Pregnancy Photos: 35 Weeks!

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Pregnancy Photos: 32 Weeks

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29 Weeks Pregnant

Not in focus (bla), but I love that Alex is in this one with me!  :)

Not in focus (bla), but I love that Alex is in this one with me! 🙂

26 Weeks: Comparing Pregnancies 1 and 2

Left: 26 weeks pregnant with baby #2 Right: 26 weeks pregnant with Alex

Left: 26 weeks pregnant with baby #2
Right: 26 weeks pregnant with Alex

26 Weeks Pregnant

HELLO third trimester!

HELLO third trimester!

Labor is Like….

I’ve spent some time trying to imagine what kind of mental, physical, and emotional effort labor will require.  In conversation with my husband one day, I thought of some of the most difficult things I’ve done in life and attempted to make comparisons.  I also remembered what I needed to do to bring me through those experiences and how I might be able to apply that to labor and birth.

I know that nothing can ever truly prepare me for the birth experience because it is as yet unknown, but I’ve done what I can.  Here are my comparisons.

Mental:

When I was in graduate school to earn my MS in Biology, I had to take something called “comps”.  Comprehensive exams, that is.  It was basically a huge open-book essay exam that took a week to complete.  And I do mean a full week.  I did nothing that week but work on the exam.  I may have eaten and slept, but I’m not even sure I showered.  Each question required the equivalent of a research paper to answer, complete with a bibliography of peer-reviewed references, a table of contents, and who knows what else.  I’ve successfully blocked some of that stuff from my memory for self-preservation.   The questions were not easy- neither to understand nor to answer.  It was the most mentally exhausting time of my life, and I thought many times that I may actually not be able to do it.  Even completing the task felt like an impossibility, but I definitely doubted my ability to make a passing score.  But I did finish.  And I did pass.  And it felt amazing, both when I turned in the finished work and when I learned that I’d actually passed!  I could continue graduate school!

What got me through was sheer willpower, dogged determination, and a surrender to the inevitability that I must keep going day after day.  Yeah, I could relate that to labor and birth, especially a long labor.

Physical:

The first thing that comes to mind is climbing mountains.  Well, hiking might be a better word.  I’ve done a few hikes up mountains in my lifetime that really tested the limits of my physical endurance.  I would feel that I couldn’t take another step, but I would keep going.  Another switchback, another corner, another scramble up a steep part.  The thing about climbing a trail that you’ve never climbed before is that you really don’t know for sure when it will be over.  The trees get in the way, each summit looks like the last- until you top it and see the next one waiting.

What got me through these experiences was usually a couple of things.  I often didn’t want to lag behind or let those behind me pass me up because it would be a blow to my pride.  I wanted to look strong and tough and keeping my place in the group provided excellent motivation.  I also knew that EVENTUALLY I’d reach the top.  Every trail has an end, and every mountain has a summit.  It may seem to go on forever, but it cannot.  Definitely some parallels to labor and birth, which also cannot last forever.

Emotional:

While the mental and physical challenges I’ve experienced definitely all had emotional components as well, I wanted to come up with something primarily emotional.  That would have to be breakups.  A broken heart can be very difficult to pick yourself up from, and I know that well.  I remember one particularly devastating winter when every morning for months I awoke with fresh horror over the realization that my heartbreak wasn’t a dream.  I’d have to get out of bed and go through the motions of getting dressed, eating breakfast, and driving to work even though it all felt secondary to what was going on inside me.  I was like a zombie.

What got me through that experience was a combination of moving through life even when I doubted my ability to do so as well as taking the time to give way to my emotional pain- to really feel it and give a name to it and express it.  Being honest with myself about the horrible things I was feeling inside made me less afraid and more alive.  I could apply this to possible emotions during labor such as fear, self-doubt, and anxiety that could really slow things down if I try to deny them or push them away instead of just admitting that they are there and allowing myself to work through them.

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I have no idea how difficult labor will be, but I do expect it to be one of, if not THE MOST, challenging thing I have ever done.  I expect it to be hard physical work and require mental determination and emotional fortitude.  I expect that I will doubt myself at some point.  I expect that I will have reach deep in order to keep going.  I also expect that I will feel amazing when I have accomplished it.  I imagine feeling the success of passing comps, the victory of conquering a mountain, and the relief of surviving heartbreak- but with the added component of overwhelming love for the baby that has been birthed as the result of my hard work!  When I think of the end result, I really cannot wait to make the journey to get there.

I still cannot believe it, but our doula told us that she loved being in labor so much that she “would do it every day of the week”!  It’s pretty exciting to hear something like that and to realize that an event most women in our society are taught to fear can actually be something that you look forward to- not just the end result, but the process itself.  It truly is rite of passage that every woman must take to get to motherhood, and I dream of a time when we can treat it as a privilege and a wonderful experience instead of scaring each other with our horror stories and fearful tales.

