Flexing my uterine muscles

I had my first contraction last night. It was unmistakable. My entire uterus became hard – it’s usually firm while giving way beneath gentle prodding, but it became hard and immovable. It grabbed all of my attention. I tried to relax and sink into the pain, accepting it. I rolled off the ball I was sitting on, onto the floor, my knees spread apart to allow me to fold over into a sort of child’s pose.

Labour, y’all. It’s gonna be a challenge. I’m so excited!

Until now, I’ve had some cramping, some contracting that I couldn’t feel except by pushing into my belly from the outside, and the lower back achiness that I always get before menstruating. This was the first sign that LABOUR is coming. It excited me, but it also freaked me out. Are we ready? Can one ever be ready?? I’ve been thinking I was about a 9/10 in terms of readiness. Last night, I thought – I’m 0/10! How can you ever be ready for something this huge!

From the frivolous (has everyone I care about had a chance to feel him moving in my belly?) to the existential (do we know how to take care of a helpless human who is going to LIVE with us?) my mind was weighted down with the realness of the transition that was potentially before us.

This inaugural contraction was precipitated by my walking back and forth in my home, as it was too cold to go for an actual walk, and then by my sitting on my yoga ball and rolling my hips around while I read. So – on the agenda for today: Big. Long. Walk.

Come on out, little one! We’re “ready” for you!

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37 weeks: Wait, what?

Somehow I’m 37 weeks, AKA full term. Everyone told me the baby would be here before I knew it, and I silently thought “yeah, right. It will be FOREVER. You just don’t understand my unique circumstances in relation to the dragging of time and the desiring of baby.”

I was wrong. It’s here, and I can’t believe it.

The strangest part about being full term is that this baby really could come at any time now. No matter how much sleep I’ve gotten, what tasks remain outstanding on our to-do list, what kind of mood I’m in – I could go into labour. In positive, energetic moments, I think bring it on! When I’m tired, or sore, or crabby, I think oh, I SO do not feel like being in labour right now.

Yet, I don’t have a say in any of this. I am at the mercy of my own body and of this seven pound creature who has been living inside of me for almost nine months.

I still don’t feel afraid of labour. I’m actually excited to experience it, to have my own story and memories of this amazing event that has fascinated humans for all of documented history. I wonder what it will be like for me: at what time of day will it happen? which of the upcoming dates will forever become special? for how long will I labour? … push? will it happen at home as planned, or will I need or want to go to the hospital at some point? how will I feel, physically and psychologically?

And then of course I wonder about what it will be like to meet this boy, what he’ll look like, what it will feel like to see and hold him. I wonder if it will take awhile to fall in love, or if it will be instant. I wonder if it will all feel real.

My midwife doesn’t think I’ll make it to my due date. This baby is big, and he is low. It really is any day now that everything will suddenly and remarkably change for us.

37 weeks

37 weeks

35 & 36 weeks: Thoughtluck

Between the fatigue and the absentmindedness, this seems like a good time to forgo narrative structure in favour of a random collection of thoughts:

  • This strikes all the right notes with my funny bone (despite it also being a little sad). “I preg!!” has become a catch phrase around here – A and I have found it to be quite a useful way to explain all pregnancy-related issues.
  • After a one km walk following which I needed a nap, I’ve discovered that walking makes me achy and exhausted, while standing is basically fine. I can cook standing up for an hour, but if I need to walk the one block to the grocery store to pick something up? Ow.
  • The baby is head down! Great job, baby!
  • A friend gifted A and I with the most wonderful baby shower. I never would have guessed how meaningful it would be to celebrate this major transition with some of the great people we know and love. It really made things feel more real and more special – which is helpful for first-time parents for whom “having a baby” is only an abstract concept. And, particularly because none of our friends have children, it’s also nice to see people one last time before we become all babybabybabybabybaby.
  • Oh, the insomnia. Not fun. My heart goes out to anyone who suffers with it on a regular basis. Thankfully, I’ve begun sleeping better again–probably because the baby has started to drop into my pelvis, and thus away from my lungs and stomach. Turns out breathing and not having scorching, constant pain in one’s throat are essential to a good night’s sleep. By the way, women who are pregnant with twins? I want to hug you šŸ˜¦
  • Buuut I still can’t breathe all that well. When I go up a flight of stairs I’m totally out of breath. I actually started to wonder if I was always this way but just hadn’t noticed, but A assured me that I did not, in fact, used to consider slowly walking up 14 steps a feat of athleticism.
  • Also: SO. HOT. As a naturally slender person, I usually heat up and get cool off really quickly. Now, I’m always warm. Even at night, when it’s well below zero outside, I have the covers off for a decent portion of the night. I can hardly believe this because usually at the first sign of winter I’m all flannel sheets! Body heat! Covers!
  • Pregnancy is weird.
  • It’s ironic that we give birth at nine months, when we’re at peak discomfort and fatigue. In my non-pregnant, well-rested state, I could totally have like five babies in a row probably. Now, i find myself thinking at least once a day, I’d be waaaaay too tired and uncomfortable to be in labour right now.
  • Sometimes the baby gets the hiccups, which feels like a little rhythmic tapping from deep in my belly. Think about that. A small human is hiccuping inside of me. Mindboggling, no?

