Tuesday, April 24, 2012

40 weeks: i made it to my due date

Well, here I am, 40 weeks pregnant. I can't believe today is my due date, because it doesn't feel any more significant than the days before it. At any rate, my day started at 3:00 a.m. today when I got out of bed on account of my crazy hormones, insomnia, and inability to lie down without one of my limbs going numb. I've gotten rather used to those wee hours of the night, watching the sun come up from the couch I've spent the majority of the past 40 weeks sitting on. At this point, my entire existence feels like it's been crushed up and whirled in a blender, leaving me entirely discombobulated. My sense of time is pretty much that of a newborn—never quite sure if it's day or night, and never able to act accordingly. I can't seem to move forward or backward, but instead hang and float in what appears to be never-ending stillness and nothingness.  My past life, and past self, have long faded away, yet my new life and self still feel so far out of reach. I know I am waiting for my baby, but I'm also waiting to feel connected to this world again, to feel anchored to an identity and move along with time and space like I used to.

In the last 40 minutes, the weather outside has gone from partly cloudy to raining heavily to hailing like crazy to snowing to sunny, bright and clear…..oh, wait, back to snowing…..and back to partly cloudy. I don't know how those weather patterns are possible in such a short span of time, and I wondered for a moment if I had tipped past being a walking zombie into full-on hallucination. But, somehow the confusion and chaos outside my window, the utter lack of decisiveness on the atmosphere's part, makes sense to me today.

To me, these last days of pregnancy feel awfully similar to the days when my husband and I were trying to conceive. Both of us are constantly obsessed with what is or isn't happening inside my body, wondering if I feel "different" in any way that may indicate some progress, waiting for "it" to finally happen. Meanwhile, those around us are increasingly curious about the state of our intimate affairs, asking if it's happened yet, hovering. It's interesting how sex and birth, two of the most private, intimate acts that exist, somehow become public affairs. Given that, let the public record show that as of today, my due date, there are many changes occurring inside my body, but instead of talking about them or what those changes mean as far as when this baby is going to arrive, I will leave it a mystery. My husband and I created this baby in such a secluded, amazingly intimate and meaningful way and shared a quiet, wonderful moment together before the sun rose one summer morning discovering that we were no longer two, but three. In the same way, the rest of this journey is for us. These are the rare experiences in life that change you, that open up your soul and allow it to fuse to another's in a permanent, magical way. And so, together, we wait.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

watch the belly grow

I wanted to do a month-by-month photo sequence of the past 10 months, but it didn't quite work out. So, I decided to throw all my photos into a slideshow, add some music, and call it a day. I'm bummed that half of the photos are super poor quality, thanks to my camera breaking halfway through pregnancy (hallelujah it's finally fixed now!), but it's still a nice little memory to look back on. Watch the belly grow…

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

39 weeks

I'm bored with relaxing and doing nothing, but that's all I can do—that pretty much sums up my existence at this point. It's incredible how different I feel in my body every day now, rather than the slow progression of the rest of pregnancy. The experience only grows in intensity (and discomfort) the closer I get to the end. And when will that end be?? That is what's on my mind constantly—it's impossible not to think about (though it's more of a crazy curiosity than wanting to hurry it along).

I have to say, even though I am pretty whiny right now, I still feel okay with the waiting (as long as it's not 90 degrees like it was yesterday;). That seems contrary to what a lot of women experience at the end, but I've always been a lover of the anticipation stage that comes before any exciting event. I love the build-up, the daydreaming, the giddy impatience—all of that seems to make my experiences all the more rich and appreciated on a deeper level when they actually happen….almost to the point of feeling drugged with happiness. For instance, every time I picked my husband up at the airport when we were long-distance dating, the day I finally moved to be with him, the day he proposed, our wedding day, well….I felt high. High on endorphins thanks to all the anticipation, that is:) Don't get me wrong, I definitely experience crazy impatience, but I somehow embrace and surrender to the impatience. I've always done this, because I have this constant, consuming awareness of the transience of life. I insist on savoring everything (you should see how slowly I eat a piece of cake). So, as crazy as the end of pregnancy can make a woman, especially with all the hormones and body parts that I cannot control, I think I'm doing a pretty good job of savoring the experience. With all the discomfort and irritability comes a richness and a connection to something much larger than us—that is something worth slowing down to notice. 

