I’m 39 weeks pregnant. The baby will be here sometime in the next week or so. Some days it feels like I’ve been pregnant for years, other days I can’t believe I’ll have a baby at home within the next fortnight. We’ve got houseplants that aren’t looking that good and they’re letting us keep a baby? (Though the cats are all healthy so there is that going for us.)
Note I haven’t blogged a ton (or really at all for six months) so this is going to be long.
Pregnancy is such a weird journey and I’ve been trying to sort out my (extremely hormonal) thoughts for the last 10 months. Oh hey, did you know that pregnancy lasts 10 months (40 weeks) not 9? It’s a giant cultural lie. Technically two of those weeks are before conception since they count from last menstrual period, but if you have been actively trying (and living by pregnancy rules and diet) before then, it certainly feels like you’re pregnant a year or more.
Until we started trying to get pregnant and I read articles, books, got an iPhone app, etc., I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about my own reproductive system. I’m smart, well informed; I passed health class. (Kinda, I did this gifted kid thing where I tested out of health class, but the state of Kansas declared it good enough for high school graduation.) I vaguely understood the basics, but was woefully ignorant about a lot of the specifics. There’s a feminist rant in here about the issues with sex education in our country, but my mom gave me a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves when I was a teen, I just never read it all the way. Though having worked with teens and the public, I know that lack of knowledge about reproductive issues is widespread.
For the first few weeks, pregnancy is like a fantastic secret. Well David and I weren’t great about keeping the secret and told family and a couple of friends. We alternated between elated and scared and throwing up, but that last one was mostly just me. The first time I threw up a part of me was happy. I was in the pregnant women get sick club! Just like on TV! My body was doing this thing and here was tangible proof. That feeling only lasted about 30 seconds. The vomiting lasted longer. The nausea lasted for months.
Pregnancy symptom wise, I have had about an average pregnancy. Nothing horrible and terrible and I feel bad complaining since I have had friends who have gone through so much worse. There was about a month when all I could keep down were plain grains, and raw veggies. David remembers that month as nothing but quinoa and broccoli. I also interviewed for a job when I was 11 weeks pregnant praying the entire time that I didn’t throw up in the middle of the interview. (I didn’t. I got the job. I’m now the Youth Services Coordinator for Anchorage Public Library.) The constant nausea subsided to only a few times a day by about week 16 (not at the end of the first trimester as I was promised) and the last time I threw up was week 19.
Weight gain was weird because I could see the difference long before anyone else. Of course I was one of only two people seeing myself naked. I’m not a small person, but I’ve always carried my weight in my hips and for the first time in my life my stomach was bulging out. Until it started obviously looking like a baby bump it bugged me a lot more than I thought it would. I’ve never thought of myself as a vain person, so that was a huge surprise to be that irritated by it. I felt a lot better when I crossed the line from “looking extra chubby” to “looking pregnant”. That was week 19 for me. Week 18 all my pants fit (some with the belly band or elastic stretcher trick) and week 19 none of them did. I just popped out. That was also when I got my first comment in public from a stranger about pregnancy. And comments about pregnancy from the public, from family, from friends. There are so many.
When you become pregnant, your body becomes part of the public record, public discussion, and public concern in a way that is unprecedented in my life. I had always somewhat agreed with the argument that when a woman is pregnant, her body is not just hers anymore. And I believe that because for all this time I have made decisions that I thought were in the best interest of the child, not just mine. Yet, I was completely unprepared for how incredibly disenfranchised I would feel. Everyone from strangers to casual acquaintances would ask personal questions about our medical decisions. I’ve heard every lecture on every spectrum, from how we should only do natural childbirth through to how anything less than a full hospital team was criminally negligent. I’ve gotten bad looks when I bought a latte (half-caf, my allowed cup of the day) or hung out (drinking water) on a bar’s porch with friends. Even well meaning family members (whom I adore and love) would send me articles about the latest studies that you should definitely be doing x, y, and not z for your baby. The family members got forgiven immediately because I know they love me, love the child, and want to help.
But I’ve read the studies. I’ve read all of them. You can drive yourself crazy with research and worry. The best advice I got was: do some research, make a choice you think is best, and relax and turn off the internet. There were times when I wanted to scream at people, this is MY body, MY baby, and MY choices. Unless you helped make it or I’ve sought your opinion in your medical office, you don’t get an opinion on how I’m nurturing it in utero. So far I haven’t actually flipped out at anyone, but it has given me a heightened feminist awareness of the amount of commentary and control our society feels it has the right to dictate and impose upon pregnant women. (And please don’t get me started on the state senator who during my pregnancy started making noise about involuntarily committing women who drink during pregnancy.) For months I have a very visible sign that THIS BABY was inside me and that gave the public the right to control or at least comment and lecture upon what I did or did not do with my body. I’m an intelligent woman and I like to feel a highly functioning and contributing member of society. I’ve been trusted with public money and budgets, grant moneys, staff to manage, a driver’s license, a mortgage and a thousand other markers of adult responsibility. Why can we not also trust that I can do this thing and make the choices to grow a healthy baby?
And yet I know this is just beginning. For the next 18+ years people will tell me what I am doing wrong as a parent. I suppose eventually that will rankle as well. But for now it is the involuntary loss of my bodily integrity that frustrates me. No one asked if I wanted to become a constant object of public speculation, commentary, and attempted interference. I never ceded my rights to live as an adult and I only ask for those to be respected.
Some people tell you how much they miss being pregnant. I’m not going to miss the swelling, the constant peeing, the back aches, but I will miss some parts. This is the last time in her life when I will know exactly where Annabelle is and if she is safe at all times. I will also miss the kind and friendly smiles, approving looks, and cheerful comments from all the people you meet. Because I’m a children’s librarian and a great deal of the people I interact with daily are themselves parents, many with very young children or buns in the oven, I get lots of cheerful encouragement. Mostly it is fantastic and heartwarming,
occasionally after the 7th inquiry about my pregnant while on the reference desk for only 2 hours, I get a bit tired about talking about it. However I also feel as though I’m being warmly and enthusiastically welcomed into a club.
The joy and happiness our friends and community have felt and expressed for David and me have overwhelmed us. When we announced our pregnancy, almost without fail people told me what an amazing father David will be. And he will be; that’s why I chose him. These months have left me feeling incredibly blessed and thankful for the family, friends, and community of love and support we have here and nation-wide. I can’t imagine a better environment to bring a child into. She will be loved and celebrated by so many and as new parents we feel we have so many resources and so much emotional and social support. It may take a village to raise a child, but it also takes that village to help lay a foundation and lift up the parents. And we have the best village in the world.
I think we’re ready. We think we’re ready, but we know that is laughable as you can’t ever really anticipate how much your life will change. The nursery is done (I’ll show pictures this weekend and talk about that process), the laundry is washed, folded, sorted, and put away. The crib and co-sleeper have sheets on them and are awaiting a child. I’ve still got some stuff to do at work, but I am trying to have it so I can walk away at any moment. We met with our medical professional today and she said at 39 weeks the baby has dropped and we are ready to go any day now.
Bring on the new adventure.