I read the week-by-week pregnancy guide, and the wheels start turning frantically in my mind.

Your little one’s mouth can open and close at this point in gestation, so your baby’s time might be filled with sucking, yawning and swallowing amniotic fluid.

Layla couldn’t suck until she was almost a year old, once her palate was closed. How do they know this baby inside of me can suck?

Your baby’s fingers will soon begin to open and close.

How many fingers? Are there 10? Maybe. Maybe not.

She has tiny earlobes, and her mouth, nose and nostrils are more distinct.

What is distinct? A whole mouth? An entire nose? Are they separate? Or are they one big, gaping contraption, a pit of gum and tissue?

And then, at the end, I read:

Note: Every baby develops a little differently, even in the womb. Our information is designed to give you a general idea of your baby’s development.

Thank you.

Thank you very much.

I don’t blame birthing classes, nurses, midwives, doctors for failing to mention that no, things are not always hunky-dory, and life is not always a bowl of cherries. It was G‑d’s will that, despite an ultrasound, I didn’t know of any storm clouds on the horizon. There were no warning signals to take heed of.

This is life. Lessons are learned. We draw courage from our challenges and try to use them as a rung to ascend higher.

But what about the fear?

There is no denying the fear. The “what if’s” and the envisioned scenarios. The imagined disclosures. The dread. At this point, I am powerless in this creation, I am powerless to have any say or take any part in the tiny being that is already a fully formed human inside of me. I am full of doubts. Thoughts and worries plague me relentlessly.

I don’t know what he or she will look like. I don’t know if this one will be a tiny bundle of pure joy who will leave me gasping through tears of disbelief and happiness, or if this one will be another challenge. The same challenge, a different one. Who knows? The walls in my mind are all torn down, and I entertain the entire scope of the “what if” spectrum, my heart pounding at the possibilities of a challenge that may be in store for me.

It is indeed terrifying to feel utterly helpless on a path that you chose to journey on.

Sometimes, I manage to “let go” and anticipate a journey of peace and serenity. But I’m finding that unless I pretend there is nothing inside of me right now, no seed of life that is already showing it’s presence on my waistline, I’m ill at ease.

All I can do is pray

By the time this article goes to print, I will probably have had my 20-week ultrasound. I will know (due to extra, extensive testing) if my baby has a complete mouth and nose. I will know if it has working organs, healthy kidneys, appropriate growth. I will know if it has ten fingers, ten toes and a straight spine.

That ultrasound will probably be one of the most terrifying experiences in my young life, one that I know I will both dread and await eagerly.

All I can do is pray.