I'm trying to focus my thoughts on lighter topics (for the sake of this post) and have only proved to myself that there is no pulling out of this highly mediative, introspective, pregnancy/labor/childbirth-centric mind state that I am in until this baby is out of me. Sure, I could talk about how I look like a penguin when I walk waddle around now, or how excited I am to feel my vital organs return to their original locations in my body because I'm sick of feeling a lump of intestines right under my boob, or the forlorn look on my face that cracks my husband up as I struggle to flip over in bed, but I can't concentrate enough on those (possibly more entertaining) things to form sentences. 

Will there be a post next week?! I love how unpredictable and exciting the answer to that is! I could be right here, like every other week, talking to you OR my entire life as I've known it for 31 years could have faded away and been replaced with an entirely new existence. Oh my...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

the last days of pregnancy

My doula sent me the link to this beautiful and accurate description of the end of pregnancy, the waiting period, the place I am in right now. Perhaps it's just the hormones, but I found the words so moving I decided to re-post them here (original found here)… 

The Last Days of Pregnancy: A Place of In-Between

She’s curled up on the couch, waiting, a ball of baby and emotions. A scrambled pile of books on pregnancy, labor, baby names, breastfeeding…not one more word can be absorbed. The birth supplies are loaded in a laundry basket, ready for action. The freezer is filled with meals, the car seat installed, the camera charged. It’s time to hurry up and wait. Not a comfortable place to be, but wholly necessary.

The last days of pregnancy— sometimes stretching to agonizing weeks—are a distinct place, time, event, stage. It is a time of in between. Neither here nor there. Your old self and your new self, balanced on the edge of a pregnancy. One foot in your old world, one foot in a new world.
Shouldn’t there be a word for this state of being, describing the time and place where mothers linger, waiting to be called forward?
Germans have a word, zwischen, which means between. I’ve co-opted that word for my own obstetrical uses. When I sense the discomfort and tension of late pregnancy in my clients, I suggest that they are now in The Time of Zwischen. The time of in between, where the opening begins. Giving it a name gives it dimension, an experience closer to wonder than endurance.
I tell these beautiful, round, swollen, weepy women to go with it and be okay there. Feel it, think it, don’t push it away. Write it down, sing really loudly when no one else is home, go commune with nature, or crawl into your own mama’s lap so she can rub your head until you feel better. I tell their men to let go of their worry; this is an early sign of labor. I encourage them to sequester themselves if they need space, to go out if they need distraction, to enjoy the last hours of this life-as-they-now-know-it. I try to give them permission to follow the instinctual gravitational pulls that are at work within them, just as real and necessary as labor.
The discomforts of late pregnancy are easy to Google: painful pelvis, squished bladder, swollen ankles, leaky nipples, weight unevenly distributed in a girth that makes scratching an itch at ankle level a feat of flexibility.  “You might find yourself teary and exhausted,” says one website, “but your baby is coming soon!” Cheer up, sweetie, you’re having a baby. More messaging that what is going on is incidental and insignificant.
What we don’t have is reverence or relevance—or even a working understanding of the vulnerability and openness a woman experiences at this time. Our language and culture fails us. This surely explains why many women find this time so complicated and tricky. But whether we recognize it or not, these last days of pregnancy are a distinct biologic and psychological event, essential to the birth of a mother.
We don’t scientifically understand the complex hormones at play that loosen both her hips and her awareness.  In fact, this uncomfortable time of aching is an early form of labor in which a woman begins opening her cervix and her soul. Someday, maybe we will be able to quantify this hormonal advance—the prolactin, oxytocin, cortisol, relaxin. But for now, it is still shrouded in mystery, and we know only how to measure thinning and dilation.
I believe that this is more than biological. It is spiritual. To give birth, whether at home in a birth tub with candles and family or in a surgical suite with machines and a neonatal team, a woman must go to the place between this world and the next, to that thin membrane between here and there. To the place where life comes from, to the mystery, in order to reach over to bring forth the child that is hers. The heroic tales of Odysseus are with us, each ordinary day. This round woman is not going into battle, but she is going to the edge of her being where every resource she has will be called on to assist in this journey.
We need time and space to prepare for that journey. And somewhere, deep inside us, at a primal level, our cells and hormones and mind and soul know this, and begin the work with or without our awareness.
I call out Zwischen in prenatals as a way of offering comfort and, also, as a way of offering protection. I see how simple it is to exploit and abuse this time. A scheduled induction is seductive, promising a sense of control. Fearful and confused family can trigger a crisis of confidence. We are not a culture that waits for anything, nor are we believers in normal birth; waiting for a baby can feel like insanity. Giving this a name points her toward listening and developing her own intuition. That, in turn, is a powerful training ground for motherhood.
Today, I am waiting for a lovely new mother named Allison to call me, to announce that her Zwischen is ended and labor has begun. I am in my own in between place, waiting. My opportunity to grow and open is a lovely gift she gives me, in choosing me to attend her birth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

