barefoot_mummy (barefoot_mummy) wrote,

Pregnancy: the end is nigh

37 weeks today. Thirty. Seven. Weeks. How can that even be?!

(This isn't even me now - this is my most recent belly photo, at 35w2d. Next one will be on Instagram in two days...)

What is happening? I've been at this stage twice before - and both times, 36 weeks to 37 weeks took at least a fortnight, I'm sure...

Is it the possibility that this is the last time? Is it the fact there are no other preggos around this time to compare with? Is it the knowledge that this is exactly the least busy and crazy and exhausting things are going to be for a while? Probably.

Whatever it is, I'm happy. Happy to be this far along, happy to be meeting our newest little boncecake soon... but also happy for it to take as long as it takes.

Truly, I'm in no rush. Not nervous, not putting it off - just content. And I'm so thankful for that.

I've tried to write this post twice already, over the last week and a half. My computer switched itself off and lost the file. I've been busy (*cough*nesting*cough*). Owen used up our internet on YouTube videos of people reviewing Thomas the Tank Engine playsets and unwrapping plastic eggs with Lightning McQueens inside (I kid you not - Liam and I have never reached our internet limit... this kid...).

(I've put my ipad away, to cold-turkey him off this YouTube thing. So he uses my empty case and pretends to watch it.)

But here it is, at last. I've had to amend "almost thirty six weeks" to "thirty six weeks and four days" to "thirty seven weeks". Which has actually been pretty cool - what was true over a week ago is still true today. I'm still doing this pregnancy thing, and I'm still happy. Also, over the last couple of days things have changed a bit, so I've got something a bit different to write about compared to my original thoughts. So, here goes...

**Disclaimer: This is a very pregnancy-related post. I'm really writing it for the pregnant ladies out there - particularly the very pregnant. If you're interested, read on. But I have a pretty broad readership base, and I understand pregnancy-related musings aren't everyone's cup of tea. If you're not comfortable with reading about pregnancy-related details, or aren't interested in developing a different end-of-pregnancy mindset, that's cool. Instead, here's a wonky picture of a country sunset on the first weekend of burnoff season. (Pretty, right?) Go no further. You have been warned.**

:glances around furtively: Okay. I think we're good now.

So, having a baby. We all get that the end point of pregnancy is a baby coming out, yeah? Ellie's four, and she gets that. So I think we're okay to go on.

The bit before is commonly known as labour. I'm pretty sure we all know that. I'm pretty hopeful that we all know it doesn't (usually) look much like the TV version ("Oops, my waters have broken in the supermarket! Quick, let's run red lights all the way to hospital, where I'll shout angrily at my husband for ninety seconds and then give off-screen birth to a clean four-month-old baby...")

Still with me? Cool. Basic knowledge confirmed.

So, there's a bit before all that. Yep, some smarty-pantses are saying "That's called 'pregnancy', right?" And it totally is... but I'm here to talk about the overlapping bit - the bit that gets forgotten / sidelined / denied completely.

Prelabour. Prodromal labour ("prodrome" = "early symptom that might indicate the start of a disease before specific symptoms occur" -Wikipedia). My personal unfavourite: "false labour" (grrrrr!!).

There are Braxton Hicks contractions, right? And they're known as "practice" contractions for a reason - they're the uterus practicing this whole squeezing business. Nothing's dilating. It's definitely not a sign of anything exciting being imminent. (With Owen, I reckon I had them from around 26 weeks.)

But then, there are "prelabour" contractions. (That's where I'm at.)

It's a strange place to be, I gotta say. On the one hand, you know it means things are getting more serious, and baby's arrival is definitely closer. (Then again, a quick glance at the calendar could tell you the same thing...) But on the other hand, you also know you could have weeks of this to look forward to.

It's easy to jump into excited mode at this stage. "IT COULD HAPPEN TODAY!!! OR TOMORROW!!! I'D PROBABLY EVEN BE OKAY WITH IT BEING WEDNESDAY!!!!!"

But you know what that leads to? Thursday. Thursday, sitting on the couch, googling "prelabour symptoms" for the eighteenth time, angry at the world for this great injustice. "Stupid body, tricking me like this. Stinkin' lazy baby, still just relaxing in there. And all those people, asking if I'm still pregnant..."

Stressful. I know. With Ellie, I spent a very frustrating ten days going "THIS IS IT!!! Oh, wait... nope. Not it. Again." With Owen, I spent a very grumpy week playing computer mahjong and refusing to rejoin life until there wasn't a baby in my belly.

This time, things are different.

This time, from the moment I thought I might be pregnant, I committed myself to a mindful pregnancy - one in which I noticed what was going on through each stage, and appreciated each little(/big) thing for what it was.

And I did.

[Sorry... just got interrupted by my son needing me to tie a pair of knickers onto Lightning McQueen because "that's his tail". Also, they wanted a "tasting plate".]

Where was I? Ah, yes. Loving pregnancy.

So, 36 weeks and 4 days into this pregnancy thing (also known as last Friday), I was sitting in Funbugs play cafe, watching my kids (and a million others - gotta love rainy school holidays) throw brightly coloured plastic balls at each other's heads, and reflecting on how fine I was with however long this baby was going to need me to wait.

Like everything, it really all comes down to perspective.

Waiting = having time to celebrate the blessing that's about to come into our lives.
Discomfort = body adjusting to better nurture baby and prepare for his/her arrival.
Too tired to do anything = free time for reflecting and being thankful.
All those people asking if I'm still pregnant = so many people who care and are genuinely excited about my little one.

Right? Happy.

The next day, my husband got on a plane at 6am and flew to his sister's wedding, one thousand kilometres away. And that was the first day I started having non-Braxton Hicks-type contractions.

