Well, the baby classes at the hospital are over. We’ve had our two prenatal meetings with our doula. The car seat waits by the door (though we aren’t sure just how to install it yet) and the co-sleeper is set up and ready for a tiny, sleepy bambino. The hospital bag is packed, Grandma and Grandpa are “on call,” the freezer is a little more stocked, and the nursery is generally organized with diapers and swaddle blankets and binkies. Our baby shower party already seems far in the past.
Despite how un-ready we might feel, we’re pretty ready for Baby Howe. After the weeks of nesting and prepping and ticking things off of lists in preparation, we have a lull where we just wait. We analyze every new feeling I have- was that a true contraction? How long did it last? Tick tock, tick tock. When will baby arrive? How amazing to think that within a couple of weeks, we’ll have added a new human to the family! Is this really happening?
Before bed the other night, John opened a cupboard and saw some leftover syringes and fertility medications in a cabinet. He came in, looked at my giant belly, and simply said, “We’ve come a long way.” Understatement of the year.
Though our fertility struggle has faded in light of the joy ahead, the truth is that our journey to parenthood goes far beyond these last 9 months. It’s been more like 38 months. Wow. Any aches and pains I have now (aside from actually giving birth!) are nothing compared to what my body went through to get here. That could be why, despite the many rough days since that positive test that told us we’d be parents, I have loved pregnancy so much. Sure, there are plenty of things that I can’t wait to be done with- an ever-aching body, constant burps and heartburn, a jug of Tums in my purse, juggling 4 pillows every night, a bladder the size of a walnut, a serious waddle, pregnancy meltdowns that would freak out even the calmest of husbands. But there are plenty of things about this time that I will truly miss, which is interesting to realize. Before I get to the things I’ll miss about pregnancy, let’s talk about what I’ve really missed from my pre-pregnancy life.
I’m looking forward to my reunion with…
Energy. This might seem obvious; lack of energy is a common complaint in pregnancy. I just didn’t expect it to be so profound or to affect me as much as it has. I miss my favorite trails, which are now too steep and long for me to realistically enjoy. I miss finishing my daily to-do list or completing even the most basic of chores or errands. I miss being motivated to research, shop for, and create new recipes in my kitchen (by dinnertime, I’m done). I miss being able to respond with an active afternoon when Cholula asks me for one with her sweet eyes. It’s frustrating to want to do normal things and realize that I have limitations. I don’t feel like myself, and while I understand why, it’s difficult not to come down on myself in a negative way. I have to accept that I can’t do everything, and that can be hard. I know this will continue with a newborn, but I welcome the shift in energy priority.
Balance. Seriously, this protruding belly changes my equilibrium! I’ve never considered myself clumsy, but let’s just say that I use the handrail at every opportunity these days. It’s probably quite entertaining to watch me try to get up off the ground and I need help pulling this unfamiliar body out of a deep chair. Perching on one leg to try to shave my shin or something is legitimately dangerous these days. Again, it’s the lack of control and feeling unable to do basic things that feels frustrating.
Toes. It’s a common joke, that pregnant women can’t see their toes. It wasn’t until it really happened to me that I realized how crazy it is! Not only can I not see them when I look down, but I can no longer reach them. I wear slip on shoes as much as possible. Getting dressed is the hardest part of my day, reaching to get my jeans over my feet. (A summer dress/flipflop-filled pregnancy would have been so much easier!) I couldn’t give myself a pedicure if someone offered me a million dollars. It will be quite a day when I can bend over and touch my toes. I miss you, little piggies. (P.S. There are other things below my waist I can’t see anymore, and I miss those things, too.)
Black coffee, sushi, and wine. There are lots of things you can’t or shouldn’t consume when you’re pregnant, and most of those things haven’t mattered to me. But the lack of “The Big Three” has been a consistent void in my life for the last 9 months. I’m so looking forward to resuming my morning ritual of shuffling downstairs for my hot cup of caffeine. John knows that my first celebratory post-birth meal should definitely involve my favorite rolls from our favorite sushi joint and a nice glass of wine… preferably before we even leave the hospital! Simple pleasures!
A soak in the hot tub. Hot tubs are a big no-no in pregnancy. There’s a risk of raising your body temperature, which in turn raises your baby’s, which isn’t good. My body has been constantly sore for months now, and a lukewarm bath that doesn’t even cover my belly is more frustrating than anything else. I’ve never been one to soak for very long, but these days, I dream of full submersion in a bubbling jacuzzi in almost-too-hot water until my fingers get pruney. Ahhhhh.
