Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reflections of a Mostly Pleasant Pregnancy

There’s really no way around it: the final month of pregnancy is extremely uncomfortable. You can stay active, watch your weight, eat right, stay hydrated and chant mantras until you’re blue in the face (I did very few of those things, but I’m just saying….you CAN). But in the end, the hormones, the swelling and the muscle and joint pain will get you. They will get you.

Once I realized how busy my summer would be, I made a deal with my baby: let’s hold off on all the unpleasantries until July is over. Sure enough, I had the energy to drive to (and ALL OVER) Eastern Washington and North Idaho for a long weekend of weddings in late July (at 32 weeks pregnant, by myself) and have “stuff” going on almost every single day of that month (I think I had two days total where all I had to do was work), only to wake up on August 1 nauseated and aching from head to toe but smiling because she kept her promise. 

Now suddenly I’m in what could very well be my final days of pregnancy, my final weeks for certain. Despite the fact that it seems like I’ve been pregnant forever (especially when I think about the fact that my last martini was in JANUARY), to say that went by fast was an understatement. It’s like I blinked and I grew a human. A lot of life was lived this year. The only consistency has been change.

I consider myself very lucky because I’ve managed to avoid some of the more unpleasant side effects. No gestational diabetes, no pre eclampsia, no HG (morning sickness too severe to drink water), no high blood pressure and, knock wood, no visible stretch marks yet (though I keep hearing there is still time). I have not cried over food, I have not lashed out at friends or strangers, I have not wanted to murder my husband.

But that doesn’t mean it has been a walk in the park. No pregnancy ever is. There have been swollen feet, nausea, fatigue, fogginess, “pregnancy brain,” anxiety, stress, body aches, rib pain, popping and cracking of joints as they expand, moodiness / wanting to kill strangers, road rage and a brief encounter with something called a PUPP rash which is not as cute as it sounds. Pregnancy is not for the weak, and I remain absolutely convinced that a lot of people couldn’t handle it. In fact, no one should ever HAVE to handle it that doesn’t want to….but that’s another post for another time.

Still, even as I sit here with a big old belly, a fat face and swollen everything trying to stay awake because I no longer sleep more than two hours without getting up to pee or roll my giant self over, knowing full well I’ve always wanted to do this just once and it’s almost over, I know I’ll have times when I miss it.

I can’t explain what it is like to grow another life from the first heartbeats to the final kicks and punches on the way out. It has changed me profoundly in ways I never expected...not in the stereotypical sanctimonious “Life is sacred from conception! Babies are blessings!” annoying bullshit ways, but in others. I am humbled and I am in awe at what my body is capable of doing. I see it not only as a superficial thing but as something I need to respect. I am much more wary and paranoid on the streets now. Unfortunately my neighborhood no longer feels safe to me, and as much as it will break my heart, we will leave it when our lease is up. I trust strangers less as a whole, but I also value human kindness of strangers more. I know a lot of women hear some really shitty comments when they’re pregnant, but I’ve received more smiles, compliments, kind words and gestures than I ever have in my life. I’m extremely grateful for that.
A somewhat  creepy but very cool image sent by a dear friend.

And while I’m so very excited to meet this little girl who has been kicking, punching and rolling in me for months, whose hiccups stop me in my tracks with their cuteness, and show her the world….I know I need to cherish these last few days or weeks where it’s just us. I haven’t been weirded out by people touching my belly or talking to her because I’m excited to introduce her to others. I want her to see it all, to experience it all, to know the world. I don’t want to be one of “those moms.” Sure I’ll cry on her first day of kindergarten and worry myself to death while she’s on her first date. But once that umbilical cord is cut, it’s cut. I owe her, and myself, that.

But for the last nine months I have been the one solely responsible for her life and her safety. She has been with me every step of the way during this emotional, difficult year, and I know I’ll have days where I’ll miss those little reassuring kicks and punches. And the hiccups. Seriously, baby hiccups in utero are the sweetest things ever. No joke. 

This year has been full of difficult lessons, but one thing I’ve learned is that I need to release my need to control an outcome. I can’t fully control when I’m going to have more than enough writing work and when I’m going to struggle for it. I can’t control what happens to my loved ones. I can’t control how my friends will, or won’t, accept me as a mother or even how I’m going to be as one. I couldn’t control when Dexter got sick or stop him from dying in our arms. I couldn’t control when my grandfather decided he’d had enough of this life and it was time to move on. And I can’t control when this baby will make her debut.

So basically, until then, life remains a giant question mark. I wake up every morning knowing I might be full of energy or in too much pain and too fatigued to do anything. I clean my apartment, just in case. And then I sit down at my laptop and get as much advance work done as I can possibly do, knowing that I need the checks to keep rolling in even while I’m figuring out how to care for a new tiny human and can’t work. 

And in the meantime, I cherish every kick, punch and hiccup.

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