lucky elephants and wise owls

I finally got around to finishing the art for baby girl's room! I'm pretty happy with the way it all turned out. Aren't they just happy, peaceful looking animals?


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

38 weeks

My level of exhaustion right now is unreal, and it's not at all helped by the raging end 'o pregnancy insomnia I'm experiencing. I thought I knew insomnia before, but this is far worse than anything I've ever known. The other night I got up at 1:00 a.m. (to pee, of course) and was awake until 7:30 a.m. Are you f@#%ing kidding me?!!! I keep hearing that it's nature's way of preparing me for the sleepless nights that are literally just days away from beginning. And the number of times I pee in a day? Also ridiculous. There's nothing more baby girl enjoys playing with than my bladder, especially if there's some liquid in it…..yay, it's squishy, fun! I will pee and not 5 minutes later she will turn her head side to side (getting cozy on her pillow?) and I'm running for the bathroom again. The other fun thing she likes to play with is my hip bone—so weird. She pushes on the edge of her womb until she finds it and then pokes it, over and over. I feel her little fingers sort of pawing it like a cat….creepiest feeling. Lastly, baby girl has not gotten the memo that her movements are supposed to be more lax in these final days, given her cramped quarters. I've got to try to videotape her crazy fits, but it's hard to predict. It literally looks like she's trying to break my belly open so she can free herself, and given the fact that she's a full-sized baby now, it's quite the show.

This waiting is a crazy experience. It's such an intense mode of living. I feel like I'm constantly operating at an animal level—all instinct and filled with an intense sort of "knowing" at all times. Yet, I'm no longer feeling like I want it to be over with….it's a calm sense of waiting. The waiting has made it increasingly difficult for me to leave my house over the past month or so, and this week it's reached the level of feeling tears well up when I step out the front door. I feel like I should not leave until the baby arrives. I feel her coming and feel like I need someone to put an empty cardboard box in a dark closet so I can crawl inside and shut the door. My days float by so quickly while I hang in some foreign kind of dreamlike haze, totally incapable of keeping my thoughts straight, my days straight. My sense of time is totally warped right now, as if it no longer exists or it's rushing past me and I'm standing still. Wow, I think I need a nap…I can feel myself not making sense. 

Meanwhile, I've never seen my husband so anxious. He's fidgety and it looks as if he's preparing for the apocalypse. He rushes about, tying up loose ends and desperately trying to finish everything that will need finishing for about the next 3 years. My favorite thing is that he's started putting in requests with me. "Can I just ask you to not go into labor in the next two days? I have some really important copies to make at work." Or, "it would really be ideal if you could go into labor next Thursday, because then my work schedule for the next month would work out perfectly." I know it's just his silly way of pretending he has some sort of control over this entirely unpredictable event, for which we will never feel prepared enough for. Regardless, it makes me laugh because it sounds like part of him believes I can oblige him.

