Week 37: Expectations While Pregnant
As planned, we had our Home Visit this week to commence my 37th week of pregnancy. In my home, we showed our midwife and her student midwife each room, explaining where I thought I might want to labor and where I might want to birth (our bedroom/bathroom area). We went through all the supplies which were organized into brown paper bags and zip-lock baggies labeled: Mom, Baby, Warm, as we were instructed to do so. We were given a list of things to get done as soon as possible: make my padsicles, grocery shop, have husband read through Emergent Birth and Day Of Handouts, get important phone numbers posted. And, while all of this could seem very overwhelming, now that we’ve reached Week 37, and I can officially birth at home (so long as I don’t surpass 42 weeks), I feel ready.
There’s still a lot to do! I expected, by now, to be feeling like more of a homebody than normal, nesting, and resting. Instead, I managed to fit in one more outing before winding down for the home stretch. As we speak, we’re headed back home after a jam-packed weekend with two of my closest girlfriends. Even though we were busy, I felt I was able to relax more away than I could at home. Funny how that happens.
This week’s focus is on Expectations, because at this point in my pregnancy, all I can do is expect what comes next. There’s a reason why a common pregnancy phrase is “She’s expecting.”
Words are funny. We use them and know generally what they mean, but after a while, we use words so freely, we forget about the heft behind them.
The definition of expectation is “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” The thing that has been unsettling me lately is this definition. Strong belief is not concrete. It is not certain. There is a strong possibility that something will happen, but it is not definite. It is not yet tangible. We don’t know what it will look like, not exactly.
Even though I have something physically growing inside me, I still cannot visualize my child. I keep trying to think about what I expect him to look like, imagine what he looks like behind the skin and organs that separates us from touching hands. I feel him kick and try to figure out if its his foot, or his hand, or knee, or elbow, and then I try to conceptualize how another human being is fitting inside me wedged between my organs, but it still does not feel quite definitive to me.
There was a book that was popular back in the 90’s when my mom was going through her pregnancies, “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” They still actually have it, and it also inspired a horrible romantic comedy. It’s a catchy title, but I’m not sure that “expecting” things makes my future feel any more certain or clear or ready.
I’m choosing to lean into that uncertainty right now. Last week, when I struggled to articulate what I wanted when it came to simple preferences for my labor and birth, my doula suggested that I start thinking about my labor with more certainty. Basically, act as if I can control, or choose, what day he will arrive, what time of day, where I imagine laboring, how long it will last and how it will unfold. Even though I may not have the ability to will this all into existence, some believe that the power of thought can. Even if it doesn’t, it might help me feel better between now and then, so why not give it a try? [the control freak in me relishes the idea that this is actually possible].
Here we go:
Expected Birth Date
I am due on August 25, but I believe my son will be born on August 21. There’s a solar eclipse on this day and it’s also the day of a full moon. My doula told us that babies are often born around new moons and full moons. I’ve had this screenshot in my phone for a while now. New moon is August 7, full moon is August 21. August 21 sounds like the perfect spot. Right before due date, but pretty much fully cooked. Noteworthy because of the eclipse and full moon. My son also would be a Leo (since I don’t really want him to be a Virgo).
Expected Birth Time
I’d like a mid-morning birth. Mid-morning birth means that most of labor (so long as it doesn’t go for days on end - biggest fear) will occur during the night and early morning. I’m hoping to be able to sleep through most of the early part of first stage labor. I imagine that will be harder if it’s daytime.
Expected Birth Location
I want to give birth in our bedroom. It’s where I feel most comfortable in my home. Still, I have a nagging feeling that I’ll end up in a doorway. I hear that pressing against the framing of a door is a popular birthing spot due to the counter pressure so we’ll see. If I do give birth midday, our bedroom also becomes the warmest room in the house, so that might put a damper on things if it’s hot (as it has been lately). Even though I can’t really see myself birthing in the bathtub, baths relax me, so I plan to spend some or most of my labor in the water (either tub or shower).
Expected Labor Length
This feels the most awkward to visualize or make a declarative statement about. I don’t know anyone who has said confidently, “I will labor for ___ hours.” But, I’ve decided to do it. I was asked by my doula, and I said I’d like to labor for 7 to 8 hours (not counting early first stage labor which can be slept through, and you can seemingly carry on with your day for a while while going through it with minimal discomfort). I liken this length of time to a regular work shift. It’s not so long that it seems unmanageable, but it’s not so short that it unfolds too rapidly. I can do 7-8 hours. It gives time to get settled, accept what is happening, get our birthing attendants in line, notify family and friends, and it’s still not too long to worry about over-exhaustion and fatigue, strain, etc.
With all these expectations in place, and feeling some sort of certainty that he will arrive in a few weeks time, I’ve made some (and followed through on) plans to get myself ready for my birth: we just finished our visit to LA, next I'll attend a friend's baby shower the following weekend and spend time with my family who are planning to visit (I’m expecting to put my dad to work on some things around the house with my husband), a prenatal massage the following week since I’m wrapping up with work/beginning my maternity leave, and after all that, all that's left is D-day.
I’m trying to soak up these last few weeks of my pregnancy. I know it's very possible that any other pregnancy I could have might not go the same, but I enjoy being pregnant. Knowing that I have a little sidekick inside me is comparable to the feeling kids probably have when they have an imaginary friend. It’s this secret club we are a part of that no one else is able to join. Physically, I’ve never felt better and I actually like the changes to my body. I’m going to miss feeling his kicks and hiccups throughout my day. Dressing my pregnant body has been fun, and even though bending and moving is starting to get a little uncomfortable, I haven’t yet gotten to that point in my pregnancy where I’m SOOO ready to give birth. I’m sure it will come soon enough, especially if it keeps getting hotter, but for now, I expect to enjoy this fleeting moment as long as I can.