Since I’m a few days behind in getting this post up, I’m actually going to be 37 weeks (AKA full term) in just a few days. That means that I’m no longer just having a baby soon – I’m HAVING A BABY SOON.

I guess it’s time to get to that to-do list of things that have been waiting until the baby would be here soon? Thankfully babies need pretty much nothing but a pair of breasts and a warm body or two when they arrive – can’t really screw that up.

35 weeks

35 weeks

36 weeks

36 weeks

 

Holy life, batman.

I was crunching on a bowl of peanut butter panda puffs this morning and thinking about how eating cereal right away after pouring the soymilk on it is so important to avoiding a soggy bowl of cereal. And that got me thinking that this was something I had to learn after eating probably many soggy bowls of cereal as a kid. This in turn made me think about how there are so many little bits of knowledge like this that we take for granted, but that we had to learn by trial and error because they aren’t innate.

I mean, so many things. And it’s ongoing. In my first decade, I learned basic truths about how things work. Things like, if I’m walking exactly in the middle of the sidewalk, my mum walking beside me isn’t actually also walking in the middle just by virtue of being beside me – no, she is being pushed off the sidewalk. Or if I gather up cherry blossoms and throw them on passing cars with my friend, they will not think we’re brightening their day with beautiful confetti, but may in fact stop the car and get out, furious, while I run away scared I’ll be in trouble because I haven’t yet learned how to articulate my good intentions.

In my second decade, I learned how to interact with people socially, in a way that involved more depth than simply a shared interest in trading stickers or Zack Morris. Not a lot more depth, but it was qualitatively different. Navigating those early friendships and relationships was fraught with perils and we were all too young to know how to manage hiccups, like conflict and jealousy, that are explosive when handled by teenagers experiencing them for the first time. We didn’t know how to recognize who we were and how we felt, so instead we dealt with problems by complaining to others, by becoming angry, by ignoring them. We had so, so much to learn.

Then, my twenties – figuring out how to put together a life, making decisions that would significantly impact the trajectory of my life without even realizing it. Travel (where, with whom?), jobs (what, where?), education (when, what, where?), hobbies (what, when?), career (what, where?), marriage (who, when?), kids (when, how many?)… these decisions were sometimes made on whims, and so informed by the random luck of context. As that decade swept me along, I became more content, more satisfied, more confident, and along with all of this, I think, I became a better person.

And now, my thirties. Figuring out how to be the kind of person, have the kind of character, I admire. How to be patient, kind, positive, reliable, trustworthy, humble, compassionate, forgiving, and strong. How to live with appreciation, maintain perspective, and keep my cool. Oh, life just starts to get so GOOD once you’ve figured out basic cause and effect, managing complex relationships, and the who, what and where of adult life, and you start to become more and more of this person whose company you quite enjoy.

This little baby inside of me doesn’t know any of this. He doesn’t even know about gravity yet, let alone how to keep his cereal crunchy, let alone how to cultivate his best self. And as I haven’t even yet learned what challenges and rewards these next decades of my life bring, our baby sure hasn’t either.

I’m so overwhelmed by all he has ahead of him to learn, constrained by youth and inexperience. These unteachable lessons, that we figure out for ourselves as we stumble along, trying and failing, unsure and oblivious, yet alarmingly confident – I think of what my son doesn’t yet know and my head spins. I hope he likes it, this business of living.

Elizabeth Stone reportedly wrote, “Making the decision to have a child… is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

I think I’m starting to understand what she meant.

33 & 34 weeks

Early in this pregnancy, I always knew exactly how pregnant I was. I couldn’t help it. I’m eight weeks and four days, I would think. I’m 11 weeks and five days.

While I’m no less absurdly excited about meeting this baby and discovering life as a mum, as a parent, I can no longer keep up with the rapidly flipping pages of the calendar. Just now, I spent a few minutes trying to figure out how far along I am. Am I 34 weeks? I thought. No, I can’t be, that would make me full term in less than three weeks. Wait, would it? Can any of this be right?

Why yes, I AM 34 weeks. And two days.

And there is a very strong little person sliding and poking around in my belly. His movements are visible from across a room, and they are so powerful as to be distracting.

33 weeks

33 weeks

I wonder what he’ll look like, and then later who he’ll become.

Will he have my husband’s easy temper? (I hope so.) Will he be sensitive, like I am? (Oh, I hope not overly so!) What about traits his parents have in common – our obsessions with logical outcomes, with fairness – will he be like us, or someone else altogether?

I can’t wait to meet this little person, this little abstract miracle I’m carrying around in my belly.