I think one of the most amazing parts of this experience right now is all the love that already exists for this little baby. It's really incredible how we anticipate the arrival of a new human being—the excitement, the joy, the impatience to shower this being with affection, though none of us have met her before. Watching my family and friends, and most especially our parents, join us in all those emotions has been a beautiful thing. My father, for one, is about to explode on account of his overwhelming emotions and anticipation. The man is two steps away from moving in with me tomorrow so he doesn't miss a second of the waiting or the arrival. I never expected that type of reaction from him (or anyone really), but it has made all of this all the more meaningful.

Friday, April 6, 2012

mourning the end of gestation

I've gotten so used to the thought "when is this going to be over?" always lurking in the back of my head these past 37+ weeks, that this new wave of emotion I'm experiencing has taken me by surprise. I mentioned the other day that I was feeling nostalgic about pregnancy, but it's much more than that. I have gradually slipped into a state of mourning over the end of pregnancy, and I now find myself genuinely sad at the thought of no longer being pregnant. Never did I think I'd ever utter those words given how challenging and uncomfortable pregnancy has been, but those words are the truth. And wouldn't you know, every book and every woman I mention it to says this is an incredibly common phenomenon.

For the first half of pregnancy, all I could think about was wanting to rush through the experience, because I was so sick and miserable. As grateful as I was to be pregnant, and as amazed as I was by what was happening inside my body, it was definitely a challenge to look past the sickness at that point. Then came the second half of pregnancy, during which I developed such a strong bond with my baby girl that I have been beside myself impatient to meet her. But now….now I have entered this interesting/surprising phase. I am so close to finally holding my baby that I can almost feel her here already and it's complete bliss, but at the same time I've begun to realize that meeting her means no longer being the pregnant lady. Yes, I have many complaints at week 37, and yes, it's uncomfortable and exhausting, but I love being pregnant (though it's taken me a long while to feel that way). I've always been fascinated and mesmerized by pregnant women and now I am one. 

Of course, a large part of mourning the end is mourning the intimacy I now share with my child. A mother has the incredible honor of sharing herself with her baby, being completely intertwined and connected. A mother is the first person to know and bond with this new human being, the first person that child will recognize when she enters the world. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like that experience. And as many times as I've told my husband throughout my pregnancy that I wish he could "hold" the baby for awhile so I could take a break, I now realize that I will have to share her with the world and she'll no longer be right by my side (or rather insides) all day and night. Giving birth to her means the beginning of letting her go. Of course, she will spend the majority of her first hours and days (and probably years) attached to my body in some form, but never in this same way.

But, this mourning goes deeper than losing the intimacy of pregnancy. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this, but since I've been pregnant I've never felt so special. Pregnant women are just special.  Everyone wants to know how you are doing, everyone wants to talk to you about what you're going through, people smile at you like you are a magical being (and you are because, hello, you are creating life!), your husband is in awe of you and waits on you like you are royalty, and incredible new bonds are formed with those around you. It's not so much the attention that I love though, it's what's behind the attention—the miracle of life. People are drawn to a pregnant belly (and to you), because it's truly magical. It's incredible that two people can share a steamy encounter and end up with a whole new human being in their lives. It's even more incredible that the female body is capable of making that happen. I think that is where the love lies for me. 

Being pregnant has allowed me to find a kind of respect, appreciation and love for my body and my womanhood that I never thought was possible. Being pregnant has allowed me to stop looking at my body in superficial terms, to stop the constant chatter of self-criticism in my head….and to stop feeling so insignificant and powerless. That last bit takes a lot for me to admit, but the experience of pregnancy is that profound, that intense in terms of spiritual growth (at least it has been for me). I've struggled with a lack of feeling ownership over my own body for most of my life, which has deeply affected every aspect of who I am. But now, I not only have a sense of ownership, but I have a sense of pride. I have claimed my womanhood, I have claimed my body in all its glory. I am strong and I have created a strong, healthy life within me. I can look in the mirror for the first time in my life and not pick apart my reflection, but instead smile at every curve, giggle at the roundness of my belly, ignore the billion changes to my body, because this is my body's destiny: to grow life, to birth life, to be a mother. And it's nothing short of beautiful. 

