The Last Days of Pregnancy

By: Gloria Miles

Photo by Halfpoint/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Halfpoint/iStock / Getty Images

The last days, maybe even weeks, of pregnancy could span a century.  Nine months of growing, changing, slams to a halt; time passes differently.  The discomforts of pregnancy are now highlighted with every step.  Every day crawls, every night is long. 

The Virginia air had been thick as syrup with heat and humidity.  The air stirred itself around, lazily passing by people who braved a walk.  The heat felt stifling for this pregnant woman.  

Eventually, dark clouds rolled into the area, the sky crackling with anticipation of relief.  The sky opened; the rain poured. The relief was felt in a dramatic drop in temperature.  The wind had picked up and the trees chattered in excitement.  

The past days for me have been filled with the sort of anxiousness and discomfort that one only feels when in the last few weeks of pregnancy.  It's amazing how quickly nine months can pass.  And yet, the hours slip by slow as molasses. 

"You look tired," my husband said.  He stood behind the kitchen island, prepping items for breakfast.

"I woke up to pee last night six times. And this morning, my hips feel like they're on fire from that hard bed," I replied.  

He laughed. "Maybe a week left for you. You're so close!" 

I knew he was right.  "That makes me want to strangle you."

"What?" he asked. "Why?" 

"You might as well have said another year." 

"Is it that bad?"

I gave him a look. 

"Maybe...I'll just keep making breakfast," he said. Then added, "I'll rub your back before bed."  

The evening is cool and windy.  I want to walk outside in the coolness.  I let my husband know so that he keeps an eye on our toddler.  

"Walking the baby out?" he asked. 

Most days I wake up wondering if this is the last day I'll be pregnant.  Each evening I hope that real contractions will begin.  Every new morning I'm disappointed at the lack of labor, of no newborn.  

This evening, however, I just want to reside in the moment.  I want to walk and feel the muscles in my legs work.  I want to listen to the trees rustle and speak among themselves.  I want the cool air to play with my hair.  

"Just walk," I answered. 

The family joined me and we walked around our property, through the trees, and down a short patch of our country road.  I breathed deeply and was purely in the moment.  I didn't worry about labor.  I felt the small braxton-hicks contractions intermittently but I paid them no mind.  Fetal kicks and punches marked the time between them.  I smiled and rubbed my belly.  

Most days I'm cranky and irritated.  I sleep too little, I feel too irritable, and I walk the way one does when there's a fetal head slowly entering the pelvis.  I know that labor is on the horizon.  I know that pregnancy doesn't last forever.  One day or evening or night the familiar rushes of labor will begin.  And yet, it feels so distant.  

I think, though, that sometimes it is necessary to get to this climax of pregnancy, similar to the climax before birth.  There is a time within labor that most suddenly feel overwhelmed.  Cries of not being able to cope or continue are normal.  Sometimes there is a moment of panic.  The contractions are no longer surges but just a state of being.  Labor seems to take over one's body.  There is doubt, maybe fear.  And then the peak is reached and all doubt is removed.  Birth is imminent and then there it is: pressure, pain, power.  The pelvis is filled and then it shifts.  Crowning, then a head, then a body.  Then: I did it!

Pregnancy is similar.  It is uncomfortable and not everything is exciting, but it's tolerable.  Suddenly, it's overwhelming, it's miserable, it's never-ending.  But one day, like in labor, like the storm that's on the horizon, relief will be felt.  The first surges will start and excitement will replace it.  

Labor will start.  Everyone is right.  It's so close.  It feels as distant and as close as mountains on a horizon.  But it will start, it will finish.  A new life will be born.  A lifetime will begin. 

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Hold Onto Her: An Essay

Cat Ennis Sears is a writer, a doula and a mother in Richmond, VA. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and published in Printer's Devil ReviewNecessary Fiction, and other publications.  

There have been so many babies the last two weeks. They lay in their mother’s laps in the soft and gathering twilight. The mothers look tired and some are happy and some have a sadness to their eyes and I remember to be careful there, to follow up. There has been my inhale and reminder to only be as present as I can be. I have taken to repeating “hold onto yourself” every time before stepping out of the car. It helps.

 Sometimes I am too present. I leave pieces of myself behind, in their homes, in their labor rooms, in their operating rooms, in the space between their breast and their baby’s grasping lips. I try to remember to gather up each piece of myself before I leave the babies and the mothers, and allow time to put myself back together.

Births take a lot out of me. Preparing women for birth takes a lot out of me. There needs to be an inhalation, taking in what nourishes me. I used to not understand this. I used to think birth work nourished me. It does. But it also does not.

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There are the fearful eyes, the moaning, the thrashing and they ask is this normal, and it is. But that doesn’t make it any easier. There is the wet dark head crowning, the unbelievable miracle of it, the enormity of it. It is everything. There is nothing else. To be human is this moment. This moment contains everything, like a fat bubble reflecting the world, swelling slowly before bursting. I hold a leg and hope I can get that birth photo that everyone wants, the one with the wet baby on the breasts.

Birth has been kind lately. There was a time when I knelt in awe of birth, afraid to make eye contact with what I saw as an indifferent and powerful ancient god, this force that ripped through women I had come to care about. A birth plan ceremoniously presented to a nurse, as if she is control of birth. I felt that I could hear birth laughing at the expectation of control. There were neonatal resuscitations and emergency Cesareans, placental abnormalities, nucahl hands, hemorrhage, cervical scar tissue, third degree tearing requiring operative repair. 

Then there was a string of easier births, tired mothers with glowing eyes, out of breath, proud, relieved, happy, the glow of fresh pink on their cheeks, hungrily eating sandwiches, their babies nestled against their breast as I took my leave.

And still I am in awe of birth. A new mother’s belly, still slack with child, looks vulnerable in a cotton maternity nightgown as she holds her baby wrapped in a green swaddling blanket against her chest. She is in the midst of the shattering. And she says she is fine. But hold onto her. Hold onto her.

Nathaniel: A Birth Story

Nathaniel: A Birth Story

Yesterday, Shea heard his brother's heartbeat. He said, "my brother," and put his hands on my stomach. He smiled shyly and wanted to hear the heartbeat "again." I'm so excited for them to meet each other.

Nathaniel Ashe Sears, 7 pounds, 14 ounces, born December 19, 2014 at 4:14 p.m.

He holds his tiny hands up to the glass and says, “There, Mommy, I want to eat there!” Inside is a pool hall, completely inappropriate for a toddler. “No, Shea, just one more door down.” I drag him into Ipanema. I don’t know it yet, but active labor will start in less than 12 hours. I wanted to take Shea out for dinner, just me and him, knowing that the time of his being an only child is getting shorter. I am having near constant Braxton-Hicks contractions that don’t stop when I sit down, stand up, walk, lay down, take a bath, drink water, or anything. They are just constant, lasting for 2-3 minutes with a 30 second break in between and it’s been that way for 2 days. It’s exhausting but I try to ignore my too tight abdomen as I pick Shea up and carry him through the door of Ipanema. I am expecting to go past my due date on this one too, and I don’t take any contractions seriously. Only if they are deep low, and getting longer, stronger, closer together. I decide, only then will I pay attention. Thinking back, I realize how almost heroic it is that I went out for dinner alone with a two-year-old while I was in actual early labor.

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