The last few days of pregnancy are a funny time.
I'm 40weeks + 3 days pregnant now and, since we all expected this little one to arrive early, I've been experiencing those 'last few days' for a while now.
I've done all the prep. We have a diaper service, we have baby clothes, we've talked about the upcoming arrival with our older child, I have two nursing stations set up in the apartment (burp/leak cloths, homemade nipple butter, nursing pads, water, snacks, and a good book at each), we purchased an organic waterproof mattress cover, and of course the arrangements for the birth were made long ago. It's an amazing feeling, to be so prepared - I certainly wasn't the first time around - but it also heightens the anticipation. I've never been very good at anticipation.
I like to wait until the last minute and then dive into something. I don't like thinking about things ahead of time, and I usually just rely on my charm/privilege/talents/luck/friends to get me through difficult situations. This is probably the worst life strategy in the entire world.
When I was 9 months pregnant with SBJ I wrote a list of things you should never say to a pregnant woman. In them was the question, "Are you excited?" I hated being asked it because, yes, I was excited - in the way you might be excited before giving a talk about your deepest dreams to a crowd of 4,000,000...unrehearsed. Excited in the way that, probably, my viking ancestors felt excited before going into war. Having a child is incredible. I can't really wrap my head around it. So, even the second time around, my feeling is anticipation mixed with dread. Because in my experience, that's what having a newborn is like: terribly beautiful and terribly joyful and in some deep way, terribly risky.
So there's that.
Then there's the physical.
I've enjoyed being pregnant this time around. As I wrote to a friend recently, "I wish I could be eight months pregnant forever." But I'm 9+ months now and I wouldn't want this - the heartburn, the pelvic ache, the minuscule bladder - forever. Or even for another week. They say that the end of pregnancy is so uncomfortable so that women will actually want to go into labour. As a birth nerd (and writer and, sometimes, giver) I don't see the desire to go into labour as that unusual. But I do look forward to the time when my body can start recuperating instead of sending all its best nourishment, energy, and attention to this little one.
But since we'll be exclusively breastfeeding, that will take at least a year...
And then there's the social.
I carry this physical, emotional 'burden' (OK, 15 lb. abdominal basketball) with me everywhere I go. It makes people smile. It makes people talk to me and ask questions that I like answering. Somehow it doesn't make them touch me. I get props for doing things I would normally do but also normally find onerous (pulling my son to daycare on a wagon; carrying him in my arms; wearing cute dresses with porridge spilled on them) and, in my neighbourhood at least, the fact that I am pregnant does not preclude my status as a woman. This is maybe the best part, and perhaps why I would like to be eight months pregnant forever.
The men who might normally harass me (indeed, who did before I was visibly pregnant!) are polite and encouraging. They don't expect me to hop into the car beside them, but they still say things like, "Hey baby mama, lookin' good!"
It all feels so non-threatening. As a heavily pregnant woman, I am ever-more vulnerable but also ever-more safe.
And then there's the physical (part II).
I have never been so 'in touch' with my body. Every strange thing my body does is reason to think I'm in labour. Am I extra tired today? Or do I have extra energy? This could be a sign! And since my labour is expected to go very quickly, I have to pay careful attention to these signs so that I can notify the right people when the time has come. It's unusual for me to take such good care of myself without feeling guilty. It feels good and right.
I'll end this rambling with my favourite poems, "Metaphors". It's by Sylvia Plath and it captures the ambivalence I feel about pregnancy: its unfathomable immensity and its daily, mundane, back-aching corporeality.
I'm a riddle in nine syllables.
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.