I am sure I will struggle with my reflection in the wake of giving birth and having to accept my postpartum figure, but maybe if I can remember this feeling I have now, it will make that experience a little less difficult. It's just so freeing to finally understand what true beauty is….to not feel myself totally wrapped up in our country's warped view of what a woman should be: thin, young, large-breasted, scantily clad….perfect. It's freeing to see my body for what it truly is rather than a vessel for men (and women, for that matter) to scrutinize. It's freeing, even if this feeling/understanding is temporary.

And so, I mourn the end of pregnancy. But, I know the profound spiritual shift will continue and that's something to look forward to. All these realizations only further explain why it is that I feel that my life is just about to begin, as those other 30 years fade into the horizon. Becoming a mother has allowed me to become the woman I always wanted to become.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

37 weeks

Today I am full-term! Yay! It's incredible how preoccupied my brain is with thoughts of labor at this point. Many women begin labor several weeks or over a month before giving birth—it's just a slow, gradual process. Well, I am definitely one of those women. I notice every little shift in my body and it's definitely gearing up for the big show, which is exciting as heck, but also a bit nerve-wracking.

I had another false alarm this weekend at Whole Foods and ended up buying half the store out of fear that we wouldn't make it to the grocery store for weeks if I gave birth that afternoon. Stockpiling and collecting goods seems to be a huge pattern right now regardless. I envision myself building piles of acorns or twigs for my nest all the time because it feels that instinctual, except my pile is less practical (think 4 extra bottles of dish soap and enough string cheese to last until August). At any rate, the grocery store felt like the perfect place to go into labor because at least I'd know we were all stocked up. It also provided a way to time my contractions without a watch. 

"When was the last one, dear?"

"In the spaghetti aisle."

"And how long did it last?"

"From the time I found that expensive sauce on sale until I made my way to the yogurt section."

But, after an hour of semi-painful contractions the show stopped. I'm still pregnant. But, not for long! That's the part that's really got my attention, because I am in complete shock about it (and constantly assessing my body for signs of labor). Alex is out of his mind trying to come to grips with the reality of me going into labor too, so things are pretty interesting in our house right now. 

This tank top speaks the truth. At the
moment I have 2 shirts that actually
fit and cover my belly
(clearly, this isn't one of them).

There is nothing like the experience of becoming parents, especially the first time. And I find myself so nostalgic during this last stretch of pregnancy. I've been thinking back over the many stages I've gone through—the roller coaster ride of trying to conceive, the first signs that we may have been successful, the day we found out we were pregnant, the (very) small window of time where I looked and felt normal, the months I refused to believe it was true, seeing our baby chipmunk/alien on an ultrasound the first time, hearing the heartbeat, the months of agonizing nausea and complete disgust with all food and all smells, those first kicks from the tiniest, most gentle little baby feet, seeing arms and legs appear underneath my skin, falling in love with my daughter and having her all to myself in the most intimate way that only I will ever be able to experience.

It's interesting to watch my hormones shift to this gooey, nostalgic, lovey-dovey place. Mother nature is surely preparing me to bond with my spawn, and I'm not the only one. There was a point several weeks ago when I felt a profound shift inside my body, as if I could somehow physically and emotionally feel the focus become preparing for labor and birth rather than the focus being all about growing the baby. And it was at this exact point that I noticed a profound shift in Alex as well. He is insane about finishing house projects and making our house "cozy" (something that he never seemed to care about before). His talks with the baby have grown longer, and I find him sitting in the rocking chair in the nursery by himself, gazing at all the baby gear in an attempt to understand how real this all is. And his protectiveness….woah. I feel like I have a bodyguard when I go out in public with him. 

As uncomfortable as it is to suddenly be the size of a house and less agile than a turtle who got stuck in his shell, I am actually quite fond of the end of pregnancy. I feel stronger, more confident, excited (and nervous), closer than ever to my husband, and my body feels like a sacred, beautiful gift. And the amazing thing is that I know all of those feelings will grow exponentially when I have conquered the greatest challenge of my life: childbirth.