Sleeping on my back. Before I was pregnant, I knew that sleep would eventually be a thing of my past. I was NOT prepared for it to happen mid-pregnancy before the baby even arrived! I’m a back sleeper. Once you reach about four months pregnant, your baby and growing uterus get heavy enough that lying on your back can constrict a major vein that provides blood from the legs to the heart and also to the baby. Sleeping on one side or another seemed fine at the beginning, but after a while, my center back became super sore and has stayed that way for months. The alternative is to prop myself into basically a reclined seating position on five pillows which only provides relief for one sleep cycle. When I wake up and roll over on my back to stretch, I give myself a minute just laying there, flat… sweet relief.
Ibuprofen. Sorry, Tylenol. You try, but you just can’t do the job of your pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory cousin. I’ve felt great for 90% of this pregnancy, but this last month hurts. I don’t take medicine often, but when I do, I need it to work!
Here are a handful of things that I didn’t expect to love about pregnancy. I’ll miss…
No body image issues. I think every woman human has things about their body that they are insecure about. It might be a small chest or a belly ponch or flabby arms or knobby knees or an occasional double chin…or all of the above, like me. Granted, most things women fixate on about themselves are not things that other people even notice. But during pregnancy, all of those insecurities have completely faded away from me. This ponch in my belly is a BABY and any odd changes that my body is going/has gone/will go through are normal, natural, and helping me sustain a life. Even the things that are not pregnancy-related don’t seem to bother me because of this newfound respect I have for this body of mine. It’s been liberating and beautiful to see the daily miracles that happen during pregnancy to grow this little human with my own body. I feel beautiful, strong, and capable: Wonder Woman.
Unquestioned naps. I’m lucky enough to be at home near a bed during the day. I’m so thankful for that because it is ridiculously tiring to grow a baby. At the beginning, your hormones make you exhausted in a way you don’t expect. By the end, it’s more physical. Between the lack of sleep during the night (5-6 trips to the bathroom, shuffling pillows, body aches), the decreased lung capacity (huffing and puffing and pausing halfway up a flight of stairs), and carrying 25 extra (and awkward) pounds around, I am tired all the time. When fatigue hits, I have a legitimate excuse to lie down and get some shut-eye. And I do. After all, I’m GROWING A HUMAN.
Dessert without guilt. Pregnancy has brought out a huge sweet tooth in me that wasn’t there before. I’m still very aware of my diet, keep things within reason, and eat well, but when I want a treat, I get myself a treat! Luckily, often some fruit will satiate the craving for sweets, but I had ice cream straight from the carton after lunch the other day and I certainly don’t say no when a waiter offers the dessert menu after a meal. Sort of like the freedom from body issues, it’s awesome to say YES to something decadent without that familiar self-imposed “I probably shouldn’t…” guilt.
This temporary time with just me and baby. It’s a very private thing to be pregnant. Yes, my loving husband is very attentive to each movement I point out, listens for sounds in my tummy, talks to the bump nightly about various topics. I love when friends place their hands on my belly. I share ultrasound photos with whoever will look at them. But it’s really just me and the baby. We have a special relationship. I feel things no one else can. I nourish this growing human, feel his/her little hiccups, know his/her movement patterns in a way that is reserved just for me- the mama. My baby knows my voice already, feels my heart beating, understands my breath and movement. I’m so excited to meet our little critter and be a family, but selfishly, it might be hard to share after 10 months. I’m savoring this last bit of time as an inseparable duo.
This belly. Oh, how I love this belly. The loving rubs I don’t realize I’m giving it. The movements I can feel and see within it. The fact that I can balance things on top of it. Watching it grow and change over time has been incredible. I laugh at the photos from the early stages when I recall feeling like it was so big and obviously full of baby… and look at me now! My freckles are stretched out on it and I have a crooked line down the center of it. It’s become very round, like a ball, and I can picture our tiny-ish baby curled up inside there. It’s fascinating to me, and sometimes I forget it’s part of my body because the rest of me feels and looks basically the same as it did nine months ago. It’s not easy to find clothes to stretch over it these days and it morphs into strange, un-round shapes now and then, and it’s not always comfortable. But I know what kind of miracle is going on in there and I will surely miss it when it’s gone.
You can call me shmoopy or blame my late-pregnancy hormones, but I’m unbelievably grateful to be right where I am at this moment. We’re anticipating the birth of our first baby and embracing all of the madness, anxiety, excitement, and emotions that come with it. It’s a unique and special time! Until our little bambino’s birthday arrives, we’ll be seeking the joy in the little moments of preparation… and remembering to have fun and love each other along the way. These are our best days and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead!