Here I am, verging on the birth month of my first child. Tomorrow will mark 37 weeks, meaning my baby is full term and could be expected pretty much any day now! For most first time moms the actual birth date is 41 weeks 2 days of gestation, however. So, I may have a while to wait but I am trying to be prepared for the possibility that he could come tomorrow. It’s a strange dance we mammas do, of anxiously preparing ourselves, while trying to patiently wait, slow down our lifestyles, and listen to the rhythms of our bodies. Each time I feel a Braxton hicks contraction I wonder if it’s the beginning, each time I feel crampy or achy I wonder if that is a sign that the birthing time is near. I’m constantly scanning for evidence of a lost mucus plug. I feel the baby lower himself deeper in to my pelvis with each step I take while I’m out walking. It’s hard to extricate myself from thoughts of baby, but I realize that I must. Though it is tempting to devote much of my mental energy to thinking about birth, going over our plan, and reciting hypnobabies scripts to myself in my head, the reality is that I want to savor these last days of being just me. Just Kat. Not a mom. Not solely responsible for the life and well-being of a small child,
I know it’s not uncommon for new moms to enter a bit of a depressive phase before the birth of their first child. I can see how that happens. There is certainly a mourning, in small ways, of a life pregnant with alternate endings and different scenarios that might not include being tied down by a new baby. I scheduled a dentist appointment in January, and suddenly the other day I started to wonder, ” How does one go to the dentist with a newborn?” Do I need a babysitter? Can I bring him with? What if he cries and is fussy? It’s a learning experience, I hear. I have no doubt it will be all that, and more.
This past weekend Rick and I escaped to Leadville and stayed at my sister’s place, going for small hikes and enjoying the quaint mountain town vibe. As we hiked I couldn’t help but feel nostalgia for my healthy, pre-pregnancy body. My back felt achy and my feet (bearing the weight of 40 pregnancy pounds) get more sore when I walk. My abdomen moves constantly, and the actions do not always make me smile with joy – more recently I wince and gently try to massage an errant foot back into a position that doesn’t stab my ribs or jut out of my belly at a dangerous looking angle. Though by many accounts, my own included, I have had an incredibly healthy and easy pregnancy, the last month definitely is harder.
In hypnobabies we discuss a concept called the “bubble of peace” with which we as pregnant couples can fend off negative birth messages. In one of our earliest classes we each visualize our own “bubble” that protects us from scary birth stories and other messages that present pregnancy and childbirth in ways we don’t feel comfortable with. My bubble of peace, for example, resembles a zorbing ball that I walk around in, and which zaps away people who I come into contact with who are not supportive of my vision for my pregnancy and childbirth. (Rick’s bubble is much more peaceful – it consists of a comfortable recliner, a sunny sky above him, me, Addie our dog, and a beer. I think we took slightly different approaches to the exercise!) Up until recently, the bubble of peace concept has carried little weight or meaning for me. I am an information sponge and I honestly eat up every story I hear about birth. I want to familiarize myself with the possibilities so that I feel well-prepared when I get there. But recently, the third trimester has been getting me a bit down. Occasionally I call people for work and their first response is “You’re still working!?” and I feel a bit sad that I am, when I’d love to be devoting my mental energy to being present and enjoying the process of change and discovery that is happening within me each day. Or I have one particular coworker who loves to share her observations on my pregnancy with me; including but not limited to “I can tell you’re ready to have the baby because the whole shape of your face has changed!” or, “Wow! Your belly has grown two inches since I saw you last (like a week before)!”, or the time she told me her entire birth story which ended in an emergency c-section and complaints about the post-labor recovery rooms at the hospital where I’m delivering. On the flip side, there are many people I work with who seem unsympathetic to the fatigue and mental fog that can descend in the third trimester and I struggle to try to do my job well while also acknowledging and respecting the changing space I’m in. My bubble of peace is becoming both necessary and critical to maintaining my self-image and sanity during the last few weeks. I have lamented the metamorphosis of my body in small ways throughout my pregnancy, but this last month has been the hardest for me because the physical changes have been more noticeable. During the first trimester I felt fatigue as if I’d pulled several all nighters in a row, and now I feel that too (and let’s be honest – I’m sort of doing that with how little sleep I get), but my body ALSO sometimes feels like I was run over by a truck. Which is lovely.
I’m not here to complain. I know it’s easy to complain about the discomforts of a changing body and the challenges of preparing for a new, helpless, member of the family. What’s less easy is embracing those changes with grace, gratitude for the experience and process, and acknowledgment of the strength that will come from those struggles. I think learning to embrace the challenges will make me a better mother, wife, and person. Which is not to say I don’t feel the discomforts and stressors – I just try to reframe them in my mind to something that offers a positive outcome.
These are my thoughts today. Though I sometimes lose perspective, it is important to remember what a gift it s to have a healthy body capable of building a new human. I am eager to meet our new addition, but trying to savor this valuable time where I am simply me.