We made it to 36 weeks. Hooray! I had my appointment yesterday morning. After a week of taking it easy, I've dilated to 4 cm. My cervix is 100 percent effaced and the baby is at a station of 2. Early last evening I started having regular contractions that were more intense than they had been. This went on for a little more than two hours. Then – POOF! – just like that, they vanished.
Now since 4 a.m., I have been suffering from insomnia, wondering when I'll meet our little miracle. I am experiencing conflicting emotions. There's a part of me that just wants to have our baby, to hold her, to nurse her, to introduce her to her eager big sister and all the other people waiting for her imminent arrival. Then there's the side of me that wants our bun to stay in the oven a bit longer, at least until I'm considered full-term (next Wednesday) to help ensure she’s healthy and strong. But admittedly, the waiting is killing me. Every tightening of my belly, each time I feel an odd pins and needles sensation deep in my cervix, I wonder if I am getting closer to meeting her or if it's another false alarm.
Above all, I hate not being in control. I know this is a recurring theme in my blogs and in my life. I keep telling myself I'm getting better at just letting go and putting things in God's hands. Yet, here I am so anxious and eager to know WHEN our baby is going to make her big debut and IF she will be healthy and strong that I can't even succumb to sleep despite being drunk with exhaustion. I'm a firm believer in letting babies come naturally and in their own due time; however, now that I'm walking around with a heavy bundle pushing on my cervix and on the verge of coming into the world but not quite ready to reveal herself, it's driving me crazy.
What it all boils down to is that I’m a lousy preggo. While other women embrace the whole fertile goddess image, bask in that so-called proverbial glow of pregnancy and seem to enjoy all the uncertainties and mysteries of carrying a child, I feel more like a clumsy Buddha, tripping on her own feet with skin that's more dry than luminous and frankly, I just want to fast-forward to the mothering part or even the labor and delivery step. I was good at that with Madeline. It was a spiritual experience for me – a concrete experience of suffering bringing forth the purest of joys. After an emotional last few weeks of pregnancy, during labor I transformed into a woman who was not only in control of her feelings but also her body. I remember the instant I felt Madeline's head pushing its way into the birth canal. "She's here," I exclaimed. About 30 minutes later my body had pushed her out and she was resting on my bare chest while I cried, “My baby, my baby. Thank you, God. My baby…” I know I can trust my body this time to do what it needs to do, but right now I am doubting my ability to even recognize true labor.
Even worse, when I’m pregnant, I feel like if anything goes wrong, it's because I did or didn't eat something or I pushed myself too hard or forgot to take a prenatal vitamin one day or I exposed myself to some hazard that surely gave my baby that slightly crooked nose (no, Madeline's nose is perfectly straight, but I banned coffee from my diet and there have been plenty of mornings this go-round when I have swigged a cup of joe after dealing with another sleepless night and knowing an energetic toddler needs me at the top of my mothering game, so what if caffeine causes crooked noses? What does that mean for this babe?). Yet, once I become a mother, I'm better able to cut myself some slack (not that I don’t still have to regularly overcome mom guilt). There are extenuating circumstances, after all. For example, I can blame bumblebees on Madeline’s nightmares (our toddler insists that she has nightmares about bees even though she delights in seeing them hover above our flowers during the daytime and has never been stung), not the fact that I lost my patience with her. Or, maybe it was when she was under the grandparents' watch that she didn't eat enough fruits and veggies and became constipated. All the blame can't fall on me, not like when the baby is incubating inside my one and only uterus. Even now I fear that if the baby comes tonight, for instance, and she's on the small side, the color of Mellow Yellow from jaundice or reluctant to start nursing, it will be because I somehow willed her to be born out of my selfishness, out of my longing to not be pregnant anymore. Then again, if she comes out bigger than average at this early stage, then I suspect I'll think it was because I ate too much or didn't exercise enough.
Before Diane, the most amazing certified nurse midwife, entered the room at yesterday’s appointment, the nurse had me in tears. I stepped on the scale, always a stressful moment for me, and saw I'd lost a pound. I have not been gaining weight and have actually been losing weight over the last few weeks. She mentioned the weight loss and I felt like she was "tsking, tsking" at me. Then she went to measure my fundal height and said I was measuring small (I’ve been measuring behind for weeks, partly because the baby dropped so early). When she put the goo and then the Doppler on my belly and we heard the baby's hummingbird heart, she immediately asked what I ate for breakfast. I felt like I was being interrogated. "The heartbeat is really fast," she said after I told her some milk, a little coffee and a protein bar (I was in a hurry to beat Atlanta morning rush-hour traffic). She hooked me up to the fetal monitor for an impromptu non-stress test and slipped out, leaving me in tears. It wasn't until Diane came into the room that I was able to settle down and ditch the overwhelming feelings of failure. Even as I write, I know that pregnancy, too, is out of our complete control. I can do everything right and my baby could still be born too early or with a birth defect. Diane reassured me that the baby was reactive to the NST and that her heartbeat wasn't too fast. As for the weight gain, I'm a rare, lucky pregnant mama who does not swell at all. This could explain why my weight gain slows in the last few months (this happened with Madeline as well and I obviously went on to deliver a perfectly healthy baby girl!). I listened to all of her words and knew she's right. I made a promise to myself to be less of a control freak and to abandon all of this guilt. Yet, here I am, worrying and wanting to be control yet again...
After my vaginal exam that showed how eager my body (and baby?) were for labor, Diane encouraged me to go home and just enjoy being a mom to Madeline. And I did. I took her out to lunch. I ate a big salad from Whole Foods strewn with tofu chunks, spinach, feta, a lump of lemon-dill tuna salad, cucumbers, edamame, bright orange carrot slivers and doused in a Greek dressing. Madeline shared bites of spinach and feta (Mommy scores! Maddy eats spinach!) and also had about half a slice of cheese pizza. For dessert we split a vegan chocolate chip cookie. Then it was off to Target where she picked out a gift for her baby sister - a package of pacifiers, which I explained she wouldn't be able to use right away - and a book all about dogs. I told Madeline she could read it to her baby sister. To which she replied, "I can't read. Show her pictures." When we returned home, we had quiet time together. Neither one of us could sleep, but we snuggled up next to each other and all my worries, anxieties and wondering when this baby was going to come slipped from my mind.
Today I will take Diane's advice again and focus on being Madeline's Mommy. That's when I'm the happiest, even when I'm not in control and Madeline refuses to eat her spinach, kiwi or bell pepper slices or when she boycotts sleep. It's in my mommy role when I feel competent (most of the time anyway) and happy. I know it will be no different with this little love once she's in my arms and I can really start being a mom - instead of just an oversized incubator - to her.