Maternity leave. Aaahhh. What a wonderful thing. I’m not exactly sitting around eating bon-bons. Instead, I have plenty of doctor’s appointments, planning, organizing, quality time spent with River, and nesting-related tasks to keep me busy. Oh yes, and that statistics class to finish up. However, I do have more flexibility with sleep, I’m more able to rest or to move when I need to, and I’m really glad to have the time to make the necessary preparations.
I am packing in the quality time with River. During this week, we’ve visited three museums (a children’s museum, a science museum, and another children’s museum), attended a birthday party and participated in a Mexican posada. I recognize that museums will still be there after the birth. I know we’ll do all kinds of fun stuff as a family and as a twosome in the coming years. I know his life will be no different whether or not we do all this stuff. But I figure I should make use of the time while I have it. I’m awake and I’m available and I may not be a few days, weeks or months from now. I want to have fun with him while I can.
River continues to be so cool with the idea of the coming sibling. When I asked him who his friends are, expecting him to name off the kids who attended his birthday party, the first name he said was “baby name.” “She’s my friend,” he said. Whenever Mark puts River to bed, he tucks him in by going over a list of the people who love him. He includes “baby name” in that list. I guess it has sunk in for River that this person he can’t see or interact with is already a close relation.
I’ve got the pregnancy brain. I went to the library with the purpose of one task. I did several other things, left, and hours later, realized I’d forgotten that one task. Returning later in the evening to complete it, I forgot to check out of the parking ticket machine. I’ve failed to notice a “no turn on red” sign until I was well into the turn. I’m now starting my daily to-do list with “print this list.”
I went to the hospital to have a consultation with the anesthesiologist, hoping that labor could be a bit less painful this time around. He was a nice guy, but very pro-intervention. “Why don’t you just have an elective c-section?” he asked. He thought I should come to the hospital immediately when labor begins so that I can be hooked up to the fetal heart monitor. His own wife had a c-section despite arriving at the hospital fully dilated because of something seen on the fetal heart monitor. I would like to have minimal interventions, but maximal pain relief. This seems to be a difficult balance to strike. On the positive side, he said he thought I’d be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it is the second time around. I sure hope so.
At the hospital, I tried to ask who I needed to talk to in order to take my placenta home with me. Last time, they wouldn’t give it to me, saying it was against hospital policy. In the consent to service form, which I’m told can’t be changed, they want me to sign over the right for them to do whatever they want with any tissues taken from my body. The nurse looked at me like I was a freak. “What do you want that for?” she asked. I told her it was private. No, I’m not going to eat it, but it’s none of her business if I was. I don’t feel it’s up to her to judge whether or not my wanting to enact a Vietnamese tradition of burying the placenta at the home of birth is valid or not. It’s my placenta, my house, my yard, should be my decision. Another medical staff person came out, apparently just to catch a glimpse of this weirdo who wants her placenta. She did nothing but eye me over and return to her office. I think she was expecting a voodoo practitioner or something. My Gap maternity coat and the fact that I was busily highlighting a statistics textbook probably screwed with her preconceptions. If someone has a tooth extracted, there is no question it belongs to the patient. Why is it any different with a placenta? Why do I feel like I have to fight to get my own body part?
Upon discussing the meeting with the anesthesiologist with my doctor, I’m told that while he’s a nice and competent anesthesiologist, he hasn’t worked in labor and delivery for years. Therefore, several of the things he told me were out of date. Thank you, hospital, for sending someone who hasn’t dealt with a pregnant woman for years to meet with a very pregnant woman concerned about pain control during labor.
Last time around, I was very concerned with losing my identity, my freedom, my profession. In a determination to prove to myself that I could still continue the things that were important to me and be a mother, I took River on a five-state, two-country, three-plus week trip when he was just over two months old. This time, I’m not so worried about it. Yes, I made adjustments professionally. Yes, my ability to travel was changed (but not done away with). But I am able to continue those things to a certain extent, and I also have an additional source of joy in bringing the world to my child and knowing that he is happy and well-adjusted. I originally thought I’d try to do some projects of interest to me during my leave. Now I have no goals for the first few months. Work will still exist, as will everything else. It doesn’t matter if I step out for a while. I’m more at peace with this.
Planning is getting tough. I feel like the birth could potentially be tomorrow. It could also realistically be over three weeks from now. Everything is planned on a contingency basis. As much as I want to have fun with River, I’m starting to get nervous about driving 45 minutes or more away alone with him. I feel that managing a car and a toddler may be too much if labor begins quickly. I made a last solo hour-long journey with him this week, but don’t know if I’ll risk it after this.
Two centimeters dilated and 80 percent effaced. The doctor predicts I’ll still be pregnant this Friday, but I’m making progress without major pain. Yay! He also told me I could have an epidural early and that a major study showed no effect in outcomes, especially in second or later pregnancies. My dream delivery would be little pain, a healthy mom and baby, and rapid healing. I’m starting to build up a little more hope that this could be possible.
The belly button popped.
I’m a wide load. If I’m going through a doorway, no one else fits. My stomach bangs into this. This takes getting used to.
People are starting to comment that I’m large. That’s no fun.
Is this really only week 37? It’s feeling like it should be the end. While I’m still not ready, another potential three weeks starts to seem like a long time. Mark says he’s afraid to touch my stomach for fear it will break. Can it really keep growing? I start to think how nice an elective c-section sounds. It would probably be out in a matter of days – and would probably be as robust as a baby needs to be.
I’m having less side effects of pregnancy – dizziness, blurry vision, hemmorroids, etc. – but the discomforts of the large living thing inside me are becoming more distinct. Kicks in the ribs, painful twinges in the vaginal area, backaches, difficulties moving and bending over. The process of it coming out is definitely underway. I’m just a bit left out of the loop in terms of how far along it is and when the big wave is coming.
People are starting to look at me with concern, as though I might drop a baby upon them. The scary thing is, they could be right.
I still haven't packed that hospital bag yet. But I have at least looked at the list of what to pack.