Instead, for the past almost nine months, being pregnant has been very...present, somehow. Like a chronic illness, but not exactly, because the symptoms keep changing.
First TrimesterI can organize it a bit by trimester -- the first trimester, if I remember right, was some nausea (thankfully, not nearly as much as many women), accompanied with truly astonishing fatigue, that had me falling asleep around 8-9 most days, and once, memorably, at 3 in the afternoon. I had to sit and rest after every household task, and my effective work day got cut in half, from about twelve to about six hours, drastically reducing my productivity. I did manage to keep up with my teaching, but to be honest, my evaluations make it clear that I went from an above-average teacher to a merely average one, which I'm sorry about. I don't think I wrote much at all.
I also spent most of the first trimester deeply paranoid about the baby's health. I started out expecting that it would be difficult to get pregnant, given the fibroids -- since the average length of time for people trying to get pregnant was a year of trying, I thought it would take us longer. As it turned out, we got pregnant immediately (within a week of starting trying). But even after the pregnancy was confirmed by two home pregnancy tests and one doctor's visit, I was convinced much of the first trimester that I had miscarried and not noticed, or that the baby had died and I hadn't noticed. Kev kept telling me that I would notice if something went wrong, which was a little reassuring, but not much. In retrospect, I wish I'd gone and rented one of those fetal doppler heartbeat things, because I think listening to the heartbeat every night would have saved me a lot of anxiety. I did mean to, but never quite got around to it. My monthly doctor's visit was the one reassuring thing, since I got to hear the baby's heartbeat then (starting around the third month or so?).
We got back the first trimester screen results, knocking my risk of Downs and trisomies down to the levels of a 20-year-old, and while the process of waiting for those results was torturous, the relief and joy afterwards were intense. Also, somewhere around here we started thinking of names, which has been a truly fun collaborative process, and only occasionally slightly stressful. We think we have one now, but you're going to have to wait a bit to find out what it is :-). We like it.
Second TrimesterSecond trimester would normally be the golden period, and I did start having normal energy levels again, but that's when my fibroids started acting up. We had those two bad scares -- in England, and then again after coming here. It's hard to estimate on the pain scale they have you use, but I think, in retrospect, that on a scale of 1:10, I was coming in around a 6 or so. More than the pain, was the worry that it meant something was seriously wrong; that I was going into early labor or some such. Eventually, we were reassured that it was only the fibroids degenerating, not a big deal, and while I wasn't looking forward to having five months of pain, it seemed like I could handle it if necessary. As it turned out, the fibroid pains eased up within a month, and mostly went away after that, so I didn't need to keep taking the Tylenol with codeine, luckily.
But even after those were done, I still wasn't feeling the baby move. People kept asking me -- 'oh, you're at 30 weeks, I remember I started feeling the baby move then, isn't it great?' And I kept having to say that I wouldn't know, that I hadn't felt anything yet. So more anxiety, more conviction that something was wrong, that she had died and I hadn't noticed. On the plus side, somewhere around here, we found out that it would be a girl -- that was a great moment. Very exciting. We got to start calling the baby 'she', which somehow made her feel much more real.
Eventually, she did start to kick; they had warned us that the fibroids might muffle the movements, and I guess that's what happened. I LOVE her kicking. It's intensely reassuring, even when she bruises me a bit with it, which has been happening more and more lately. We started talking to her a bit once she started kicking -- mostly Kevin telling the baby, "Stop kicking mommy so hard, baby!" So nothing profound or anything. But still, it feels like a connection to someone real in there.
That takes us through to around five or six months? At this point, I was starting to show, which was also really nice. I'd been needing to wear maternity pants for some months now, but I was still in the 'is she pregnant or just fat stage?' for a long time. At this point, finally, people were starting to be sure I was pregnant, and while I didn't have strangers touching my belly, I did get lots more smiles and questions about when the baby's due, and if we know whether it's a boy or girl. Everyone seemed so happy that it was a girl -- made me wonder if they'd seem just as happy to hear it's a boy. :-)
We had the California baby shower, and that was just lovely -- getting all the advice from friends and family, not to mention the presents. :-) Kevin's mom was so obviously thrilled by it all, and her excitement was contagious. We came home, and I was still feeling mostly okay. Into the third trimester we went...
Third TrimesterAnd now the last trimester -- well, it's been increasingly uncomfortable. More getting up to pee in the night (every hour and a half or so, I think), some back pain, difficulty sleeping, restless leg syndrome symptoms increasing, bruises from her kicking and shoving, exhaustion coming back. And we started thinking about the birth itself, and fretting a bit about that, and making those decisions. Her movements have slowed down a bit, and there are days when I worry that she's in trouble, for no good reason. I also fret that when she's born, we'll find that she's sick or injured in some way. I have no reason to think this -- but it does happen sometimes, and they don't always catch it in advance.
A bigger, weird anxiety: I've always had this strange half-conviction that I would die in childbirth. I have no idea where this comes from, but it's very present in the back of my head. I've written fiction about it, in _Bodies in Motion_ and _The Arrangement_. I have these visions of beds just covered in blood. Very strange. The risk of that actually happening, in a U.S. hospital, given how careful they are, are really small; very few women die in childbirth here these days. I know that. But it does lead to some odd conversations between me and Kev, as I try to make sure that if it happens, he and baby will be okay -- that all the legal, financial, support, etc. stuff is taken care of. My brain is weird. (For those interested, Wikipedia tells us that: "At the beginning of the century, maternal death rates were around their historical level of nearly 1 in 100 for live births. The number today in the United States is 1 in 10,000, a 99% decline. The decline in maternal deaths has been due largely to improved asepsis, use of caesarean section, fluid management and blood transfusion, and better prenatal care.")
On the good side, I love how pregnant I look. I'm relieved that I haven't gained much weight (about 25 pounds total, it looks like), and that as a result, I look clearly pregnant, rather than just huge. I like wearing cute maternity clothes that emphasize my belly; if I could afford it, I would have a lot more of them. :-)
I love how nice everyone is to me; how strangers seem so happy for me. The parking lot guys next to Roosevelt, who have been watching me grow steadily for months, are taking such good care of me -- one of them helped me get my backpack off the other day, when I was trying to juggle a drink and a cell phone call, and another said, concerned, that maybe I shouldn't be driving anymore. With the baby shower here, and my family coming out for it, I felt very loved, very taken care of, and very much like this baby is a communal effort. My students have given me baby presents, and in general, have been very tolerant of my erratic nature this semester. Really, everyone's just been so nice; it's lovely. I don't think I'd realized before how much other people would be involved in this, even in the smallest ways.
And yesterday, when it seemed like we might be having an emergency c-section and I might actually have the baby right away -- I found that I was just fine with that. We're ready, we're excited, and she could come anytime now and we would be thrilled, as long as she comes out healthy.
The pregnancy has also made me love Kevin even more. Even though at times I hate being so weak and dependent, it's good to know that when I need to lean on him, he can be there for me -- solidly, uncomplaining, without hesitations or resentment. I feel like there are whole new levels of trust between us, which I hadn't expected.
So in the end, after all the ridiculous anxieties and worries (much more than anticipated), we're good. I could wish that I had been able to relax a bit more through the last almost-nine months, that I could have enjoyed the pregnancy more actively. Actually done a prenatal yoga class or two, had a few more pedicures and maybe a prenatal massage. But there have been enough good moments -- my favorites are probably just lying still with Kevin in bed, feeling her move, hearing him talk to her. It's been a fascinating experience; I'm glad I had the chance to do it.
Now we're ready to find out what comes next.