I have wanted a child for as long as I can remember. Which, at 32 years of age, is a long time. We had some hurdles to cross, but I was overjoyed the day I found out I was pregnant. And yet, it felt unreal. In the beginning, I was quietly excited. I remember looking out the window across the fields on the morning of the positive test, and just feeling calm. I didn’t want to be too excited, in case I miscarried, so I played it pretty cautious with my emotions. It was a bit of a rollercoaster, actually. After that first day, I didn’t really feel like I expected to feel, both emotionally and physically, until late in the pregnancy.
I thought I would love being pregnant. Foolishly, up until I became pregnant, I equated maternal desire with pregnant bliss. I thought I would glow, that I would be sick and tired but it wouldn’t matter because I was going to have a baby, so I would therefore be infused with energy and happiness. I now realize what a misguided notion that was. I was fortunate to have a healthy pregnancy, but man, was I wiped out. I didn’t really feel comfortable in it until deep into my third trimester. (Which, as it happens, coincided with my maternity leave. I love my job so much, but I was pretty worn out.) I get a bit nostalgic now when I see pregnant women, and I wonder if part of that is because I only felt at home in the pregnancy in the final weeks.
Besides feeling sick and tired in the beginning, I realized I had to come to terms with the impending labour and childbirth. This baby was going to have to come out of me somehow. But, even more than how the baby was going to get out of me after growing for 40+ weeks, it was the thought of the epidural that really freaked me out. The thought of a needle being inserted into my spine really scared me. I didn’t know if I could trust any anaesthesiologist enough. Before getting pregnant, I’d always put childbirth and epidurals hand-in-hand, the one came with the other. But now, I started to wonder if I would be able to weather the labour and delivery without one, or if I was foolish to even think I’d be able to tolerate the pain. This quandary kind of set my research in motion. I had until the end of March to figure out what to do, what to prepare myself for.
I took some good natured teasing in our NCT antenatal class about all the reading I did, but for me that was the only way to manage the fear of the unknown, to try to be confident and positive, to feel empowered and, above all, to feel as fearless as possible. It was the reading that started to help me feel like a natural childbirth, or at least one without an epidural, might be possible. (I definitely recommend Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, with the positive birth stories in the first half, to any pregnant woman approaching childbirth.) I decided I wanted to be active in labour and that I really wanted to labour, and possibly deliver, in water. I grew more confident about aiming for as natural a childbirth as possible. (An epidural wouldn’t allow me to be active or in water, and I just did not like the sound of pethidine for me or my baby. Although I was open to changes in my birth plan, these things were not things I went in planning for. )
So, I bought the natal hypnotherapy cds from the NCT shop, and was disciplined about setting aside time to do the hypnotherapy and relaxation sessions, even though I was skeptical they were actually working. I tried to make the antenatal yoga class a routine for me, and when I wasn’t doing yoga, I made sure to go swimming on that weekend instead. I tried to walk as much as possible throughout the pregnancy, which was difficult through the icy winter, but in the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy I walked a decent amount, trying to make sure I did everything possible to ‘make it easy’ on myself and to get the baby positioned well.
I felt ready, or I felt as ready as I could feel for something I had never experienced. Toward the end of the pregnancy, I really felt like I was training for a race, a longer distance I had yet to run. I was apprehensive, but also looking forward to the challenge of race day, to see how it would all pan out. I even did what I would do in training for a race – I made myself a play list – my birth energy play list.
And yet, I still had the niggles of fear of the unknown. I felt like I was waiting to take an AP test in high school. You can prepare your heart out, you can feel ready, but really you’ll never rest until you get that bad boy over and done with.
They say you should have your hospital bags packed by 36 weeks gestation. So we did, or mostly. We had my bag, the baby’s bag, Barry’s bag, the bag with the snacks and juice boxes all lined up in the front room. When my mom arrived, she laughed (it really did look like we’d be moving into the hospital!) and then promptly added her bag to the mix, never really dreaming the labour wouldn’t start until after she left for her cruise in Holland (12 days after my due date).
And then we waited. And waited. And waited. It became clear that I wasn’t going to have this baby before my mom left again, and it was probably going to take an induction. (In the end, I escaped the induction by about a day!)
The waiting’s hard. You know you are going to have to endure great pain, and yet you don’t know when. It could happen any time. And any time, in my case, lasted nearly 6 weeks. With the exception of one friend, who was due March 26th (the same day as me), all the other expected March babies greeted the world, and I just couldn’t wait to meet my baby. I also couldn’t wait to get my ‘race’ going. You know all along the due date’s just an estimate, but that makes no difference in the waiting game. It’s still hard.
On day 11 past my due date, the midwife attempted a cervical sweep, but I was still sealed solidly shut, so she wasn’t able to do much. She said even though she wasn’t able to perform it, it still might get things going.
And so I waited.