Releasing expectations at 39 weeks

This morning, I commenced my maternity leave from work with red raspberry leaf tea and meditation. As I felt the hot liquid trickle down my throat and warm my core, I induced my thoughts to settle like the sand in a cup of water that was recently stirred but is now still. It was then I realized what had been hovering over my head the past week: Expectation. Despite repeated caveats that every birth and every body is different, I had formed expectations.

I had been expecting labor to begin anytime since Thursday, December 29th, when I found out my cervix was 1 centimeter dilated and 60% effaced. I had been expecting to have the same experience as my mom, who was 1 centimeter dilated with me for 10 days before she went into labor (which would have been yesterday for me). I had been expecting that my baby, like me, would be one of the 5% born on their due date (it seemed fateful that the due date would fall on my mom’s birthday, January 11th). And now, two days away from the due date, with my cervix still at 1 centimeter dilated, but 80% effaced, and only mild cramps pointing to signs of labor, I am faced with the realization that it is very possible that the average delivery date for first-time moms being a week and a day past the due date will apply to me.

Most of all, I had been expecting that labor would go a certain way: free of medical intervention, sensual and otherworldly, and–like my pregnancy–relatively easy. But, as I was reminded this morning when I read a text from a friend who had recently given birth by an unexpected c-section, you can never predict how labor will go. If I find myself entering a new week next Monday still pregnant, so be it. If I find myself at 42 weeks pregnant with a 10-pounder chilling in my womb, so be it. If I find myself needing to be transferred to a hospital from my birthing center, so be it. If nothing goes the way I expected, so be it.

Sipping the last of my tea, I repeated an affirmation: My birth will happen exactly the way it should.




Musings of a 15-week pregnant woman

I wake before dawn. It’s an old pattern that has recently returned, stirring awake in a dark bedroom with the clock reading somewhere in between 4 and 5 AM. Instinctively, I reach for my phone, turn the backlight setting all the way to the left, which is still too bright, and then I change the screen to inverted colors. Skimming through my text messages quickly, I go straight to Zen Habits on Reddit. Its soothing articles rarely fail to lull me back to sleep.

Sure enough, halfway through my second article, my eyes involuntarily drift shut. I put my phone away and nestle within K’s nooks. But moments later, I find myself resurfacing. I lie awake, asking myself what I want. An image of me sitting at my desk, writing, comes to me. I hadn’t done this for months, not since I found out I was pregnant. I am now in my second trimester and the nausea that welcomed me every morning and was a constant visitor throughout the day had disappeared. In its place is the energy I lost by week six; I greeted it like an old friend.

Okay then. I’m doing it. I get up and refill my water and make myself hot cocoa. Carrying a cup and a mug, a banana, and my laptop bag, I settle in my desk. Perhaps this is just what I need, I think. Since announcing my pregnancy, I’ve been met with questions of how I feel–excited? Nervous? Ready? But the truth is, in the past three months, I’ve yet to feel a surge of strong emotion of any kind. Yes, I do feel all of the above, but only somewhat. Maybe because it’s such a life-altering indication, I haven’t been able to process it fully. And ready? Who ever is truly ready for a thing like this? Maybe some people. But I never feel quite ready for a big change until I go through it. Maybe writing about it is what I need today.

Announcing that K and I were with child was overwhelming, but wonderful. It was one of those times I felt grateful for social media. I sat with my laptop for a while after revealing our announcement photo and every time we received a reaction or a comment, I felt that person’s surprise or excitement along with them. I know how it feels to be on the other end so well–baby announcements are popping up among people I know by the dozen, and each time, I’d feel a pang of surprise and excitement for the expecting ones. To be on the receiving end of a community’s love and support is an experience I feel truly fortunate to have. There was also a sense of relief to not have to carry around a huge secret anymore. Now I could just carry a baby!

One thing I never thought to consider was how I’d feel seeing another woman’s baby announcement while being pregnant myself. The excitement is twofold. I not only feel excited for that person, I feel excited for me, too. I can’t help but feel a sense of comradeship with the pregnant woman. You’ve been secretly pregnant these last weeks, too? How has it been for you? I want to ask. This is another woman that’s in the same boat as me. Her baby is a potential friend for the little one growing inside me and the woman herself is a potential friend for me!

When making my own announcement, it occurred to me that there would be other pregnant women who might feel the same way about me. The thought made me giddy. It made me want to reach out and connect with the ones that are going through this journey–however different our experiences may be–at this time in our lives on this earth. We’re in this together, I want to say.

It’s funny, because the Zen Habits article I was reading a couple of hours ago was about tribes and how Americans have lost this sense of collectivist belonging. As I am forming my own little tribe with K, I find myself longing for a larger tribe that is filled with women with swollen bellies who will listen to each other’s dreams and fears, who will massage each other’s backs and comfort one another through difficult moments, who will simply get it without saying a word.

Maybe these women will help me feel more pregnant. My belly is still small and my symptoms have dwindled. I was beginning to feel afraid that something was wrong until I saw my doctor last Friday and she put my hand on the doppler monitor and I could feel my baby’s heartbeat. She reassured me that ze was growing and healthy and reminded me that some women don’t start showing until later. Some women actually carry small throughout the full term. And that’s okay.

Rubbing my belly, I realize that today is Wednesday. I am now 15 weeks pregnant. I go to the bathroom and examine my belly to see if I have grown a little more. I have. I take a picture. This is me today, 15 weeks pregnant. May it be documented.

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