If you’ve ever been pregnant, you may have noticed that around month eight or nine, people stop asking “How are you?” and start asking “How are you feeling?” I was never quite sure how to answer that question. Normal? Normal, but pregnant? I never reached a point of feeling terrible in general, and it seemed weird to complain about specifics like stiff fingers and a constant need to urinate, so I usually said I was feeling good. I think by the ninth month, I had become so used to being pregnant that it didn’t really bother me any more. Discomforts existed. I carried on. I did keep running into walls with my stomach because I would forget how far out there it was though…
At the end of August, I taught my final aerial silks class (I had been teaching and taking aerial arts at a studio downtown ever since April). Apparently, it’s frowned upon to swing around in the air at 36 weeks. The temp job had I taken on had also ended, knocking me down from four jobs to just two – Starbucks was early morning shifts (usually 5 AM), while David’s Bridal had been cut back to just a few short evening shifts a week. People expressed concern about me standing for six hours straight at Starbucks or getting up and down off the floor to pin hems at David’s, but I kept showing up and kept doing it, and eventually, they stopped seeming worried. As long as I was still physically capable of doing the tasks necessary for each of my jobs, I saw no reason to take time off. Granted, there were days I would work a double (both jobs in one day) and be pretty overcome by foot pain or exhaustion by the end, but I needed both the paychecks and the activity. If you don’t have to work in order to survive while pregnant, then sure, give yourself a break. However, I didn’t see the point of sitting at home focusing on my pregnancy and the discomforts that came with it. It was better for me to keep busy – even to the point of exhaustion – and keep my mind off of the quickly approaching trial of labor and delivery.
I mentioned at some point that I’m a workaholic, right? We had a joke at Starbucks that I would go into labor while on the job. I enjoyed terrorizing the women I worked with by telling them I would just keep working if I started having contractions and then drive myself home when they got closer together. I was only partly joking. Look, I didn’t know what contractions felt like yet. Until I experienced them and knew whether they would be intense or slight or completely paralyzing, I didn’t know how I was going to react. I was choosing to believe that they would be manageable pressure, and therefore, I firmly believed I would be able to carry on with life as normal until they became closer together and longer. I mean, the warm-up contractions were already a pain in the butt, and I carried on through them just fine. Ironically, I did end up unaware that I was in labor for an entire day… but I’ll save that story for the next post.
I loved the interaction I had with my chiropractor after I told him I had worked 30 hours in the prior three days:
Chiropractor: You know, most women slow down around 35-36 weeks.
Me: Hahahahahahahaha…. Oh, you’re serious?
I was 39 weeks.
There was a morning, just a few days before I gave birth, when my alarm went off at the typical 4 AM, and I realized that if I were to go into labor at that moment, I would not have the strength to make it through. I was simply too exhausted. So I got up, got dressed, and went to work anyway. I have serious issues with calling in. And resting, apparently.
In all honesty though, I was becoming pretty uncomfortable. My fingers were so swollen that my normally-loose ring wouldn’t come off at all, there was practically no easy way to sit anymore, and I was getting up to pee at least four times every night – even though I was only sleeping about six hours. The general lack of mobility was a hard one too. It comes slowly, so you don’t really notice it until one day you realize it just took you three whole minutes to maneuver yourself from the couch to an upright position. I mean, I was never a super energetic, fast-moving person before, but if a bug or child touched me, I could fly across the room at the speed of light. Now, there could have been a dozen spiders and toddlers climbing all over me, and I’d just be laying there writhing back and forth and screaming my head off.
While I was having trouble moving, my baby was not. A girl asked me around nine months if I was feeling butterflies. Oh, there was movement all right, but it was nothing like butterflies. In fact, I never would have described it that way. At the beginning, I had felt a rolling sensation in my lower abdomen that I thought was just gas for a long time. Luckily, I never had to deal with kicking – I know babies can actually bruise ribs by kicking so hard. My little girl just liked to stretch. She moved slowly and forcefully, actually pushing outward with her feet, back, and shoulders against the uterus walls. I could often see a little knot under my left ribs where she was jabbing me with her foot. She also liked to straight-up punch or head-butt my bladder a lot too. Always a pleasant surprise.
Besides keeping busy with work, I was also using this final month to read a lot. The midwives kept giving me books on things like natural birth, midwifery, water birth, hypno-birthing, non-violent birth, birth recovery, etc. and I would curl up in bed and skim through one each night before going to sleep. I garnered a lot of helpful information from these that typically made me feel more calm about and prepared for my own ordeal. I would highly suggest reading good material like that rather than random stories on the internet (which were the support behind many of my early-term anxiety attacks).
Reading all these books is also what solidified my desire to write about my experience. First of all, I just found it super comforting to read the birth stories provided throughout – I guess it gives a sense of community, of not being alone in this process nor being the first to go through this experience. However, I also noticed that all of these books assumed two things: that you had some sort of birth partner present with you through your term and delivery, and that you would be raising your baby. Though they typically used general terminology like “birth partner” to include any form of relationship a mother-to-be might be a part of, none of the authors ever talked about what you should do if you are alone in this, nor did anyone seem to consider the possibility of a recovery in which the baby is not present and the affect that might have on the mother.
That really led me to want to talk about my specific situation more, in hopes that if someone else is going though something similar, they may find comfort or just helpful information in my writing. There are so many situations and stories that can surround a child’s beginning. No one should ever have to feel like they are alone in theirs. Someone out there understands. Someone has been through what you are going through. Someone can always help.