Nice one, body.

I definitely didn't panic. Not even close. I'm not being fooled again.

I may not have jumped into "IT'S LABOUR IT'S LABOUR IT'S LABOUR!!!" mode, but by last night it did make me take another look at how I'm approaching this. I love that I've made it to 37 weeks without a single moment of wishing it was over. And I don't want to lose that contentment now that things are starting to happen.

Okay, so I may have googled "prelabour symptoms" and checked myself off against it. But I then spent some time reminding myself that these things can take time - in fact, it's actually a good thing if they take time (more on that in a moment). I also did some hunting around and found some articles portraying 'prelabour' in a positive way - as opposed to the more popular "here are some annoying symptoms that aren't actually labour" way. (I thought this one was pretty good).

So, this is where I'm at now: I'm still waiting. I'm not waiting and carrying a baby and that's all, but I'm still waiting. Mild tightenings that briefly take my attention and then pass, mild backache that wraps around to a bit of a crampy sensation occasionally, a bit of nausea here and there, the sudden appeal of hibernation in my little nest... They're all fine. They're all progress.

And I guess that's what I'm getting to. I have a lot of quibbles* with the way the medical profession handles a normal, healthy pregnancy - which I won't get into here, except for this bit: the labelling thing, in this case specifically the labelling of "labour" and "not labour".

*("quibbles"? Did I make that up, or is that a thing?)

Every day, a lady (not the same lady every day... you know what I mean) has contractions, wonders what's going on, goes to hospital, and hears, "You're only 2cm. Not in labour. Go home." Or, "Yep, 4cm. You're in labour!" And fair enough, there's no need to be in hospital just then. But the idea that we have to define being in labour as a specific number is, I think, a large part of what makes this early stage so difficult for a woman. It feels like a mild introduction to labour. In terms of what your body's doing, it is a mild introduction to labour. But in official terms, you're "not in labour" until you're ~4cm dilated.

And that is suuuuuuper disheartening for an excited first- (or second- or third-) timer. That's when all the "Stupid body... Stinkin' lazy baby... All those people..." stuff kicks in, and suddenly being pregnant becomes still being pregnant and no longer such a blessing, and being near the end turns from exciting and wonderful to the hardest and most uncertain and most miserable time anyone has ever been through in the history of the world, ever.

Listen. I've decided I'm not having this nonsense. As far as I'm concerned, prelabour isn't not labour, like there are clear-cut stages and this is a separate one of them. Prelabour is the beginning of labour. It might take an hour (like it did for me with Owen), it might take ten days (like it did with Ellie), it might take five weeks (like I kinda hope it doesn't with this one but will be totally okay with if it does... I hope...), but however long it takes - and this is important - it's not nothing.

Your body is preparing. Not just practicing any more - preparing. Those mild contractions that got your attention and then tapered off to nothing? Let's not call that a "false alarm". Let's not get annoyed that it "went away". Instead, let's embrace it as part of the process. Every time it happens, you're a bit closer to being ready. Every time it happens, it's making your more intense phase of labour a bit easier. It's all progress. It's all your body working to bring your baby into the world. Working? Labouring. It might be relatively easy labour for now. It might be part-time work. But it's still counted. It's still something. It's definitely not nothing.

And that line of thinking makes it so much easier to embrace this; to appreciate it as a fascinating part of an amazing process. Yep, they're contractions. Don't necessarily jump up and down with excitement just yet - it doesn't tell you anything more than a "due date" does. But it's things happening - and that's good.

It's not just the physical stuff, either. The impulsive nesting behaviour? That hibernating urge I mentioned earlier? All part of it. A desire to withdraw from the world, an increasingly inward focus... it's okay. In fact, just like those early mild tightenings and crampy feelings and all the rest, these things are designed to be part of the process. When labour gets really intense, you're going to want to be withdrawn from the world, inward-focused, oblivious to distractions that would slow things down. You're not at that point yet, but you're on your way - and that's good, too.

(This is Ellie's version of 'alone time'. Owen did not appreciate her need for alone time. Owen got pushed over. Owen now understands Ellie's need for alone time.)

(This advice is for me as much as anyone else:)

Embrace it. You're in that bizarre limbo-world right now - not "just pregnant" any more, but not producing a baby in the next ten minutes, either. It can be a frustrating, disheartening, miserable place to be. Or, it can be another fascinating part of an amazing process. If it's motivating you to Get Things Done, go with that (just don't overdo it - you'll need that energy). If it's making you want to spend as much time as possible under a quilt with the curtains drawn, go for it (just don't leave your son to help himself to ALL OF THE BANANAS, like I unknowingly did while playing "birthday parties" with Ellie this morning).

Use it. Those contractions that are starting to get your attention are actually a fantastic opportunity. It's easy to go "Oh, no, not this again!" and tense up with anxiety and/or resentment. Reminding yourself that they're a legitimate part of the process, and something you can use, is so valuable. Use them to practice relaxation techniques, breathing, thinking nice birthy affirmations to yourself. Use the time you find yourself spending hidden away to think through your plans and hopes for birth, to connect with your little one, to take time to breathe and rest and be thankful.

Appreciate it. The Lord has designed a pretty fantastic process, here. This part isn't a mistake. This part is a gift. Give thanks. Ask for peace. Find strength in him. It'll feel like forever, and then it'll be over before you know it. And then the real fun begins. Practice leaning on him now, because you're really about to need it...

(Also, get some RRL tea down your chops. Love this stuff.)

You're on the verge of a whole new amazing process. It's a beautiful, life-changing, all-consuming journey. Breathe. Enjoy this pregnant pause.

Tags: enjoying life, raising little people, thinking a bit deeply

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