34 weeks

34 weeks

“Don’t fear difficult moments…”

I have no idea the context within which this was said, but it speaks to me regarding the experience of childbirth:

dont fear

This trailblazing woman died today at age 103. I figure she knows a thing or two about life.

31 & 32 weeks

Actually, it’s more like 32 and-a-half weeks by now, which means that I’ll be at term in less than FIVE weeks. Excuse me? While I can’t say that time has exactly flown by–I feel like I’ve been waiting forever… did I mention that patience is not a strong suit of mine?–I am still finding it a bit surreal that this baby could be here in as little as a month.

31 weeks

31 weeks

I went to my husband’s firm’s holiday party last week, and no fewer than three people asked conversationally if I’d be having a water birth. I’m pretty sure they’re benignly thinking she’s vegan, so she’s probably a hippie. While they’re somewhat right (ahem), I’m loathe to confirm that assumption, premised as it is on a stereotype that absolves them from considering veganism for themselves (i.e. vegans are hippies. I’m not a hippie. Ergo, I don’t need to be vegan.) Instead, I deflected the question by pointing out that water can be a source of pain relief for some women, and that I’m not yet sure if I’m one of them – which is true, although a more fulsome answer would be, “yeah! Do you have any recommendations for birthing pool rentals for my midwife-attended home birth? I’m totally going to give it a shot!”

While I’m not ashamed of my choices, which I’ve made based on evidence, lots of reading, and plenty of self-reflection about what’s right for me, I don’t campaign for them. Although aspects of healthcare delivery and the medicalization of birth are certainly in serious need of reform and worthy of speaking out about, it’s not an issue I feel compelled to take up at any opportunity. For the most part, I see circumstances surrounding birth largely as a personal choice. The progress we need is to ensure that women truly are given the information to make choices, not having procedures and policies imposed on them, such that women are able to make decisions in the best interests of themselves and of their babies.

My level of concern is much greater when it comes to the billions of animals who are being, no exaggeration, tortured and killed every year by us humans. It’s hard to defend complicity in this as a personal choice. A personal choice, by definition, doesn’t hurt others. Supporting industries that abuse animals, by definition, hurts others. As such, I don’t see veganism as simply a matter of personal choice.

My decisions around childbirth are not related in any way to my commitment to opting out of harming animals by living a vegan lifestyle. But as any vegan knows, when you’re one of the only vegans in the room, for better or worse you are a representative of veganism as a whole. Knowing this, I always want to be perceived as a “normal” person who just happens to be vegan. I want to be relatable and credible so that people can think “I’m like her, and she’s vegan – is this something I should be considering for myself, too?” So these days I tend to keep my personal views largely to myself (that is, my views that are actually personal, not my views that others mistakenly believe to be personal). I try not to do or say things that are good for me, that feed into my own self-concept, when those things might directly or indirectly harm these suffering animals who already have too few advocates.

Another topic that came up at the holiday party at least a couple of times was epidurals. Now, I don’t really care too much how other women approach pain management in childbirth, so long as it is undertaken with fully informed consent. If someone has researched her options and decided that she wants an epidural at the first sign of contractions, I say, Sounds great! Enjoy your hospital stay! Make sure to have plenty to do because you’ll probably be pretty bored otherwise! Can’t wait to meet your sweet healthy newborn, whom you love no less than I love mine!

But a planned epidural is just not right for me.

I think of childbirth as somewhat analogous to running a marathon. I have zero desire to run a marathon, because ow! Also, 5 km is plenty far enough to maintain good health! And why run when you can walk! But some people do run marathons, and they love it. The disciplined preparation, the pain, the self-doubt, and the eventual triumph over their minds and bodies… all of it is part of the marathon. Inherent in its difficulty is its reward. That is, the fact that a marathon is a challenge is what makes it worth doing.

And so it is, for me, with childbirth. I want to fully experience it at its rawest, to experience what billions of women before me (including my own mother) have experienced. When I doubt myself and then prove to myself that I can, in fact, rise to the challenge, I want to carry the knowledge of my own physical and mentalĀ  strength with me to other areas of my life. When my child, my firstborn, arrives, I want to think, You are my reward, and you are so worth it.

Thinking of giving birth with an epidural from the get-go feels anti-climatic to me. The baby isn’t here, and then he is here. While some women would say, um, ye-AH, exactly, that sounds perfect, that’s not how I feel. Instead, it feels disappointing, like a missed opportunity.

And did you know that an epidural is a giant needle in your spine?! Is it just me, or is that way more terrifying than the prospect of pain in childbirth? My palms are sweaty just thinking about it.

I can truly say I’m not afraid of giving birth. While I know it will suck at times, I also know that it will pass in a relative blink of an eye. I am a little nervous – but that nervousness comes from a place of excited anticipation, not apprehension. Bring it on. I can do this, and I will better for it.

32 weeks

32 weeks