 

38 Weeks, 6 Days: Labor is Closer!

December 9, just 10 days from our due date!  Everything is so exciting now because I know that birth can happen any time and that the more time goes on, the closer we are to meeting our baby.  🙂  My sister and her boyfriend were here for the weekend, so that was really fun!  It also pushed us to go ahead and finish up all the big stuff we had to do before Baby is born.  We still have some little things we wouldn’t mind finishing, but I think both my husband and I feel pretty relaxed now and ok with the baby coming at any time.  I would like for my mom and sister to be here, mostly because I know that they really want to be.  I’m sure that I’ll really appreciate their support as well when the time comes, but the thought of it just being me and my husband doesn’t bother me at all.  Our midwife talked to me at her visit last Wednesday about when to call her and that she wouldn’t want us to be panicking that she wouldn’t get there in time…. Yeah, that doesn’t worry me at all.  I would almost feel fine about no one but my husband being there, but because I’ve never had a baby before or even seen a birth I feel that it’s smart to have someone there to know what’s normal and what’s not.  Our midwife will also know what to do in case something is not normal.  But I definitely don’t worry about her not arriving in time (such as if I had a crazy fast birth or something, not that I expect that at all).

The midwife also told me that she doesn’t expect this baby to be born much past the due date (she knocked on wood as she said it, lol).  Her reasons for thinking this are that that baby is in a great position and already very low, I’ve been contracting for months now, and I’m not a large person (I guess that makes babies more likely to want to be born so they can start getting some milk and keep growing 🙂 ).  I don’t have a whole lot of water, she said, but the baby has a very reactive heartbeat (it goes up every time he moves) and is still moving around a ton, both signs that Baby is doing just fine.  I’ve been feeling a bit paranoid about my water levels, and I’m really trying to drink enough water every day.

For a few nights, Baby was kicking me so brutally that it was becoming an extremely painful experience!  I was getting clobbered in the ribs, belly button, round ligament, sciatic nerve, bladder, and cervix- sometimes all at once.  I kinda dreaded going to bed because I knew I’d be attacked from the inside again as soon as I lay down.  One night it was so awful and I was so frustrated that I finally just sat up in bed and cried.  My midwife suggested not eating late (and indeed, I had eaten a whole plate of food right before bed the night it was really bad).  I tried her suggestion, and I think it might have helped some.  Either that or baby is finally accepting the lack of space and settling down a bit.  I’m still getting plenty of movement, night and day, but it has felt a little gentler lately.  Whew.

I keep feeling like the baby may be early, but we are getting so close to the end of “early”, so maybe not.  Still, there are some new things happening that I feel signal labor is closer.  Yesterday morning we had sex and afterward I had some quite crampy contractions all during church and lunch.  Braxton Hicks have been feeling lower down and crampier at times for the past week ever since I really noticed how much Baby has dropped, but yesterday’s were just a little bit stronger and more noticeable.  We had a choir concert for church and I really loved it when the crescendo of the voices matched the peak of my contraction- makes me wish I could have a choir sing to my labor- ha!  😀  By last night, however, most of the crampiness was gone.  I feel like I have a tough time telling whether I’m having cramps because something is happening with my cervix or because I need to poop (yeah, we’re going to talk about that).  Pooping is feeling a little different lately, and sometimes quite painful, probably because the baby’s head is so far down in my pelvis that he is totally crowding all my vaginal and rectal space.   Silly baby 🙂

This morning after breakfast we watched a little TV with my sis and her boyfriend and the whole time (a couple of hours) I had rather painful Braxton-Hicks-like contractions, but it only hurt on my right side.  I assumed it was my right round ligament being all tight, or maybe the baby was in a position that pressed against my ligament during a contraction.  Either way, I felt a little distracted from the TV by what I was feeling.  I sat on my exercise ball and moved my hips in circles for a long time.  I experienced this same feeling last Wednesday night while I was trying to go to sleep- every Braxton Hicks (and I was having a lot of them) made my right side hurt like a fire poker.  I finally got up from bed, walked around the house, did hip circles while sitting on my exercise ball (and I feel super tired in an almost drugged way the whole time, which was weird), the cat pose exercises my chiropractor gave me to do, and finally was able to get to sleep.  I assumed that was my round ligament too, but who knows.  I love for these cramps and pains to be a sign that something is happening with my cervix!  I’ve done some self-checks lately, but while I’m able to feel the baby’s head with no effort at all, I can only just barely reach what I think is the very edge of my cervix.  I can tell that it’s extremely soft, but I can’t get to the middle of it to see if I’m dilated at all.  Oh well.  That will happen when it will.  I think as soon as my family is all here we’ll start having as much sex as we can to help my cervix soften up really well.  It’s tempting to start doing stuff like that now, but I really have no reason to rush the start of labor (as if I could), so I’ll just wait.

My nipples are really leaky tonight too.

One thing I’ve found strange lately has been the lack of cervical mucus.  I thought I’d have TONS of it at this point in pregnancy, but I’ve had even less than I did earlier.  So weird.  I’m hoping at least that will make it really easy to tell if I lose my mucus plug.

I put plastic under the sheets on our bed (just a simple shower curtain), a towel beside the bed, and have begun sitting on a towel in my car- all ready in case my water breaks in a gush!  I kinda down expect it to, though, because my mom’s never broke before labor.  Hers never broke spontaneously, actually, because during both her births they ruptured it in the hospital.  It will be interesting to see when mine breaks.  I wouldn’t mind it staying intact during the first part of labor if it will make things a little easier on me.

I feel that I’ve done just about as much preparing for birth as I can do.  I’m still reading Birthing From Within, so that would probably be a good book to finish, but even if I don’t it’s ok.  I’ve also ordered a belly mold kit that I’d like to be able to do, but there will hopefully be another baby if we don’t get the chance.  I think my husband and I are both starting to feel pretty ready to give birth so we can see our baby…. bring it on, labor!

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