I’m about as pregnant as you can get: 39 weeks, 2 days. It seemed like a good time to write down some of the things I’ve had to cultivate or learn over the last nine(ish) months.
I went into pregnancy thinking I’d stay active throughout, maybe continue to run until I went into labor.
The first trimester, exhaustion hit hard. We weren’t telling people until 12 weeks, so I was trying to maintain my usual busy schedule with half my normal energy. I could barely get myself to work, let alone the gym.
I felt better in the second trimester… for a few weeks. Starting at week 20 or so, I developed pelvic girdle pain/symphysis pubis dysfunction (PGP/SPD), which has been consistently painful ever since. I have good days and bad days and going to the chiropractor has helped a lot, but I’m in some pain every day, nearly all day.
The most awkward thing about PGP is it’s hard to explain without oversharing. The best way I can put it: have you ever gotten saddle-sore from horseback riding or a bike with an uncomfortable seat? Basically, my vagina bone hurts. This isn’t really something you want to tell someone when they ask how you’re feeling.
Here are some things that range from mildly painful to excruciating with PGP, depending on the day:
- Lifting one foot (i.e., putting on pants)
- Turning over in bed (at one point, my husband offered in all sincerity to flip me like a turtle if the pain got too bad)
- Not turning over in bed– the longer I avoid it, the more painful it becomes
- Getting out of a car or standing up from a low chair
- Standing still for more than a minute or so
- Sitting in a normal chair, especially one without padding
- Anything with a wide stance (goodbye, prenatal yoga)
I have, thankfully, never experienced chronic pain before. Over the past 19 weeks, I’ve reflected often on how insensitive I’ve been in the past. It is frustrating and depressing to not be able to do what you want to do, and to have people judge you for it.
I was honked at in the crosswalk outside of my office for being too slow, and remembered how many times I’ve been mildly irritated by people I thought were crossing too slowly.
I’ve had friends get irritated with me for cancelling on them, doing less than I have in the past, etc., and I could tell they thought I was using pregnancy as an excuse. I wasn’t. All I want to do is have my usual physical abilities back, and not having them and being seen as a flake was rough.
I find myself keeping pace with elderly people while out walking. I’ve been swimming at the YMCA, and it’s usually just me and fifteen senior citizens in the pool.
As a side note, older people are wonderful to pregnant women. They never call you fat (I’ve been called fat/a whale/enormous/etc. by a disturbing number of people over the past few months). They say things like “good for you, honey!” when you swim by them, or “you look beautiful!” when you’re hauling your nine-month-pregnant butt into Vons. Older ladies have a very different attitude toward having children than younger moms, who seem to love trying to scare me about how difficult childbirth and parenting will be. Instead of “prepare for everything to change,” they go with “I loved raising my babies. It goes so fast– just enjoy it!”.
So: humility. Recognizing my own limits, and recognizing that I have no idea of others’ limits or experiences. Recognizing that some of the things I value most– independence, physical strength, having others count on me– can be taken away instantly.
I’m grateful for the lesson and keep reminding myself not to revert to my old exasperation and judgment once I’m on the other side and start to get my mobility back.
Asking for Help
One of my favorite parts of my job at Center Theatre Group is talking to young people about the importance of vulnerability, and being honest about needing help and guidance. Pregnancy is a great time to practice this, because people really, really want to help you.
My favorite thing that someone stopped me from carrying because I was pregnant: a large bowl of salad from a catering company. A fellow staff member grabbed it out of my hand at an event and said “You shouldn’t be carrying that!” I shouldn’t carry… lettuce?
But there have been plenty of things I really did need help with. My husband has taken over litterbox duties, of course, but has also been the only person cleaning the rabbit pen for weeks because getting down on the floor hurts too badly.
I’ve also reached out to friends who have recently had children to get their thoughts on everything from weird symptoms to sleep training to what I needed to pack for the birth center.
I’ve always been proud of my ability to figure shit out on my own. It’s absolutely helped me in my career. Reconciling that ability with the need to ask for help is difficult, but I’m learning that one doesn’t cancel out the other.
I’m naturally very introverted, but pregnancy invites conversation. Everywhere I’ve gone– grocery store, work, restaurants, walking down the street– I have the same conversation several times a day.
Here’s my end of it:
- “Late July.”
- “Yes, it’s a boy.”
- “Yes, our first.”
- “No, we have a few names we like and we’re going to wait and see when he comes out.”
I’ll then get birth stories, speculation about how I’m carrying, childbirth and parenting advice… pregnancy forums are full of women complaining about these interactions. They are tiring, especially if, like me, you’d rather just buy your groceries in peace, but everyone is well-meaning. With the exception of a small number of people who have taken it way too far– like the woman who grabbed my arm in the mall and clapped her other hand on my belly– I try to stay positive and appreciate that their curiosity comes from a good place.
The other aspect of patience: pregnancy is long. The last few weeks are really uncomfortable. The induction rate for childbirth has jumped from 9.5% in 1990 to 23.3% in 2012, and I absolutely see why. I’m now in this transitory space where I could have a baby tonight, or I could have a baby in two weeks. Any plans come with an “unless I’m in labor” disclaimer. I’m doing a lot of relaxation techniques and trying to trust that this little boy will come when he’s ready, not necessarily when I’m ready.
Which brings me to…
It’s been difficult to accept that while there are many things you can do to encourage a healthy pregnancy and baby, there’s a huge element of the unknown in there. Letting go and trusting nature has been another learning experience for me.
Without saying too much about it, this little one is our rainbow baby: a baby conceived after pregnancy loss. Because of that, I was hesitant to bond with this baby or talk too much about the pregnancy for a long time. For the first few weeks, any symptom or lack of symptom was terrifying.
This is another strange part of pregnancy: almost everything is totally normal, or could be a sign of something very serious.
For example, my feet got super itchy, to the point of waking me up several times at night so I could put on more lotion. This was either a sign that I should buy a really good foot cream, or that I might have intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, a serious liver disorder that can result in stillbirth. I did get tested and was just really itchy (thankfully). Now I just wear super ridiculous moisturizing socks like these to bed.
There are so many of these “could be normal, could be terrible” things in pregnancy. It’s so tempting to obsess over Google results, and I’ve fallen prey to that quite a few times.
Now that we’re in the home stretch, it’s even harder. I know he can survive outside the womb, so I’d like him to come out as soon as possible so I can start actively taking care of him, instead of just taking my prenatals and trying to go easy on the sugar.
But. Letting go.
He will come when he’s ready. He’s healthy and moving around like crazy in there. He wants to bake a little longer.
It’s just occurred to me that these four things– humility, patience, letting go and asking for help– seem to be cornerstones of learning how to be a parent, too. All of the books I’ve read, birth stories I’ve listened to, and podcasts I’ve downloaded can’t really prepare me for what’s to come, but I’m hopeful and excited to start this new chapter… whenever this little guy decides to join us.